SNIPEF's Robert Burgon examines the public's perception of the 'white van man'.

I referred to the culture of "white van man", which has been created by the media as a descriptor of those who have reasons for not promoting who they are - it is far easier to hide from dissatisfied customers and the authorities if you operate in unmarked commercial vehicles.

On my way out of that meeting, one of the senior members, whom I regard as a true professional, sheepishly followed me and admitted that his company vehicles were unmarked. Yes - they also happened to be white!

In these difficult times, when work is hard to come by, there is a huge opportunity for legitimate professional businesses in our industry to promote the fact that they are better than the rest. Customers today have a choice, and why not help them to make the right one?

Members of the industry trade associations or professional bodies should not hesitate to tell the world that this is the case. Where better than on company vehicles? The name and contact details of the business, along with appropriate industry logos, can make all the difference.

This promotion should also extend to adverts in newspapers or directories and on any literature issued by the business. In all my years of involvement in the plumbing industry, I have never ceased to be amazed at the number of good businesses which fail to take the oportunity to tell their customers that they are members of a recognised trade association.

To become and remain members, these same businesses have had to meet stringent quality criteria and yet still they keep their membership to themselves.

I have heard it said that no one reads what is written on commercial vehicles. I beg to disagree and have often been impressed by professionally-liveried vehicles where a little thought has been given to the image projected. If big corporates like soft drink manufacturers or haulage companies see the benefit in doing it, why then don’t plumbing businesses?

I have nothing against the colour white and indeed can think of many impressive company vehicles in that colour. What I do object to is when good and professional firms give the wrong impression through the vehicles which they operate. If you fall into that category, what about taking some corrective action this new year?

Incidentally, the person who spoke to me after that plumbing meeting now proudly displays his name and industry logo on his vehicles and I believe that his business should benefit from that action.