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man in hard hat looking at completed remodel project

Like many people during the last year, I did a little home remodeling that just got finished a few weeks ago.

The project ended up being a great experience because of Dana, the contractor I hired to do the job. I want to tell you about it because all of us could learn a few things from Dana about how to be successful in our careers.

The project got off to a rocky start. Based on referrals, I contacted someone who, by all accounts, was “a really great guy.” But after weeks of asking for the bid proposal and not receiving it, I needed to find someone else. That’s how I met Dana.

Dana has been a general contractor for more than 30 years. He has a stellar reputation and does top quality work. When Dana calls, people pick up the phone.

I watched it happen over and over again. We had a little problem with the plumbing; Dana called the plumber and it was resolved that week. The ceiling wasn’t quite right; Dana called, and the drywall company supervisor was there that day. The ceiling looks perfect.

At the beginning of the project, Dana laid out what everything was going to cost. He gave me best and worse case scenarios. If anything changed, he told me exactly what that would mean to the bottom line. When the project was done, he sat down with me to go over the bill. It was $700 less than I was expecting because we didn’t have a lot of those worst-case scenarios.

All this got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if more people were more like Dana in their jobs? Here’s how you can be:

Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. This sounds obvious, but we’ve all worked with people who over promise and under deliver. Word will get out if this is a pattern of behavior when people work with you. So let the word on the street be that you get things done because you do.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Sometimes things go wrong or it’s not possible to meet the needs of your clients. When that happens, your clients – internal or external – will appreciate straight talk when it comes to what’s possible to deliver and when. We would all rather know the reality than be eternally frustrated by empty promises – or worse – no information at all.

Surround yourself with great people. Building the best team doesn’t just mean hiring or managing employees. It means having a great relationship with the folks over in IT and finance and legal and procurement. Anyone that is going to help you get your job done is going to impact your ability to be the best at what you do. Find your team and treat them well. Everyone will be better for it.

Be a stickler for quality. If you are leading a project, and corners are cut along the way, every aspect of the project and the team working on it is affected. So is your reputation. Be sure to do quality checks along the way and hold everyone accountable to the highest standard of work. Once your customer notices one thing is not right, there will be great scrutiny on every aspect of the project.

Experience matters. Experience goes beyond years on the job. Understand your own skills and be straightforward about what you can and can’t do. If someone has an important job to do, know what you have to offer and when to call in reinforcements. If you have specialized skills or you’ve seen every type of a particular problem, that experience is going to come through, and you’ll be able to give an honest assessment and drive results. If you haven’t been in your field for very long, find someone who has, and who has an excellent reputation – get their help, their guidance or their mentorship.

In communications and marketing, we spend a lot of time talking about how to build the reputations of others. It’s important to remember that there are a few simple principles that can help us improve our own professional reputations. Practice these habits to become more like Dana – and people will answer when you call.