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"I Can't Find Any Good Trades!"
By Brett Martinson

It's no secret that one of the biggest challenges in today's industry is the lack of skilled trades - or, as builders and renovators tend to say, "good trades". So important, in fact, is the issue that it is being dealt with at all levels in the CHBA alongside current advertising attracting new people to the industry.
But it could take years to re-establish a balance. What can you do right now to find - and keep - the "good trades" you need today?
First let's agree: there are good, quality, skilled tradespeople out there, right? Certainly they are in less supply and higher demand…but they do exist. So, it's not a case of "Where are they?" but, rather, "How do I attract them and keep them once I've got them?"
You can do this by focusing on:
1. Separating the good trades from the not-so-good and
2. Discovering what good trades want so you can give it to them. (This is the big secret!)
Neither of the above involve rocket science, but you have to be willing to do the work your competitors won't if you want to "get 'em and keep 'em".

How to spot a "good" trade
Whether an employee or a sub-trade, the person you hire must have the skills and interest to do the job to your specifications… and not just fill a need. Many contractors will say they do that but, in the pressure to get on with the job at hand, they'll short-cut themselves just to fill the need. As a result, most business owners don't tackle this step well - if at all.
Know what you're looking for by detailing what you want. Chances are you're looking for someone who will:
1. Show up on time,
2. Do the job at the level of skill they say they have (and you require),
3. Contact you if they see a problem arising,
4. Want a reasonable pay-rate, and
5. Be willing to fix any problems in a timely manner.
These are similar to your clients' expectations of you, aren't they? Whatever your specific criteria might be, focus on the most important ones and, when lining up a new trade, ask for them! Don't just assume "good trade" until you find out otherwise; start eliminating now.
Here is another tip: Ask for your criteria as a behavioural question. For example: "Tell me about a time you came upon a problem on the job site. How did you deal with it?" You'll find out a lot more that way. Also, confirm information via references, previous jobs, site supervisors, etc.
A lot of builders and renovators will, unfortunately, gloss over this step. They'll ask a few questions - "Do you show up on time?" or "Can you do X?" - and take the answers at face value. Don't fall into that trap.

What do good trades want?
When you've found your good trades, it makes sense to figure out how to keep them, especially given today's industry, although it is a good practice regardless of the situation.
What do good trades want? You might be thinking "more money", right? I'm certain that it isn't. If you want your trades to stick around - and see you as the builder/renovator to work with (again, exactly how you want your clients to see you) - I suggest asking the trades what they want. Ask a couple of questions, such as: "What's your biggest pet peeve when working with most builders/renovators?" or "What's the number-one thing a builder/renovator could do to make your work better?"
You don't have to give in to every request - or even provide every request as stated - but just asking will make you realize the gap between what some builders/ renovators are providing and what trades want. You'll also stand apart if you're the first contractor in a long time to ask what they want.

Working with trades: no different than working with clients
Just as it is with clients, the number-one secret here is to do more than the average builder/renovator. Because most won't even take the time to do these two simple steps, you can start to outshine everyone else in a couple of small ways.
Working with trades is a relationship. Often, it's the entire relationship (not just one aspect, such as wages) that can make the difference. If finding good trades is so important to so many building and renovating professionals, why not figure out what they want - and how to give it to them - and leave the other guys wondering: "Where are all the good trades?" They're working for you, right? HB

Brett Martinson is a professional coach and consultant to the home building and renovation industry. For a free eCourse full of profit-building tips, strategies and marketing ideas visit www.SuccessfulHomeBuilders.com.

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