You’ve heard it all before….
“That contractor was terrible.”
“OMG what have they done!!?!!”
Now don’t get me wrong, these phrases, among many others, have ingrained themselves into the contracting community over many years of sub-par quality work by lower tier contractors.
But have you ever sat back and thought for a second, maybe it was you as the client who did the bad job? Not the contractor doing the work?
A concrete projects result is ultimately dictated by the decisions made throughout its entirety, by all parties involved. Of course, the primary contractor needs to know how to do the work required (expertise), as well as he/she also needs to make the correct decisions throughout the process to make sure everything is completed correctly. But wait, lets take a step back in the process….
Who is choosing this contractor to complete the project you require?
What was your decision making behind choosing this contractor?
Far too often the decision made by clients to choose their contractor is based entirely around the bottom dollar value. I’m sorry people, but we’re not shopping for an iPod here where the product is exactly the same at whatever shop you go to, apples just ain’t apples.
Lets go through a basic process to help you choose your contractor more effectively.
Meeting Your Contractor
Ok, so first things first. Lets take the dollar value out of the equation when meeting your contractors you have chosen to quote your work for the first time, now, lets run through what should be on your mind whilst talking to and receiving your quotations.
Firstly, you want to show your contractor through the work you require, all the time asking for his/her input into what it is you’re trying to achieve.
If you ask lots of questions about your project, you should, with a little analytical thinking, be able to gain useful information about if your contractor is confident with what you have them pricing. As with anything in life, confidence is bred from experience.
If your contractor is hesitant, or seems a little lost in trying to figure out ways of completing certain tasks, you should be able to pick up on this easily and in the back of your mind be putting little crosses against his/her name. Vice versa, you should be able to gain confidence yourself in the ability of the contractor if you can see them having no problems with what you require and are also confident themselves in completing your work.
After this first evaluation of your project, start asking plenty of more questions about the contractor personally. Highlighted areas you will want to find out about are the persons history in the industry, what areas have they specialised in and so forth. It doesn’t hurt to write a checklist of things you wish to ask, make sure all topics are being covered, all the time gaining information that you can evaluate better over a coffee when they leave.
Finally during the quoting process, ask your contractor if they have any address’s of previous work that you can go and look at first hand.
He/she should be able to provide you with several sites that you can visit to showcase their work.
If they cannot or will not provide these address’s, this would be a big red flag up against their name.
Either they have limited address’s they can show because they haven’t been around that long, or they simple don’t have anything they’re willing to show off.
I know myself personally, that as a contractor who takes great pride in his work, I am always looking to “show off” what I have done.
Finally, check to see if your contractor has a website. Although this isn’t by any means something that you would rate a dirty old concreter on, but having a website proves one thing…
Willingness to portray his/her business, history and previous work in the public forum of the internet for criticism by their peers.
The website doesn’t need to be the most flash thing out there, but it should show at least photos of their projects, hopefully, along with testimonials from happy clients.
Receiving Your Quotation
So after your initial meeting with your contractor quoting your project, you will either receive a quotation there on the spot, or have one emailed to you after they leave. A lot of the time this can depend on the size and complexity of your project. Often it is easy enough to work out some pricing on the spot for smaller projects, but larger, more detailed projects may take an hour or so to work all the figures out correctly.
How you receive your quotation is a very important part of you decision making.
What you receive will depend completely on the professional approach of the contractor.
Did you get a price on the back of a business card with nothing really explained? (Big RED flag!)
Did you get a hand written quotation with nothing really explained but at least they had a business header on the form? (Need to evaluate further, bit hard to tell.)
Did you get a hand written quotation with a business header and everything explained in detail? (Making your decision making a bit easier now aren’t we?)
Did you get an emailed quotation with business header, everything explained in detail, along with appropriate attached information that can help you on your project and also several job address’s that you can visit to inspect first hand? (Now we’re talking business!)
You can see where I’m heading with all this. These are all factors you should be taking into consideration before you even get to the money value for your work.
From here, wait until you receive all your quotations from competing contractors, summarise a checklist on paper or in your head, and start working out in an order which contractor do you feel confident in that can complete your work correctly.
After you’ve received all your quotations and you’ve gone through your checklist to figure out which are your top choices for your project, then we can start talking turkey with the persons quoting.
Firstly, there are a few things you need to understand as to not offend the person quoting your work.
A good quality concreter has worked for years gaining the necessary expertise he/she needs.
Although there is no listed apprenticeship for our industry, it takes a minimum of 2 years on the screed before you get the hang of it properly, at least 4 years of finishing before considering yourself a decent finisher, along with a minimum of 6-8 years working decorative finishes like exposed aggregate and concrete resurfacing techniques.
Our skills in the industry have not only taken a long time to learn, but we’ve also done it busting our bums day in / day out in one of the most physical trades out there.
Your pricing will be based around industry standard meter rates that technically are adhered to by most contractors.
But, depending on the extent of your work and what needs to go into it, your pricing will vary from contractor to contractor taking into account the level of experience and knowledge they bring to the equation.
When I talk about experience and knowledge, this is directly linked to not only how well they screed and finish, but all the little things they’re going to put into your pricing that will make sure your project is first class and not something that’s going to fall apart at a later stage.
Lets get back on track now with the money side of things.
Okay, so you’ve gone through all your checklists and chosen your contractor based on the confidence you have in them to provide the work to you.
If you’re happy with the price, give them a call and organise some start date. Getting in early is important as a quality contractor will usually be back logged with work.
If you think there is room to move on the pricing, then by all means, broach this topic with the contractor.
Please don’t ask them to match the price of the other contractor, instead, simply just say something along the lines of….
“I’ve gone through all the quotes and I really think you can do the best job for me, however, you were a little dearer than the cheapest quote, can you sharpen up your pencil at all?”
You will very rarely find a negative responsive or attitude from approaching the situation this way. We as contractors, fundamentally have quoted your project with the intention of winning the job. So yes, we will always be happy to sharpen up the pricing a bit if that’s what it takes to win the job. But, don’t expect a massive drop in pricing, we still work off the opinion of not devaluing our trade and expertise, but, every dollar counts right?
Just remember at all times, there are two parties involved in each project.
The key to keeping both parties happy, is firstly making sure you, as the client, choose the correct concrete contractor through process of elimination and not just choosing them because they were the cheapest price.
If you have used your intelligence and succeeded in your decision making, the rest of the equation will be taken care of by the skilled installer you have chosen to do your work, subsequently you should never have to utter the phrases I mentioned at the start.