It doesn’t matter if you are a billion dollar international construction firm or a local contractor with a small crew, finding a purpose and position behind what you do is a powerful tool to help you run a successful building services business.
Turner Construction is huge. The international construction company just achieved top spot on Engineering News Record’s list of the 400 largest contractors, coming in at over $14 billion in revenue. The firm also received the award for Construction Company of the Year by Construction Dive, not because of its business volume achievements, but by how it responded to the 2020 one-two punch.
The construction industry had just begun to react to the 2020 pandemic crisis when news came of the arrest and death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The world suddenly erupted again with protests and controversy. Several job sites around North America saw ugly incidents of their own including, nooses and other symbols of racism directed towards minority team members.
Despite the pressure to hit milestones and deadlines, and hobbled by the squeeze caused by the pandemic, Turner’s leadership team decided to put all projects on hold to conduct mandatory anti-bias training in major venues around the US and Canada. What started as a reactive response to its own episodes grew into an opportunity to leverage its size and influence in taking a leadership role and becoming a role model to address racism in the industry.
If you’re a contractor in the building industry I’m not suggesting you take on a subject as intense as systemic racism, but Turner’s actions should inspire you to consider the power of purpose behind how you talk about yourself. No matter the size of your company, claiming a unique position is far more valuable to those who you hope to attract and to contribute to your company’s growth and success.
First, consider your three main audiences: those who will hopefully award you work, those who are going to do the work, as well as your own team.
Developers and procurement managers are increasingly taking social value into mind when awarding projects. Companies who have established genuine positions on sustainability, conscientiousness to women and minorities, commitment to employees or the environment are far more interesting than those who don’t. And most prospects can detect an afterthought paragraph on your proposal as opposed to an earnest commitment to the greater good.
Members of the younger workforce like project managers or superintendents are currently jumping companies like sand fleas. They may be looking for higher wages and commitment to social responsibility, but more importantly, they yearn to work for a company with real leadership. Leadership isn’t bragging about a list of latest completed projects; its demonstrated through unique positioning driven by a compelling purpose, consistently used in all its messaging and marketing materials.
And of course, your own team - from leadership to laborers - respond better to consistent messaging. When you become more organized not only with your tactics and processes but also brand and communications based on a strong purpose, it reduces chaos and makes priorities clear, resulting in a more productive operation.
Take a look at your marketing materials, from your website to your proposals, line cards or your sales team’s pitch. If you’re like most contractors you are conditioned to skip any fluff and get right to the point of what you are selling. And that’s fair - the building industry isn’t exactly known for its touchy-feely messaging, but if you focus solely on “what” you are selling (with a few throw-away statements about sustainability), you’re missing out on the opportunity to create a more vibrant culture and edge out your competition.
The next time you circle up with your team to talk about business development or attracting skilled workers, try to distill down what it is about your company that makes you unique. Every contractor is committed to safety, but what could be a safety proclamation goal your entire team could get behind? What valuable kernel of industry knowledge could you build into a differentiating position? Rethink your proposals and infuse a manifesto showcasing your passion and expertise. You get the idea.
Promoting yourself is limited in the B to B building industry, so consider what channels would be the most relevant to speak to your different audiences. Email is still a good option in the industry when targeting a list of those who might benefit from your inspiration and knowledge. Social media platforms, especially YouTube, are worthy to share your knowledge and celebrate your culture as long as they target an educational article posted on your website. Don’t worry about building a large following, just stay consistent to raise awareness and reinforce your credibility.
We congratulate Turner Construction for choosing a compelling position based on a relevant purpose. Being a smaller company allows you to look to the big multinational firms to gauge the overall pulse of the industry without worrying about reputation blowback, but taking a cue from them, take the initiative to develop a core purpose that you can stand by in order to successfully scale and grow.
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