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Insight: Adrienne Palmer

When Dealing with Contractors, Find Balance Between Pushover and Pushy

A stressful renovation offers lessons on how not to run your business.

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Things learned from this frustrating process: 1.) don’t leave the house because they won’t show up; 2.) set deadlines that have to be met in the contract; and 3.) that it really does take “time and money”.

I’D ASK if you’ve ever had a poor experience with a contractor, but it seems like every person on this planet has a terrible story to tell. So, why not tell you mine? Last summer, my fiancé and I started a home renovation process that was scheduled to be completed in six weeks. We packed our bags and headed north to stay with family so we could be out of our contractor’s hair. At week eight, with minor progress updates, we decided it was time to head back to the house. When we arrived, about one week’s worth of work was completed. Paint was still wet from a last-minute job they rushed in order to prove they had done something over the course of two months.

The project was recently completed. At week 20. The negative, five-month experience is currently overshadowing the positive end result.

I learned a lot from this process. Don’t leave the house because they won’t show up. Set deadlines that have to be met in the contract. And that it takes “time and money.” (If I hear that from one more person who wasn’t washing their dishes in the bathtub for months on end… I digress.)

What I didn’t learn is the balance between being a pushover and being too pushy. Sure, some things were out of our contractor’s control. Lumber yards were extremely behind due to COVID-19. Some of his top team members contracted the virus; instead of coming back to work after two weeks, they decided to reap unemployment benefits. But some things weren’t. I’m sure when you tell a customer you’ll be at a location at a certain time and date, you’re there ready to work. You don’t show up two weeks later. When is it appropriate – when they have your money and can just walk away – to hound someone until the job is done?

The moral of this column? (Other than I clearly needed an outlet to vent – thank you.) Don’t run your business like this company. Show up when you say you will, keep a steady line of communication between you and your customer, and complete the work as close to your scheduled timeline as possible. You’ll have a much happier client, I promise.

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Adrienne Palmer joined Big Picture magazine in 2012 after graduating from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism with a BA in magazine journalism. During her time with Big Picture, she has held the roles of assistant editor, associate editor, and managing editor, and is now serving as editor-in-chief. If she isn’t traveling, she’s planning her next trip.

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