The Importance of a Positive Mindset for Your Business

A Builder’s Perspective

By: Heath Bowman, Southeastern Underdeck

There is no denying that we face uncertain and stressful circumstances as we continue to navigate COVID-19 and anticipate the fallout from it. It is all over the news, all over our social feeds, and all over our conversations. Let’s go ahead and say it together, “This sucks.”

Okay. We have that out of our system. Now for the next few minutes, put that aside. Let’s talk about something else. Whoever you are and wherever you work, every day you have a chance to lead. Right now, it is especially important that you lead from a standpoint of hope and positivity. When people—your teammates, your friends in the industry, your customers—when those people see you, do you want them to see a person in panic mode, or do you want them to see someone who is continuing to work hard and make the best of a difficult situation?

Think of the times you have faced a challenge or a crisis, one beyond your control. Do the people who make a better impact act out of fear, or out of hope?  Do they sit and remind people of how bad things are, or do they get to the work of solving the problem?

The construction industry is considered essential. That means we all have an opportunity to keep doing what we do and to do it well. When you see people working hard, what you see is people who have set their minds to solutions rather than problems. And that sort of image instills confidence and calm to the people who see it. Here are a few things that we at Southeastern Underdeck have done to send this message:

1. Communicate to your clients intentionally and with positive messages. Make sure potential clients know how to get in touch with you for estimates and questions, and make sure current clients know how to get in touch with your crews while projects are ongoing. If you are present and available, it sends a message that you are working in spite of difficulty. People will respond to that positively.

2. Make sure your staff is representing a positive and hopeful message. They are your ambassadors to your clients. Whether it is the person answering the phone in the office or the person swinging the hammer on a job site, make sure that they are representing your company well, and not letting their own fear or cynicism or frustration come through. Again, not that there is nothing to be concerned with, but when you’re at work, you show up to do work. When there is work being done, it means that you are working for tomorrow. When you pour a foundation today, you are anticipating building a house on it tomorrow.

3. Make sure people know that you are open and still doing business. If you have Facebook or Instagram, send out posts to your audience that let them know you’re there, you’re open, and you’re eager to serve them. If you do not have social media, then sign up for it. People use social media more than you can imagine to find reliable businesses and get recommendations from friends and neighbors. If you have a presence on social media, you have more avenues to communicate your message to others. Get it if you don’t have it and use it if you do.

Now, to be clear, none of this is not to say that we should not be prepared for the worst, or that we should ignore the difficulty. However, there is a difference in saying, “This is awful, there’s nothing I can do to fix it!” and saying, “This is awful, so I’m going to do everything I can to make it better.”

People can look anywhere to see what’s wrong. When they look to you—when they look to us—why not let them see people who are focused on making the world better around them instead of adding to the noise of what’s wrong?!


National Nail Launches Versatile CAMO® LEVER™ Tool for Fast, Easy Deck Board Bending

Grand Rapids, MI– At CAMO, we know that you don’t have time to wrestle with deck boards –time is precious during installation and crews are getting smaller. Not to mention the strain on the body and potential board damage. As part of the CAMO experience that delivers ease, efficiency and profitability, CAMO® LEVER™ is the only tool needed to bend, straighten or align deck boards to speed up installation. In fact, contractors can build decks up to 5X times faster when they use LEVER with other CAMO innovations like the versatile DRIVE™ stand-up tool for any decking and CAMO EDGE Clip for grooved boards. In these difficult times, the CAMO team knows that COVID-19 is a challenge for deck builders as they try to protect their families and livelihoods. That is why we’re forging ahead with the latest innovation.

Contractors can build decks up to 5X times faster when they use new LEVER with other CAMO innovations like the versatile DRIVE™ stand-up tool for any decking and CAMO EDGE Clips for grooved boards.

LEVER is all about freedom during installation. Without time-consuming set-up, the unique LEVER tool sets in one turn to lock boards in place for fastening with no strain, no hassle. When combined with CAMO EDGE Clips, LEVER speeds up grooved decking installations by locking multiple rows of boards and clips in place for quick fastening. The compact LEVER is also strong enough to straighten any warped board. Smaller crews are not a problem—LEVER eliminates the need to have someone holding boards, or a tool, in place. Lay your boards down, lock them in place with LEVER and you are free to fasten. And the timing of the LEVER launch aligns with the need for one- or two-person installation that allows social distancing on the jobsite to protect worker safety. 

“We are unwavering in our mission to help contractors build a better deck easier and in a faster timeframe–even with smaller crews,” said W. Scott Baker, CEO.  “CAMO LEVER is the latest addition to the family of innovative CAMO products that gives contractors an unparalleled deck-building experience.  We’re dedicated to helping our contractors stay on the job as well as emerge strong from the pandemic.”

The versatile LEVER tool adjusts to single, double and even steel joists and keeps spacing between boards consistent, which, for the discerning deck builder, adds to the beauty of a fastener-free surface. For the best installation experience, lock in a whole field of boards using 2–3 LEVERS across the length of the deck. 

With an MSRP of $99.95, CAMO LEVER is an affordable, easy-to-use innovation that allows contractors to work smarter, with less labor, and helps them build a better deck.

To learn more about the CAMO LEVER, visit camofasteners.com

About CAMO    

CAMO exists to provide the best deck fastening installation experience for hardworking folks who take pride in their work and value their wallet. That’s you. Whether you install decks for a living, offer to help build them with a buddy, or maybe build just one in your lifetime, CAMO products are engineered to save you time and ensure your work looks and performs as you expect it should. CAMO®. The Better Way to Build a Deck. 

For more information or to locate a dealer, visit camofasteners.com or call 1-800-968-6245. Be sure to “Like” @camofasteners on Facebook and @camodeckfasteners on Instagram. Search CAMO Fasteners on YouTube to find our channel or check us out on Pinterest.

If Customers Were Always Right, We Would Go Broke

By: Bobby Parks

 “The customer’s always right”. It’s a common saying that some may believe, but fortunately it’s not true or we would all go broke. We would throw in the towel whenever a customer claimed something was wrong, make fixes that had nothing to do with us for free, or give them at no cost what they mistakenly thought they were supposed to receive. And we would be firing our people once a month because the customer claimed they did something wrong. Imagine the cost drain that would occur. Restaurant and retail store managers may be able to give away meals and smaller items to make a customer happy and go away, but because our servings are more costly, we as contractors can’t afford to do the same. The trick is how you explain to them why they are not right without offending or losing them in the process.

It’s not to say we as contractors don’t make mistakes or create issues for ourselves, we do.  But often when issues arise or potential confrontations exist it’s because of a customer’s mistaken perception involving the scope of work, project options, or installation procedures. In rare cases, it’s a customer trying to get something for free. They see an opening and push the boundary to see if you will cave and donate to their project.

To be more specific, these undesirable communications occur when customers believe they are supposed to be getting something different than what they are getting or they believe something that is not included should be included. Often, it can include an existing condition or repair they believe should be part of the job. For example; they contracted for a deck and they believe the rot discovered after the job started at the attachment and around the fireplace bump out should be included.  Or it can be technical aspects about an installation. They’ve read something or someone told them something that makes them believe you are going about it incorrectly. In any case, how you respond matters.

Communication and Documentation

Most job confusion issues result from a lack of communication, documentation, and improperly set expectations. We all know there are plenty of legitimate issues that pop up; so why allow avoidable or mistakenly perceived problems to enter the mix?  When issues do occur, the objective should be to obtain a quick satisfactory resolution for all parties without relationship damage and keep the project moving forward. And without sacrificing profit!

Minimizing the potential for such adventures to occur should be a standard practice. Setting realistic expectations when contracting is much easier than setting them after the fact or while you are on the job. Writing up a contract agreement with a description of all relevant details as well as general operational clauses as to what a customer should expect and what you are responsible or not responsible for is a simple basic business practice.  Typically, I had 21 standard clauses in my contract before specifics were added. These standard clauses covered everything from delays due to weather, existing rot, unforeseen conditions, lawn damage responsibility, that material left over belonged to me, measurements are approximate, and even “rights to take and use pictures”. The list goes on and there’s a reason for every clause.

There’s A Lot Discussed & Less Included

Although lots of options and details are discussed during the consultation and designing phase, specific details and final elements that are included and agreed on must be documented as later it all runs together for most customers. So, in addition to the standard clauses of a contract, numerous specific details such as rail types, decking choices, and any pertinent choices are documented. For me, a design drawing that also included some details was signed off on.  Honest mistakes in memory occur with both parties, so having details benefits everyone and this alleviates or resolves a high percentage of issues when referred to. It should be comprehensive enough that a third party should be able to review a job file and know what’s being done. I also made it a point to include and attach photo examples of certain items and details to the package like rail types and trim finishes which I could refer to as well. I did this because customers don’t understand our assigned product titles or lingo, so this provided a visual that was an addendum to the contract and often used as examples when requesting HOA approvals.

From a technical and product standpoint most customers do their due diligence online. This should be expected and is good in that they can become somewhat educated regarding their investment. But it’s not good if they get bad information or interpret something that doesn’t apply to what you are doing. Chances are, the better the contractor is from a written detail and communication standpoint, the less likely these issues will come up and the more likely the customer is mistaken if it does. Now, the lesser prepared contractors will likely experience not only more issues, but the ones that come up will be trickier to resolve.

Customer confidence in who they choose as a contractor alleviates some potential issues as they trust you. If something does come up, my experience has been that they are more likely to believe you and assume they are mistaken. This comes from established credibility as a contractor and the relationship you have built with the customer.  This only carries you so far. I have learned that no matter what you do and how much you cover up front, problems can arise. On occasion we or our people do stumble, which compromises us and that is challenging to recover from. Acknowledging the obvious if you are wrong is the best way to begin to recover confidence and get the relationship back on track; but if you’re in the right…then standing your ground in a professional, confident, cordial, and unemotional way is how I’d handle it.

Managing the Conversation

So, for me these conversations always included an acknowledgement that I understand they believe something was included that they are not getting, or our technical approach is not what they expected. Often the first part was resolved by referring to the detailed notes or photos we all signed off on or what was on the drawings.

If a technical issue or question came up, I’d explain why we do what we do, why we can stand behind our building methods and why we might not if we did it another way. I did not let them engineer or dictate how I was going to structure a job or approach it from a technical standpoint as my warranty only applied if it was built to my own and code standards.  This assumes you have solid ground to stand on and you have not compromised yourself from a technical standpoint. Know what is required from both a code and the manufacturers aspect. For example: Customers find lots of information online with common searches involving pressure treated wood use, including, treating end cuts and stringers, or what voids a manufacturer’s warranty etc. Surprisingly, many contractors do not have a proper understanding of what is required with this aspect which can come back on them. To be caught on the wrong side of  obvious technical mistakes are not only embarrassing, but really does compromise you with a customer from a confidence standpoint. You should know that everything is just a “Google” search away for the customer.

There’s a Cost Either Way

Again, you can’t give away things just to make people happy, but for me if there was a gray area with minimal cost items or a slight repair that they thought was included and I believed they genuinely believed it, I looked at it like this. Sometimes there can be a bigger long-term cost if you do collect versus absorbing the hit. So, there can be a cost to you either way even if you collect money from a customer for a disputed item. The key is to determine which is the costliest. For example, you could stand your ground and charge a customer $300-$400 for something they disagreed was owed but would reluctantly agree to pay for. How will that $300-400 compare to the cost of having an unhappy customer you’re creating in the process? How will the rest of the job go now that they have an attitude? What kind of review will you receive? How many referrals will you receive from this customer? In the long run which choice cost you the most?

But let’s say it was a $1000, or some larger dollar value. I might take the pre-mentioned approach, but instead of absorbing the full amount I might offer to discount the work or split the cost with them. I would stress again that it wasn’t part of the job, but I realize they believe it was. Just to show an effort of good faith I would make the offer. But I would not give away the $1000. My experience has been that it’s the things you give away or give a deal on that are often the problem items on a job, so I don’t take these offers lightly. Also, I know that every percentage point matters, and small amounts multiplied add up over time so what you agree to from a dollar figure depends on the size of a job and what the percentages are. For example, you wouldn’t give up $300 on a $3000 job as that would be 10% of the project. But on a $30,000 project it would only be 1% and might be something you could live with.

Reasonable People and Reasonable Solutions

I’m a believer that reasonable people listen to reason and make decisions and reach conclusions based on reason, logic, and the practicalities involved. But I believe unreasonable people or the ones that are working you for something free are not fair minded and will not reach the same decision or conclusions. That’s where firmness, backbone, and written specific details and inclusion as well as exclusion cards must be played. Standing your ground in a professional and unemotional way at this point is just part of being a business owner and required for long term survival. Some customers are more difficult than others and how to deal with difficult and unreasonable customers is an article all to itself.

But my experience has been that if I listened to the customer first and then discussed a situation professionally with a reasonable and genuine effort and attitude to resolve it, my customer relationship was strengthened. For example If I made the decision to go ahead and do a minimal cost item even though technically I could get out of it and charge, but I knew the customer truly believed they were in the right, I’d do it in a way that had value. It might be “Look I’m sorry there has been a misunderstanding and I can understand you think this was included. It honestly is not but I want you to be happy and for this not to be a problem-we are going to handle it”. And I said it in a positive way. I didn’t say it with an attitude or in a reluctant resentful way. If you did the latter, you might as well have charged them as there is no gain.  I believe these customers often look back and remember that you did something that they often come to realize wasn’t part of the scope, but you did it anyway and you were nice about it.

Resolving Issues Properly Can Strengthen the Relationship

Ethical contractors strive to be fair and to satisfy their customers. Most customers are reasonable minded people just wanting us to meet their expectations that hopefully we as contractors have properly set. So, we must be fair to them but also to ourselves and to protect our businesses and livelihood and maintain a balance between the two. When practical and reasonable approaches discussed here are made and agreed upon, result in a cordial resolution; I believe these customers often give you the best reviews compared to the ones that had an uneventful experience. They have a more in-depth belief in you because the fairness and integrity test were passed versus a non-eventful delivery. Therefore, my experience has been that the contractor /customer relationship can become even stronger when an issue arises compared to a project that runs smoothly. I’m not saying you want more eventful jobs, only that if you take all the upfront precautions to cover yourself and it still happens, handle it in a manner that at the end of the day more than overcomes the few dollars you may have given on that job. Consider it an investment on your reputation and brand that creates fans of your company and may produce even stronger referrals compared to your typical jobs. And consider it a lesson learned and in some cases, an added clause to your next contract.

Bobby Parks / Instagram: @Bobbyparks007B


The Blind Side: Is Your A/R Program Saving Customers’ Time and Effort?

I loved the book The Blind Side about the discovery of future NFL left tackle, Michael Oher, written by Michael Lewis and later adapted into a blockbuster movie starring Sandra Bullock. The story opens by explaining how the left tackle position, someone who never touches the football, has become one of the most highly paid positions in the NFL. It’s confusing to the casual fan, but Lewis reveals the hidden-in-plain-sight logic: the most important player on the NFL roster is the quarterback, typically a right-handed passer. The second most important position is the left tackle, who prevents the defense from hitting the quarterback’s blind side, where chance of injury is more likely.

B2B businesses have a blind side too: it’s their customer experience with their A/R program. The largest customers typically represent a significant portion of a B2B business’ revenue. Sure, your customers may have been won by product or pricing considerations (i.e. an outstanding play by the QB), but that revenue will be protected or lost based on how you help them save the scarcest resource of all: time.

Simply put – customers don’t want to spend any more time getting what they need than they have to. They’re busy with their own customers and concerns about service. This is especially true when it comes to billing, A/R, and other payment or credit needs. Here lies a hidden front in the competition—and B2B businesses who exploit it have a new strategy to lock in customers and win new ones, too.

Success is no longer just the absence of problems. Sure, customers expect you to have the product they need, have it delivered promptly, have the order be accurately fulfilled, and be billed without error. However, in the world where Amazon has revolutionized the consumer buying experience – and has eyes on doing the same for business – saving customers’ time will earn you sticky, hard-to-leave relationships. Bonus surprise: you’ll also discover significant cost savings in the process.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Make it easy for customers to serve themselves

Everything we need as a consumer is online – purchases with your credit card company, ability to pay your phone bill, etc. In B2B, however, that’s still considered cutting edge. B2B businesses should invest in online customer account management capabilities. Rather than customers having to call your business and you paying staff to service these needs, make it simple for your customers to get what they need, whenever they need it. They should be able to download a statement, view past purchases, make a payment online, request more credit, dispute a charge, and any other common use case. They’ll get addicted to the ease and routine of serving their own needs.

Want proof? BlueTarp regularly conducts satisfaction surveys* and discovered something seemingly counterintuitive at first, but proves the blind side point. Removing the human touch from the service experience doesn’t decrease satisfaction. In fact, BlueTarp’s most satisfied customers are the highest users of our online tools.

Notifications, their way.

No one likes to get a phone call asking them to pay their bill. It’s a confrontation that is absolutely necessary for a few, but avoidable for most. Invest in automated email due date reminders and past due notices that provide a reminder of what’s due and when. Better yet, include a link in the email that connects to the online account so they can pay right away. Even better yet, make these type of notifications configurable so your customer can determine how they want to be communicated with and when . . . email, phone, or even text.

BlueTarp has found that email notifications are just as effective as a phone call in helping drive payment of unpaid bills that are slightly to moderately delinquent. To state the obvious, they are massively less expensive, can be executed en masse, and are preferred by most as the desired communication method.

Image explaining that 3 phone calls require 3 unique conversations, or you could have 3 automated emails that require just 1 follow up conversation. Either effort results in the same amount collected but with drastically different cost and effort.

Make it easy to get a credit account with you.

The more effort needed to do something, the less likely it is going to happen. Establishing a credit account is no different. READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

About the Author

Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson is president and CEO of BlueTarp. He has spent the majority of his twenty year career in financial services helping businesses grow more rapidly through the effective use of credit.