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Episode 188 The Edge of Evolution: Recruiting Skilled Labor in a Gig Economy

The Edge of Evolution: Recruiting Skilled Labor in a Gig Economy

It’s a new world of work out there, and finding skilled labor in the workforce has been a challenge for everyone in the building materials industry. This episode is a must-listen for brands, builders and anybody who wants to recruit talent in today’s gig economy.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov
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More About This Episode

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

We talk often about labor (and the labor shortage), and today’s guest brings a ton of expertise and strategy to the conversation. Andrew Spurvey is the Chief Marketing Officer for QuickContractors.com, a SaaS platform that some people are calling “Uber for contractors.”

Driving Change in the Building Industry

“You could call it Uber for contractors,” Andrew Spurvey says. There are similarities between the two software platforms, but if you work in building materials, you know there are significant challenges in the construction industry unlike any other.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “​​About 167,800 openings for construction laborers and helpers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.”

That’s in the United States. In Canada, where QuickContractors.com is based, the demand for skilled laborers, installers and other contract workers is also projected to grow. “If you purchase an appliance, that requires an installation,” says Andrew.

The company was founded by a student, Trevor Bouchard, who needed to find a contractor to help with a project. That was in 2004, and today the medium-sized firm is North America’s largest and fastest growing contractor management platform. “I believe we are the largest labor force that represents big box retailers in Canada for services. So if you were to walk into a big box retailer and purchase a product on a shelf or special order, [there is] a strong likelihood that it would be our company that would execute the installation of that product in the consumer's home,” explains Andrew.

We think the comparison to Uber is accurate when it comes to how disruptive the QuickContractor.com application could be for the construction industry. “We have approximately 5,000 field technicians in the field that are supported by approximately 100 or 110 employees now,” says Andrew.

And with 1.6 million jobs completed and a 4.4-star rating on Google Reviews, we’re looking forward to seeing how this kind of disruption might impact employment numbers in the States, where QuickContractors.com is expanding. “I believe we're in 16 or 17 states now,” explains Andrew.

How to Recruit Labor During a Labor Shortage

During our interview with Andrew, Zach Williams with Venveo asked what’s on all of our minds: “So how in the world is he getting labor right now?”

Construction jobs are some of the most difficult to recruit for because it’s challenging work — and QuickContractors.com hires for all of it. “We do smart home and electrical. We also do building envelope such as insulation, like spray foam, fiberglass as a service, attics, walls, basements — that type of thing,” he says. And none of these are easy jobs to fill.

But there are a lot of them. “Winning them over, well — it's about volume. We like to think that in most markets that we service, we can keep people busy, day in and day out, with work. So if you're looking for as much work as you could probably handle, in most markets, we're able to have our technicians keep turning the wrench, as much as they like,” says Andrew.

QuickContractors.com used platforms like ZipRecruiter or Indeed to find talented workers. “We have full-time recruiters that are just spending their days in and out, being as creative as possible to attract talents … [they’re] also reaching out to the trade schools and building those relationships with the teachers for certain trades to let them know that we are hiring, basically, at all times,” he explains.

The contractors using QuickContractor.com have a few options for engaging with the app. “There's some technicians that are working with us, 100% of their efforts and not doing anything else,” he says. “And then there's some of those that would use us as supplemental work, where perhaps maybe their days aren't being filled.”

The app allows contractors to set their hours, work capacity and work locations. “Technicians can populate their capacity, draw a geofence of where they would like to service and what service categories … just input your pricing, and then jobs would pop into their calendars based on that.”

What’s even more attractive for contractors is that the paperwork is handled. “The moment that the customer signs off, it's a certificate of completion, the job is done. Our system will automatically invoice us on their behalf. Therefore, they don't need to prepare any invoices — and their accountants really like that because we have a dashboard,” he explains. “So, we're talking about calendar capacity, invoicing: It's all wrapped into one platform.”

How Manufacturers Can Win Over Contractors

For building product manufacturers, it’s a challenge to find people to do the work of building, installing and repairing products. But Andrew and the team at QuickContractors.com have some experience at this point.

“There's a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding good quality technicians,” Andrew explains. “There are a number of boxes that need to be checked.” From insurance and background checks to reviewing a skillset, the process of hiring a contractor can be taxing.

“It’s all-encompassing, just for one technician [or] contractor,” he says. And it’s another hurdle altogether, convincing a contractor to use your product.

“It's definitely tricky, in a sense, when a contractor's already comfortable with a particular product line, with a particular brand,” he says. “It's definitely possible, but it requires marketing, of course — a lot of relationship building for sure.”

However, he has a few recommendations for that kind of relationship building, and it means meeting contractors where they’re at.

  • “Big box is definitely an important part of that whole chain when it comes to building materials because I think every contractor in the field will use big box building material stores for at the very least convenience, like a convenience store when they need something on the job,” says Andrew.

  • “Believe it or not, Instagram now has this massive impact on building materials and the contractors,” he says, and the team at Venveo has also seen success for brands on social media. “Instagram is invaluable to their business now, in terms of growing it and promoting themselves.”

  • Understanding your target audience is crucial in digital marketing, especially for building products. “You need to actually do your research to figure out who will be your largest buying segment for your particular product … if you're looking for more than one segment, then you need to still define them and target them separately, through separate campaigns.”

There are a few ways to attract and engage a building materials audience online, even to help with recruiting.

Getting People Into the Trade

QuickContractors.com has worked hard over the last several years to recruit people into the construction world. They’re finding that education is key to attracting the right people (something we recommend to all building materials brands!)

“Engage the knowledge base of the audience that you're trying to teach, and then make sure that they've got that knowledge base to at least a minimum standard before you to endorse them to move on,” says Andrew.

The brilliance behind QuickContractors.com is that it empowers the user (contractors) to build their own business. “I'll refer to a gentleman named Mo that works for us — he's a technician. He was the one-man crew, a new immigrant to Canada who was out there installing dishwashers,” explains Andrew. Mo wondered if he could train other contractors to work and start a business with other installers. “In pretty short order, [he] went from one vehicle to, last I heard, 12 vans earning something in excess of $1 million a year.”

For anyone wanting to break into a new career or field, contracting with QuickContractors.com has “a bit of a prestige, where we are a bit blessed where we get to represent these major brands,” explains Andrew. “We wear their branding, you have your ID badge, and you're authorized and all that.”

While there might still be a stigma around working in the skilled trades, we’re seeing a shift in mindset, even in younger generations — an excitement around applying skills learned through a time-honored trade. “I do think you're seeing a lot of organizations begin to educate more around that in order to get more people into the trade because, I mean, you can make great money doing it, too,” says Andrew.

Want Even More Insight?

We’re all feeling the demand for labor in the building materials industry, and that tension has created solutions, according to Andrew, who has seen brands and businesses take on the challenge of recruiting in a gig economy.

“There is a shift in the marketplace where the manufacturers are thinking about test piloting direct-to-consumer programs and offering up labor at the point of the sale, like in the ecommerce checkout platform,” he points out. “And I would say that there is a big challenge here, the commitment and the resources and just the talent that you're going to need to put that all together.”

Be sure to listen to more of the episode for insight into reaching contractors and customers online.

Check out QuickContractors.com to learn more about the business. You can get in touch with Andrew to talk more by emailing him.

Subscribe to Smarter Building Materials Marketing for more discussions and deep insight into the building materials industry.