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Old 03-13-2008, 07:39 PM   #1
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On occasion I have a need/ desire to hire a contractor to do something, either at my home or my office. I continue to be amazed at how most of them operate.

For example, we had our trees trimmed today. It cost $1,200 and I didn't get anything in writing. In fact, the crew left 2 hours ago and I haven't paid a cent yet. They did a very good job. But if I wanted to be a jerk I could complain about the branch they broke on a shrub, the two small morning glory seedlings they damaged, and other small stuff. Since I wasn't warned about these things (which I did expect though) and since I still have all of his money, what could he possibly do?

I've had similar experiences in the past. A few gave me a crude, hand written estimate, but most didn't. And some of these guys are well known around the city.

I was ready to write a check when the crew was done, but nobody asked. And I have no idea when somebody will. If cash is king, somebody just got trumped.

Brian Phillips
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Old 03-13-2008, 07:51 PM   #2
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Brian, I'm suprised you even dealt with such unorganized guys since you seem so on top of things yourself
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Old 03-13-2008, 07:59 PM   #3
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Brian, I'm suprised you even dealt with such unorganized guys since you seem so on top of things yourself
Rich,

Actually I was dealing with my yard contractor, whom I have done business with for about 3 years. So I had some track record to deal with. But I had bids from several companies, and they all operated the same. And these were well known companies. That is what amazes me.

Brian Phillips
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Old 03-13-2008, 08:24 PM   #4
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But I had bids from several companies, and they all operated the same. And these were well known companies. That is what amazes me.

Brian Phillips[/quote]

In one way, that's encouraging . . . Obviously if most contractors are operating in ways perceived to be less than professional, it makes it a little easier for the rest of us to distinguish ourselves from the crowd.

Of course, at the same time, if more contractors presented themselves in a more professional manner, the rest of us wouldn't have to spend so much time trying to change people's perceptions of contractors as a whole.


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Old 03-13-2008, 10:09 PM   #5
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I would not want to be a contractor going over to Brians house for an estimate.



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Old 03-13-2008, 10:40 PM   #6
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I was ready to write a check when the crew was done, but nobody asked. And I have no idea when somebody will. If cash is king, somebody just got trumped.
Brian Phillips
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I would not want to be a contractor going over to Brians house for an estimate.

Not that I would or wouldn't ask to be paid, depending on the relationship, but having this information before-hand.... Nahhhh... I wouldn't either. Unfortunately anyone bidding his yard isn't aware of what we know....

J
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Old 03-14-2008, 07:16 AM   #7
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In one way, that's encouraging . . . Obviously if most contractors are operating in ways perceived to be less than professional, it makes it a little easier for the rest of us to distinguish ourselves from the crowd.
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Of course, at the same time, if more contractors presented themselves in a more professional manner, the rest of us wouldn't have to spend so much time trying to change people's perceptions of contractors as a whole.
That was really my point. The way other contractors operate presents us with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is overcoming the stereotypes customers have regarding contractors. The opportunity is that when we do—which is relatively easy to do—we easily and clearly differentiate ourselves.

I find it very hard to believe that these guys haven’t been burned more than once. The job is done, the crew is gone, and I still have all of the money. Put a real jerk in that position and the contractor is going to get screwed.

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I would not want to be a contractor going over to Brians house for an estimate.

Actually, I think I’m a good customer. Perhaps better than most, as I have some idea what to expect and generally have reasonable expectations.

For example, I knew that no matter how much care the tree trimmers took, some damage to our landscaping was inevitable. But I was never told this—the contractor did nothing to set reasonable expectations on my part. He left himself open to all kinds of things.

Brian Phillips
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Old 03-14-2008, 02:12 PM   #8
 
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It is easy to point out certain things about other contractors - that we ourselves too are contractors - may have done differently. It is very interesting to see how they operate and it can also be an eye opener and a learning experience in some cases as well.

I just had 2 fellows come in a do a tub surrounding in tile in my bathroom. I can lay tile, and I am not particularly bad at it, it is just I have no time. I am laying the floor but these guys are quick, professional and provide great craftsmanship. They do not work off a contract, nor do they have a company identifiable truck.

But I chose these guys because:
1. they presented themselves very well
2. do great work
3. were considerate of my house and surroundings
4. cleaned up constantly
5. were reasonably priced.

I think these traits are and should be common in successful contractors as they can apply to most fields no matter what service you provide. I was happy with what they did, although there was no contract and according to them, the reason for this is that primarily their work comes from word of mouth or people they know.

Good post Brian
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Old 03-14-2008, 02:59 PM   #9
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Brian

My comment wasn't a reflection on you as a customer! It was more a spoof on how it would be a challenge to put my operation in front of you, knowing what I know about you! Actually, would be a good experience.

On contractors, I have a plumber and an electrician who are both good friends and colleagues who I use at my own house.

One is a master electrician and a good businessman. He presents the worst case scenario every time and then executes the job flawlessly, making the difficult look easy. He has the eye of a finish man. Clean hands and great sensibilities. His billing is out of Quickbooks. He performs the work and I swear the very next day the invoice is in my mailbox. The first time he billed me (at a premium rate for his trade), I was struck by his cost itemization of every single part and piece, right down to the little screws that hold the plate covers in place at 3 cents each. I told him he was crazy to spend that much time entering those items into Quickbooks. He was firm in his stance that it is necessary to bill for everything. I like his approach.

My plumber, also a master, is the other extreme. Gives me most materials at his cost and has never revealed his hourly rate. After the work is complete and perfect, a month will pass and he will send a hand written bill with little description and a lump sum that is usually about half what he is worth to me.

Would I love it if my electrician operated like my plumber? Absolutely. Do I pay twice as much for my electrician as my plumber? Absolutely. Their quality is the same, and generally plumbers and electricians fall within a similarly high rate structure. There is a lesson here.

By the way, I tip my plumber.



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Old 03-14-2008, 04:06 PM   #10
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On contractors, I have a plumber and an electrician who are both good friends and colleagues who I use at my own house.

One is a master electrician and a good businessman. He presents the worst case scenario every time and then executes the job flawlessly, making the difficult look easy. He has the eye of a finish man. Clean hands and great sensibilities. His billing is out of Quickbooks. He performs the work and I swear the very next day the invoice is in my mailbox. The first time he billed me (at a premium rate for his trade), I was struck by his cost itemization of every single part and piece, right down to the little screws that hold the plate covers in place at 3 cents each. I told him he was crazy to spend that much time entering those items into Quickbooks. He was firm in his stance that it is necessary to bill for everything. I like his approach.

My plumber, also a master, is the other extreme. Gives me most materials at his cost and has never revealed his hourly rate. After the work is complete and perfect, a month will pass and he will send a hand written bill with little description and a lump sum that is usually about half what he is worth to me.

Would I love it if my electrician operated like my plumber? Absolutely. Do I pay twice as much for my electrician as my plumber? Absolutely. Their quality is the same, and generally plumbers and electricians fall within a similarly high rate structure. There is a lesson here.

By the way, I tip my plumber.
This is a great story. You get to see the 2 extremes.

I feel a little sad for the plumber. He's obviously leaving money on the table, he probably forgets to bill for work/ parts, and he's waiting a long time for his money. Of course, it's all his doing. But I bet the electrician makes more money and has less stress in his life because of the way he runs his business.

Brian Phillips
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Old 03-14-2008, 04:24 PM   #11
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Brian

It shows in every way. The electrician has alot more marketing materials visible: Two new vans, lettered and logo-ed, t-shirts, sweatshirts, fleece jackets all logo-ed and lettered. Always busy, recently hired his first employee and carried him all winter. Very obvious difference in the presentation. He rarely has to work over 40 hours.

My plumber, and I love this guy, drives an old beater van, no logo, no business name, no business cards, no advertising. Just very busy. I really feel bad for him. Its not that he doesnt have business sense, its just he is too busy to do anything about it. He works 60-70 hours.

Both are in the bucket, but one can get out.



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Old 03-14-2008, 05:11 PM   #12
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Brian

It shows in every way. The electrician has alot more marketing materials visible: Two new vans, lettered and logo-ed, t-shirts, sweatshirts, fleece jackets all logo-ed and lettered. Always busy, recently hired his first employee and carried him all winter. Very obvious difference in the presentation. He rarely has to work over 40 hours.

My plumber, and I love this guy, drives an old beater van, no logo, no business name, no business cards, no advertising. Just very busy. I really feel bad for him. Its not that he doesnt have business sense, its just he is too busy to do anything about it. He works 60-70 hours.

Both are in the bucket, but one can get out.
So it seems that one guy charges the right price, makes good money, puts money into his business, and works normal hours. The other is under charging, doesn't have much money, can't invest in his business, and works like a dog.

The electrician seems to have a business, while the plumber has a job.

There must be a lesson in there somewhere.

Brian Phillips
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Old 03-14-2008, 05:58 PM   #13
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There must be a lesson in there somewhere.

Brian Phillips
There is. The electrician put in a pool last summer. Spends the weekends with his kids, dog and lawn tractor.

Whats funny is we are all friends, so naturally when the plumber is at my house, he talks about the electrician. And the electrician talks about the plumber. They also work at each others houses and charge each other as they charge me.

When one speaks of the other's business model, they each say the same thing:

"I don't know how he can operate that way."



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Old 03-14-2008, 06:41 PM   #14
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There is. The electrician put in a pool last summer. Spends the weekends with his kids, dog and lawn tractor.

Whats funny is we are all friends, so naturally when the plumber is at my house, he talks about the electrician. And the electrician talks about the plumber. They also work at each others houses and charge each other as they charge me.

When one speaks of the other's business model, they each say the same thing:

"I don't know how he can operate that way."
That is very interesting. I don't actually know either one, but I have met their counterparts many, many times.

I'm speculating a little, but I don't think too much.

Both see their business as a means to an end. But those ends are much different. For the electrician (E) it provides the kind of life he wants to live. For the plumber (P) it is the means for paying the bills.

I think it goes a lot deeper than that though. I suspect that E has more self-esteem than P. E knows what he is worth and is willing to charge for it. At the same time, he backs it up with an image that oozes professionalism. P doesn't think people will pay what he's really worth, so he just charges the "going rate".

Neither understand how the other can operate that way. E doesn't understand how P can tolerate just getting by (or maybe how he even gets by). P doesn't understand how E can charge such exhorbitant rates. Each is looking at the world a lot differently.

E seess the world as full of opportunity. If he offers more value, he can charge more. P sees the world as limited-- you have it or you don't, you get all of the breaks or you don't.

Anyhow, I'm speculating and maybe I'm way off base. But their stories are very interesting.

Brian Phillips
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Old 03-14-2008, 06:47 PM   #15
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Brian

It seems that you know my guys. E is extremely confident, to the point where he sometimes tells me the best ways to paint, which according to him is the Wagner Power Roller. He comes off as abrasive to some people, but he inspires confidence.

I was on a job with him one time where the homeowner had ordered these ridiculous ceiling fans and had an extra one. The homeowner approached him and asked where they could put the extra ceiling fan, perhaps in the garage? Without hesitation, he answered: "Ebay. I am not putting that thing in a garage."

My house is about 125 years old and both P and E have completely redone my systems.

A couple of years ago, E said to me: "I don't want to be on my stomach in crawl spaces and spending my days in moldy basements for the rest of my life." Since he said that, he has put into effect all of the elements I have described to you. And its working.



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Old 03-14-2008, 07:20 PM   #16
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It seems that you know my guys. E is extremely confident, to the point where he sometimes tells me the best ways to paint, which according to him is the Wagner Power Roller. He comes off as abrasive to some people, but he inspires confidence.
As I said, I've met their counterparts many, many times. Often on Paint Talk. (Sometimes confidence does come off as abrasive, particularly to those who are much less confident.)

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A couple of years ago, E said to me: "I don't want to be on my stomach in crawl spaces and spending my days in moldy basements for the rest of my life." Since he said that, he has put into effect all of the elements I have described to you. And its working.
Funny, but good business practices almost always work if properly executed. It works for electricians and it works for painters. Indeed, it works for businessmen in any industry.

This is a great story Scott. I'm really glad you shared it.

Brian Phillips
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:22 AM   #17
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I am consistently surprised and impressed by the directions the threads follow within this forum. Scott and Brian's conversation is enlightening and noteworthy, and reminds me very much of the E-Myth books. I certainly appreciate reading a great deal of what the forum members have to say.
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Old 03-15-2008, 11:43 AM   #18
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Another great thread here guys--

Mr. P. and Mr. E. are polarities in nature, and therefore, in business. What we think, we become and are. The sword cuts both ways.

Mr. P. and Mr. E are prototypical, at different ends of a broad spectrum. There are many ways to skin the no so proverbial cat. On many levels, our individualities are determined by genetics and environment--the old nature /nurture paradigm in operation.

The meticulous minded businessperson will usually do better financially. His awareness of detail allows for more efficiency. If you treat routine tasks with the competence gained by experience, you streamline your business.

We have several, if not more, systems oriented business owners routinely contributing to this forum. Ask, and they will answer. Wow--and it appears to be FREE.

The more left sided brain functioning person is not so efficient or systems oriented. By definition, this prototype will almost always operate at a business disadvantage. This does not mean the actual work performed is of a lesser quality. It means the same quality will command a smaller price due to the business owner's less efficient business skills.

Obviously, skill levels, experience, basic nature, motivation, and other attributes contribute to success or failure. Too many assume that being a good craftsman assures profitable operation. This is not true as so often pointed out here in this forum.

Optimally, the great businessperson and great craftsman in you will combine to make a super business. Greatness, however, is a work in progress-always!

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Old 03-15-2008, 08:07 PM   #19
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Thanks Brian, for a great discussion. There is a sequel coming out.



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Old 03-15-2008, 08:55 PM   #20
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Another great thread here guys--

Mr. P. and Mr. E. are polarities in nature, and therefore, in business. What we think, we become and are. The sword cuts both ways.

Mr. P. and Mr. E are prototypical, at different ends of a broad spectrum. There are many ways to skin the no so proverbial cat. On many levels, our individualities are determined by genetics and environment--the old nature /nurture paradigm in operation.

The meticulous minded businessperson will usually do better financially. His awareness of detail allows for more efficiency. If you treat routine tasks with the competence gained by experience, you streamline your business.

We have several, if not more, systems oriented business owners routinely contributing to this forum. Ask, and they will answer. Wow--and it appears to be FREE.

The more left sided brain functioning person is not so efficient or systems oriented. By definition, this prototype will almost always operate at a business disadvantage. This does not mean the actual work performed is of a lesser quality. It means the same quality will command a smaller price due to the business owner's less efficient business skills.

Obviously, skill levels, experience, basic nature, motivation, and other attributes contribute to success or failure. Too many assume that being a good craftsman assures profitable operation. This is not true as so often pointed out here in this forum.

Optimally, the great businessperson and great craftsman in you will combine to make a super business. Greatness, however, is a work in progress-always!

JTP
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