Good morning Constructing Brands. I am so happy to have on today, Shawn Van Dyke. Shawn Van Dyke is a construction business coach. He has two books, one that’s called Profit First for Contractors another, that is The Paperwork Punch List. I’m so happy to have Shawn on because as you guys know, as building material manufacturers, as the people who are in charge of making those decisions that guide your company, what great insight to grab from Shawn who has focused so much time, energy and effort in that construction space and helping advise and guide contractors to doing the right thing to drive their business and grow their business. So Shawn, thank you so much for coming on the show here today.
Hey Eric, just thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Oh my pleasure. So Shawn, I had the great opportunity of doing that deep dive into a little bit about who you are. What was the impetus, what got you started focusing on or identifying that contractors maybe need to think about their business in a different way than maybe a lot of them are.
Yeah, so it kind of goes back to my early days, after I graduated from college. So I always say that I’m a recovering engineer, so I got a couple of degrees in engineering, in civil engineering and then a masters in structural engineering. So I started in the construction industry and some people that are contractors right now are rolling their eyes because they say, oh, an engineer. Yeah, typical engineer thinks that he knows the construction industry. That’s why I say I started in and around the construction industry as an engineer and did that for several years and then found my way in, well, I really found myself behind a desk a lot knowing how to design projects, but I didn’t know how to build anything. So I went out and got a job. I say I went out and got a job. I got laid off and so I had to find a job. And ended up working as a project manager for a large commercial contractor and did that for a couple of years. And then that path led me to working for an architecture firm where I specialized in real estate development. So the firm I was working for did a lot of work for real estate, developed commercial real estate developers. And as years went on, I ended up actually working for that developer as a construction manager. And I’ve really found that to be my sweet spot because not only was half of my time out in the field, directing the contractors and working with the developers to secure the property, but then also half the time was back in the office, making sure we could build and make money doing the things that we, it was pretty typical big box retail with outlots and shops and that whole thing. So did that for a few years and then, but that put me on the road about three to four days a week, traveling all over the Southeast and the Midwest, you know, wherever we were cutting down trees and paving stuff, you know, I had to go there and, but I loved it. But my wife by this time we have five kids now. She was probably pregnant with our second one and said, hey, this this three, four days on the road every week isn’t going to work out so well. So I quit my job working for the real estate developer. And that was the first business I ever started was a construction management consulting business. So I worked and I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee. So I worked in and around the Knoxville area doing construction management and owner’s representative type of stuff for what I call mom and pop shops, people that had just bought a small parcel in the industrial area or they were developing, but they were business owners, they weren’t developers. And they thought, well, we’ve got an architect, we’ve got a contractor, we’re ready to build. And I’m like, no, you aren’t ready until you’ve had about two dozen meetings with the city and getting a driveway cut and meeting with the utility folks. And so that’s what I did. It was a construction management there. And this was around 2007 going into 2008 and then the money stopped for you know, banks started lent, stopped lending money. So I made a pivot and started a construction company. I had a small remodeling company and did that for several years. And then found my way into a position as a COO for a trim and millwork company. The trim and millwork company was actually one of my trade contractors that I used on my projects. The owner of that company, he and I were really good friends, young guy too. And his business was really exploding because he started focusing on very high end trim and millwork. And he came to me one day and he said I think I need to hire somebody to run my company. And I thought he was just asking me for advice and I said, yeah, it would be a good idea because you suck at running the business. And like I said, he was my trim subcontractor. So I was like, your schedule’s a mess. Your invoices are never accurate. Your guys do great work when I can get you on site, no question. But like the business side of it you really struggle with. And then he said, well why don’t you come and do it? And so we talked a little bit and he, I really didn’t want to at first, but he’s a really good salesman. And I said, all right, I thought I would call his bluff. I said, the only way that I’m going to do this is that you let me run the business and you run the field. That’s the only way I’ll do it. And he pulled out of his bag a folder. It was about, I don’t know, an inch thick with God, knows how many years’ worth of random receipts and paper and some form of spreadsheet. He slid it across the table at lunch. He said, here you go, here’s the business. His whole entire business was contained in that one folder. And I thought I was calling his bluff. He called mine and I said, okay, I’ll do it. And at that time we had we had six guys working for us out in the field and we went from six guys to 18 guys.
What a bright fellow who recognized that he did what he knew what he did well and recognized what he needed help with, huh?
Yeah. And that was looking back. Now I can kind of see that mentality. I mean that’s what I teach my clients to do too is like, hey, you may be a great craftsperson, a great contractor, but you got to know the business side of it and I didn’t even know. I was kind of formulating some of the ideas and the frameworks that I teach now, but it was such a rapid growth. All I was doing was building systems and these systems that I was building were just based on what I had used internally at my other companies, my construction company, my real estate and construction management and so it was just system after system and it was heads down work for about 18 months and looked up and we had 22 guys out in the field. We had gotten out of debt. We had turned the company around and I don’t take any credit for it. I was just the spreadsheet guy. I mean, I had a great team, we hired some really great people, but it was at that point about three years in that I realized, wait a minute, this is a pretty typical sort of problem with a lot of contractors is that a large network of contractors and construction business owners that, you know, when you’re in general contracting, everybody knows everybody and that’s how you get work done. And they all seem to suffer from the same stuff that I was working on and people would call me and they would see what we were doing at the trim and millwork company. And so it was always answering questions about contracts and scheduling and estimating and, and hire, especially hiring to go from six guys to 18 guys. And so I found myself talking about these systems and I wouldn’t have even thought it really calling them systems. It was just like, this is what we did, this is, and we tried to and we screwed it up. And so we improved it and we can’t slow down. One day. I remember I was even, I remember the day I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and for whatever reason I had the thought had crossed my mind. I was like, wow, it’s been 19 years since I graduated from college that graduated from college, 19 years. And I just turned to my wife and I said, honey, you’re married to an expert. I’ve been doing this for 19 years. I said, how’s that feel? And she just rolled her eyes was like, what are you talking about? But that really kind of stuck with me. My definition of an expert is when you ask me something about construction, especially residential construction, but if you asked me something about construction, I either, A know the answer or B, I know who to call to get the answer. That’s it. That’s all it takes to be an expert. And that I couldn’t kind of get that idea out of my head. And then I started thinking like, wait a minute, these problems that I’ve been working on or these companies that I have run that knowledge, was just kind of basic to me. Like, yeah, oh, nobody knows how to run a business or identifying some of these things. And I realized the basic knowledge, and this is for a lot of this resonates a lot with your listeners too, is that your basic knowledge in any area is expert knowledge to somebody else. And I said, I bet I could sell my basic knowledge and it would be very helpful for, for a lot of other contractors and people in the construction industry. So that was really, it for me was just kind of this, I don’t know, self-awareness to say, wait a minute, maybe I’ve got something here, maybe what I’ve done for my companies and this other small trim and millwork company. Maybe it’s systemic, maybe I can scale that. Maybe there’s some other opportunities. If I focus on just what I know. And that is helping construction companies make a dollar. That’s it. That’s it. Like the more that I’ve done this, you know, business is business, you, you gotta be able, that’s another thing for a business owner here a lot of times is they always want to say, well, Shawn, my business is different. No, it’s not. Your business, Eric and my business and the contractor’s business and the building supply manufacturer. If you think that your business is so different, 99% of the DNA of any business is the same. And you just gotta be able to back out far enough and speak the language and apply good business strategies to business in general. And that was it for me to say, wait a minute, maybe I can take this now I’m going to focus just on, on construction. And I’m going to put it in certain terms and language and use my experience. But that was really it for me, was realizing, Hey, I think this basic stuff, I can put it out there and it’ll solve a lot of problems for people in the construction industry. I don’t know software, I don’t know banking, I don’t know. You know, a lot of these other, you know, you could manufacture widgets or whatever. I don’t quite understand that, but I can walk into a contractor’s office or into their shop and start talking about their business specifically.
This is applicable to everybody who’s listening. Really. If you’re in charge of or responsible for running a company, gosh, take a step back. What are you doing really, really well? What do you do really well and what don’t you do really, really well? And once you identify those pieces of the puzzle, and that might even be a little litmus test, do you consider yourself an expert? And if you do, you know, do you, is the Shawn method of do I know it or can I find it really quickly?
I look at it almost a little different. I would add one little tweak to yours. It’s that, am I cognizant that I know it or don’t know it is my first question because you know, when we’re little kids we think we know everything and as we get older, like Aristotle, like we recognize that we really don’t know as much as we thought we might have. But what we do know, we actually really know. So the question is level set. Is this something I understand and is in my DNA and I’m good at. And if I have someone within my organization who’s really good at that, am I giving them the opportunity to do that well, which is what it sounds like. The trim and millwork company owner of that company recognize that. Okay, Shawn do it well with enough autonomy to be able to actually do it, which is kudos. Hats off to that guy, huh?
Oh yeah. I mean, and we still joke about it. I don’t know that, you know, to make that decision now being older and being on the other side of it, we look back and I say, we realize how much we didn’t know. Right. But he knew some basic stuff. Like this guy is pretty well organized. He’s got, you know, his paperwork’s in line and he seems to run a pretty tight ship. Again, basic stuff for me, coming from an engineer, I mean I’m a numbers guy, I’m a systems guy. That to him seemed very appealing when he said, hey, come and run my company. I was like, I don’t know anything about running a larger organization with multiple teams and that kind of stuff. But that’s not what his big problem was. It was the basic stuff. So if he could turn over the basic stuff to somebody and give them enough freedom to like dig in, then all of this, then he could focus on the other things. And that was one of the reasons for the growth too, because he had to be out. I mean we were training guys every couple of weeks, you know, when you go from six guys to 18 so yeah, I would say you’re exactly right with what you’re saying is the older that you get, what makes you an expert is not what you know. You just become very aware of what you don’t know and you’re not scared of it anymore. When you realize nobody knows. If you’re the one person that’s digging in and filling in the gaps, most people get scared at what they don’t know. And so they stop when you just say, oh man, there was so much I don’t know. But I bet I could find one person that knows that because most people, thank God most people aren’t entrepreneurs. Because if they were, then we’d all be, nothing would ever get done. Right? Everything would be behind schedule and nothing would get moved forward. So, it’s a balance, but most people don’t think like that.
I love the fact that you’ve now referred back to yourself as you’re an engineer, you’re a systems and a process guy and you’ve recognized that’s where you’re good. That’s where you probably are very comfortable there in the construction industry. Maybe it’s not intuitively the people who are owning these companies aren’t intuitively thinking about process systems and how to organize and look at their world in a way for continued success, or maybe even for planned success where they control it as opposed to it being kind of all over the place. And isn’t that what an engineer’s mind does? It looks at controlling different variables for success. Right?
Yeah. And what I’ve found in coming from it from an operational side of the construction business and the system side of the businesses that most contractors, and I’m saying the ones that start the company, probably the ones that have come up with a construction background, you know, they learned it from their grandfather or their father, whatever it’s in their DNA. They are inherently, and then this is a total compliment. They are inherently people pleasers, meaning they like to build stuff with their hands and they’re usually very humble and they just like to stand back, present it to their customers or their clients and it’s the smile on their customer’s face, right? That the customers look at them and be like, I can’t, I don’t understand how you were able to make that thing and they just done backstage. It’s just, you know, some tools and tricks and some experience down. It’s the basic stuff, right? But that gives them a lot of enjoyment. But what causes most of the problem is the fact that they are people pleasers and it does not make other people happy when you say, well, according to the scope of work that wasn’t included, so we’re going to have to charge you more for that. Or when you can’t control the weather when there are some weather delays or whatever. Right. That’s a difficult conversation. It doesn’t please a contract. It doesn’t please that other person’s we’re contracted to have say, Hey, I’m sorry this is outside of our control. Your project’s delayed or this is going to cost more, or you changed your plans or whatever. They don’t want to do that because they want to please people instead of developing a process that serves people. Now I’m not saying that they don’t serve people with the work that they do, but inherently, that’s where they come from. They’re like, I want to make people happy with the work that I make and I want to stand back and enjoy that. And a lot of the great, a lot of great builders, they don’t need a pat on the back. They know, they know that not many people can do what they do. But getting into that people pleasing of it just destroys the business part of it. Part of that, part of the most profitable word you can say in business, is no. So when someone says, hey, I want you to build this for us, well what kind of client are you? Do you have the right kind of budget and all of these things? And like, no, I’m sorry this is not a good fit for us. They’re just going to say, yeah I’ll do it cause this is what I do and I hope that I can make them happy somewhere down the line. So again, it’s intended as a compliment to contractors, but where they get stuck is realizing like it’s okay to have systems. It’s okay to have boundaries and to work within those And say this is what we do and we do it really well. And that thing over there, we don’t do that because we can’t make money at it. If we did it, I know you would be happy, but I won’t be happy because we can’t make money at it.
Which is wisdom also, right? Because it’s just, it’s one of those things that might feel counterintuitive, but it proves itself out over time, over and over again, that sometimes the job you don’t take is the most profitable job. It’s something that you said that has rung true so much and it’s so interesting in that I speak to many people who are, products that they’ve created, they’re manufacturers, they’ve developed products for the building space, and when I speak to them, they’re so excited about the product that they’ve created. You know, it’s kind of as you were talking about the contractor kind of sitting back and the homeowner, how did you do it? You know, that feeling like that. And I, and by the way, I was a mason when I was in high school and I took my girlfriend by that set of steps that I did and check it out. I built this, you know, it was the greatest joy, right? So I get it. I really get it. But the other, you know, it’s, so that’s the contract. A building material manufacturer. If they’re really, really good, it might be a family owned and operated business. It might be something that they’re, they might have an engineering degree or something that they are, they’re building something. They want to create something better. They’ve either identified a need in the marketplace and they’re focused on solving that challenge. Incredible. Right? What a great way to be. Or you know, they might be in an industry and say, wow, if we did something this way or we provided this type of solution, it would help. Or the world needs something like this, like modular design or you know, if I could add this and this, it could make every, everybody could be a little more profitable. Whatever the impetus is. The irony here is when I speak to these folks, they’re so focused on what they have created to solve that challenge that when I ask them about marketing, typically, it’s almost like build it and they will come. You know what, I am spending so much time, energy and effort in making this end all be all, most incredible product. I’m on my fifth iteration and I almost got it perfect. You know, and I love this. It solves these challenges and anybody who hears about it wants it. So I’m going to put it through distribution and you know, people are going to find out about it at the yard or people are going to find out about it. You know, I always have this feeling of, okay well I’ll probably work with your company once the private equity guys or the VC guys buy it from you and realize they want to make money now. And they bring me in and we do vision mission value, go to market strategy and we put money against marketing. And I always have that feeling like, wow, I would love to just share with you that if you did some of these things, you would have other options with that company. And it kind of speaks to what you said, knowing what you do well and understanding that because you might not feel comfortable with another part of that piece of the business, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. That just means you need to figure out who can help you with it or how you’re going to, and that’s kind of, Shawn, if I’m not mistaken, that’s what you kind of do with construction companies, right?
Yeah. I mean, one thing that I’ve always found is very interesting about building manufacturers especially is the end user, the contractor, the installers, the people that are buying the product. Like you can have the best product in the world. But understanding the mentality of contractors, we are very slow to adopt new things. Now I think that that is changing as contract. And I think people in the industry get younger. I mean we have a bunch of people that are aging out and going to be retiring or whatever. So these next generation of contractors that are coming along, technology is moving so fast. But you have to understand for your building manufacturers that the mentality of a contractor, you can have the best product in the world that solves every kind of problem in your space. But a contractor is going to stand back and say, not on my house because I have gotta be responsible for that thing for the next 20 years. I mean, technically I know that maybe I’m warrantying it for a year or two years or or whatever. But I can remember building products coming out and you know, you have these products that come out and they have failures and they go through their testing and there’s rumors about you know, why this thing failed. And then the manufacturers are improving the products, but us contractors are so slow to adopt that and for good reason because they’ve got to be the ones that warranty it and follow up with it and replace it. If something goes bad. And I can remember like you know, certain products like on that list say like on the exterior of the house, you know, you just, you used to just wrap the house and house wrap and that was the, I mean that was the standard way and it wasn’t that big of a leap from like tar paper to, you know, different products that we have now and now you’ve got all in one systems. I remember when those all-in-one systems come, you know, came up and I won’t mention any names or whatever, but you know that have a very certain way to install them and they got a certain color and all of that kind of stuff. Man, when you saw those, it was just like, oh gosh, that thing hasn’t been proven yet. Even though all of the scientific research and the studies and the product had been developed, contractors, are going no, I haven’t seen enough of it yet. Then when they start seeing it, they’re so quick, not quick to adopt, but then they jump on board with it and then it becomes the standard thing. But the reason is because they’re like for building manufacturers, you may have a great product, but you got to get in the mind of the contractor and solve that problem and tell him, hey, him or her like don’t worry. Here’s how we are going to stand behind this particular product for the next 20 years. So that you can feel better about using it in its early stages now. And I mean, yeah, you know what I’m talking about? Like, you got building manufacturers that have a great product and it’s like scientifically proven and it does the thing, but it’s like why isn’t anyone buying it? Like what you said, it’s you’re marketing to the wrong thing. You’re marketing the features instead of the benefits that the builder’s going to get from, from using it. And I see it all the time and to see at trade shows like product after product, just incredible, incredible technology being applied to the construction industry now. But still contractors stand back, go. I mean, some of them are still like, yeah, I just started using an app for my calculator on my phone or whatever. And you’ve got this space age technology that you want me to put, you know on a house. I’m slow down there cowboy, I’m not quite there yet.
So how do we convince them? Obviously features, benefits and you’re talking about highlighting benefits and one, two is helping support them in understanding that they’ve got that I’m responsible for the next 20 years to make certain that this product that I’m choosing is going to work and last. What are other things that building manufacturers can think about providing those contractors who are kind of scratching their chin saying, I’m not sure if I want to be the test subject on this one, right?
Yeah. Well the first thing, if they showed them the numbers, right. One thing that I’ve found that most contractors, and I say this in my book and this is what I’ve kind of focused on, most contractors aren’t making a profit and they really struggle with the business side of it. So even outside of the product itself, building manufacturers, if they will help the contractor on the business side before you introduce the product or as you introduce the product, go a little bit deeper on their business. Help, again, it’s the basic stuff. These, in order to be a building manufacturer, I mean you’ve got probably some large organizations, you’ve got all sorts of complexity and it’s just basic to you. That’s what it takes. Those are the barriers that you have to jump over. So if you back out of that, like what we were talking about before, saying what are some of the basic things that we could help our customers with from the business side, invite them in and when they, when you start helping them run a business, they’re going to buy every product from you, maybe because of the product, but the way in, I say the gateway drug to contractors is profits. Show them how to make a profit with whatever they’re doing. And then your product just slides right in there. If you can show them how to make more and you have a premium product, then show them why spending more on your product than other competitors is going to help their bottom line and explaining to them what a bottom line is. That’s what I’ve seen and I work with several manufacturers and the trend now is they’re starting to do their own trainings and their own you know, really academies for lack of a better term, where they’re bringing in their end user. They’re not the buyer of the product, like the buyers or the distributors and the, the other people in between, but they’re going out and getting the installers and the contractors, bringing them in, giving them business training and then saying, now that you understand how to make a profit, how to sell, how to be efficient on the job site, our product is going to add to this. It’s going to increase your bottom line even more. And so that’s one thing I think that building manufacturers need to kind of look at and say, hey, how can we help the end user run a better business? And when they run a better business, they’re going to come back. We are, contractors are very, very loyal and it’s the reason why they don’t jump to the next greatest product. Right? Because this one is proven so be that source of proven business best practices and they will buy your product forever.
I love that. So I mean I think you said it exactly right. Educate and don’t just focus on your feature benefit, focus on how they are going to be more profitable and more successful and teach them or provide them with ways that they could implement that within their own business and they’ll come back over and over again. Any other tips, tricks or thoughts that you might have to ingratiate as a building manufacturer? Ingratiate yourself with a contractor?
Yeah, make videos, make videos of your process, of the installation process and all sorts of supporting documents. Like again, because contractors these days, the technology is, like I said, is increasing in the construction industry, but some of the support on the backside is still like, hey, now you can get a PDF and an instruction manual on the specs and all of that kind of stuff. Great, that’s awesome. I’ve been picking up the, you used to have to pick up the phone and call the lumber supply and say, hey, what am I supposed to do with this thing? What’s the, what are the installation procedures? Now you can get that on your, then you could get that on your phone and there’s a PDF or something. But now it’s like don’t give me a PDF. Give me a video. Create a channel for your company, for your product so that I can watch very quickly and absorb the information that I need. I mean, and you know this being in marketing, like video is everything now we’re so bombarded with content, no one reads anything. So we’re scanning for that information and videos deliver the power of the word and context and intent. And you can hear someone’s voice and you can see exactly what they’re doing. So that’s the one thing I’m like, eventually then it’ll become holograms and then it’ll just be preprogrammed into brains. I don’t know, whatever it is, but right now I think that it’s especially important for building manufacturers to personalize their products and create a person, create a character, create something that a contractor can personally get involved with. Even if it, whether it’s a person or whatever, create a story around that product and put it, you can’t shoot enough video about your product these days.
Couldn’t agree with you more. I mean, and when you talk about creating that channel, that online channel, that is a video channel, let’s talk about what does that channel need to have, how to video, what other types of support would be interesting to that contractor, right?
Yeah. I always call it, I think it’s the three E’s. You have to educate, you have to engage and you have to entertain. And you can come at any one of those as long as you do all three. I don’t think that it necessarily matters. Right now, I think, and we, you’ve seen this before, big brands household names that don’t take themselves too seriously, sometimes it can be very engaging, right? So you can start there and if somebody out there listening going, okay, well that sounds interesting. Some CEO, CFO or you know, director of the boards out there listening to this, just go to your 25 to 34 year olds in your company and ask them how to be engaging with your product, because they know. I’m telling you like engagement is one thing. Entertain people, if you have people that enjoy working for your company, enjoy the products that you make, then there’s some entertainment. They’re having fun, then entertain your audience with what’s going on and how you make that thing. And then there’s always a huge ROI on education. If you’re out educating your competition, you will win.
Let’s make a little quick pivot over to something else that you had mentioned. You had mentioned end end consumer, right? And speaking of the end end consumer as if they are and the decision maker as if they are the contractor. Let me ask you this. What about the end end consumer being the person who’s actually living with the product after it’s built? The consumer, if it’s a residential or if it’s commercial, the person who either works in the building, who is touching it or person who lives in the house, who’s actually living with that product. I know there’s always that minute where we think about it on the marketing side, okay, how do we maybe present this for a, you know, there’s always that push and pull. Maybe this is a product that we have that we want our customers to know about. Meaning the end end, if, let’s say it’s a residential product, we want to make sure that that consumer maybe questions or asks the contractor, hey, have you thought about this product? Similar to what we’ve seen in the drug industry, right? Used to be aware all these pharmas would have their salespeople knock on the doctor’s door with the samples and whatever there, I really don’t know what their business model was to sell it, but I’m sure it was in depth and interesting. I’m sure they’re still doing that. You can’t watch television without seeing a drug without seeing a lot of things that go with that drug. And a little reminder, if this might be you, you might want to talk to your doctor about this. Similar to what I’m saying, we don’t really see that as much as maybe we’re going to in the future. What are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, I mean, I think you’ve got to strike a balance there. If you’re really reaching out to that end user, they’re very removed from the technical aspects of your product. And so if I’m focusing on that, I got to tell a story and that story has got to evoke some emotion because you’ve got a very technical product that you spent millions if not tens of millions in development. And as soon as you start saying that we’ve invented a better mousetrap and talking about the technical aspects of the mousetrap, all the end user is going to hear is that I got mice, you know that’s all. Like I don’t like mice, right? Just dig into the fear. And unfortunately you know, people buy based on emotion or they feel good about a product based on the emotions that you give. Now you’re selling to a contractor. Same thing. The emotions that come about from running a profitable business and helping them out on that. But the end user that’s removed from that. Like you just got to talk about the emotion, the security, the dissipation of fear, the warm fuzzies. That’s what’s going to relate. That’s what’s going to resonate with that end user, because there you start talking technical stuff, they check out a conversation and then they go recommend an inferior product or tell a contractor, hey, I want an inferior product because they don’t know. That product, they’ve seen, they’ve heard and they’ve touched because it makes them feel good. They don’t know anything technically about it. And back to what we were saying before, because the contractor is a people pleaser, he’s not going to push the new thing that costs a little bit more but performs better because that would create a little tension in the relationship. So I would say for that building manufacturer that wants to really get in touch with that end user, you got to think about how does your product make that person feel, even though they’re not technically responsible for buying it, the contractors and understanding the manufacturer to builder to homeowner relationship, the emotions and the technical, the language changes. And it just gets back to like, hey, what is the core basic feeling that our product that gives the ultimate end user? That’s the advertising, that’s the marketing they do there. You get to be a little bit more technical with the builders because they understand the language.
And I love that we’re going there because when I look at this and this puzzle, right? From a marketing hat on, which is the place that I live, I always look at, well, there’s always the opportunity and then there’s the opportunity cost, right? The opportunity cost rules everyone’s world, right? Doing nothing has a consequence, right? There’s always an opportunity cost against everything with marketing, so if I have a product and there’s an end to end consumer who might use that product, how am I going to present position and share it with that person that creates or showcases the unique selling proposition? What really is about that product that’s honest and truthful, how it will impact or work within their life where they understand it, they get it. Fundamentally, it makes sense and give them the soundbite of how maybe they could respectfully talk to their contractor or their architect or their engineer, whatever phase they’re at, and, hey, what about this? I’m interested in you or us talking about this product, knowing kind of what you were saying, which is there’s maybe intuitively there’s a little bit of a people pleaser mentality that the conversation coming from the other side and, and gosh in this day and age with HGTV DIY network and everybody, you know, literally thinking that they know quite frankly a lot more than they do about process and how things get done because they saw it happen over a half hour on TV. Maybe this approach to marketing for all the folks who are listening maybe might want to think about turning it on its ear a little bit. But I think what you said is a critical minute, which is it’s not the same communication strategy. It’s not the same soundbites. The targets are motivated by different things. There’s different and it’s not a carrot stick, this is going to work mentality. If you go in with that, then you could disrupt a lot of apple carts, right? You could, in your point maybe scare or concern a customer, a potential end end user who wouldn’t have thought to ask and now they’re concerned and the contractor who wants to please, well, maybe he’s not going to fight you for your product and it might’ve already been on the roster, but now very easily to swap it out with something else. Right? So…
Gotta be cognizant, right? You gotta think about what are you doing?
Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to scare people. You don’t want to be the type of company that’s scaring people into buying your product. But fear is a huge motivator for a lot of people. But fear of missing out, that’s why people buy things of, you know, that I would never buy, but that’s okay because if that’s how people are and that’s how people buy and that’s how they make decisions, then again, I’m going to need to have that tool in my or that weapon in my arsenal. And maybe it’s not, I’m going to scare somebody into buying it. But I think it’s okay to say we’ve got a superior product. Here’s how it’s going to make you feel. And if you don’t, if your builder doesn’t offer this to you, then you might have the wrong builder or what’s, you know, painting that picture a little bit and making them feel better about asking that question. And then that gets into the manufacturer’s educating their contractors and their installers on, hey, if we do our job well at marketing this emotion, then you need to be prepared to discuss it in this way, because it is a premium product. It is new. So you’re going to have to overcome some of these fears that they might have. And you might have these fears as a new, as a builder with this new product too, so here, let’s, so there’s a lot of, there probably need to be a lot of discussion around fear because it is very motivated. But I don’t need, I don’t mean it in a negative way. A lot of people, hey, I want that product because now I’ve heard about it and I don’t want to miss out because when I build this thing, I don’t want to have to replace a redo or whatever. And in 10 years there’s a lot of value there in painting that picture of just, you know, fear of missing out
And it goes so many different sides, right? Because the contractor themselves don’t want to look as though they are not up to speed on all the latest, greatest. So there is the fear of not, of being perceived as not being expert that a building manufacturer, if done well, communication strategy, if it engages all pieces of the, all people there could be a great opportunity through a well thought out communication strategy for building manufacturer to communicate to each of its targets in ways that overlap. Right?
The perfect circle.
Yeah. It’s back to like how do we entertain, educate and engage with our builders and how do we entertain, educate and engage with their customers? And they’re two different stories there. I mean, it’s really along the same storyline, but it’s a different script but it accomplishes the same, you know, it’s like seeing a movie, one of those I’ve just recently watched one of these, I don’t know if you’re a Guy Ritchie fan or whatever, but he always has multiple storylines going on and they jump back and forth and you know, they’re all going to meet right before the end and then they’re going to split off again, you know, to leave you hanging. So it’s kind of like that. It’s like, who, what is our product? Who is, who are our end users? There’s a couple of different stories there. One piece that might be entertaining for one part of that script could be the education part for the other, and then they’re all going to come together to make everybody feel like, Oh, this is when all of the things align the product with the contractor, with the end user. Like that’s the climax. And that’s, you know, that’s what everybody’s looking for. So I think you gotta like you said at the very beginning, you gotta be clear on the mission, the values and those kinds of things, you’ve got to market that. But then you got to realize, hey, we’ve got a couple of different scripts here going on, but we gotta make sure that we’re talking to the right or we’re using the right language with the right audience.
And to recap, some of the things that you said that I thought were just that I do think are just so spot on, which, by the way, I think more building material companies are maybe missing. They might think they’re doing it, but I would welcome everybody to take a step back and really think, am I really doing this? Am I really creating a communication strategy that allows or helps engage a contractor and helps them understand how they could be more profitable by working with my product. How they can feel comfortable that it’s either warrantied or the way in which it’s warrantied or the way in which that I’m engaging with them if they run into any issue that I’ve got their back the way in which, you know, so it’s playing off of the, I’m responsible for this structure for the next 20 years and I want to make sure that I’m doing it right. So how do you get in there? And I think what you said was spot on, which is speak to where their pain point might be, which is how am I going to make money with this? How am I going to differentiate this project from maybe another bid that’s coming in that’s less expensive? How do I help? How does that help differentiate me as a contractor and what I’m doing? So I’m not lowest common denominator. They’re not going to value engineer me out of the job. Forget about the product, the whole thing, right. How do I show value? Right. Which is something that I know you share with people in your seminars, right?
Yeah. That’s one of those lines that I just kind of go deep on is saying you don’t have to, if you develop a system to sell your value, then you don’t have to compete on your price. And the way that I always talk about that in front of audiences, I always ask audiences, you know, hey, raise your hand if you’ve been in business more than five years, you know, and hands will go up. And I say, okay, now keep your hands up if you’re charging more than you did five years ago and you know, all the hands stay up and it’s okay, why are you charging more? Oh, well, because prices have gone up or what, and then I lead them into will five years ago, did you make any mistakes? Oh yeah, yeah. We made some mistakes and now we’ve learned and we know more about the business and we weren’t making money before and we’re profitable now or whatever. And so I’m just like, all right, so if you compete on your price, you might be competing against you, five years ago, the guy that was making mistakes, didn’t have a good network, didn’t have the right products, just didn’t have enough experience yet. And when you focus on selling your value, you don’t have to worry about, you don’t have to worry. You really don’t have to worry about price because people start coming to you for that value and understand, especially with everything that’s going on now at, you know, we live in this term that’s used so much uncertain times. It’s always uncertain. You’re in business man. It’s like it could, something could happen tomorrow, right? And so we’re always in uncertain times. I mean, I don’t want to be a, you know, a dark cloud in a dark storm. But figuring out that messaging, figuring out the audience, and then just honing in on that language that you use. And seeing what your customers respond to. You just gotta keep doubling and tripling down on that.
I love it. And you know, just speaking to dark times where we’re at or uncertain times, we’ll, let’s face it, we’ve got pretty much things are fairly simple in life, right? You’ve got two decisions. Either you’re in, curl up in a ball and die, or are you going to be intelligent, be proactive and think about what can you do that can make a difference that’ll help drive your business forward kind of your options at this point, right?
Yeah. Yeah. I always tell people that, hey, whatever you’re doing in this current crisis and you, the things that you are doing to be innovative and creative and stay engaged, you probably just need to do that all the time.
Good point. So many things that you covered today and I’m going to run through and please jump in if I’m missing something. But as we spoke about, it’s really thinking about your contractor and thinking about if he or she is your target audience. How are you communicating your message to them and how are you sharing or recognizing that profitability is one of the things on their plate that they need to think about as well as differentiation as you were talking about, one. Two, making sure that you have a great online presence and that great online presence includes a ton of videos and those videos educate, engage, entertain, so it’s not painful, it’s productive and it’s enlightening. Making sure that those videos also include how to, include maybe some branding elements, some things that differentiate you, possibly even something you presented, which I like a lot, is creating a persona, a person, a thing that unites your brand. So online when you see the squirrel or the guy with the curly hair, that is a trigger for the brand and it enters you into that brand. Not a bad way to create premiums and reinforce your brand, also, I guess down the line, right?
Also, it’s super important as we talked about, thinking about the many scripts needed for a smart, inclusive 360 strategy. It’s not just your target audience who could be the lumberyard or it could be the point of distribution is it’s also the contractor, it’s also the engineer, it’s also the architect, it’s also the end end user. If it’s a homeowner or a building owner, those folks more than ever jump in and have say are involved with value engineering things out and maybe introducing new opportunities. So if you’re thinking about how are they listening and what are their pain points or what are their pleasure points or what’s going to introduce your product and motivate them. If you don’t think through how to do that and you’re not creating that content that speaks to it, you’re probably not firing on all cylinders and gosh, why not? You know, and then following up with in these uncertain times, focus on this. Now’s the time. It’s spring cleanup time.
What do you need to do to be better for tomorrow? Because tomorrow is going to be here. Sure as day. And if you’re not making your company better, you only have yourself to blame for that. Right?
Yeah. And I mean, and like we said before, whatever you, whatever ways you come to make yourself better, then just do it again. It’s continual, continual improvement. And one other things I will say, like we were talking about different audiences and having different scripts and languages and then back to how building manufacturers can help their contractors and the people buying their products too is educating them on what that script, those things that you need to say to the homeowner. So maybe you’ve got some advertising your marketing that you’re reaching that end end user. But that’s part of part of helping contractors run a better business is to say, hey, by the way, I can talk to you about the technical aspects of this and let’s talk about that because you understand we speak the same language but don’t take this technical language and talk to the homeowner. Do your research and say and find out what the homeowner wants to hear, what questions are they going to ask? And then train the contractors on what to talk about and what not to talk about. Like it’s okay to not talk technical stuff with an end end user because you’re going to lose them in the conversation and every end end user is going to do the same thing. This is what I teach my clients all the time, is like you have to stop selling when they’re sold. And because if you get too deep into some technical language, no one ever don’t ever, ever embarrass somebody. And one way to embarrass somebody is to talk some really technical stuff and think that the other person understands what you’re talking about because they don’t want to admit like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. What they will is they will just nod their head until you get done and you’ll think that you’ve made the sale or you’ve made some engagement or whatever. And then a week later they bought another product, they’ve hired another contractor or whatever, and they might be inferior to you, but the reason they hired them is because they could understand them. So you got to understand like when, that’s one thing that building manufacturers can do is say, here’s our technical language that we can talk with, with construction business owners because they get it, we speak the same language. There’s a whole different language that’s way scaled back. That’s more touchy feely and is it a different level? And these are the kinds of things you need to be talking. So it’s not only I want to help you if I’m a building manufacturer come into our facility engage with in some way we want to help you run a better business. But we’re also going to teach you not only the numbers side of it or some system side cause again remember basic to us, but we’re also going to teach you some basic sales strategies and it’s not going to be anything technical. It’s all going to be value based and emotional based. And you will have some contractors that will go, oh I never knew that they never got any formal sales training. And when you show them like, hey, here’s how your brain works when you’re being sold. It is life changing for a lot of contracts. So that’s another way that building manufacturers can help because they know all this stuff. They do it in order to sell. But they think, well that’s just sales, right? But that’s the basic stuff. That basic stuff is expert knowledge. And that’s when we’re talking about creating content. This is the hard part where you’re like, well everybody already knows that. No they don’t. I promise you, I promise you. If I had thought when I first started this coaching business, well like most people know this kind of stuff I never would have started. And what I found out is the more again, I say basic, but the more fundamental of systems and things I can talk about, then the more work that I get.
I love it. Everything. You’ve given some really great pearls of wisdom. Now, Shawn, I know you have a new book out and it’s can you tell us a quick minute on the book and where people can find it?
Yeah. So I got a book called Profit First for Contractors and it is a cash management system and if people want to get that, they can go to profitfirstcontractor.com they can order it there. It’s on Amazon, Audible, iTunes, just search for Profit First for Contractor. It was based on a book Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz, a friend of mine business mentor and he wrote the original version of profit first and like anything else, I looked at that and I’ve said, hey, this is really, really helpful, but I would change some things to speak directly to contractors. So I called Mike up and I said, I got this idea, I like your system, but there are some gaps to fill in to make it applicable to contractors. And the next thing I knew we had a book deal and he said, go write the book. And so that book’s been out for about a year and a half and it has, I can tell you, I can tell your listeners, even in the, I’ve had building manufacturers get that book and apply it to their business and buy it for their contractors and hand it out at their locations. It is if you follow the steps in there, and I can say this, if you follow the steps, it will make you permanently profitable. I can guarantee it, but you gotta do what the book says and it’s very basic and it’s very simple and that’s why some people write it off. They say, well, it can’t be that simple. But that’s why it’s so effective because it is. Now, I won’t give too much about it away, but there’s a bunch of free resources. You sign up for my email list at profitfirstcontractor.com. I’ll send you the first couple of chapters for free and you read that first chapter is called “The Craftsman Cycle.” And I have had people email me from all over the world saying, oh my gosh, chapter one, “The Craftsman Cycle” you’ve been standing over, it’s like you’ve been standing over my shoulder for the past seven years seeing how I operate my business. So, that book is out there and you can get, like I said, you can get it just about anywhere online. And then check out my website, ShawnVanDyke.com that’s S. H. A. W. N. VanDyke.com. And then we also just recently launched the Built to Build Academy. So that’s built B U I L T to Build Academy and it is on demand business training for construction business owners. We do mentoring coaching programs through there.
I love it. You know what, Shawn? Clearly very bright individual who is focused in on what he knows and sharing with people and helping people grow. So Shawn, thank you so much for spending the time with us today.
Hey Eric, thank you so much for having me on.
I appreciate you.
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