Spoiler alert: I’m about to give you a sneak peek into a future issue of Roofing Contractor. Our editors have begun work on a feature about roofing companies that have been in business more than 100 years. Our goal is to make it entertaining while providing insights as to how you can lead your own roofing company in the direction of the Century Club.

So what is a 100-year-old roofing company made of, anyway? The building it works from is generally not that old, and even if it is it would scarcely resemble the building it was 100 years ago. The trucks and equipment are nowhere near even a fourth the age of the company. The materials and processes sold today barely resemble those of a century ago. And, of course, the people operating the 100 year-old roofing companies are generations removed from the founders.

What is that thread that holds an enterprise together year after year, even for 100 years or more? I believe it is the reputation of the firm — how it is perceived in the market it serves. Yes, there are contracts and ownership and many other threads that run through the history of a roofing company, but without the ability to maintain a good reputation, there would be no such thing as longevity in the roof-contracting business.

Is there anything more valuable in your business than your reputation? In a business where most company owners cite “word of mouth” as their best and most valuable source of new customers, I think the answer is obvious. In a business where your customers often know little about the product you are selling them until you teach them about it, the level of trust must start off very high if there is any hope of transacting any business at all.

In the world of the Internet, smart phones and everything-wired, “word of mouth” has become a very complicated creature with a life of its own. Roofing contractors now have the added duty of managing their online presence, not just to attract more leads but to manage who is saying what about them online.

Reputation management should not be an all-consuming task for a roofing contractor, but some attention must be paid to it on a routine basis. How you go about doing that is where it becomes complicated. There are a number of firms offering services to individuals and companies to keep a constant eye on what the “talkers” are saying about you online. Selecting a service to perform this kind of work for you requires a good deal of due diligence on your part. It may even be appropriate to seek legal counsel for advice on the best way to go.

The bottom line on reputation management is to always, always deliver what you promise by way of your contracts and agreements with your customers. I understand customers can be unreasonable and make demands of you that are at times unfair. But remember that while the customer may not always be right, they are always the customer.

Managing your reputation requires great communication with your customers and also your vendors and employees. Approaching every transaction with this in mind, you have put in play the very best defense against the vagaries of a bad reputation: always working to maintain a good one.