Our business landscape is changing. As restoration contractors whose services are local, we considered ourselves immune to problems retailers and manufacturers face when...

Our business landscape is changing. As restoration contractors whose services are local, we considered ourselves immune to problems retailers and manufacturers faced when cheap overseas labor and goods drove many out of business. Now it’s our turn to face the Goliaths.

Mega-contractor alliances are invading our turf, creating relationships with insurers that cut prices and set new rules for restoration jobs. Companies that do not figure out how to respond will eventually be left without work. I call this trend the “Wal-Mart Effect” for restoration contractors.

Don’t be lured into complacency by thinking you will not be affected. I predict that all restoration contractors will eventually face a difficult choice: join these fast-growing programs and accept the fact that profit margins will be razor-thin, or try to co-exist with these Goliaths and take action to ensure that your business will prevail.

My advice is to enter any alliances with eyes wide-open and be sure you remain in control of your business. Do not allow these third-party agencies to account for so much of your work that you cannot afford to walk away.

  How can a restoration contractor remain in control?  Market Directly to Your Previous Customers
Even though they will probably never have another restoration job, don’t let them forget you. They are your greatest advocates in what I call the “unreachable marketplace”: their network of family, neighbors, friends, workplace colleagues and church or club associates.

 Provide Value with Every Contact
People are eager for information that helps them feel in control. They want to protect their biggest investment and make wise decisions when problems arise.  Consider yourself their coach and partner as they look for information and insight.

 Expand Your Network with Educational Programs
Develop one or several topics that you can offer on your own or present to other organizations. Offer a training session for businesses and property managers on improvements that could reduce their insurance costs. Give programs on safety through the Red Cross.

To make your efforts pay, however, you must collect contact information from participants. Offer a giveaway or a special report in exchange for their email address, then follow-up.

 Make Every Presentation a First-Class Event
If you are sponsoring a training program, offer it in a neutral location such as a hotel or business conference room. Don’t try to scrimp on amenities such as meals or refreshments. Check the details and meet with hotel staff ahead of time to ensure that everything will go as planned.

 Promote Yourself
Remind people that your company is licensed, bonded, insured and people working on job sites have undergone background checks and drug tests. You play by the rules and don’t cut corners to do things faster or cheaper. Such assurances go a long way when policyholders are thinking about who will be working in their home.

 Be a Dynamic Presence in Your Community
Getting involved in community events or sponsoring civic activities is the best insurance against outside conglomerates that want to take your business. Remember, policyholders have the right to choose who will do their restoration job and they cannot be forced to deal with outsiders they do not know.