It should be obvious. If you own a business, you need to act like a business owner. That means being professional; returning phone calls, showing up for appointments, doing what you say you’ll do.No Excuses

One of our coaching clients was telling me about his problems finding a subcontractor for a job. If you’re a general contractor, this might sound all too familiar.

He needed a mason to do exterior stucco work on a job. He hadn’t sold the job yet; it was still in the estimating stage. He called over a dozen companies and managed to connect with three of them.

Over the phone, he explained the job to those three, along with his time schedule for the estimate and the job start. All three companies set an appointment to look at the job. Only two of them showed up for their appointment and both of them were late; the third company didn’t bother to appear at all. Of the two who showed up, neither had business cards. They weren’t wearing a company logo on their clothing and there wasn’t any signage on their dirty vehicles.

At the job site, the project was explained to each company in detail. One of the two subs brought five people to the job site. Those five all talked at once, and all five had different opinions on what needed to be done. Not only did they disagree among themselves, they disagreed with the general contractor (GC) who was trying to set the parameters of the job.

The GC waited two weeks, calling both of these companies at least once, but neither one of them gave him a quote. One of them referred the job to a third company. That third company was so totally unprofessional in every aspect that the GC was reluctant to work with him.

So, the GC visited a masonry supply house to see if they knew any contractors in the area who might be able to lend a hand on the job. He was given two additional names; he called both of them and set appointments. The same thing happened: both arrived late with no signage on their trucks, no business cards, no business logos or personnel names on their shirts, and neither one bothered to get back to our GC with a quote.

Remember, the last two companies were referred by the masonry supply house. One of them, at the job site, asked the GC how to do the job because he did not know enough about the type of work to give him a quote. You might be thinking this was an exceptionally difficult project, but he explained the details to me and it didn’t sound out of the ordinary for stucco.

At this point the GC and I were talking. I helped out by calling another coaching client in the area who gave me the name of an excellent mason. I sent it along to the GC. Problem solved.

Is it any wonder we have a bad reputation? I hear stories like this all the time about general and specialty contractors from every trade. I am sorry, but it just isn’t that hard to conduct business like a professional. It’s not rocket science; most of it is common sense and common courtesy. If you haven’t yet, read our Ten Cardinal Rules.

If you call a sub and they don’t respond, don’t waste any more time with them. If they show up late, call them on it. They’re wasting your time and probably that of the building owner. If they don’t get back to you in a reasonable time frame with their quote, let them know you won’t consider them any longer. Don’t worry about hurting their feelings, since they obviously don’t concern themselves with your feelings or how their conduct makes you look to the building owner.

If you’re a sub, you have a right to expect the same from your generals. Common courtesy runs both ways.

I wish I knew how to get through to those who make the rest of us look bad. If you’re a mason thinking about relocating, give me a call. I know an area that could use a few more professional business owners.

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Mike South
Mike South
March 12, 2015 9:24 am

Thank you for helping to remind me to charge enough to pay myself an hourly wage on the job and have a profit and cover overhead. I really appreciate your work and books.

Sherrell T. Martin
Sherrell T. Martin
March 12, 2015 6:08 am

Great article with great points! I am a firm believer in business owners paying theirselves and baking it into the pricing.

The Anti Hal 1000
The Anti Hal 1000
March 11, 2015 11:30 am

Pay yourself first. Its a common mantra for financial planners, making sure you a take salary or set aside a bit of your pay package for a rainy day the premise is the same. Make sure you get your money. I suffered from nice guy syndrome , charging lower rates because I believed my sales area could not support my rates I had figured out using markup and profit. I struggled long enough to get myself in trouble, taking risky jobs and clients. The final nail in the coffin was a client who wouldn’t pay full price for a project.… Read more »

Tim Rosemeyer
Tim Rosemeyer
March 11, 2015 10:25 am

Hands down, Markup & Profit newsletter is one of the finest and most anticipated emails I receive–thank you again for all that you do and share!

March 11, 2015 8:54 am

Love the Churchill quote!

February 9, 2015 1:09 pm

The requirement for attaining a contractor license needs to be tighten up, and the ones who pass those requirements are kept in a referral database available to home owners, suppliers, and GC who need a qualified contractor.I don’t understand, that one has to scramble through so many bad eggs to get to a good one. My dad took the chicken who could not produce, and made soup out of it, und kept the one who where able to produce that golden egg, if you get my drift. I saw that on a construction site posted.“A profession is a personal thing… Read more »

Stacy Parker
Stacy Parker
February 8, 2015 4:59 pm

I experienced this issue very recently. Needed a good framer for a roof addition. Interviewed at least 9 (I’ve lost count but there are records) on site, explained the work in detail, and gave them all a copy of the prints. Some were highly recommended. None produced a business card. Half promised a quote by a certain day/time and failed to follow through at all. I’m saying they weren’t even late – just didn’t submit a price, period, despite reminders and subsequent conversations. Only 2 actually stated they couldn’t do the job in a timely manner (within a day), which… Read more »

keven hempel
keven hempel
February 4, 2015 8:47 am

Great topic! absolutely true! i appreciate your on point and always timely write articles!

February 4, 2015 6:46 am

I was just talking to a client this morning about this same topic. it’s unbelievably hard to find a sub around here who returns a Phone call. My client told me that when she first called me, she was impressed that I returned her phone call so promptly (Within an hour, as usual). In the year since she first called me, she’s hired me for 4 projects, with up to three more projects planned for the upcoming year. that’s what happens when you return calls (and do the rest of the ten rules)

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