What does professional really mean?

This will be intentionally short so I don’t sway or influence your answer to the question above. A short story first: I was reading an interview in the local business journal and a comment at the end caught my attention and my ire (yeah, I know…it was just a little). The quote from the owner of a lumber yard said that “90 % of their clients were professionals or contractors”. Did you see that? That little word “or”. I’m pretty sure I know what he intended to say but it could be easily read to communicate that the two are mutually exclusive. ouch.
My assumption and my mission in my business is that it is possible to be a professional contractor. My question to you is, what are the qualities that you would say make a contractor a professional?

You should know: I may quote your comments in a speech I give in January when I am installed as the President of the Southern California Remodelers Council.

Your turn :)

20 Responses to “What does professional really mean?”

  1. John Lusher Says:

    As someone that does a lot of work with the restoration and remodeling industry, I can easily understand why this comment caught your ire! That was uncalled for! Yes, I agree with what he probably meant by the comment, but it was the wrong way to say it!

    To your question; a contractor is a professional when he conducts himself with the utmost integrity. It is about doing the right thing, not the dollars and cents. Answering your phone in a professional and courteous manner; showing up for meetings on time, prepared and presentable. Providing a fair price for your services and then sticking to that price unless conditions change. All of these things point to a professional; whether you are a contractor or not. Unfortunately for contractors, they must set their own bar higher due to the un-professionals out there.

    Just my thoughts…

  2. John Lusher Says:

    As someone that does a lot of work with the restoration and remodeling industry, I can easily understand why this comment caught your ire! That was uncalled for! Yes, I agree with what he probably meant by the comment, but it was the wrong way to say it!

    To your question; a contractor is a professional when he conducts himself with the utmost integrity. It is about doing the right thing, not the dollars and cents. Answering your phone in a professional and courteous manner; showing up for meetings on time, prepared and presentable. Providing a fair price for your services and then sticking to that price unless conditions change. All of these things point to a professional; whether you are a contractor or not. Unfortunately for contractors, they must set their own bar higher due to the un-professionals out there.

    Just my thoughts…

  3. Laurie March, @EvangelistaLA Says:

    What makes a contractor professional:

    LISTENING SKILLS

    People and conflict management skills

    A successful chain of information passage

    Upkeep on his responsibilities – insurance, workmans’ comp, paperwork, education, license, his books

    Genuine interest in his team/subs success and workmanship

    A curiosity (and hopefully still) a love of what he does

  4. Laurie March, @EvangelistaLA Says:

    What makes a contractor professional:

    LISTENING SKILLS

    People and conflict management skills

    A successful chain of information passage

    Upkeep on his responsibilities – insurance, workmans’ comp, paperwork, education, license, his books

    Genuine interest in his team/subs success and workmanship

    A curiosity (and hopefully still) a love of what he does

  5. Laurie March, @EvangelistaLA Says:

    Hmm… excuse me. I didn’t mean to only say ‘his’ :)

  6. Laurie March, @EvangelistaLA Says:

    Hmm… excuse me. I didn’t mean to only say ‘his’ :)

  7. admin Says:

    Great answers, from a true pro! May your tribe increase Laurie

  8. admin Says:

    Great answers, from a true pro! May your tribe increase Laurie

  9. Tim Schrock Says:

    I can’t agree more with Laurie.

    My two cents is COMMUNICATION; and that has to start with listening. Without proper communication, people get confused and frustrated. Building a policy of good communication takes work and understanding, but it’s well worth it. It works best when ALL team members are working together, on the same page, and with the same goal and vision in mind.

    Many service providers think they communicate well, but everyone can work on better communication. Remove your ego, listen well, and communicate properly and effectively: it makes for happy relationships.

  10. Tim Schrock Says:

    I can’t agree more with Laurie.

    My two cents is COMMUNICATION; and that has to start with listening. Without proper communication, people get confused and frustrated. Building a policy of good communication takes work and understanding, but it’s well worth it. It works best when ALL team members are working together, on the same page, and with the same goal and vision in mind.

    Many service providers think they communicate well, but everyone can work on better communication. Remove your ego, listen well, and communicate properly and effectively: it makes for happy relationships.

  11. Michael Anschel Says:

    A professional runs their business like a business. They operate ethically in all matters. They have self imposed rules, regulations, and policies which they follow. They push to continuously improve every aspect of their business, and seek to do the same for their industry. A professional invests in the community and works to enrich the lives of everyone they come in contact with. A professional strives to improve the perception of their business and their industry. A professional is not satisfied with adequate performance, they strive for excellence in everything they do. A professional checks their ego at the door. A professional tells the truth, seeks to build good will and better friendships, and ensures their actions are both fair and beneficial to all concerned.

  12. Michael Anschel Says:

    A professional runs their business like a business. They operate ethically in all matters. They have self imposed rules, regulations, and policies which they follow. They push to continuously improve every aspect of their business, and seek to do the same for their industry. A professional invests in the community and works to enrich the lives of everyone they come in contact with. A professional strives to improve the perception of their business and their industry. A professional is not satisfied with adequate performance, they strive for excellence in everything they do. A professional checks their ego at the door. A professional tells the truth, seeks to build good will and better friendships, and ensures their actions are both fair and beneficial to all concerned.

  13. Leah Thayer Says:

    This is a great question, and I know that bristling feeling. It wasn’t until I began to write about the remodeling industry that I became sensitized to how often contractors — and virtually all skilled trade professionals — are either brushed aside as mere accessories to a project or not even mentioned. Spend a few minutes with Architectural Digest or Metropolitan Home, and you’ll see what I mean.

    I agree with everything Laurie said, and would add the following:

    Responsiveness: return calls and emails quickly, answer questions completely, fix problems promptly

    Presentation/respect: contractor and trades drive clean vehicles, dress professionally, make eye contact, don’t smoke or play loud music or otherwise behave dubiously on jobsites. Be aware that people see you and make mental notes when you run red lights and toss your cigarettes out the window. Avoid obnoxious / political bumperstickers, especially if your vehicle is labeled. Ensure that you crews know to leave a client’s home as clean as they found it.

    Set expectations clearly: explain what will happen when; ask about the client’s expectations, listen and respond.

    Congrats on your appointment, J. You’re an asset to the industry and to your community.

  14. Leah Thayer Says:

    This is a great question, and I know that bristling feeling. It wasn’t until I began to write about the remodeling industry that I became sensitized to how often contractors — and virtually all skilled trade professionals — are either brushed aside as mere accessories to a project or not even mentioned. Spend a few minutes with Architectural Digest or Metropolitan Home, and you’ll see what I mean.

    I agree with everything Laurie said, and would add the following:

    Responsiveness: return calls and emails quickly, answer questions completely, fix problems promptly

    Presentation/respect: contractor and trades drive clean vehicles, dress professionally, make eye contact, don’t smoke or play loud music or otherwise behave dubiously on jobsites. Be aware that people see you and make mental notes when you run red lights and toss your cigarettes out the window. Avoid obnoxious / political bumperstickers, especially if your vehicle is labeled. Ensure that you crews know to leave a client’s home as clean as they found it.

    Set expectations clearly: explain what will happen when; ask about the client’s expectations, listen and respond.

    Congrats on your appointment, J. You’re an asset to the industry and to your community.

  15. J Steele Says:

    Thanks Leah! It’s obvious that you’re speaking from the heart and from years of experience. Love the specifics. This information is great!

  16. J Steele Says:

    Thanks Leah! It’s obvious that you’re speaking from the heart and from years of experience. Love the specifics. This information is great!

  17. admin Says:

    John, Tim and Michael: I’m really honored with your responses and enjoy hearing the personal angles from each of you. Thanks for taking the time!

  18. admin Says:

    John, Tim and Michael: I’m really honored with your responses and enjoy hearing the personal angles from each of you. Thanks for taking the time!

  19. Laurie March, @EvangelistaLA Says:

    … and from my experience yesterday:

    Respecting a homeowner’s emotions and home. I know we covered that, but I got to a jobsite yesterday that was filthy, with food wrappers, spilled coffee, and debris from 3 separate trades all over the house – with finish paint on the walls!

    When I called the foreman (who wasn’t onsite) I was told this…”You DO know it’s a JOBSITE, don’t you??”

    A professional contractor NEVER EVER FORGETS that even when a home is vacated for a remodel, covered with plaster dust, materials, etc. It. Is. Still. A. HOME!

    Needless to say this contractor will never step foot in one of my clients’ homes again.

    Great discussion!

  20. Laurie March, @EvangelistaLA Says:

    … and from my experience yesterday:

    Respecting a homeowner’s emotions and home. I know we covered that, but I got to a jobsite yesterday that was filthy, with food wrappers, spilled coffee, and debris from 3 separate trades all over the house – with finish paint on the walls!

    When I called the foreman (who wasn’t onsite) I was told this…”You DO know it’s a JOBSITE, don’t you??”

    A professional contractor NEVER EVER FORGETS that even when a home is vacated for a remodel, covered with plaster dust, materials, etc. It. Is. Still. A. HOME!

    Needless to say this contractor will never step foot in one of my clients’ homes again.

    Great discussion!