Have you ever gone to a store to buy beer and underwear? Of course you have. But what about just beer and undies alone? Maybe you’ve bought underwear and beer together before but maybe not without a cart full of other stuff to bury them in. So maybe its a little strange for you to be standing in the underwear isle with a 12 pack of long necks. But according to your sense of comfort (or your sense of wife) its where you need to be. So there you are, in the skivvies isle, looking for a good deal on some Looms when you’re approached by another customer sporting an Ed Hardy shirt and some skinny leather pants asking if you’ve found what you’re looking for, or if you noticed “the buy-one-get-one-free jumbo pack at the end of aisle 6”. You think to yourself “hmm.. the jumbo pack looks nice…but wait..that’s kinda my business, and why is Enrique Iglesias telling me about underwear deals. “Uh thanks,” you say as you walk away. A few minutes later you see the same guy assisting other customers from behind the counter and you realize he is a store associate. Weird… Never would have guessed that. So you leave the store with your jumbo pack and pack-o-Bud thinking that maybe next time you need some goods you should drive a block further down to a store that doesn’t have a burnt out “K” on it’s sign, and maybe they’ll have employees that are uniformed and care about their image. Or at least you’ll know who to ask for help.
I think you get the idea. If we are in a situation where we are not the most comfortable, to begin with, the last thing we want is for someone we don’t know and who’s attire says “unprofessional” to attempt to help us. Many of your customers are not accustomed to having strangers in the home. So isn’t this a simple solution to solve all your customer’s worries? Well no. A uniform doesn’t certify a person as “non-creep” or as “the window whisperer” but it does say that we care about our image. We wear uniforms for the same reason we iron our clothes or put on deodorant. We care about others perception of us. What would we think if someone arrived at our house with a wrinkled shirt and pants smelling like alcohol. It may not affect us personally (if they’re outside) but it may reflect the attitude they have as workers.
Not a unform type person?
Well maybe your response to this is that you’re just not a “uniform type person” and you say you’ve still found good customer loyalty and are doing quite well for yourself. That’s great and possible. But chances are your company will not be able to grow with the same measure. That may work for you though. But please take a second to consider a few benefits of uniformity that you may not have thought of:
The shirt on my back.
A well-chosen uniform will support the following:
- Employee Retention – Employees take their job, and their boss, more seriously in uniform.
- Customer Retention – Clients feel they feel they are dealing with a professional company.
- Commercial Customer Appeal – Larger clients may require you to be in uniform on their property
- Employee behavior – Employees may feel that the work atmosphere is more professional and want to reflect that themselves. Trust me, casual dress many time equals casual employees.
- Inspiration / Motivation – They say a woman loves a man in uniform, maybe because the man has a higher sense of his worth and she knows it. This is true of men and women. You want your employees to feel they have a decent and real job.
- Growth and Income – The truth is that all growth-oriented companies eventually consider uniformity for the simple fact that they are taken more seriously, and often are, more serious about their companies value, growth and future.
- Sales – Whether you are trying to sell your services or even your business, potential buyers will notice the lengths you go to reflect a professional image.
So the quest is – what do you want your customer’s perception of your business to be? If the answer is “trustworthy and skilled” then we can only help that perception by investing in a standardized uniform. It may help you to look at a uniform as an investment in advertising your company. It says “I’m trustworthy, trained and you have no reason to worry…I will get it done the right way.” Though this may not be the case for all uniformed employees at least we have something that testifies to it in our behalf. A vote of confidence if you will. So later when someone thinks of hiring you, the uniformed guy who did that estimate a while back, or the guy who showed up in a “G-Unit” shirt, who may actually have been more qualified, he’s likely to choose you.
What’s in a Uniform?
So you’ve decided to get uniforms, great! Here are a couple of features/factors you’ll have to consider when ordering uniforms.
- Logo and Logo Placement
- Durability / Material
- Screen Print Vs Embroidery Vs Direct to Garment
- Climate and Season
Here are some suggestions that will help you stretch your uniform dollars.
- Get a quote from more than one outlet. I have found that 1 out of 3 shops are reasonably priced.
- Decide before getting shirts made whether or not you want to have uniformed pants and shorts or just jeans and stick with your decision. Khaki vs black Dickies may be a crucial first decision as they are 2 different styles. In this area, I have found that black pants are warmer than khaki pants but black shorts are no different than khaki shorts.
- Try to make a firm decision on logo and logo coloring before going to have it put on the shirts. This will save you the headache of not liking the way a shirt and logo came out and doing it over 3 times thus ending up with slightly different shirts for each member of your staff. This sometimes is unavoidable in the first batch though.
- Do you have a lot of employees? Don’t order a large quantity, to begin with, if you are not getting a sample made. Trust me. Order just a few shirts made to begin with. After wearing them a few times you may change your mind about colors or logo placement. The logo may not come out the way you wanted the first time and you’ll be glad you didn’t get 50 of them.
- If you plan on buying your shirts separate from the place they print the logos make sure you wash them before getting your logo put on. You don’t want the shirt to shrink after they put the logo on.
- Make sure your uniforms stay clean and ironed. Give your guys a couple of shirts each and tell them to rotate them so they fade evenly.
- Some people take the shirts from the guys after every job so they can rotate them instead of the guys. This may help in other ways as well: clean shirts, shirts don’t go missing, temporary employees or employees who work rarely don’t have all your shirts.
- Keep an extra shirt or two in the truck just in case.
- Make sure you implement and enforce a uniform policy for your crew. If you are working with them make sure you show consistency yourself as well.