A contractors rant--LONG

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In another thread, I kind of scolded a poster who said that they would never use me (see; estimates from contractors). It got me to thinking about what I have seen in 35 years of construction and where I am now.
I have worked my way up through the ranks in construction without ever intending to be a contractor. I just kept seeing ineptitude and thought that I could do better than others and for the most part, I was able to prove that when I was moved up in the chain of command. There were plenty of false starts and errors, but I kept on, knowing that I was at least as smart as most of the next guys and hardworking to boot.
Finally, I went out on my own and formed my own construction contracting company, specializing in residential and light commercial. By the time I did this, I had many happy customers that were delighted to have my company do their work. All of these customers trusted me, and their method of hiring me was to show me what they wanted done, get a price, and if it was within their budget, we would discuss when I would start. About half of the work I do is cost plus with a not to exceed number. The other half is hard contract.
It had taken me 25 years of hard work to reach a point where I could do this. I have so much work that I have to reject work because I just don't have the time to do it. Guess what? I can pick and choose what I want to do! I take the jobs that I want to do and pass on the rest. I take the clients that I feel comfortable with and reject the rest. This is not the result of doing shoddy work, or not knowing what I am doing, or not knowing how to run a business. It is because I have worked very hard to develope a good reputation and worked harder to keep it.
I have only had 2 unsatisfied customers in the last 10 years. This was not due to bad product, but from what I call unsatisfiable clients. If you are in this business for long, you WILL run across some.
I have a lot of friends in the construction business. Many are out on their own, barely making it. Some are capable craftsmen, but they are unreliable. Some are great salesmen, but not very good at quality control. Some are great craftsmen, but have no business sense, which of course, causes problems. One thing they have in common is that they will do just about anything to get the job, because they need the work. They have little repeat business and few referrals.
OTOH, I have people that are great at what they do. They are hardworking, honest, reliable, and have good business sense. They are rarely out of work, and, like me, pick the jobs they want to do and let the rest go. These are the guys that I use for subcontractors.
My clients refer me to their friends, neighbors and even people they meet on the street. I get lots of calls to come out and give estimates and look at work. While my regular clients tell me they have a job for me to do and ask when I will be available, the referrals are all over the spectrum. When I am out doing the initial contact, they are feeling me out, and I am doing the same to them. I will often give the person that referred them to me a call to feel them out about the potential client. If I don't feel right about them, they get a polite call explaining that I am too busy to take on anything else right now and giving them a few people to call who may be interested in doing their work.
My point in all this is that if you are a homeowner that wants a good contractor, you need to show a little patience. Be honest, and don't feel shy about asking questions. Don't be impatient. I know that remodeling or building a home can be a nervewracking enterprise to take on. Remember that the good contractors are busy and they are busy for a reason. It is because they are good at what they do, and quality is in demand. So don't be too demanding right at the outset. Feel out the contractor and see if you feel you can work with him and trust him. Trust is probably the most important element in a good relationship with your contractor. That doesn't mean blind faith. It means trust.
Once a client has chosen to work with me, I will do just about anything to make them happy. I won't do that just to get the job.
--
Robert Allison
Rimshot, Inc.
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<polite golf applause>
Very nice.........
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You sound like my kind of guy. If you sign a contract because you don't trust the contractor, you are working with the wrong contractor. It will tend to make your lawyer a wealthy person.
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All well said.
But the real test of a top-notch businessman is someone who will correct his foul-ups even at his own expense. Are you professional enough to take a financial loss on a job, in order to keep your end of the bargain? Most contractors seem to have an inflexible idea that they must make money on every single job. When things go wrong, they just default while they're still ahead.
What about something that the customer won't know was a problem, a hidden defect you can cover up, like too much water or too much time in the concrete mix? Do you do it over at your expense?
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you dont know the first thing about running a business, do you.
your hypothetical situations are all fine and dandy, and rarely have anything to do with the real world.
randy

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xrongor writes:

I have been in business continuously for almost 30 years.

They are all examples I have personally experienced.
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and that means you know how to run one?

like i said. your agenda. not reality.
randy
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xrongor writes:

Yes. You are quite mistaken.
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Richard J Kinch wrote:

Those are the kinds of things that are inherent in developing a good reputation. I have not lost money on any large jobs, but I have broken even in order to provide the quality that I am in business to insure.
I have lost money on smaller jobs ($1,000.00 and less) but only twice due to a mistake on my part that could have resulted in less than my ideal of quality. The other times that I have lost money is usually due to something that was damaged during the project and I had to replace.
The concrete problems that you posed as examples would be things that I have caught the concrete supplier doing. In the event that too much water has been added (never at my direction, but because the driver felt it was necessary) or it has sat too long, I would send the truck back to the plant and have it replaced at the expense of the concrete supplier. I would not lose money in that manner. Believe me, I have sent back my share of concrete trucks.
On the other hand, while in the course of a project, I have been asked to do things that I consider to be wrong. Usually I refuse, but in a couple of cases I have had the client sign a form which states that I consider the action to be incompatible with standard construction methods and was only done at the request of the client. Usually when I bring out this form, the client will back off and allow me to do it correctly. Even with the form, I do not like to do things like that, because somewhere down the line, someone will notice it and of course, I will be the one that did it. THAT person will not be shown the form that I made the client sign.
It is tough to keep your reputation intact.
I work hard to do just that. Not just for the client, but so I can sleep at night.
--
Robert Allison
Rimshot, Inc.
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On Fri, 18 Mar 2005 20:02:04 -0600, Richard J Kinch

You pretty much outlined Boston's Big Dig. (Except for the default part. The customers there have bottomless pockets.)
Sue(tm) Lead me not into temptation... I can find it myself!
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You sound like an honest contractor and businessman; I wish my contractor was as so. He downright lied about his credentials, gave us references who turned out to be his relatives and neighbors, he took us to construction sites which were not his, and was downright fraudulent with his credentials as a general contractor.
He tried to use slipshod construction practices that even the subs came to us and told us about. (Thank god for them and the building inspectors)
For example He dug the foundation and pored the footings, he was trying to save $2000.00, but had a sub come in and poor the cellar walls, during the poor for the walls the footings shifted and he had to knock the walls and footings down and re-do them again, he wanted to charge us additional because of this. The reason for the footing shifting, he didn't properly protect the soil under the footings from water and the soil became saturated. If he would have installed a simple sump pump this would not have happened. f he tried to use triple two by tens where a glue lam was specified, which supported the entire second floor and the roof The architect, framers and inspectors all called him on that one, and the bank refused to pay him until all structural problems were fixed. He neglected to figure in the cost for wiring in our split AC system, he didn't even figure in the rouging of the two circuits at all. He did not know or figure in for the cost of insulation for a radiant flooring system, then claimed insulation under radiant tubing was unnecessary as heat rises.
As this was a partial teardown and addition to an existing house we asked to have the existing portion of the house re-sided with the same material as the new section and it was stated in the contract as such. He comes to us near the end of the project and states we owe him an extra $12,000 for the siding on the old section on the house as he forgot to include that in the original estimate.
This is when we got a lawyer and fired this looser.
Of course we learn about this guy's incompetence from the subs and that his references and the houses he claimed to be working on were bogus. He was so incompetent the subs started to ask me about scheduling and guidance on this project, as he was usually only on site for about 2 hours a day and they could never reach him on his cell or pager, I on the other hand was living in the old section of the house and was readably available by phone or in person.
I guess this is an opposite rant from yours showing the other side. Even though we tried to fully check out this guys credentials we were mislead and deceived.
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On Fri, 18 Mar 2005 22:30:01 GMT, Robert Allison

Most of us have read your posts long enough to know this not your way of doing business for just today. It is a way of life; an expectation of yourself.
The problem for the customer is that this is the same story they get from the slick-talking-know-nothing contractor.
I'm not a building contractor but in my business I get testimonials from every customer. It is hard for a potential customer to ignore a binder full of endorsements. Even if they don't like my brand of product or price, they know what I say is fact. If they then demand the same quality service from their current supplier, the price gap may narrow.
It is especially sweet to get a call from a customer who confesses that they should have followed my advice. That brand X's product or service just is not measuring up.
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Andy Asberry wrote:

<<Snip>>
I don't have an exact figure for this but I would say that about 10 percent of the work I do is for people that hired the lower priced fellow first. They then call me in to finish up and fix problems because the cheaper guy was fired. It always ends up costing them more than if they had hired me in the first place.
I never actually say it, but I know that throughout the job they are waiting for me to say; "I told you so!". Like I say, I never say it. It is enough to know that it is true.
--
Robert Allison
Rimshot, Inc.
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clipped

I am a retired nurse, and I have seen folks do the same thing with contractors that they do with physicians....rely on the "authority" for all information, rather than educate themselves, get the work done for the lowest price, criticize the "authority" for all complications (even the unforseen), and end up with higher priced person to fix what went wrong. Amazing how many people have had abdominal surgery and have no clue what the doc did when he was messing around in their guts, or how many pills folks take without knowing what they can or cannot do :o)
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* What do you consider a "little" patience? Two years to finish a job because the guy you hired to do your scheduling was completely clueless?
I was patient with you whenever I called you directly to ask you why you tore up my ceiling and didn't come back for six months and patient when you promised me the work would get started right away. I was patient when your employee called me during that time to tell me that your crews might get started next week.
I was really happy with your subs. They did beautiful work. We got along famously, as well. I finally called them directly and worked as my own contractor. I purchased all the materials for the job and had them ready in sequence. I finally scheduled the job and brought in the inspectors as they were needed, even though your guy didn't want to pull permits He didn't care that a city councilman lives across the street, that both my husband & I serve on city boards or that we prefer to do the "right" thing.
I was happy you were patient with me when I told you why I wasn't going to be paying you the full amount of the job because after the subs got paid, your company didn't actually provide me with any service (or work).
You may be a great guy with a great reputation, but you nearly drove us insane. Oh, we did take pictures of the hole in our house, added a small explanation of the story and we did mail them out as cards to 200 of our closest friends. We didn't use your name, but our friends feel free to call us for a recommendation.
*This post is not about the Original Poster. It is about a different contractor from a different state.
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montana wildhack wrote:

Then why are you directing it at me?
You obviously did NOT have a GOOD contractor.
Sheesh! What a maroon!
--
Robert Allison
Rimshot, Inc.
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I think that people who get all wound up about what someone says about/to them on a newsgroup obviously don't have enough real problems in their life.
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said:

thing.
work).
Man, I agree. It sounded like he was responding to you. I could have easily missed the asterisk note. I think the Montana man owes you an apology. Just my 2 cents.
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In this case, a legitimate contractor was made to sound like HE was the culprit, not the real one that screwed them over. It could affect his livelihood and could make to "real" problems you talk about. . This is more than the usual kiddie ranting. Of course, you are posting from a EDU account so you probably don't know what real life is like.
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-> In another thread, I kind of scolded a poster who said that -> they would never use me (see; estimates from contractors). It -> got me to thinking about what I have seen in 35 years of -> construction and where I am now. -> -> I have worked my way up through the ranks in construction -> without ever intending to be a contractor. I just kept seeing -> ineptitude and thought that I could do better than others and -> for the most part, I was able to prove that when I was moved -> up in the chain of command. There were plenty of false starts -> and errors, but I kept on, knowing that I was at least as -> smart as most of the next guys and hardworking to boot. -> -> Finally, I went out on my own and formed my own construction -> contracting company, specializing in residential and light -> commercial. By the time I did this, I had many happy -> customers that were delighted to have my company do their -> work. All of these customers trusted me, and their method of -> hiring me was to show me what they wanted done, get a price, -> and if it was within their budget, we would discuss when I -> would start. About half of the work I do is cost plus with a -> not to exceed number. The other half is hard contract. -> -> It had taken me 25 years of hard work to reach a point where I -> could do this. I have so much work that I have to reject work -> because I just don't have the time to do it. Guess what? I -> can pick and choose what I want to do! I take the jobs that I -> want to do and pass on the rest. I take the clients that I -> feel comfortable with and reject the rest. This is not the -> result of doing shoddy work, or not knowing what I am doing, -> or not knowing how to run a business. It is because I have -> worked very hard to develope a good reputation and worked -> harder to keep it. -> -> I have only had 2 unsatisfied customers in the last 10 years. -> This was not due to bad product, but from what I call -> unsatisfiable clients. If you are in this business for long, -> you WILL run across some. -> -> I have a lot of friends in the construction business. Many -> are out on their own, barely making it. Some are capable -> craftsmen, but they are unreliable. Some are great salesmen, -> but not very good at quality control. Some are great -> craftsmen, but have no business sense, which of course, causes -> problems. One thing they have in common is that they will do -> just about anything to get the job, because they need the -> work. They have little repeat business and few referrals. -> -> OTOH, I have people that are great at what they do. They are -> hardworking, honest, reliable, and have good business sense. -> They are rarely out of work, and, like me, pick the jobs they -> want to do and let the rest go. These are the guys that I use -> for subcontractors. -> -> My clients refer me to their friends, neighbors and even -> people they meet on the street. I get lots of calls to come -> out and give estimates and look at work. While my regular -> clients tell me they have a job for me to do and ask when I -> will be available, the referrals are all over the spectrum. -> When I am out doing the initial contact, they are feeling me -> out, and I am doing the same to them. I will often give the -> person that referred them to me a call to feel them out about -> the potential client. If I don't feel right about them, they -> get a polite call explaining that I am too busy to take on -> anything else right now and giving them a few people to call -> who may be interested in doing their work. -> -> My point in all this is that if you are a homeowner that wants -> a good contractor, you need to show a little patience. Be -> honest, and don't feel shy about asking questions. Don't be -> impatient. I know that remodeling or building a home can be a -> nervewracking enterprise to take on. Remember that the good -> contractors are busy and they are busy for a reason. It is -> because they are good at what they do, and quality is in -> demand. So don't be too demanding right at the outset. Feel -> out the contractor and see if you feel you can work with him -> and trust him. Trust is probably the most important element -> in a good relationship with your contractor. That doesn't -> mean blind faith. It means trust. -> -> Once a client has chosen to work with me, I will do just about -> anything to make them happy. I won't do that just to get the job.
I don't suppose you'd come up to Gatesville, TX, to do a small job, would you?
--
8^)~~~ Sue (remove the x to e-mail)
~~~~~~
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