Consider one basic fact. Professionals make more money and professionals charge more for their services.

With that in mind, take a look at your own organization. As you scrutinize your company you might enjoy comparing your image to your competitors’ to see what your customers are seeing. Never forget that they do have a choice of where they want to buy their mechanical services. Let’s take a look at a basic professional image checklist:

  • The customer is always right.
  • Trained, courteous employees and drivers.
  • Time commitment on all jobs.
  • Safety program for all drivers and employees.
  • Eliminate booze and drug usage.
  • Belong and participate in related trade associations. Instill basic personnel management procedures.
  • Use written checklist for all repetitive tasks.
  • Paint all trucks same color with large logo for image.
  • Promote and sell maintenance contracts wherever possible.
  • Adopt a suggestion box reward program to encourage ideas.
  • Consider innovative work shifts: 4-10s, 3-13s, etc.
  • Always use a note in paychecks to recruit new personnel.
  • Promote from within — give your employees a chance to grow.
  • In-company training paced with a certified skills inventory.

We are not going to cover everything that comprises a professional image, but we will show you how that one word “certified” can give you a jump start in the right direction. Webster’s dictionary defines certified as: 1. Vouched for 2. guaranteed 3. having a certificate.

Consider what that will do for your professional image to your customers along with how simple and easy it is for you to accomplish.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the only certification that we encountered on our jobsites was a certified welder. Architects and engineers were certified but did not do physical work on the site. When powder-actuated fasteners came on the scene, they required a certification card that soon was overlooked and forgotten. During the 1980s and 1990s this manufacturer’s certification became more prevalent possibly due to our lack of skilled craftsmen. Most manufacturers recommended this certification and some demanded it, but our contractors could not see the forest for the trees.

“Factory Certified:” Very few were smart enough to exploit it. You all have seen the big signs at car dealerships touting, “Factory certified mechanics.” Why don’t you add, “Factory Certified Technicians” on your trucks, Yellow Pages ads, letterhead, job signs, and wherever you advertise? The sophisticated customer would much rather pay more for a certified technician to work on their equipment instead of a plumber who will simply tear it apart to see if he is able to fix it.

Naturally you will need to implement this certification if you wish to reap the benefits. Your customers will pay more for first-class professionals, but they will also demand what they are paying for.

Your first step should be a data-based skills inventory listing all of the skills and services your company provides, along with each employee’s qualifications for each skill. This inventory will show you exactly what skills you are lacking as a professional company and also show each employee what certifications they need.

I highly recommend monitoring this inventory every month to ensure active participation from your employees. In addition to facilitating your training and certification, consider how much this sophistication will enhance your professional image with your customers.

Do not overlook the jobsite safety certifications required by OSHA. Your skills inventory will help assure that all of your employees get the proper training as well as keeping up-to-date on renewals. I stress the critical importance and legal liability for a foreman to have a multimedia first aid card on each jobsite. This has been an OSHA requirement since 1970 and we still have many foremen who have never even heard of it. We have many more who had been certified years ago but neglected to renew their certifications. As you all know, ignorance of the law is not an excuse and these laws require much more certification today than we needed back in the 1970s.

You do not want to be caught without this required training and pay exorbitant fines; and you certainly don’t want one of your employees to be injured or killed because they were not properly trained and certified. You can see why I recommend a monthly audit of your inventory to assure compliance with all of these rules and regulations.

With that inventory in place your next task is training and certification. You have many feasible options:

1. Conduct in-company training sessions in a classroom, in your shop, or on your jobsites. These can be scheduled on an ongoing weekly basis or as needed for specific skills. You can use one of your employees as instructor, use free services from your vendors, or hire an independent trainer.

2. You can send your employee to a seminar, training program or to a manufacturer’s premises to be certified. In many cases you can send one or two who will then become qualified to certify your other employees.

3. You can use a VCR “how to” library that will allow your employees to learn at home at their own pace and then be checked out and certified as needed.

4. You should give each employee some form of certificate to show they are certified in a particular skill. Some contractors are using laminated cards similar to a driver’s license and some are using small decals to put on their hard hats. You can easily understand how all of this adds to your professional image.

As simple and basic as all of this reasoning sounds, we still have thousands of jack-leg, fly-by-night contrac-tors who choose to be “shmoes” rather than “pros.” Unfortunately they also blacken the professional image of our entire construction industry. Regardless of what kind of codes, rules and regulations your local market may enforce, they spend their time and effort trying to bypass or beat them rather than doing it in a positive manner.

You surely will never be able to change all of those shmoes into certified professionals, but you do have the power to never become one of them.

In addition to the profit potential resulting from your certified professional image, I hope you realize what a fantastic drawing power you have created for attracting and keeping good employees.

Imagine yourself or any proud craftsman with a choice to work for one of those fly-by-night outfits or to work as a highly paid certified professional in a professional company. You can also imagine how that professional image would attract high school graduates who are looking at construction for a proud career.

Remember this one basic fact: Profes-sionals make more money and professionals charge more for their services. You need to wear out that word “certified.” But don’t just say it, do it!