“You don't know the Hendricksons?” I asked, sipping my coffee from my regular coffee shop.
“No,” said William, the Contractor Who Came From Nowhere.
“Did you used to work with Heritage Construction?” I tried.
“Never heard of them.”
“So you've worked with Bob Bradley, the architect?”
“Not until this job,” William told me.
“Huh,” I said, stumped.
I know a lot of people. From my family to my coworkers to my activities, a tremendous web of interconnected contacts has grown over my life. Add to that the web created by my children's schools and activities—you meet a lot of people while waiting for your kids to finish their gymnastics class—and sometimes it feels like I literally know or have heard mention of everyone in town.
I feel the same way about all the contractors that our company knows. Between all our active accounts, all the potential customers we hound for business, all the accounts that have been closed for a variety of reasons, and all the contractors who have retired, I sometimes think that we have completely tapped out our trading area. We know everyone. There are no more new prospects.
So when I met William on the jobsite of a mutual client (he was the contractor, we were supplying the cabinets and trim), I was shocked. The address on his truck indicated he was from within our market, yet I had never heard of him. And after 10 minutes of shameless name-dropping, I couldn't connect him to any personal or professional contact.
As the job progressed, I was delighted to discover that William and his crew were skilled, professional, and a pleasure to work with. I also learned that William had been in business for nearly 20 years.
Toward the end of the job, William must have been enjoying working with our products and staff because soon he was the one asking the questions.
“Have you ever supplied Hank Cookman?” he asked me one day.
“Never supplied him; never met him,” I answered.
“Did you bid on the Rotherman job?” he tried.
“Your kids play soccer?”
“Huh,” he said.
I immediately recognized his feeling of disbelief.
“I thought I knew every supplier around here,” he admitted. “Where have you guys been hiding?”
I really am a creature of habit. I drive the same route to and from work, I stop for coffee at the same place, and ultimately I look for business in the same places and in the same ways. While all this may lead me to think I am a big man around town, knowing just about everyone, this obviously is far from the truth.
Meeting William was eye-opening. It made me realize that no matter how many customers you serve, there are always more quality contractors out there—you just have to find them.
It was also refreshing. Not only was it a pleasure to meet a new contact, William also turned me on to a new coffee shop. I can't wait to see who I meet there.