Editorial: Showing your quality
Better brand building may answer some old questions.
By Patrick Flannery
You do good work, you take pride in your work and you want to be able to make a decent living doing it. So it’s infuriating when some jerk swoops in to a project with a bid you know to be incomplete, priced at a level you know to be unsustainable.
You know what lies in the client’s future. Cost overruns that will bring the price close to or above your own. Shoddy, hurried workmanship with inferior materials that will produce costly defects down the road. The quick insolvency of the rival contractor, possibly before the project is even completed. Or some combination of all three.
The question for glaziers committed to their craft is how to ensure quality in our industry in an environment where building owners and general contractors seem unable or unwilling to assess it themselves. I’ve been following some lively conversations on social media recently that revisit a lot of the familiar remedies to this problem. They fall into three main categories: government control; improved training and certification of glaziers; and doing nothing – letting market forces weed out the ignorant and unscrupulous.
Market forces are certainly effective and have the advantage of being incorruptible. But they lose effectiveness when there is a seemingly endless supply of the ignorant and unscrupulous to take the place of those who are weeded out. And then the public has to live with the results in the built environment.
Ensuring architectural glaziers are trained and competent would surely help. But the devil of how to do this is in the details. Taking a course and passing an exam is no guarantee of work ethic or expertise. No one has, to date, figured out the problem of how to get business owners to invest in training apprentices when journeypersons can leave and become the competition the minute they get their tickets. And control over certification regimes falls prey to competing interests and agenda.
All of this, of course, could be mooted if governments were able to tightly control building standards. A rigorous inspection regime that effectively prevented low-quality construction fairly and consistently would force everyone to step up their game and prevent the aforementioned ignorant and unscrupulous from hanging around and making everyone’s lives miserable. So all we have to do is figure out how to get governments to do the right thing. I’ll get back to you on that.
I’d like to suggest a fourth potential solution that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much: communication of quality. The difference between you and the jerk bidding against you is your quality. You know that – but does your client? Communicating commitment to quality and a value proposition is something glaziers often don’t do well. It’s called a brand, and building one requires some thought and investment. Your clients don’t want to deal with the ignorant and unscrupulous. They just may not understand the difference between them and you because you haven’t told them.