In this month’s issue, we celebrate the winners of the Professional Builder Design Awards.
As you’ll see, we received some wonderful entries this year. Winners or not, we appreciate all of the companies that spend what can amount to a great deal of time to prepare and send in their best designs. Knowing what’s being built in various parts of the country enhances our knowledge of design trends, and we often publish stories that reflect the information we glean from these homes.
But what’s in it for those who enter this or any other awards program? An obvious answer is that winning awards offers excellent marketing opportunities and a chance for a company to gain recognition and set itself apart from its competition. In short, awards offer what amounts to a seal of approval that can show prospective customers that a company and its products have been judged against its peers and found to stack up favorably.
Winning awards, however, can have an even bigger impact within a company itself. Vernon McKown, owner and president of sales of Ideal Homes, in Norman, Okla., in an interview with The CEO Advantage Journal some years ago, spoke of the significant benefits that awards can offer in terms of employee morale and engagement. Ideal has long been known as an exemplary builder and was one of the first companies to build affordable Energy Star homes back in the late ’90s. Ideal has continued to burnish its reputation as a high-performance home builder and has won many awards, among them what could be called the industry trifecta: National Housing Quality Gold, Professional Builder’s Builder of the Year, and America’s Best Builder awards.
McKown told the publication that Ideal did not win awards right out of the box, though. He said the firm’s principals applied for an award before they knew anything about what it would take to win, and of course they didn’t win. They quickly realized they didn’t have an award-winning company yet, and they would have to do the hard work to create a great company first. It was then, McKown said, that “Greatness became our goal rather than the award itself.”
The process of entering awards competitions can help a company on the road to greatness. The mere act of filling out an application for an award raises questions that make you look at your business from a different perspective. That inevitably leads to a company self-examination that may yield a number of areas requiring improvement. Hiring practices, employee training, and other internal systems, policies, and processes are among those parts of a business that may come to light as needing to be scrutinized and refined.
And that’s just the internal part of the process. Companies need to know what others think of them, as well, in order to find opportunities for remedying problems and elevating a company’s performance. Regular discussions with trades, for example, on how to improve jobsite practices often reveal ways to assess and enhance the quality of what you build and how you build it.
Likewise, customer satisfaction surveys provide a way for a builder to objectively identify process and product strengths and weaknesses. The number of builders that actively solicit comments and criticism from customers has increased over the years, but there are still too many that, according to contributing editor Charlie Scott, “underestimate and even discount the value of customer feedback.” Scott contends that the insight customers provide is one of the “most accurate measurements of a builder’s past, current, and future performance.”
If your company has never entered an awards program, it might be time to think about taking a shot at it. Who knows? You might win. Or better yet, your business may benefit in ways that could be more valuable than the prize itself.