About My References
Many years ago I had a long, proud list of references that I handed out to each new prospective client when I first met them and encouraged them to contact as many as they wanted. The list gave the project name, location, brief project description, owner name, contact info, etc.
As new projects were completed they were added to the list and for years the list was given out.
Then one day I received a call from a past client and he said “ Wes, I hate to ask this but can you please remove me from your reference list?”. Naturally I was shocked and asked what was wrong. He said “Nothing is wrong with the building or with you, I just don’t have time to talk to all of the people that call me to ask about you. It seems like they always call when I’m right in the middle of something and if I don’t take their call they just keep calling. When I take their call they just go on and on with endless questions. I try to be as courteous as I can but find myself just trying to end the call as quick as possible so I can get back to work.”
I told him that I understood so I removed him from the list that day and didn’t think much more about it.
A few months later I received a call from another past client asking me to remove his name for the same reason. I told him that he was the second one that had asked to be removed from the list. Then he asked me a strange question. “Why do you give out a reference list anyway?” I said, “what do mean? Why wouldn’t I?” He said “I don’t give out a reference list nor do I ever ask anyone for any references. I said “why?” He said “Because they are totally useless.” I said “What do you mean?” He said “Think about it, do you think for one second that anyone would ever give a reference on a job ended bad?” He answered before I could and said “of course not”…every reference on his reference list is going to give a glowing report of how wonderful a job he did, how he would never use anyone else, how he walks on water, etc, etc. You’ll hear the same things from all of them. Therefore there’s no point in calling them. You already know what they are going to say. Asking someone for references is useless and a waste of time.
The other issue is respect for previous client’s time and privacy. I’m sure the vast majority of my past clients were irritated when they received calls asking about me but they didn’t want to call and ask to be removed from the list. I came to realize that I was abusing my past client’s time and was unknowingly taking advantage of the strong relationships I had with them for my own gain. I also was infringing on their privacy by sharing their project information and contact information with strangers also for my gain.
So after a few months of thinking about all this I finally decided to stop giving out references. I began telling clients why I didn’t and promised that I would not be giving out their name and project information. I will make the same promise to you as well.
If you read through my qualification statement you’ll get a pretty good list of projects there.