By Jim Mastin Sr

Have you ever tried to land a contract for a home improvement job, only to be passed by and you could not figure out why?  There seemed to be no reason you shouldn’t have gotten that project instead of the other guy. What is the difference in me and him that he got the job instead of me?

I have lived long enough to see a couple of generations of contractors and customers go by. I can tell you for sure, you can’t do business today like we did 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.  The customer is a different breed than in the past. The information age changed all that for us.

For instance, if a home owner wants to make an improvement to their home, they don’t start by calling the local contractor and ask for ideas. Their first
contact is “Google”.  They search the web and begin gathering information on cabinets, counter tops, appliances, flooring, etc.

We have passed the days when you as a contractor could walk in with a few samples of vinyl flooring and a ring of samples of Formica, and two cabinet doors to choose from.  A customer with a laptop and some time can
learn more than the average contractor knew a few years ago.  They will know about current products, current trends, and in some cases, pretty close to what costs should be, even before looking for a contractor to do the project.

The bar has been raised for the contractor, to meet the expectations of the customer. So, the contractor needs to prepare themselves to meet the challenge. So, how do you do that? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Stay on the cutting edge of your trade.  Know all you can about the
evolving process in your work. Whether you are in landscaping and need to know
the latest weed killer or a roofer that needs to be an expert on the many
different types of roof coverings available today.  Read trade magazines. Search the web. Be a part of contractor forums and see what’s going on. Go to home shows in your area and visit the booths in your trade venue to see what’s going on.

2.  Present yourself well.  Contractors of the past were “good ole boys”
and got along fine. Today we deal with a younger home owner who is more
business savvy and expects first class service. They want to get it done, done right, and done as soon as possible.  They want an agreement in writing that
resembles an actual contract.

3.  Join a lead referral service that offers pre-certification for their contractors.
This will throw a great deal of weight your direction as far as credibility.  http://PreferredContractor.com is one such company.

4.  Have the required license for your trade and make it available to the customer.

5.  Have a printed list of previous customers they can contact for a referral.
Better yet, have a short paragraph from several of them on the same

6.  Have a copy of your insurance policy for the customer to look over if they wish.

7.  So, which one of these did the “other guy” have that you don’t have that got them the job?  The answer is to be as prepared in every possible area to present yourself as a reputable, reliable, honest, trustworthy, qualified, and fair contractor.

Good luck becoming “the other guy”.


10 responses to “Oops! WHY DID THE “OTHER GUY” GET THE JOB?

  1. Thank you for the post. Very interesting!!

  2. Francisco oliveira

    Oohhh, that’s why I don’t get good paying customers. go figure.

  3. All good points. If you or I are stand up repair people, then what you have said should be second hand. I think it’s a good thing that a potential customer knows what they want and have more answers than questions. Being able to converse correctly is key. Also, when you are trying to land ‘the job’, know the rates to charge for particular work. >

  4. nifty little video, Jim. It looks very user friendly for the homeowner.

  5. Great article. You are so right how saavy the new customer is. The internet and social media has certainly changed the rules for all of us. I believe customers doing due diligence is a good thing. Those that are left standing in these hard times are the “good guys” and when times get better, the poor contractors will be weeded out. Too bad we don’t have testimonial letters from the people who bought the best price and got what they paid for!

    One big tip I might add is: get written testimonials from your customers. Have at least 30 of them..that sells for you. Bring a binder with these testimonials and as you measure for the job, give the prospect your book. Works like a charm!

  6. You are so correct, things have changed over the years in business, but I believe in a good way. I think it is great that Homeowners can do a geat deal of their homework on materials & products ahead of time. It saves us a great deal of time & leg work gathering everything for the Homeowner, followed by then having to sit & spend more time going over everything from pricing, shipping, errors, etc. Today, we just have to be aware of the many new products on the market & the problems that come with many of these new products. When & if we do not know about a product the Homeowner presents or is considering, do not be afraid to say so, but you will do some research & get the needed info.
    Repair/Remodel is more personal than building a new home, because for the next weeks, month(s), or year even, we will be in their home as much if not more than they are. This is so very important for a Homeowner to ponder while they consider the Contractor to select. With the horror stories we all have seen on the evening news, from Customers & Homeowners alike, no business Owner should not be aware of this & the importance it can play in you landing the job or not.
    We, the Contractor, are the experienced ones in the process of contractor selection, we know or should know our competition & know what it is that sets us apart.
    If you are going to bid on a project, makes sure all details for bidding purpose are indeed listed to ensure each Contractor bids are equal.
    Remember a “free estimate” Contractor: “based on our brief discussion, your project will cost around $240 per sq ft, do you believe this to be in your budget”?
    Estimates take time to build, time is money, how can any Contractor build a reasonable estimate for FREE?
    So this info from our time together with a Homeowner is so important to me. How many are going to be presenting estimates? What is the time frame you are looking for? Have you done remodel projects as before & realize the time we will be in your home, & are there any restrictions I need to consider.
    If it is determined I will build an estimate, I make it clear if a detailed estimate is desired, the cost for the estimate. For references I let the Homeowner know I will offer in writing my last 3 projects, (regardless of size), this will offer 3 recent Customers to speak with to ensure my employees work ethics, manners, & respect while in your home. Also I will include a Customer who hired my Company to perform a project real close to the one they are looking at starting. Please do speak with & make a visit to inspect the quality we offer from start to finish & look at my last 3 jobs to ensure the quality is carried out in all jobs we perform.
    I explain the problems I believe happen when asking a Contractor for a list of references. We all are going to show off our best work, but in doing so the Homeowner has no idea if these same people that did that work are still even employed by me today.
    We all face the same challenges in landing jobs today, but in reality, I believe we are in a very strong market when it comes to repair, remodel, home building even. Also today, we have the time to look back & make some time to go visit or call previous Customers to see how much they are still satisfied with the work we did 10 or so years ago. I bring this up, because I recently had this happen. A job I did over 25 years ago, another Contractor was going door to door talking to Homeowners in hopes of picking up work & happened onto this house. The Homeowner began stating there was no work that needed to be done & still so satisfied with the work that was done 25 or so years ago & as they got to talking more the Homeowner mentioned my name & this Contractor knew who I was & called me once he had left & informed me of the conversation talking about how satisfied that Homeowner was even today.

  7. “We have passed the days when you as a contractor could walk in with a few samples of vinyl flooring and a ring of samples of Formica, and two cabinet doors to choose from.”

    Heh. Sometimes I miss those days.

    Even though I’m a designer in a design/build firm instead of a contractor, I’d say you’ve nailed it. Homeowners are indeed looking for someone who presents well. That means professional on everything from physical appearance to speech…especially if you’re dealing with the younger homeowners and/or the higher-end clients.

  8. Very good points. You had better be on top of your game, and know more than your potential clients do. Be ready to ask questions for these types of clients.

    They already know what they want, it is your job to provide them with exactly that.

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