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
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.
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