I wanted to review some of the pros and cons of working with contractors in this issue. There are some factors that can help you decide the best route for you to take in directing your business.

We’ve discussed two major sources of work, namely, the insurance industry and also real estate (July thru September issues). Contractors are the third source.

There is one problem that I believe keeps many from getting into the repair business: the volume of jobs you must look at and do in a year’s time. The advantage of doing new work is that you may work on a new home one or two weeks, maybe longer. If you work on a string of homes in one subdivision, you might have to spend any significant amount of time looking at projects to be done; it’s much different when it comes to repairs. If you go over to these full time, much of that time will be spent looking at jobs, especially at the start. We’ve seen how contacts in the insurance and real estate industry can cut this time down, but now let’s look at whether working with contractors can simplify your life somewhat and keep you busy and profitable.

Ride those coattails!

One of the first things to consider is the advantage working with a contractor has for you, especially if you are new to the town or the business. Many contractors have grown up in the town or city you have as your target market. They have a long-standing reputation, and if you align yourself with the best ones, this can fast-forward your getting established. You could call this “piggy backing” on their already established business. Their success and solid reputation can translate into the same for you. This will especially be the case if you demonstrate that you hold to high standards and come through by being dependable and efficient in how the job is done.

This also holds true even if you yourself have grown up in that particular area. Being “known” in a small town can have its drawbacks in that it sometimes takes a little longer to be taken seriously. Teaming up with a contractor who is well known is a good move when this is the situation.

I recently decided that for awhile I’d start working again through a local contractor. He is familiar with the way I charge, so his estimators can put together a rough idea of what it’s going to be to have me go in and do the job. One less job I have to physically go and see. Time saved, money saved.

It’s working out right now that he has enough crews going that I am going from one project to the next, fitting them in as time allows. I’m giving his jobs number-one priority, which means I get on them pronto, as soon as the call comes in. This is a balancing act, but once you get into the swing of it with one or two contractors, it can really work out well. For me, it’s almost a necessity to set things up like this for the time being. From my angle it simplifies my life, keeps me busy and proves profitable.

There are a few other things I want to mention on this subject. One has to do with who you are working for and your own temperament. If you choose to work for someone who does not have the highest of standards, you can end up getting hurt, reputation wise, in the long run (or in the short run for that matter!). Always do the best that you are able. And strive to improve from each project to the next. This includes taking wise advice and constructive criticism that comes from time to time.

Mind your manners

I remember times when I was kind of “bull headed” when working with my dad and he’d say, “Robin, I can tell you, but I can’t tell you much!” Try to avoid that kind of attitude! Try to take counsel from everywhere it comes and learn as much as you can from every source, which at times even includes competitors. This brings me to the part about our individual temperament.

You know yourself. It is very important you critique yourself by taking a good look at how you act and react when working with others. This is a crucial point when working and dealing with contractors. This is true because the contractor is the person between you and the homeowner. The contractor may decide when you go to the job, what materials are used and will definitely have a lot of say as far as pricing, as well as when and how you will be paid.

For some, that doesn’t sit well. They want to be the head honcho, fully in charge of the whole project. And there’s something else to be considered: pricing. Over the years, I’ve seen many people cringe at someone else making a buck off of the work they do. It keeps them up at night thinking about how much of a mark-up was put on the work that they did. My view on this is that if I bid a job and will do it for $500, I really don’t care if the contractor charges the homeowner $600 or $1,000. I am looking at it from the view of, “Is this job or project profitable or isn’t it?” However, as I mentioned, this gets to many people. Whatever. If that’s the case with you personally, then it might be better for you to work on your own and deal directly with the homeowner.

One more thing to think about. Does doing work through a contractor simplify your life? I’ve had situations develop where each repair I handled for a contractor became a real ordeal, mainly because I not only had to go bid the job, schedule my time with about six other trades, deal personally with the homeowner (whom I had to calm down because he was unhappy with how slow the project was going, how the work was being done, and several other “beefs” that I had nothing whatsoever to do with!), but also keep the contractor happy. I figured it would be easier to deal with the homeowner, even if he was not the most pleasant person to work with.

Talk to them

Recently, I had a homeowner express his frustration to me. He said, “You know, I don’t mind working with tradespeople. They do great work. Their quality is excellent. But their communication skills are terrible!” This brings up yet another point for pondering: How are you at running a project? Do you communicate well? Do you get back to the homeowner within hours of when they initially call? How long does it take you to go and see the project from the time they call? Do you make the homeowner feel comfortable? Do you show genuine interest in their kids? Do you send thank yous to them after doing a job? If you find that this is not your strong point, it may help you, at least at the start, to work through a contractor. They handle communicating with the homeowner and you simply go in to do the work. The stress and pressure of running the job is more on their shoulders and you are more in a position of getting the job done. If you do a great job, in no time you will find that you are kept very busy in the plaster repair business.

Our next article will conclude the series on “Sources of Work” with a few more great ideas that have proved very successful for me, and I’m sure you’ll find the information helpful.

The “Ask Plaster Man” cap giveaway is over, but I am gearing up to start giving away T-shirts next. Send me your business card to get in on the giveaway!