As I was driving to work today, I got stuck behind a truck that said: Dave So-and-So, Masonry Contractor, and his phone number. I’m looking for a mason because the one I used to work with passed away recently—simple enough.

The truck looked decent, so I gave Dave a call. I got his voicemail: “Hi this is Dave, leave a message.” I was a little taken aback because I thought the recording would at least say: “Hi, this is Dave So-and-So, masonry contractor, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you right away.”

It’s just Dave.

And Dave doesn’t have a toll-free number, which I also find a little odd. Here’s the kicker: Dave never calls back.

Stuck Doing it All

Dave is a Chuck in a Truck type guy. Most big contractors started out like this. He’s selling the jobs, running to the supply house, installing the jobs, and somewhere in the middle of all that he’s returning phone calls. Or not returning them. At night, maybe he goes to the bar and sits down and complains about the people who don’t pay him. Dave probably does good work. He might even be a great mason.

But that’s not what it takes anymore.

Here’s why: You know how everyone in a small town knows everything about everybody else? Well, we all live in a small town now thanks to the Internet and everything—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—that comes with it. Dave’s like a guy who lives on the outskirts of town. He’s a hermit out there.

Dave might even know what he needs to do to step it up. He might’ve picked up a book or bought an audio tape by Zig Ziglar or Brian Tracy. Maybe he puts on a tie when he runs a sales call. But when he does, he’s stepping outside of his comfort zone. Essentially, he’s a mason, not a businessman.

Do you know what it costs to get a toll-free number these days? About nothing.

You can use Google Voice, which is free, to leave a professional message for people who respond to your truck or yard signs. We’re not talking about an enormous investment. We’re talking about a change in attitude.

What’s in the Forecast

There’s a lot of information available online about how contractors operate—it’s almost limitless. And because of this endless information, Dave’s lack of professionalism is a forecast to some homeowners. It tells them what the experience of working with him would be like.

If Dave has no professional voicemail response and if you have to call four times to get a phone call returned, it’s not a huge surprise when he shows up late for the appointment and later still for the job.

Many homeowners today choose not to work with that type of contractor. They want to hire a company that has a plan, a consistent look, and a logo. A company that identifies itself as a construction operation on the phone and responds to a call promptly and professionally. When people go online today to find a contractor, they don’t want to hear back tomorrow. Return that call tomorrow and you might as well call them next year.

—Sales veteran and trainer Mike Damora has been the sales manager at several large home improvement companies. Reach him at