Archive for the ‘Building and Remodeling’ Category

Service of On the Job Training

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Last Saturday morning Lou Manfredini interviewed Paul Robinson on his weekly WABC HouseSmarts Radio program. I no longer have a house but many of Lou’s tips that solve callers’ challenges also apply to apartment dwellers. And Lou is fun to listen to.

Robinson is founder and CEO of ConstructReach, St. Louis, Mo. Its objective is to train high school students and enlighten them–and their parents–about the construction industry as a passport to a good living. At the same time the organization is creating a crucial trained workforce.

In particular, Robinson described the “I Built It” program. “High-school students aged 16 to 18 from neighboring school districts will gather at Target stores in Los Angeles, Calif., Denver, Co., St. Louis, Mo., and Miami, Fla., to learn about the construction industry and participate in elements of the stores’ remodel.” Vincent Salandro wrote about the “I Built It” program in Remodeling magazine.

Salandro continued: “The company aims to connect general contractors to interns and to create content and experiences to expose a diverse population to sustainable construction careers. It also fosters close relationships with educators to work on closing the gap between the industry and educators. Educators are on the front line and are in ‘a prime position’ to speak to young people and their families about the next steps in life, Robinson said, and ensuring construction has a place in those conversations is important for the future of the industry.”

The construction industry has bad PR: People consider that students “fail into it,” according to Robinson, and educators, parents and kids need to be shown an accurate perspective. In addition, “More than half of skilled workers are nearing retirement age and the industry is not doing a good job of filling those positions at the same rate they will be vacated,” reported Salandro.

Robinson told Salandro, “If you’re not exposed to what you can do, or what’s in front of you, that’s a lot of untapped potential.”

I represented building products and industry trade organizations for years and have long felt that little is done to elevate/recognize the significance of careers in building trades. Kudos to Robinson!

Further, as a former homeowner, I lived and suffered by my appalling lack of skills and knowledge in plumbing, electricity, laying flooring, painting, plastering, how a furnace works and so forth. I wish I’d been trained and think that if these skills were taught in college–or made available to students–it would benefit them and automatically elevate the trades in the eyes of those with doubts. I went to a private NYC school that didn’t teach typing but in high school a bunch of us attended the Y to learn what turned out to be an essential skill. What do you think?

Paul Robinson, ConstructReach Founder

 

Service of Words That Should be Changed or that Need No Embellishment

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Forbidden word

Pick Another Word

The people who selected key words in the following examples didn’t think of their impact on others.

  • Words have powerIn this first instance, the name of a clinic was selected from the point of view of health professionals. It didn’t have patients in mind. A friend, I’ll call her Nora, received a call from out of the blue from the “Survivorship Center.” At first she thought it was a scam and that the person on the line was asking for funds. She’d been going for checkups to the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. During the call she learned that the nurse practitioner she’d seen for years was leaving the Institute and that she was now assigned to the Survivorship Clinic. Nora told me: “I don’t like being categorized as a ‘survivor,’ and I don’t want to be a card-carrying member of such a group. I’m not ashamed of having had breast cancer, but that I had it shouldn’t be part of my identity.” She was infuriated when she received a letter in the mail with the clinic’s name on it. She hasn’t blasted the news of her previous illness and resented that the postal worker saw the name of the clinic. She felt it was an invasion of her privacy. In a second call to this clinic Nora told the person she spoke with that she thought that the name was dreadful—even tacky. Her response was that Nora was free to go elsewhere.
  • Then there was a word I’ve referenced before: Relocatable. That’s what the Air Force called a certain type of housing back in the day. The word focused on how the structure might be easily moved with no regard to how it sounded to people asked to live in it. It had no appeal to those assigned to the punishing North Dakota climate known for minus 60 degree temperatures and ferocious winter winds. The word implied flimsy and evoked images of belongings flying in the air should a Wizard of Oz-strong cyclone hit. Many of the relocatables remained empty in spite of a base housing shortage.Redundancy

Redundant: You Are or You Aren’t

 

  • I sat up straight when I heard a supporter describe a political candidate as “very, very honest.” There are some words that need no embellishment. Honest is one of them.
  • Queen Anne-style armchair

    Queen Anne-style armchair

    With furniture, if a piece imitates an original, the word “style” clarifies what it is, as in “Victorian-style chest,” or “Queen Anne- style chair.” But a doctor, artist, PR person or bus driver is or isn’t.

  • In this context, early one morning last week Len Berman told his listeners about a UK-based company that is now set up to work in NYC to fight parking tickets. It bills itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer.” As the WOR-Radio co-host of “Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning” read copy about this service he hesitated after saying “A real lawyer” and repeated, “real lawyer?” then continued. I, too, would have paused. Is there an unreal lawyer?
  • Len Berman

    Len Berman

    Do certain words that name a service, organization or product rub you the wrong way or create a negative image? Do you think that let-it-all-hang-out TV programs, where people share the most intimate information about themselves, impacted the choice of the Survivorship Clinic’s name?

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” said  Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, which I thought when I heard “very” matched with “honest.” Other examples? What about the reference to a “real lawyer?”

Claire Bloom as Gertrude

Claire Bloom as Gertrude

Service of Unicorns: It’s Nice to Believe

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Uncorn

One of my first eye-openers happened years ago with the now defunct Cue Magazine that covered going’s on in NYC and was a reliable guide for eons. After arriving late at the movies a few times because of inaccurate listings and event and restaurant recommendations turned from being editor picks to sponsored ones that weren’t  always so hot, the resource lost its usefulness.

Angie’s List may be following a similar model, according to Abby Haglage in thedailybeast.com, which is too bad: It sounded like such a good idea. The answer to the title of her piece, “Is Angie’s List Making Business List Owners Pay for Top Spots?” appears to be “yes,” and it’s only a part of the problem. Its well known mantra for its 3 million US subscribers, “Reviews you can trust,” should be tweaked to “Sponsored reviews to take at your own risk.”

Figures don’t lie and should be a big hint. Haglage reported that “76 percent of the company’s $315 million total revenue came from service providers” translated to advertisers; Membership accounted for 23 percent. She also wrote about Jeff Blyskal’s 2013 findings in Consumer Reports. He similarly debunked the influence of consumer opinions in determining the order of listings, starting with the best, noting they favor advertisers.  

One customer, Janell Moore, filed a class action suit this spring. The kitchen home remodelerremodeling contractor she found on the list left her project in the lurch and didn’t respond or return the $4,000 she’d paid. Wrote Haglage: “Moore claims it was only after leaving a negative review of the company that she was able to see other negative reviews, which led her to believe that the rating system wasn’t done fairly.”

Moore’s complaint contends that members are duped into thinking the lists are arranged according to quality of review. In reality they are determined according to who paid the most for the listing. And according to Haglage, there also were complaints from hundreds of Consumer Reports readers.

“Angie’s List falsely assures consumers that ‘service providers cannot influence their ratings on Angie’s List,’” reads an opening section of Moore’s 28-page complaint. “These and similar statements dupe potential and existing members into believing that Angie’s List reviews, ratings, and search results are valuable and trustworthy because they reflect unfiltered feedback of consumers, for consumers.”

home builderThe company has filed a motion to dismiss. Haglage explained: “In a section titled ‘How Angie’s List Works,’ the company says that it’s transparent about money being involved in its rating mode. ‘Members are expressly told that service providers may pay to offer such promotions and that as a result they may be placed ‘at the top’ of search results.’”

There’s another side to the story—that of taking advantage of small business people. It’s not unusual for advertising fees to be flexible and an example in the article shows how elastic. One Minneapolis-based landscape and construction business owner, Stanley Ganadek, had this experience Haglage reported: “After a few positive reviews on his page, reps called asking if he’d be willing to pay $33,000 to stay at the top of the page. Genadeck, who talked them down to $3,000, created a YouTube video to help protect other business owners from spending too much.” The landscape owner confirmed that you can’t pay to be on the list but sales reps—almost 2,000 of them–call when you’ve received two reviews and according to Haglag, they call and call and call.

Who hasn’t had a bad experience with a contractor, real estate agent, vendor, hair stylist or dentist that a friend, business colleague or relative recommended? Do you think Moore’s complaint and those of Consumer Reports’ readers have merit or does caveat emptor play here and that consumers should be punished for their naïveté? What about the model of picking on small business owners who might not be informed about how advertising works—all’s fair, right?

small business 1

 

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