Dressing for the occasion is important. Now wait a minute! I’m in business for myself because I got tired of that white collar, dead-end job in the corporate sector. OK, I know where you may be coming from, just hear me out.
Before I started publishing Concrete Decor I was a contractor. I started learning a trade during my freshman year of college when the university offered summertime work opportunities. I was on the rowing team so working on campus and getting a resident hall apartment in the dorms for next to nothing rent-wise was right up my alley.
Student helpers did all sorts of jobs on campus. Not me though. I got assigned to work for a journeyman painter hired out of the Local 487. He happened to also stand 6-foot-9-inches tall and was just shy of 300 pounds. Needless to say, I listened to everything he said. While that was 30+ years ago, my Boise State and NFL lineman friend, Ron Franklin, and I became great friends as we remain to this day.
I learned quickly that union guys had a dress code. These particular guys wore “whites” to work every day. They were clean and didn’t look like rags that had been used to mop up the excess paint or caulking left over from a day’s work. Clean shoes, clean shirt and often clean shaved. That was how he and his people rolled. It was also what he expected from me if I was going to work with or around him. When I finally got invited to help on a weekend side job, I learned that the conduct of this craftsman was pretty much the same among all the guys he introduced me to.
The craziest thing happened a couple of summers later. I walked into a paint store early one morning to grab some material for a little side job and was blown away by how others were dressed. I was in shock. Did anybody ever show these guys what a rag is used for? They had 50 shades of paint on nearly every article of clothing including their shoes. I was embarrassed. Not because I stood out like a sore thumb with my clean pair of “whites” but because these folks didn’t have any apparent respect for their trade or themselves.
The more attention I paid to this aspect of the industry, the more it concerned me. Was this really my competition? If so, my competitive nature wasn’t getting all that pumped up. I also discovered that my dress code was apparently opening a lot doors to new business.
Ten years later and a college degree under my belt, I was an accomplished tradesman and businessman. If someone were to ask me how I got to that level of success, I would have pointed not only to the people that taught me a trade, but also to the way I was taught to dress for work.
So, what do concrete professionals look like these days? How are we distinguishing ourselves from other trades or, for that matter, unscrupulous people within this trade? I have a suggestion. Start by looking at what OSHA is recommending as safe work attire. Once you have those requirements nailed down, get your team to agree to this dress code on all job sites, keeping in mind that consistency is key to success. Company colors and deciding how your company name and logo will be displayed is important but secondary to safe work clothes.
Last, I’d ask myself if the attire conveys to my customers and prospects something about my company that leads to a higher level of reliability and trust. Does that work attire align with possible “safety ratings” prospective customers may be looking at?
While “whites” are not the color of this trade, our colors simply need to be on display every day we enter the workplace.