To know where you’re going, you first must know where you’ve been.

When organizations are planning long-term strategic direction, they often go through a process of self-discovery. Because this method typically considers the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the organization, it’s often referred to as a S.W.O.T analysis. If sufficient time and energy are put into this process, it’s possible to build a plan of action that leads to success.

One asset that’s key to the success of any roofing contractor is their reputation, which is very often a strength as well as a weakness, opportunity and threat.

What folks are saying about you is a dynamic, constantly moving target. In study after study, word of mouth is listed as one of the top sources of leads for roofing contractors. For those in business for any significant length of time, this should be considered a strength; however, word of mouth can become a weakness if it doesn’t result in new business. There are things you can do to focus on this vital asset, such as asking your customers to refer you, rewarding them for doing so and keeping track of referrals.

Your reputation can provide tremendous opportunities. How you pay your bills, for instance, might keep you in a position to finance its growth.

Then there is the matter of the threat. A dissatisfied customer can take your reputation south in the blink of an eye. Customers have some great tools to rate the products and services they purchase these days. Go online, take your pick of search engines, and within seconds you can find reviews written by real consumers, paid consumers and haters — and possibly even unscrupulous competitors.

So what’s your plan to counter this threat to your reputation? I can only offer some very simple suggestions: there are professionals who provide reputation-management services, and they can assist you when facing a serious threat.

One of the best ways to help yourself is by always doing the right thing. Provide a great product on time, every time, and you’ll eliminate most bad reviews. If you do a great job of communicating with your customers and providing them with clear and concise construction documents, you can eliminate a huge threat to your reputation. Your customers’ perception of you is measured by their expectations versus what you deliver, after all.

Keep a close watch on your online reputation. You must have a process in place for you or someone in your organization to go online and see what’s being said about your company. Many organizations that allow rating of contractors do a good job of managing their content and will allow you to challenge bogus reviews.

Bottom line: do not make the mistake of assuming your reputation is only a strength and an opportunity. Just because you’re not aware of any outstanding complaints, i.e., weaknesses and/or threats, doesn’t mean you’re without them. You might think your reputation is stellar, but the rest of the world could be reading an entirely different story about you online!