Personal Branding Lessons from a Construction Worker

We often tend to look up for inspiration. When I say up, it’s at people who have already ‘established’ themselves, older people, successful people, wiser people. Well, sometimes, we just need to look in the right direction, and not just up.

In India, physical labor isn’t looked at like an honorable career option. Neither one that most people look at to get inspired. Even though it is, in fact, a skilled job. And what you and I do at a computer isn’t hard work. If you really want to know what hard work is, observe construction workers. You’ll begin to understand what sweat and toil is all about. And how easy you have it. And how unbelievably strong, flexible and fit these guys are.

I had the opportunity to watch some construction work happening at my neighbors house. And then at mine. The contractor, Siranjeevi, is a youngster who’s in his mid-twenties. And I was left stunned. He seemed to already know about a lot of stuff that many organizations struggle to get across in corporate training! About servant leadership, about being a doer first, about teamwork, about customer delight and about simply getting things done. Cleaning the floor, gathering and picking up debris, carrying heavy bricks and stones, waddling in the concrete mix, laying of bricks, bar bending, there was nothing he didn’t do along with his men. All this without making his clothes dirty!

He doesn’t use another pair of work clothes, like most of his team. And if it were not for his neat clothes, it’s difficult to identify who’s the guy in charge of the operation. He works in the same clothes that he comes to work in. And they remain clean at the end of the day. Take a look at his picture again. Quite a feat, considering the nature of work involved.

And the way he handles conflict is really impressive. Sometimes, there are ego clashes in his team. The helper doesn’t do what the mason tells him to and the mason feels it’s below him to do what the helper is assigned to do. So what does our man do? He starts to do what the helper was assigned to do. And this act embarrasses  both the quarreling parties into quickly resuming work!

And I’ve never seen him get angry. Or even irritated. Even in the situation above. He goes about work in a very matter of fact manner.

A day after he started work, he sends me a Facebook request 🙂 And when I had gone out of town, he’s sent me status updates in pictures on WhatsApp.
(So yeah, he’s net savvy!)

Unlike most contractors who stand by and order their men to do this and that, he leads by example. Late into the night sometimes. To meet deadlines. To keep a customer happy. Just watching him work made me decide that if there is some construction work to be done, I should get Siranjeevi to do it.

And that’s how work seems to find him. Not the other way around. Most masonry, unless the mason is particularly bad, looks more or less the same. Can you distinguish the job of one mason from another? Think about it. Usually not. The walls are square to the ground and to each other. Then there is the water level. You use higher quality stuff to get better fits and finish. But how do you differentiate this kind of work? You really can’t, especially if you do what everyone else is doing. But what you can distinguish is attitudes to work. The way you do the same work. What is immediately noticeable is how much pride you take in your work. It really shows. And people notice.


Your attitude to work stands out, however mundane your work might be. If you remember, I didn’t plan to get any renovation done. And I’d say it’s the same scenario with the neighbors. (A couple of neighbors have already engaged with him for his next assignments). Like me, they started thinking of reasons to get him to do his thing. For us. We watched him work and were impressed. And we wanted a piece of the action.

Anyone see where branding comes in? And marketing? And sales! All this with zero budget advertising. His quotations are very reasonable, so there is usually no need for haggling. And that’s only the icing. Now even IF someone did pay a little more, he’d (the customer) be more than happy to do so.

So many reasons to be inspired, if you are looking to be inspired.

And you don’t need to always look up for it.