I’ve been married for almost as long as I’ve been a contractor and like both endeavors they have their ups and downs and require constant work and adjustment in order to keep them running smoothly. I Recently came across an article titled 40 Things Husbands Should Stop Doing. The list was eye opening and humbling as I reflected upon my role as husband and how many things on the list I do that negatively affect my marriage, my wife and kids and myself. I was excited to see an accompanying article for wives, but her list was only 15 things. This makes sense as my wife is basically twice as better than me in most areas.
After sharing the articles with her we spent the day texting and emailing back and forth from work our various feelings and comments. Overall it was very beneficial and cleansing to get clarity and perspective on various issues that had gone unnoticed or become habits and part of the status quo.
Just as spouses can benefit and improve their relationship with the help of a simple “Stop Doing” list, so too can the contractor. Here is my adaptation and list of 15 things that Contractors should stop doing in order to improve themselves, their business and ultimately their bottom line.
- Never think you know it all Part of what makes you a good contractor or tradesman is your confidence in yourself and abilities. Combine that with a decade or two of experience and you are probably stuck in some ways of thinking and doing your business that are not beneficial. Adopt a learners mindset and allow yourself to be humble. Be willing to hear new ideas, and change old habits. The fax machine and carbon copies are dead, adopt new systems and learn to use current technologies that will help you become a better contractor.
- Don’t ignoring the books I’m a big fan of Kevin Oleary, AKA Mr. Wonderful from the TV show Shark Tank. He often warns prospective business owners who are seeking a deal to “know your numbers.” As a group, contractors suck at this. I will often ask a friend of mine if he’s making money and his typical answer is, “I think so?” The importance of this knowledge cannot be understated, yet it’s the most important aspect of your business. Without money, there is no business, so you better understand it and know where it is at all times.
- Stop making dust Ok, you can’t stop the dust but you can certainly control it better. Dust is one of the biggest headaches for clients who are living in their home during a remodel. Set up quality dust barriers and run negative air machines to keep the air free of airborne dust particles. A dust free work site also sends the message to everyone that steps onto your job that you are a professional and you care about your product.
- Don’t give ballpark pricing Clients will often ask what extras, upgrades or additional items will cost during the course of a project. Refrain from blurting out some number before you have a chance to sit down and consider all the costs associated with the request You risk shooting yourself in the foot by either setting unrealistic expectations for the client or costing you a potential change order because your ballpark was higher than it should have been .
- Don’t put up with bad subs We often settle for the devil we know versus the devil we don’t. Not returning phone calls, taking too long, mediocre quality. These are just a few of the things we put up with some of our subs, simply because we have a relationship with them and it’s too hard to find someone else. Quality subs are the backbone of a successful business. Make it your priority to improve your stable of quality trade partners.
- Stop providing free estimates This one is for GCs only. 1. We don’t do estimates, we do proposals. 2. Any job that’s worth doing needs plans and specifications and to put those things together properly takes time and if that time is yours, then you should be getting paid for it.
- Stop going to Home Depot If you want to measure how unproductive you are as a contractor, just think about how much time you waste going to Home Depot or the supply house. Work on improving your preparation and make sure all the materials you need are delivered ahead of time or if you must make a run, delegate your running around to your subs or employees.
- Don’t compromise on quality Insist that your standards are always adhered to. You set the bar height and decide the level of quality. Not your clients, subs, employees or vendors.
- Stop taking too long There is a fine line between pushing the schedule to a point where quality suffers and the ideal where you expect the job runs like a train schedule. The painters would like to have the place to themselves all the time and the electrician would prefer not to have to work around the plumber and the HVAC guy during rough ins, but if you want to be a premiere contractor you have to be able to turn your jobs around as fast as possible so communicate a clear timeline and expectations with all your trade partners and hold them accountable.
- Stop paying others first This comes straight out of Babylon, that is from Arkad aka The Richest Man in Babylon. ‘A part of all you earn is yours to keep. It should be not less than a tenth no matter how little you earn. It can be as much more as you can afford. Pay yourself first.’
- Don’t save everything You will never use that pink whirlpool tub
- Stop doing the work yourself It’s impossible to get to the next level, regardless of what business you are in if you are trying to do all the work yourself. You must learn to delegate and teach others how to do it. Work “on” your business, rather than working “in” it.
- Don’t be unresponsive Many contractors think being busy is a valid excuse for not returning communications quickly or being available in general. The true professional is able to respond to all his clients and trade partners in a timely manner.
- Stop being messy A clean and organized job site is a hallmark of a quality contractor.
- Stop putting your pliers on my counter tops! Put down the proper protections for floors, cabinets and counter tops etc, and insist that everyone does the same.
What other things do you suggest contractors should stop doing in order to improve?