Chuck with a Truck, INC just parked in front of your home. You watch him flick his still-smoldering cigarette into your flower bed as he approaches the front door. ::Ding-Dong:: You can smell him before you even get downstairs. What do you do next? You open the door and tell him that he and his cigarette both need to haul their butts right on back to where they came from.
That was a frustrating waste of your time. Back to the internet search results. Skip right over Bill with a Drill, SP. Don’t even think about calling Pa with a Saw & Son with a Nail Gun, LLC. “Are there any truly professional contractors working in my town?!” you ask. In all likelihood there are, but you need to know these three Key Performance Indicators that separate the pros from the rest.
KPI #1: The Truck
A truck is nearly always a contractor’s first impression. How a contractor decides to ride can often tell you quite a bit. Here are a few common types you will find.
The Parade Float
In my experience, this is nearly always an omen of trouble. If your contractor needs a step ladder just to descend from the throne in that monster truck, which is somehow sparkling clean and inexplicably carrying zero tools, you need to ask yourself what you are paying for when you pay this builder’s salary. Just one tire on that thing equals the price of a picture window, not to mention the custom paint job, after-market grille, and bumper-mounted winch. Be sure that this contractor will pitch a good sale up front, but when the job gets going, five guys in a three-seater quarter-ton pickup with busted shocks will roll onto your property, each of them earning minimum wage and producing minimum quality on your job. You don’t want that product, and you don’t want to support that kind of business.
The Dead Horse
There’s nothing wrong with old trucks. Remember Tow-Mater? He never leaks oil! Trucks are tools, and they’re useful until they’re not. However, you do not want to get a phone call from your contractor saying that your job is going to run late because he hasn’t finished rebuilding his rig’s transmission yet. Your contractor should be able to present a reasonable image of reliability, starting with a vehicle.
If your contractor’s truck is an economy car, that could be a great sign! Why wear a tux to a fish fry? This is just common sense. Many great builders do their free estimate visits in low-cost transportation. It’s easier to get around town, and anything that reduces overhead reduces the bottom line cost for the customer.
Not unreliable, but not extravagant, this is the truck that hits the performance/value sweet spot. It has some minor dents and scratches. It’s got a big overhead rack and some debris in the back. This is the truck that tells you that the person you are meeting now is a person who actually does the work you need, a very good sign.
KPI #2: Patience
General Contractors are often some of the most impatient people you will ever meet. It is understandable why that is, but it is not excusable. An impatient contractor may seem like a real go-getter at first impression. This is a leader who eschews inefficiency and gets results. You may think you want that forceful type-A personality to be working for you, making sure everybody on the job site is in line, making sure not one penny of your money is being wasted. If you tend to be quickly persuaded by such charisma, be warned that not all is as it seems with the impatient contractor. What may appear to the customer to be a ship in good order is often actually a revolving door of disgruntled employees who work out of fear for the boss rather than love for the craft. These are not the type of contractors who love their job, value their customers, and create great communities.
When you ask contractors to come into your home, do they automatically slip off their shoes just inside the door when appropriate? Do they speak in an inside voice? Do they communicate in every courteous way that they know they are in your space as a guest, not as an authority? It does not matter how many sections of ICC this person can recite from memory. You are the expert on what you want done to your home. Patient contractors enter a home with the goal of learning about you, answering your questions, and seeking to meet your expectations. If this is not the experience you are having with any contractor, it is time to look elsewhere for professional services.
KPI #3: Open Contracts
Contractors rely entirely on building a strong rapport with potential customers in order to bring them to the point of actually signing a contract. Far too often, that is when the relationship changes. The contractor communicates tersely, demandingly, and arrogantly. Why? Remember key performance indicator number two? Patience. Most contractors don’t have it. In order to get the leverage they want, impatient contractors will push customers into contracts which give them, the contractor, maximum leverage, and you, the customer, minimum leverage. In reality, the customer has become the employee, and the contractor has become the boss.
Metric is built around the idea that the contractor is the employee, the visitor, the guest in the customer’s home, and the customer is to remain in total control at all times. A good contractor should never have to use legal coercion in order to accomplish a job successfully. Good contractors have the leadership, communication, trade skills, and wisdom necessary to succeed while remaining entirely under the at-will employment of their customers.
All Metric contracts are written to provide clean exits at any point for the customer. This is done through Suspension of Work orders, and Termination of Contract notices, which can be for cause, for convenience, or even for an unexpected hardship.
A construction contract should be a document which opens access to a common goal for both parties. Metric encourages all property owners seeking construction work to only deal with builders who provide this type of open contract.
Push the Limits!
No matter how big or how beautiful the project, the most important thing Metric can ever do is Build Peace.