In the Fall of 2005, during some industry association meetings in Reno, a builder from Alabama complained to me, "the worst thing that ever happened to the building business is the internet, because now my customers know more about my job than I do."
At the time, I was not sure how to respond, other than to suggest that he might want to find a computer and try it for himself, but the underlying lesson in his lament is the undeniable message that the traditional relationship between the building professional and the customer has, for better or worse, been forever changed.
I, for one, am not suggesting that this is a bad thing. When I started building custom homes for clients three decades ago, I realized very quickly that there were simply not enough hours in the day for me to even attempt to stay current on all the new products and systems that were continuously surfacing. Nor was I going to be able to keep up with evolving building science, cutting-edge technologies or the latest design innovations without a lot of help.
Somewhat to my surprise, much of that help came directly from my customers. I learned that they were not encumbered by the same conservative biases, legacy relationships and inherent resistance to change that held back so many of my subcontractors, tradesmen and suppliers. No, when they customer embraced an idea it was not with a "why" but with a "why not" attitude.
As a result, I had my mind opened to scores of possibilities that I could have never discovered on my own, and the results were obvious in our projects and in our success in our market. The beneficiaries were not only my customers, but also my company and me. The curiosity and desire for new ideas that came from our customers made it possible for me to continue to look forward to new projects and never tire of the challenges of the business.
That builder in Reno had one part of it right. The internet has had a huge impact on the business of building and the shelter industry overall. But I think he was way off in thinking of it as a bad thing. In the years since that conversation, I've seen a new confidence and assertiveness emerge as home buyers and remodeling clients become increasingly informed and involved in the process.
There are new specifiers in the mix. And no matter what professional role you and your company fill, it will serve you well to encourage and support them, because they are your business partners now.
Posted: 11/29/2012 11:28:17 AM by
Mary Kestner | with 2 comments