How a home contractor’s business relates to the business of web design.

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Recently, while watching one of my favorite HGTV shows, “Holmes on Homes” I had a mini revelation. Mike Holmes is a Canadian contractor and an expert in his field. The premise of the show is that folks will call on Mike to, “Make It right” – that is, they had hired a company or individual to do a home improvement or remodel project and they didn’t do a great job. In fact, they sometimes do such a horrible job that Mike and his crew basically have to gut a house and start from scratch. So after watching the show for quite some time I realized that there’s a lot of general similarities to the business of web design and development and that Mike’s dedication and work ethic set a great example for our industry.

Honesty in business

Logically, if you knew you couldn’t handle a job you shouldn’t take it on, correct? Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen in the real world – whether it’s home construction/remodeling or website development. Many times I have had a potential client come to us with a story of those that came before us – how they said they could do the job and how they never delivered, or that what they did deliver was something that didn’t work. We then take on Mike’s role and try our best to, as he says on the show, “Make It Right”. Another situation that has become fairly standard in service businesses is the practice of sub-contracting. Sometimes on the show Mike will find out that a reputable, experienced contractor sub-contracted the job. Then, for whatever reason, the sub-contractor did not do a great job. It works the same in the design industry. Work gets sub-contracted out, but it’s always the responsibility of the main company to thoroughly check out who they are sub-contracting to. Can they do the job required? If not, it could make your company look very bad.

Ethics in business

When you care about your work and your reputation, you will almost always naturally care about your clients and want to do the best job you can for them. When it’s all about the cash, things like customer service and attention to detail can get ignored. Transparency is also a good policy. Be up front with your clients about how your business operates and who works for you. In relation to sub-contracting, if you do it go ahead and inform your clients but assure them that those you choose to work with are just as professional and capable as yourself (because you should know this is true). Mike Holmes always brings in experts – electricians, plumbers, tile installers, etc. Whatever the job requires, he knows exactly who to hire that he can depend on to do an excellent job and has the same work ethic as he does. Also, acknowledging when something doesn’t go right and acting quickly to solve any problems is key to doing ethical business. Many times on the tv show, contractors that have done shoddy work will straight up disappear or blame their client. We also come across this in the design world. There are circumstances and scenarios where you just can not please a client, and when that happens it’s always best to be upfront with them and find an “exit strategy” that works for both parties. This is a lot more ethical than just disappearing or trying to place blame elsewhere.

Project management

Part of why Mike is so successful beyond the two points above is his ability to manage a project. Sometimes I watch in awe as he has 10 different contractors on-site all working on different aspects of a project and he knows exactly what they’re all doing and has a pretty accurate time-line of when they’ll complete what they need to. All the while, he’s keeping the client informed on the progress. Sometimes delays and unexpected occurrences do happen. A water pipe busting in a floor can be likened to a technical problem that can be encountered when developing a website. Of course the most important thing is to jump right on any problem and keep it from spilling over into other areas of the project. Adjusting the overall time line for any delays and informing the client are also requirements and should not be ignored.

Be your best

Honesty, ethics, experience, organization and management are all qualities Mike Holmes exhibits and qualities that any web designer or developer should possess. Take a personal interest in your client, their history, their needs and the specific project at hand. Never stop learning your trade – always look for ways to improve your skills and expertise. Do good and be your best.

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