Best of the Blogs

January 31, 2010



When a doctor performs surgery, is he or she providing a product or a service? When insurance agents help you buy life insurance, are they providing a product or a service? Having been on the consumer side of each of these, I can say they are all providing a service. In each case, I valued good advice, feeling like I made good choices, working with someone I could trust and getting maximum benefit for my investment. I value some pretty basic elements when buying a service: treat me with respect and honesty and do what you say you are going to do.

When I buy a product I can analyze every widget and feature. I can compare and contrast details of my options — not to mention their prices — through various stores or 24/7 from the comfort of my home via the Web. With a product, I value getting maximum benefit for my investment and getting a product that is most effective for its intended use — good advice and trust aren't as much of a priority.

But providing good service is tricky stuff. How do you build trust with a service? You do what you say you are going to do regardless of how big or small the promise. You have empathy for the client. You recognize that the work starts after the sale. And your report card of good service is how your client FEELS. As Danny Meyer said, good service is hospitality.

So when you renovate a home, are you providing a product or a service? — from Bruce Case's blog, "Case Studies"



John Connell, a LEED-certified architect who is the lead designer for Connor Homes in Middlebury, Vt., spoke plainly during a meeting with me at the International Builders' Show. "We're a nation of shoppers. ... We love green because the cost of energy is so high," Connell said. "I've never had so many [customers] lead with green as a criterion for building a house."

It seems that customers want green as long as they don't have to pay too much for it. If a builder can show there's a direct correlation between energy efficiency and lower utility bills, they're a lot more likely to get the sale. Solar panels and geothermal heating systems are sexier, but the price tag is a turnoff. So while saving the planet is a noble concept, Americans are frankly more concerned about what green design and construction means for their wallets. Is anyone surprised by this?

from Staff Writer Susan Bady's blog, "My Two Cents"

Health care


In case you missed it, the U.S. Senate hates you.

When the Senate passed the health care reform bill just before Christmas, it included an odd provision that singled out the construction industry for more onerous treatment.

Any construction company that employs more than five people would have to provide insurance under the amendment from Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., but companies in any other industry would only have to provide insurance if they have more than 50 employees.

So I'm not sure if the senator had a remodeling project go bad or what, but whatever his reasons, trade associations including NAHB and NARI have been lobbying Congress to eliminate this from the final bill that's being negotiated right now.

NARI has put together a letter (at that you can personalize to send to House and Senate leadership and your local representatives and senators. NAHB is also working to get the language removed through its lobbying efforts in the capital.

from Editor in Chief Jonathan Sweet's blog, "The Sweet Spot Remodeling Blog"



It has been my observation that there are two types of leaders in business: short-term strategists and long-term strategists. And this holds true regardless if they are large corporations, distributors or home builders.

Unfortunately over the past 10 to 15 years we have been stuck with the "short-term" business leaders. My definition of a short-term leader is one who only focuses on a three-year plan that, if achieved, means that he or she will get a big bonus and a bigger job. I have also observed that the long-term strategists are those who make decisions and develop strategies that have the long-term success of the company and themselves in mind.

It is my contention that short-term management is the key reason that we have all experienced the bursting of our economic bubble. In fact, these leaders have been so focused on their own personal objectives that they collectively caused the formation of the bubble. Throughout my career I have worked for both types of managers, and I can honestly say that I have had more fun and rewards working for the long-term manager.

from Glenn Singer's blog, "Supply Chain Connections"

Client relationships


There are a number of services out there that serve as clearing houses for consumer complaints — Angie's List being among the most prominent. Needless to say, you don't want your firm to be bad-mouthed on that sort of forum. But what if you had a way of reporting troublesome clients? What if someone stiffed you on a job — would you call them out digitally?

There's a new site that lets you do just that. It's called The site, which charges a one-time $5 registration fee, claims this service is particularly keen on getting consumers to settle the dispute with you before you move to a collections agency or small claims. They say: "Try using our site before using a collection agency! Seriously, when customers won't respond to your overdue invoice notice, file a complaint about them on our site and we send a letter to them letting them know that they are on our site. And believe it or not, most send the check within the week!"

It's an interesting idea, but I'm wondering if making a move like this can do your firm more harm than good by airing the proverbial dirty laundry in such an open forum. — from Product Editor Nick Bajzek's blog, "The Product Guy"

Social media


The exponential growth of Facebook, Twitter and online blogs offers undeniable evidence that the world has adopted new means of communication. This phenomena is no flash in the pan; the sooner you adapt to these tools the more likely you are to prosper in your career or business. Unfortunately, many of us don't know where to begin. Here are two books that are good primers for understanding how these tools work and how to utilize them to promote yourself, your company or your product:

"Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves" by Adam L. Penenberg is a thorough analysis of how networks form and grow, starting with examples from the early Tupperware organization up to Twitter and Facebook.

"Crush It! Why NOW Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passions!" by Gary Vaynerchuk has writing that's a little rough around the edges, but as the author himself puts it, so is he. He does an excellent job explaining how to utilize Web 2.0 tools to promote yourself or your business. I recommend reading this one after "Viral Loop."

from Rodney Hall's blog, "The PeopleZone"

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