January 1, 2016
Brian Perras
Brian Perras

First impressions define your company’s value

Good, better, best!

Whether you are making a presentation to a new client, filing a Request For Tender package, meeting at a mandatory site visit or defending your company’s actions in a potential slip-and-fall discovery meeting, first impressions say absolutely everything about you, and your company’s professionalism and business ethics. This is your chance to put your best foot forward, to show your accomplishments and passion for what you do. A well-prepared presentation will tip the scales more in your favour than you will ever know. And, sadly, the opposite is also true.

Because of organizations like Canada’s provincial trade associations, Smart About Salt and others, it is easy to become accomplished in our industry. This knowledge, along with a good dose of humility, will help you sign up clients — at your price — because of your knowledge, ability and passion. Remember, only politicians think it is cool to criticize the opposition. That only works against you in the real world, something politicians will never understand. Earn your clients’ respect by showing them what you bring to the table, what you can do for them, how you can make them a better-respected corporate player in these environmentally sensitive times. And once they become your clients, keep them in the loop with our industry changes and advances.

So if it’s that simple, why do I see so few follow what I just suggested? When I go to mandatory site meetings, I see company owners dressed like they are going fishing. Some are smoking, so during the walk-around, they throw cigarette butts on to the pavement of a property that they are hoping to acquire! Others show up with nothing to write on, and the client doing the tour says, “You should take note of the following …” Then the client reviews some very important notes, while those contractors are trying to borrow paper and pens from others. This is so very unprofessional and generates No Confidence from the people you are trying to impress.

When the potential client has questions, so few contractors know the answers about simple issues in our industry. There is such huge opportunity for all those in this industry to better themselves, and their companies, by joining some of the organizations and furthering their knowledge of this industry, in which they call themselves experts.  I find it frustrating when I see people representing our industry so poorly; an industry I have worked very hard at for the past 34 years, always trying to be as resourceful as possible to represent us as stewards of the landscape, since that is what we are.

Years ago, at a discovery meeting regarding an alleged slip-and-fall, I presented notes of all the visits we made to the site in question, when the weather started and ended, what we did, the air and asphalt temps, the rates we applied salt products, and so much more that we won this one. Later I was talking to my insurance rep; he said he wished more contractors would keep better notes. He recalled years earlier when a plaintiff’s lawyer asked a contractor when he salted. The contractor, who had no paperwork, responded, “When it snowed!”

Another thing really gets my blood boiling. We have to abide by all the rules of workers’ compensation insurance and the Labour Board; one rule is that we cannot remove any safety guards put on by manufacturers. But most landscape contractors have open trailers, with all their line trimmers displayed on the side rails, almost all with the guards removed. And you call yourself professionals! Our insurance costs are not going down, and it could be from all of you who fail to abide by the rules.

Remember, if you don’t take care of your customer, somebody else will. It is a privilege to be on clients’ properties. Never forget that, and continue to earn their respect and confidence by being the best you can be. Ours is a professional industry, please respect it for that.        
Brian Perras operates B.P. Landscaping & Snow Removal in Caledon, Ont.