Polishing the Industry's Image

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Don't just bemoan the perception that the building industry is the bad guy. Do something about it ... such as winning a business ethics award.

November 01, 2003
Clockwise from left: Ray Killian, Bill Saint, Phil Hughes and Alan Simonini of Simonini Builders believe that the business ethics award the company won and other third-party recognition reinforce their employees' customer service training.
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Attend almost any local home builders association meeting, and there's a good chance you can step into a conversation about builders' bad public image. The next time that happens, don't just join the chorus pointing fingers at NIMBYs and litigious home buyers. Instead, ask the complainers why they don't do something to change the industry's bad-guy image - such as winning a business ethics award.

Opportunities Abound

Many builders won't have to look far for such an award competition. The Council of Better Business Bureaus sponsors the International Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, which had affiliated award programs in 55 local markets last year. It's broken into four categories based on number of employees, so small builders (1-10 employees) compete against similarly small companies from other industries, right on the local level, where a builder's reputation for fair treatment of customers, employees, trades and suppliers really matters. The other categories are 11-99 employees, 100-999 and 1,000 or more. You don't need to be a Better Business Bureau member to enter, but you do need to be in good standing with the local chapter.

If you do business in a local market without a Torch Award competition and the market has a BBB, lead the charge to organize the competition through the bureau. The Council of Better Business Bureaus will help.

The Society of Financial Service Professionals also sponsors a competition, the American Business Ethics Award, with 21 affiliated regional awards, many at the local level, including major markets such as Dallas, Washington and Orlando, Fla. This competition is divided into three groups, also based on number of employees: fewer than 250, 250-2,500 and more than 2,500.

The society includes more than 200 chapters nationwide, so again, if this award hasn't hit your area, it probably wouldn't take much to start a competition. Check out www.financialpro.org as a first step.

Both awards follow similar formats, with judging criteria calling for documentation proving high ethical standards within the firm and a long history of ethical practices in the marketplace. Both follow the local awards with the national competition. Winning a national award is gravy, but the meat is winning locally - where a builder's customers live.

What's in It for Every Builder

You know how much a bad public image hurts all builders. What you might not realize is how powerfully a good image can drive referral sales and bottom-line profits.

If a builder in your market wins a business ethics award, it helps all local builders by raising the industry's image. But it helps the winner the most by providing a third-party endorsement of the firm's trustworthiness and its leadership in the local business community.

You won't win one of these awards without documenting a high level of customer satisfaction. The tragedy today is that so many builders have great satisfaction scores and high ethical standards but the word never reaches the general public.

You can change that. But first you have to enter.

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