As the owner of a construction company, it’s only natural that you focus on what you do. But it’s also important to stay connected with the field. Your guys are out there working. It’s good to get your bags on and join them, even if you’re not too good at it. Join Eric Anderton as he talks to Ben Juncker about how he bridges the gap between office and the field. Ben is the co-founder and CEO of Craftsman’s Choice, a leading exterior remodeling contractor in Minnesota. Listen in so that you can find out some tips on how to build team comradery. Learn how to have empathy for your employees so that you can achieve the best possible outcomes. Stay connected with your team today!
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Get Your Bags On! Why It’s Important To Stay Connected With The Field With Ben Juncker
You get disconnected from the field sometimes in your construction business. You know that is happening when profit starts to fade, customer issues come up and perhaps there are conflicts between the field and the office that are unresolved. One of your key jobs as a construction company owner is to stay connected as much as you can. You are not going to walk every single job site that you are on if you are running a multi-million dollar construction company but there are times to get out into the field. There are times to sit face to face with your customers.
That is what we talk about in this episode. My guest is Ben Juncker. He is the Cofounder and CEO of Craftsman’s Choice, which is a leading exterior remodeling contractor in Minnesota. We talk about the symptoms of disconnection, how you get into the habit of staying in connection with the field, and specific action items that you need to take on a regular basis in order to bridge the gap between the office and the field and between the field and your clients. How to overcome issues in the field that seem insurmountable when you are on a project and why it is so important as a construction company owner, once in a while to get your bags on and go out and work with your guys.
I know for some of you, that will never happen because you were working as commercial contractors and you are not going to put your bags on, but the point is getting into the field, getting belly-to-belly with the guys and the gals who are doing the work can be tremendously helpful in terms of giving you the right perspectives on where your business is. Those are the kinds of things that we dive into detail about during this conversation. Enjoy my conversation with Ben. Feel free to share it with other people who you think may benefit from it. Thank you for reading.
Ben, welcome to the show.
I am very interested because you have grown a successful business, and one of the challenges that you have overcome as you have grown your business is when you got to the point when you began to add people into the company and you got disconnected from the field. Can you tell us how that happened?
At that point in our business, I had bought out my business partner, so there were some new roles that I needed to take on as far as some of the sales and marketing that my business partner had managed. I tasked my general manager with taking care of production. He would oversee all production, our project managers and our service team. Some of the things that I thought we had pretty locked down were gaps in our process. I needed to make sure that we were getting into those areas that we could focus on. Our general manager helped us to get that back on my plate and say, “You are off base here. The things that you are working on are not things that we need help with. Here is what we need help with.”
As you take a bigger picture look at different construction companies that you are familiar with and even your own company, you are describing one reason why someone in your position would get disconnected from the field. What are some other reasons that construction company CEOs and presidents get disconnected from the field and as a result of that, the company suffers?
Things that I’ve seen are a lack of interest on the production side and getting heavily focused on sales and marketing. This is something that is incited by manufacturers and vendor reps. It is all, “Sell, sell, sell.” We’ve got to get somebody to install this stuff once we get it sold and somebody to manage those installers.
On the one hand, you have to be able to be bringing in work but if you are not executing that work profitably then what is the point? What are some of the symptoms of disconnection that you saw for yourself but that you see in other businesses where something is going on here and the executive team needs to get more dialed in with what is going on in the field?
One of the biggest symptoms is you start to lose people. Project managers burn out because they are doing menial tasks that they do not need to. You need to add staff, you need to help them be better at their trade and keep them focused on the right tasks. Also, unsatisfied customers. The quality drops where it used to be something that you took pride in. Whether that is correct oversight or it is not vetting installers and the people that are doing the work, your quality is suffering because you are missing something in that. Whether it is a punch list process or not having the correct manager in there, those things manifest themselves in quality and losing people.
You talked about the burnout of your project managers, the quality of what you are building, and the satisfaction of the customers. Those are the three things that I heard in what you said there. Let’s talk about burnout. You used the phrase “menial tasks.” How is it that those menial tasks cause burnout in project managers?
The things that we see in our business are material shortages on the job site. To me, part of our process needs to be preparing those projects ahead of time so we turn them over to the project manager. He has got the things that he needs. He is ready to go. If he is spending time running materials or he gets a call from the guys on the site at 4:30 PM that they need this to finish the job and he does not get home until 7:00 PM, it is not a fun day. It is putting those jobs together involving the project manager so that he is involved and can have foresight into that project so that he is not making those 7:30 PM runs and missing dinner.
What do you do to make sure that that is not happening? How do you avoid that?
We used to do a project walkthrough with our customers about a month out from the job. We have pushed that forward to two weeks after the contract signing. Some of those things that a project manager would see can be addressed earlier in the process and he can get those things on the material list. It has helped quite a bit just to be more prepared because sales and production are going to look at that project totally differently. When the salesman puts his packet together and the things that he thinks are going to be needed there is much different than the production side and how they look at a job site.
Let’s talk about that. Why is it that sales and production look at a job completely differently?Project managers burn out because they do menial tasks that they do not need to. Click To Tweet
The salesmen are trying to get the check. When they go out, their focus is on design and addressing the customer’s needs. If you have salesmen that have not been in the business and have not had the tool belt on, they are not going to necessarily know some of those things. I am okay with that. It is two separate jobs and two separate silos that they are working in there. As long as the measurements and some of the other things that the sales guy when he turns that job over and then the scope is set for the production team to take that project scope and execute.
When they look at it, it is that different perspective of, “What is it going to take what the salesman has promised and make this happen on the job site?” Whether that is some extra time with the customer drilling down on a specific part of the project that the design is great but there are some problems with the implementation and the execution of it that needs to be drilled down further.
Let’s explore that more because how do you balance the need to make the sale with the ability to execute the project according to what has been sold?
One thing that we pay our salesmen on gross profit and helps them to ask a few more questions like, “Is this even possible?” I know other contractors will do a straight percentage of the contract. You can get into trouble doing that way because they are in and out. Whatever happens on the backend and the headaches the production team has is not their concern. They are onto the next one. That helps to ask a few more questions on the sales side, call in the production manager or the project manager to say, “What do you think about this? Am I charging the right thing for this? Is this even possible?”
There has to be that communication between the sales team and the production team to make sure that what is being sold can be built. As you said, you are comfortable with creating the need for some ingenuity on the part of the production team based on what has been sold.
They are the nuts and bolts guys. They are the ones that need to make that happen. That is a part of the project that they like. Taking siding off and putting it back on can get boring but if you are building a portico and you have to figure out a barrel vault that perks their interest. They are construction guys at heart. They want to be creative and imaginative and ultimately have something that they can deliver to the customer that they can take pride in.
Let’s talk about the quality. What are some of the reasons that quality suffers on the jobs that you guys execute?
Oversight of the project manager because he does not have the time to be out there with the crew, walk the job and notice those things while the project is going on because he is delivering a dryer vent to another job that should have been on the original order. It is a cycle where once you fall behind, your quality drops because you are chasing things for a different job that should have been already out there. That is where we found ourselves as we have scaled up. We need to plug those gaps and it is on us and the executive team to figure out where those gaps are and how we can improve upon them.
As you were looking at the gaps, what did you do to begin to address those?
We have implemented some additional technology. There is a photo collection software, CompanyCam, that allows everybody to see inside that job. That integrates with our CRM. Everyone from the office manager to all of our service team, once a picture is taken, they are able to see that. We have the sales guy do those and they are able to take an unlimited amount of photos to put in the job file that helps those guys prepare ahead of time to see if that is a 4-inch vent or a 6-inch vent, or whatever that little thing is that they are going to need there.
You have used technology and different kinds of software packages. You put them together in order to help improve quality. Am I hearing that right?
Quality and preparation ahead of time. It’s those two things. I want my project managers focused on being in front of the customer and being with the crew, not running materials.
What technologies have you tried in your business that have not worked?
We were slow to adapt to technology because the cost for some of these CRMs is so high that we stumbled along until we found the right one. For me, the ones we looked at, fit 10% or 20% of my business. They were great at sales, marketing or production, but there was not one that did all of it. The one we landed on has customizable workflows and customizable files that you can upload. It has an interaction with the customers where they have their own portal. It had a number of different things that fit our business.
How did you resist the software sales guys coming in with their easy button promising you the world? You took a step back and said, “This is not quite meeting our needs.” How did you resist all of that? How did you go through that process?
I asked them pointed questions, “Is this customizable? How do my customers interact with me through your software? How does it integrate with our accounting software?” If it could not do each one of those things, I said, “It is not going to be a fit.”
Were you heading up that evaluation of the software programs?
The reason I am asking is sometimes, especially in larger contractors, these software sales guys come in with this easy button and they say, “Press this and everything will go fine.” People have not taken the time to define the problem that they are looking to solve. They have not taken the time to ask, “Will this work in my business?” It sounds like you did some good workaround in order to bring in a package that not only could meet your needs but then could be customized to fill in the gaps where it did not, out of the box, meet the specific things that you wanted.
That is a lot of homework. That month that we started looking into software, we had three weeks here in Minnesota that were 20 degrees below. All the guys were in the office, we had whiteboards everywhere and we said, “What do we want to happen on every job?” We had everybody from our newest hire on the service team to our general manager and sales guys, “What are the things that need to happen?” We have tweaked that quite a bit over the years and added things but it was a great exercise for our entire team to say, “That is common sense.”
I said, “It is common sense but unless we have a way to track that task has been completed, it could get forgotten.” Posting the permit on the door is common sense but until you have something that says, “Post the permit,” and you click that, there is no way to follow up on the backend to see that it has been done.
When you brought in people from the field, what insights did they bring in those discussions that you had not thought about?
A lot of it was around sales and promising things that when they got out on the job site changed. Do you want us to build a deck here, the soil is horrible. We have to do these special helix coils here. It was more productive for the sales side than it was for the production side, other than they were not going to get these job packets and say, “What do they sell? What are we doing here?” The sales side is able to glean that information, so the next time they go in, they are able to ask that customer those questions and say, “We might want to have this checked out before we get too much further.”
Going through the process of figuring out what you needed the software to solve, you are able to build some bridges internally between those natural silos between sales and production.
That is when it went from a partnership to me being the sole owner. We started doing trips every other year. Every other year, I take the guys to Mexico, and the whole team goes and their spouses. That helps to build that comradery and have the guys all hanging out together. They do not feel like they cannot pick up the phone and say, “What did you sell?” There are not those natural barriers that sometimes an installer would not make that call.
You started your business many years ago as a partnership and then transitioned out of that. Why did you transition out of a partnership into sole ownership?
It was mainly driven by my former business partner. He had been doing construction, doing this his entire adult life and got wild hair. He went out to Montana, lived out there for a few years, ran a spray foam business, and then ended up coming back to Minnesota. He is now one of my sales guys. He is back into the business.
What do you see is the main difference in your experience between being in a partnership and being the sole owner?Your project managers should be in front of the customer and with the crew, not running materials. Click To Tweet
It allowed me to grow into some of the areas that I was not as strong in. The sales and marketing side, Matt was able to take care of. Being able to make that decision and that is your decision, you put more research into it rather than if you have somebody else to bounce it off of, and go back and forth. You are going to look at it a little bit more because it’s you. You are the one that the buck stops with. You need to make sure of the decision you are making. We have 100 individuals whose lives depend on me making good decisions. I feel it is my duty as a leader to take the time to do the research that is needed for some of this big stuff.
Do you have a process in place that you use for decision-making? How do you go about making those big decisions that could affect hundreds of lives?
I look at what other businesses in our field have done. I will check with some of the national manufacturers and the things that they have seen. I have learned the most in my business from watching other companies make mistakes and mistakes that we have made. We try to look at what did not work, which sometimes is the blueprint. People think it is the blueprint, but when you dig in, it has not been that successful, but everybody keeps following that same pattern.
Can you give me an example of something like that?
The one-call close, the hammer on people, what you get with that is you need to have a ton of marketing to feed that because you are not going to get a lot of referral business. For a lot of the major remodeling companies and some of the big boys, it is the thing. They have TV ads and all the big marketing things because they always need fresh new customers because there are not a lot of referrals. They get at the kitchen table and it is the one-call close, get people to sign up, and then we will find somebody to install it. The quality is not great. We have taken the opposite approach. We start with the installation and incentivize our customers to get referrals and do a quality job.
That is one of the wonderful things about being in business is you can choose how you want to do the business. You can question the conventional wisdom, decide to try other things, and see what works for you.
In some of those cases, what good is a high margin if all of it is going to advertising and marketing? High margins are great but if you are spending it on things or cycling around it, I did not see the value there.
Which do you prefer, being in a partnership or being a sole owner?
Being a sole owner.
If you had to do it all over again knowing what you know now, you would start as sole ownership?
There were so many valuable lessons and things that Matt and I went through together. We will always share a bond together. Our first work truck was a 1969 F100. We called it the Dream Weaver. It had the three-on-the-tree. There were many days coming home from the job site in 95 degrees that we were stuck to the seats in that thing. It’s the perseverance learned. We knew this was going to succeed and nothing was going to stop us. It would be tougher to do by yourself without that constant giddy-up, back and forth. To the point where I am at now, things have changed and I would prefer that but those early days of our business I look back very fondly on.
One of the challenges, when I am talking with the construction company owners who are in partnerships, is that a partnership is challenging. It is like having a second marriage but what you described there is so interesting because if you had not had the partnership to begin with, then perhaps you would not have gotten to the point that you are at now with the success of your experience because you had that support along the way there.
Let’s talk about customer service. The principles of customer service are universal across all industries and all construction types. Tell me about how you have evolved your customer service process over the years to lock in those relationships and then get referrals, which are so critical to every business.
It is an evolving metric. Customers expect more now. They go into the process better informed than they did when we first started our business. When we first started, we were educating the homeowners on almost every aspect of the project. Now when we show up, they have got a list of questions and things that they have researched ahead of time. We need to make sure that we are prepared with product knowledge from past projects. We share our process with our customers and that is important. That is not something that a lot of people do not do. You cannot ask someone to write you this giant check, and then not tell them what is going to happen after they hand you the check. They need to know what this is going to look like.
That helps set expectations on the front end of how this is going to look, how it should look, and a punch list as part of it. It is going to happen. These guys are not robots. There are going to be some things. It is a natural part. Here is how we handle the punch list process. Here is how those things are addressed. If you see something that does not look right, do not freak out. It is part of the natural process. Setting those expectations help and then getting on those punch lists on the backend is huge.
I like the idea of being transparent. How do you balance the need for transparency or that philosophy of transparency where you are open with your customers with the fact that, “Sometimes in construction, the sausage is getting made, and I am not sure I want to show you exactly how the sausage is getting made. Not that I want to hose you or anything like that, but there is a time to be transparent and there is a time not to be.” Is that correct or how do you look at that?
Definitely. Those little adjustments that the project managers will make with the guys on site, we do not run into the customer’s house and say, “Ivan screwed up this piece. We need to rip it off and replace it.” We just do it. Some of those things we try to head off right when it is happening. The transparency piece comes in steps. If there are multiple trades involved, here is what is going to happen. Here is what this process is, rather than just a trailer full of windows showing up and guys barging in your house like, “We are going to be in your business when we are doing your windows. We need space.”
It is one of those things that seem like common sense and the guys are like, “Why would they not know that?” They have never been through a window project. “It is common sense to us but you have got to move your dresser away from your window so that we can get back there.” Unless somebody tells them that, it is not on their radar.
We are fish in a bowl of water and we are so familiar with the water and then you plunge someone else in there who has never been in the water before and they start freaking out. You got to let them know what the experience is going to be like.
Especially when you have got a bunch of people ripping your house apart, you are a little on edge.
A customer issue comes up. Let’s say it is a major issue. You guys have screwed up something. It happens. It is construction. What is the first thing you do when a major issue comes across your desk?
I will pull the project manager off of that project even if it is not something that he has done. We have got our general manager and we have got a production manager. Part of that is selfish because I do not want him churning on something that is not productive. We swap out either our production manager or a general manager. They put on their cape, they are Superman. They come in to save the day. Sometimes that fresh face and that attention like, “This is important to us. Here is my card. I am the general manager.” That is enough to calm the situation so that they can finish the project.
How do you know you are at the point where you need to flip out the project manager? Ideally, the project manager would be able to handle the issue.
We see that the project manager is working with this client, most often it is client issues. Sometimes it is project manager issues. When we see that nothing is moving forward, things are getting escalated or the customer is getting more irritated with the process, that fresh face can calm a lot of things. That card with the title “General Manager. Your problem is important. We are going to take care of it.” That usually happens near the end of the project. A lot of times, they are sick of people being at their house. Little things can escalate and that new face helps to calm those worries.
It does not even necessarily have to be a massive issue when it comes to being in someone’s home. It can be a simple thing or a little thing that just triggers someone.
Leaving the gate open and the dog gets out. We have had that happen where we were like, “How could they do that?”
Going back to this idea of disconnection from the field, how do you stay in the habit of being connected with the field? What processes do you have in place that help stay in there?
I try to get out with my service team once a quarter. Toolbelt on, usually I pick a nice sunny day and not a rainy day. My phone stays in the truck and we go out and work together. It is one of my favorite things to do. I started as an installer but it builds great comradery. It also gets me on the job site, looking at the product, looking at interactions with the customer because I am not the owner that day. I do not walk over to the customer and say, “I am the owner.” I am just the installer guy that day. The incognito, undercover boss.You can't ask someone to write you a check and then not tell them what will happen. Share your process with your customers. Click To Tweet
The guys in the field know who you are, right?
They sure do.
It is like when you are playing sports and you bring the ringer on. You have got the guy. My kids are playing baseball. One of my kids plays JV and they were complaining that in a tournament, this one school brought down some of their varsity players to play JV so that they could win the tournament.
That analogy works except my installation skills are not as good as my guys.
Still, having you on the side helps.
I am usually the guy that is holding the other end of the tape. They will not let me touch a caulk gun because they do not want to redo it but it is a good time to be out with the guys. Another thing we do is we do a company golf tournament where we bring in all our vendors, suppliers, service team, and our subcontractors. Everybody is there and they are all paired with each other. You could have a regional manager of James Hardie with our roofer. It is a great thing to get them together. The installers liked that.
Going out into the field helps to stay in contact with the field. What do you learn when you are out there that helps you to run a better company?
As a business leader, empathy is one of the greatest traits that you can have. When you are looking at a project and you are asking these guys, “Why is this taking so long? What is going on?” You start to question the guys that are out doing the job and then you get out there and you see, “It looks like our task today was to put siding on this wall, but the electrical box is pulled out. We’ve got to take an extra fifteen minutes, an extra half an hour.” It helps me to gain that perspective that is remodeling. Things are not going to work in lockstep. I need to make sure that I put myself in their shoes. As long as they are trying and moving forward, we’ve got to be on the same team together. I need to look for ways to make their job easier and not for them to make my job easier.
Tell me what you mean by empathy.
It is seeing something from somebody else’s situation. Putting yourself in their place and being able to see a certain outcome or something from their path to it.
How do you balance the need for empathy with the need for excellence?
It starts with your selection of your people. If you surround yourself with people with honesty and hard work, it is a little cliché but it is unique especially in the construction industry. It seems like the other things will work themselves out. If you put good people in a position to win, set some ways for them to excel, and give them the tools to excel, it works out most of the time.
How long does it take you to figure out whether someone is honest and hardworking?
Sometimes a couple of years. I have had people work for me that I was looking forward so much to them joining the team and got them in. Six months later, they were not who I thought they were. The other thing has happened too, “Let’s give him a shot.” They excel and kill it. Maybe that is a reflection on me as far as character but individuals in different stages in our life are so different. You need to catch somebody at the right point in their life where they care and they want to succeed and put them in that right spot.
What have you learned about hiring that helps you to have to be more tuned into whether or not someone is going to be one of those six-month wonders where they show up for a bit and then their mask drops and you really see who they are?
How much they talk about themselves is a fairly good indicator. How do they talk about their previous employment or their previous wins? Do they talk about they were part of a team that did this or, “I did this?” Do they jump around a lot? When you jump around a lot, it can mean either you can be performance-based or it could be that you are looking for something that you may not be able to find in these different things. If they are at different jobs every year, that is usually a pretty good indicator that they are going to be at my job for a year.
What is it about someone where you are hiring them, what have you learned? Why is it that you are thinking, “This guy is going to be awesome,” and then six months later, you are like, “Why did I even hire them?” What causes you to think that and then have to reevaluate later?
Early in our career, Matt and I ran everything. We had to know each piece of the business. Each step you are looking to take something as a business owner, you are looking to take something off your plate. That is why you hire people. You do not feel like that is a good use of your time. In one particular instance, somebody had this background running a very successful business, had some hard times and I said, “Perfect fit. This should be child’s play to them.” Whatever reason it was, if it was not dedicated enough or did not like the position, it did not turn out.
You said something that caught my attention that plays into hiring but we do not think about it a lot. We know it is true but we do not necessarily think about it. That is the point of life that a person is in when you hire them.
I look at my life and the lives of my employees. When you are young, you are better able to go out to the job site just work all day for 10, 12 hours. You just pound and pound. As you have a family, there are other resources that your time takes, and matching that point in that person’s life with a job responsibility is important for a leader to recognize. I cannot hire this guy with three kids that are all in sports and expect him to be at the job site twelve hours a day swinging a hammer. That is an unrealistic expectation.
He could do it but we want our guys to have that proper work-life balance and to be able to enjoy their work and not have their wives on their case because they are getting home late every night. We believe in redemption at our company. I have got a lot of guys that have some interesting pasts. I will take a guy who has overcome some of those hardships and does not ever want to go back than a guy who has had everything handed to him his entire life every time. They have that background. I have been down that road. I am going to do everything in my power to move forward to not ever get there again.
How do you handle that? I know plenty of people like that and some people make it and some people do not. You meet someone and they appear to be on the path and then for whatever reason, they fall off of it. How do you handle working with folks like that whose struggles are a little more obvious than other people in terms of knowing when to support and when to cut the support?
One thing that we are able to do and oversee that process of somebody’s a year out from some really bad life choices. They are at a point where they are looking to make a change. We will put them in contact with one of our subcontractors and start off as a laborer. Have that and gauge, “How are they dealing with that?” Humility has got to be a big part of that path to success. If you say, “I am not going to pick up shingles.” Maybe you are not serious about coming to work for us. That gets us an ability to have oversight and see, “Is this going to happen? Are they going to work hard? Are they going to work their way up on that crew?” We see if they are able to keep the change and make things move forward.
Do you have a relationship with your subs where they are willing to take on some guys like that for you to test them out?
Our subcontractors, we view them as part of the three-legged stool, the company, the customers, and our subcontractors. I have got subs that have worked for me for twenty years. They are as loyal as it gets. We help them work on their business. They do not help their subcontractors work on the business side. That is the part that they are not that great at like taxes, a retirement program, or insurance. We have got that thing on our CRM that we cannot assign a subcontractor unless his insurance is current. That helps them to be able to keep that stuff up and being able to work with them on the business side of things a little bit. It is not a huge time thing but it helps to build that long-term relationship.
When you use the word redemption, what do you mean by that word?
Someone who has had hard times and had made poor choices that have got him into situations whether that is jail or substances, and are starting to work their way back. Sometimes we are afraid to take that on, and in some cases, big corporations will not, whether it is insurance reasons or different things. I am in a place where I can take a little more chance on some of the guys and my business does not suffer from that. Those stories of redemption where somebody has had a hard thing, they have been in a bad spot and they have worked their way out of that. The lessons learned by that individual through that process are character building and somebody who I want as a part of my organization.
Do you have an example of anyone who has been in your business for a while and they are in a leadership role who, when they first started, was someone who had gotten out of jail or been dealing with drug issues?People view success differently depending on where they are in their life. You need to catch them at the right point and put them in the right spot. Click To Tweet
Absolutely. He would not mind me sharing this because he is pretty proud of his path. He grew up in Minneapolis and was a drug dealer for a time. His girlfriend at the time got pregnant. He was 17 and she was 16. They moved out to the suburbs and he started putting siding on the wall. He worked his way up. He was one of our subcontractors for quite a while and is now one of our main project managers.
I appreciate your time here, Ben. We started off by talking about the issues that come up in a business when you get disconnected from the field. If I am getting a sense in my business that I am disconnected and I may not exactly put my bags on like you do, which is pretty awesome. It is a neat thing. A very large general contractor, you could get out there and get your boots on and get muddy with the guys. If I know I am disconnected, what would you recommend as the first step I take to get that connection back with the field?
It’s to bring your installers in and ask them what makes their job hard. It will be a great exercise to figure out something that you thought you knew but you did not. You should have but it is hard. You cannot be involved in the day-to-day nitty-gritty. You should not but that information will not naturally escalate its way up to you.
You have to be proactive in going out there and getting information then.
Sometimes the project managers or production people will take care of it because they do not want it to be on your radar when it is information that you need to have.
You get your project managers and your installers conspiring together, not conspiring in a bad way to keep stuff from you, but you need to get the bad news so that you can do something about it from the position of the final decision-maker.
If you think everything is puppies and bunnies all the time then you need to get out of the office because there is stuff happening in your organization that is not all gravy.
What are a couple of other things I can do to get reconnected with the field?
Create social activities or environments where people at different levels can interact and intentionally put people together who are at different levels in your organization in a social setting where they can talk.
Go out there, ask them what makes their job hard, and then create those social environments, those social activities where the different aspects of your business can be working together or interacting with each other and building those relationships. What about in terms of the customer service part? How much time do you spend with your customers?
I still do a little bit of sales, which is vital to keeping a pulse on how you’re going to market to someone that you do not know the questions they are asking in the house. The business owner as a sales guy is going to ask totally different questions than a sales guy. As far as marketing like, “How did you come across this? What does your research look like so far? What have you been looking at?” We have our salesman go on a final walk around once everything is all complete, and all the punch lists are done to ask for the referrals. In that instance, I have the opportunity to ask about the process and ask the hard questions.
“I want to know what you did not like about our process. What were the pinch points? What was the pain that was involved with this?” That can be very revealing, and to be able to pick at that and say, “What would you feel would be better at that point that you were frustrated? How could we have avoided that? How could we have handled that differently so that was not an experience for you?”
The three things I get there is number one, you go to the field and ask them, “What makes your job hard?” Get that information that you need. You create those social activities so that you are building those bridges between the field and the office, and then you get out in front of your customers and you have good, hard, honest conversations with them, even getting into the selling mode once in a while so that you can get a feel for how things are going. Ben, I appreciate your time. Give us more information about your company and how people can get in touch with you if they would like to.
The best source is our website, CraftsmansChoice.com. Our focus is on the exterior siding, windows and doors. We specialize in the James Hardie siding. Something that we take pride in is our ability to be a leader with that product. Our website would be the best source to check us out.
You are up there in Minneapolis, is that right?
I am visiting Minneapolis. What is the one restaurant I have got to hit if I am up there for a client meeting?
Granite City is a good restaurant. They brew their own beer and they have got some killer appetizers.
Ben, I appreciate the insights that you shared with us. It has been super interesting and thanks for joining us on the show.
I hope you are walking away with some action items that you can implement to stay connected with the field, and make sure that your business is running as effectively as possible. Think about some of the things that Ben shared particularly in light of how your business can be a positive force for good in the lives of people who perhaps have gone wayward for a bit but want to get their lives back on track.
It’s interesting how he uses his subcontractors as testing grounds for people who are looking to rebuild their careers and from there, brings people into his company.
Having those relationships with subcontractors like that is tremendously helpful if you can build those. Thanks again for reading. Feel free to share this with other people. Please give us a rating or a review wherever you get your shows. A five-star rating and review help the show to be found by other people on the internet. The more people who read, the more people who can benefit from the wisdom of the folks that we interview here on the show. I hope you have a terrific week.