The Ballad of Rusty The Roofer

Sitting in the living room of “Yellow House”, watching water drip from four different leaks in the ceiling, I decided that it was time to fix the roof. Yellow House was a rental property in Nashville that I shared with my two beautiful female roommates years ago who, despite my best efforts, still thought of me as a buddy.


After receiving a number of estimates, a guy pulled up unannounced one afternoon in a white van and said “wud up?” Enter Rusty the Roofer. Rusty was a red faced, red headed, redneck who offered to repair my roof for half of what the other roofers would. In my naiveté’ I hired him on the spot. The events that transpired over the next week taught me two things, 1. In the words of Ronald Reagan “trust but verify”, and 2. Never do business with a guy in a white van.


On the first day, Rusty and his crew came out and took all of the shingles off of the house. I had to later apologize to my female neighbors for the cat-calls that were being lobbed from my roof like grapefruit. Taking shingles off of a roof does not require exorbitant amounts of brain matter.  Putting new shingles on, however, requires a bit more skill, but in order to apply that skill one must be present. When Rusty was ready to leave for the day at the crack of two, he told me that he would return the following morning at 9:00 am. I assured him I would be waiting. The next morning, nine o’clock came, nine o’clock went and I was left standing on my porch underneath my naked roof growing agitated. Rusty finally showed up at 10:30 and apologized for his tardiness. I told him that I was planning my workday around his start time so I insisted that he be on time. The following day at 9:00 am, I am standing on my porch waiting for Rusty to show up only to be stood up yet again. When he rolled into my driveway at eleven o’clock, I was hot. I said “Rusty, when you tell me that you are going to arrive at nine….I EXPECT YOU TO BE THERE !!!!! When you don’t arrive until eleven you screw up my whole day.” Rusty looked at me and said “Patrick you’re right. But I have a good excuse. Last night I was out at a bar and met a woman who is doctor from Vanderbilt Medical Center and we [Partied] all night long.” I looked at him with an incredulous look on my face and said “Rusty, don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look like the type of guy who [parties] with doctors from Vanderbilt.” He chuckled and said “you’re right, but last night I had it going on, I was looking sharp…. I HAD ALL MY GOLD ON”


I guess I underestimated the seductive charms of a herring bone chain and a nugget pinky ring. I told him that doing business with him was becoming more trouble than it was worth and he looked me in the eye and said “Patrick, you have to admit that 90% of the time, I do exactly what I say I am going to do”.  There ends the ballad of Rusty the roofer.


Like with Rusty, customers judge a vendor or service provider by the 10% of the time their expectations are not met. Here are three ways to turn prospects into clients, clients into fans, and avoid becoming a “Rusty the Roofer”.


1.    1.     DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE GOING TO DO.

Become known as a person of your word. This establishes trust.
Trust enables friendship.“People want to do business with their friends”  (Jeffrey Gitomer)


2.         2.  UNDERpromise and OVERdeliver.

           Too many times we are tempted to say anything to close the sale.
           When you close the 10% margin of error you become a resource
            who provides value. Value creates loyalty.

3.        3.   BE PROFESSIONAL.

           Professional standards of communication and dress have relaxed
           over the last decade. Become known for superseding the standard.

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