Project manager Steve Ainsworth has a business card. Client consultant Chris Saxton has one as well. So does manufacturing technician Ryan Fryer. Most companies provide cards only to white collar or executive employees. At Energy Swing Windows, a Murraysville, Pa., company that manufactures and sells its own swing-out (versus tilt-out) vinyl window units, everyone has a business card.

WHO ARE YOU, AGAIN? Owner Steve Rennekamp provides two reasons for why the company has cards for all: “It makes our installers and service people feel important,” he says, “and it makes the homeowner see our service people as professionals.”

Energy Swing Windows can print the cards itself, on postcard stock, for about $30 per 500, a cost that Rennekamp says is well worth it.

At most companies, an installer team will do its work and leave without the customer even knowing what the crew's names are. “And the installers are with customers longer than anyone else,” Rennekamp says. Now customers can put a name to the face.

“We try very hard to build relationships,” he explains. Each employee who interacts with a client leaves a card, contributing to an overall impression of a trustworthy, competent company.

The aim? To gain referrals, which today, business consultant and author Sam Geist says, are “the benchmark of whatever quality you provide.”

But Geist also suggests that before employees hand out business cards, owners should be sure that the person represents the company well. “In the end, the consumer doesn't just buy a product. He buys the people, the service, the communication. And the person who does the work can be either an ambassador or an assassin.”

ON THE TEAM Beverly Koehn, a management consultant to the building industry and author of Loyalty Is Love, a book about building customer relationships, says that giving everyone in the company a business card helps to spread the word. “In good companies, all people understand that they're ‘on the team,'” Koehn says.

All these efforts have paid off for Energy Swing Windows. Five years ago, about 40% of its business came from repeat or referral leads. Today, Rennekamp estimates, 70% results from repeat or referral. Among other things, the company gives installers who generate leads that become sales a bonus of 1% of the job up to $100. “We rely on our people to relate to the customer and to actually generate additional business,” Rennekamp says.