When did ethics get replaced by greed? Where is the trust and honor in the construction industry when a hand shake or even a contract used to mean something? Recent polls show that many Americans have lost trust in the construction industry and housing markets but it is more than simply a lack of faith that home prices will return and property values will return. Ask anyone who will give you an HONEST answer and most will tell you that the construction industry ranks up there with used car salesmen and politicians. Why? Look around the market and you will find professional after professional and owner after owner willing to sacrifice ethics and morality to get an extra buck out of someone. Its not just banks and bankers who have lost public trust in recent years but the construction industry as well.
In North Carolina, a specific Realtor whose name shall be left from this article was known for signing her clients to new home construction contracts and then utlizing under-handed practices to beat the builder out of every penny possible for the client. Reputation aside, she was famous for it and buyers set aside their conscience for a chance at getting some extras and change orders for free. One may say “Good for them! In this economy you have to fight for every dollar in this housing market.” However, the problem with this line of thought is that this one particular occurence that this example comes from happened almost 13 years ago. The under-handed tactics of some or many housing and construction industry “professionals” has been building for decades.
Recently on two large projects close to Orlando, this author is aware of situations, one with an institute of higher education and another with a large commercial firm, where project managers used misinformation and flat-out lies to position subcontractors and professionals against each other in a manner to benefit their bottom line. The amounts of money were minor and the circumstances difficult to prove with hard evidence to take the project managers to civil court to recoup loses. End result, a loss of thousands on one side and the loss of reputation on the other. Losses that must be recovered in some manner either through higher prices or a more litigous way of doing business thus resulting in less delivered for more money. Our economy suffers in that this is a common occurence in todays market.
But what is more important? “Saving” a few bucks on a project and stealing the money out of the pockets of the offended or maintaining a reputation? In the World War II Era, reputation would have been more important and many successful business people built empires on their word and not by stealing a dollar here and there. True, that did happen from time to time but a vast majority of the small business people built their businesses through honest hard work. Today, one would doubt the intentions of any small business person that came calling to their door to offer services or products. Honest people marketing their services to homeowners, businesses and industry professionals alike are all met with distrust because of the crooks that have taken the place of the trustworthy in the minds of the general public. Do a good job and your client will tell 10, do a bad job and they will tell 1000! What makes the news? The con man going door to door stealing money or worse under the guise of cleaning gutters or being a handy man or the honest, hard working business person who is building their business one door at a time. The public should keep up their guards by all means but to downright disregard the efforts of a small businessperson because of a few bad apples is a disservice to our economy and the American way of life.
And it costs you money! Small business people are willing to offer better deals to get the business and because they have lower overhead. Turning away or even totally disregarding the services or products of small business people costs everyone. Only companies who spend much more marketing in publications, radio or other areas get the business and the costs are transferred back. It drives up costs across the board and surpressing the efforts of the small business person who knocks door to door or stops by the office to drop of an information packet are met with distrust. When did construction companies decide to get security to get in the front door? Who are they keeping out? Think about it.
The same translates to corporations. The contractors, developers, realtors, suppliers, subcontractors, etc. should learn a lesson from the generations of yesteryear where integrity and reputation took precedence over whether you could afford a Honda or a Mercedes. Our economy is being filled with professionals of ill-repute in all industries and especially the construction industry. Small homebuilders and large alike keep attorneys on the payroll to battle the onslaught of collections and civil cases against subs, suppliers, realtors and more than ever, homeowners. We have vecome a society of Spartans and I quote from the movie 300, “Give them nothing and take from them everything!” Communities used to be able to trust its residents. When a barn needed to be built, it was and with the help of professionals but also volunteers who bartered their services through good faith that they would be repaid the effort someday. Our construction industry is in pain and many sit around hoping for a return to a better time but the painful truth is that what we have now is the future. This is the construction industry of the future and there will be no more building shabby houses and selling them at outrageous profits. From here on, customer service will be demanded and reputations will be the Litmus test that determines whether or not professionals survive.
This author believes it is time that professionals and the public alike cast off preconceived notions of the way things are and return to a time when trust and reputatin ruled our dealings. A return to trust would lower prices of services, lower costs of products and send litigators looking to other industries to feed from. Stand up and feel good about dealing honestly with others even when they do not with you. Our construction industry is onoe of great roots and buildings that soared into the sky before any others. Americans built the Empire State Building, the Hoover Dam and the St. Lois Arch and it is time that the construction industry take back the pride it once had in itself and we should all set the example by dealing truthfully, honestly and in a fair manner with all we do business with. Maintain a reputation, build a business upon it, make a good living if not even become wealthy and return America and its construction industry to a place where we held our heads high because we led the way and built America.
This is my soap box and I stand on it with pride because I trust in those who built it right here in the USA.