Your Grandfather’s Business

I know a few contractors who run the same business their grandfathers did. Not the same kind of business – the same business. They have time-honoured traditions and time-worn tools. They don’t take short cuts. They painstakingly work at their craft, job by job, house by house. They scoff at trends and technology. More than tradespeople, they are craftsmen. Artists, even. And most of them will be out of business soon.

I’m sorry. I wish it were different. Sometimes, I wish it was the kind of world your grandfather lived in, where hard work was appreciated and rewarded, your handshake meant you had a deal, and customers and suppliers were loyal. They were all in it together.

I’m not sure if that’s actually how the world worked in my grandfather’s day, or even in his grandfather’s day. I doubt it. It probably always worked the way it works now: the world is constantly changing, and you’ve got to keep up.

Even though most of us buy tomato sauce these days, it’s nice to see a picture of an old woman standing over an old-fashioned kettle. The jar is usually labeled with words like “home-style,” “traditional,” and “authentic.” It often tells a story about a recipe passed down through generations. It sounds good, and it tastes good. But it tastes good despite being bottled in an automated factory far, far away from the grandmother pictured on the jar.

So tell your story of old-world craftsmanship and put a picture of your grandfather on the trucks. It enhances the experience. Every brand needs an emotional story to connect and resonate with the customer.

But don’t run the business like your grandfather did. There are easier ways to make a better living. Like tomato sauce, you’ve got to find the most efficient way to get quality sauce in a jar. The quality doesn’t change, just the means to get there. He didn’t work so hard just for you to do the same thing.

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