scaring off contractors
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sschoberg



Joined: 29 Oct 2008
Posts: 569
Location: Plymouth, Indiana

PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The salesman side in all of us keeps telling us we must conform to our customers wishes because every job is important. It's dang hard to turn down a job, just about any job.

I still find myself trying to conform ,even bend some of my important values for the sake of not losing a job. But what we need to learn is some projects don't fit our model and some customers don't fit our model.

Steve S
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johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2924
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But what we need to learn is some projects don't fit our model and some customers don't fit our model.


This is so true. Know what your work is, know what your business is, and stick to it.

Of course, once a business is doing well, you can spend a little of your overhead on trying out a new kind of work, or a new way to do business. I call it "Development." Since we have these small "micro" businesses it is easier for us to "turn on a dime" and respond to a need in the market. This is one reason all of these small window specialist businesses are cropping up all across the country. The are responding to a need in the market for window repair and maintenance, that the big window companies (like Marvin, Pella, etc) cannot possibly respond to. Their only response is to make and sell new windows.

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by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought


Last edited by johnleeke on Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jmetzler



Joined: 17 Dec 2011
Posts: 1
Location: Minneapolis, MN

PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would like to offer another perspective on this problem.

Contractors will have different perspectives and approaches for any number of reasons. Sometimes it can be a lack of knowledge or experience but in other cases there is more than one acceptable way of doing something. I've found that sometimes there isn't a perfect way of doing something and it's not uncommon for there to be both pros and cons to a particular approach. The homeowner's difficult job is to separate out the incompetent contractors for a particular job while relying on the expertise of the competent contractors.

This is one of the reasons people hire architects to define and set a standard for the work to be done. This is done with documents (drawings and written specifications) that can vary in detail. The idea is that everyone is bidding on the work defined in the documents so there is some basis to compare costs. Bidders can also include alternates, and the associated cost, for doing something differently. Usually we aren't necessarily looking for the lowest bid but we are wary of a bid that stands out by being either drastically lower or higher. More investigation of these bids is required and this results in further conversation that can be really useful.

After a contractor is hired we continue the conversation and sometimes alter the work to be done based on the contractor's recommendation. This is an ongoing process intended to set some standards, have a fair basis of cost comparison, and well as keep a conversation going about the work and the best way to achieve the work. Of course one needs to hire the right architect, someone who is knowledgeable of preservation issues and old structures. The downside is that there is cost involved. Another example of there being pros and cons to everything!

I find as an architect that my clients naturally want the best price I can provide. This would be no different for any contractor. The difficulty is that answering questions takes time. When a client hires someone who is good and then can rely on them without questioning everything they do, the client should be able to get a better price on the work because less time is spent. I want to provide the best price I can to my clients but if they want to ask questions about everything I'm doing I also want to provide the service to answer their questions. Unfortunately the time required to do this may mean that the cost won't be a low as it otherwise could be.

The initial meeting is very often an indication of how the actual project will go. So if a prospective client is questioning everything it often translates into a great deal of time being required for questions throughout the project. That's why it is often a better approach to be able to define the work (with the help of an architect if needed) and let the contractor detail only how they might want to do it differently.

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jmetzler
ConvenientOldHouse.com
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rncx



Joined: 21 Jun 2008
Posts: 660
Location: Little Rock, AR

PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i agree completely. if architects were involved in more cases there would be a lot less people taken advantage of by shady contractors, and a lot less confusion between the owners and good contractors.

but people want to save a nickel first and foremost, and architects cost money...

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Neal
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johnleeke
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Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2924
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joe:

I usually think of architectural services at the high end of the market. Are there any programs that help bring architects into middle- and low-income projects that ordinarily could not afford architectural services?

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by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
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MartinDavidHickman



Joined: 25 Oct 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Philadelphia

PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Find one good contractor who subs for other contractors and get references from him. If you know he cares about his work and takes pride in it, then his friends and other contractors in his network probably will too. Plus they'll have built-in motivation to do a good job because their friend/colleague referred them.

Yeah, word of mouth, duh, I know. But the key is getting references from contractors themselves. I get lots of jobs from other guys and vice versa. The clients believe them because they themselves are skilled, and then I pass on work to other skilled guys I know. In Philly, many of the best craftsman don't advertise. They're small operations who sub for bigger ones. Some of them are really small, like myself. Outside of my linkedin page you wouldn't know who I am unless you got my number from another tradesman or former client.

I know who the skilled craftsmen are because I hire them to help me on projects - whether it's milling up some custom trim for me (if I'm too busy to do it myself) or doing masonry work that I'm not qualified to do. I've personally seen their work and I'm knowledgable enough to know it's good.

Anyway, so you get this guys number and he comes to check out your job. What do you do? Have an established list of questions in your head and lightly grill him. If his answers make sense (plus he shakes your hand and looks you in the eye) then you can probably trust him. Bonus points if he returns your calls within 24 hours.

BTW, don't discriminate against "guys with a truck and no college degree." What?? Is a guy with a van and a BA in creative writing better? (I'm describing my older brother). I don't have a college degree and laugh at the idea that somehow that would make me a better preservation carpenter. Plus I can talk historical house styles with the best of them (usually useless when it comes to actually doing the work) and I even have some original ideas instead of just regurgitating something from "A Field Guide to American Houses" or the "Hull Historical Molding Catalog."

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Martin David Hickman
Preservation Carpenter
Philadelphia, PA
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