When people start contemplating the idea of a home or commercial construction project, they often ask their social media friends, “real” friends”, or family members if anyone has a suggestion. Facebook neighborhood association pages are full of willing members spouting off contractors’ names that they know as a great reliable referral, whether they have done business with this individual or not. The problem with this method comes with the fact that not all contractors are equal in every field or personality.
Although it is true that one contractor may have more length in the industry in relation to time, that does not mean the seasoned contractor has more experience in a certain field. For example, a well-qualified custom home builder that builds three $700,000 homes a year may not be the best option for your insurance restoration – fire-damaged home that your insurance carrier is providing the funding to complete. In many cases, a contractor that has never worked with an insurance carrier before is the worst option as the savior to repair your damaged home. The reason is you, the client is not this contractor’s typical client.
This contractor’s typical client is usually someone building their dream home. They are excited to see what is coming for their future and family. In the fire-damaged home situation, the client has just had their lives torn apart and is trying to piece it back together. The psyches of these two different clients are night and day. Even if you remove the psychological aspects of these clients, the projects are also night and day.
This bodes the question: If the state or county regulates a license and all contractors pass an exam, why aren’t they equally as qualified to do your project?
In my career, I have had over 1,000 clients. Although I could pat myself on the back every single day and say that I’m proud to have serviced that many people, what I have really done with that experience is learned who my clients are and more importantly for the client’s sake, who they are not.
Similar to a contractor not being the right fit for your project, not every client is a perfect match for a contractor. Many things come into play: personality between the contractor and the client, how fast the contractor builds, is the contractor more focused on quality or speed, etc.?
If the client is looking for speed and budget, they don’t want a high-end contractor that focuses on quality only and utilizes the best tradesmen in the business. Quality never comes cheap and it is certainly not fast. The same goes for a client who is looking to build a $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 custom home. Cheap and quick is not what they’re looking for. They want quality above all. This client is not for a production builder.
When setting up a business plan, new entrepreneurs are taught that they need to find out who their clients are. For me, it is the people that don’t have any time. Those are the people that know they want a project done, but want someone to walk them through it, come up with the plan, take on the stress, and just do it. Because my firm’s number one core value is “Commitment to Quality,” I have learned that our potential clients that have a mindset for economy and speed are better served with us referring them to a contractor with a production mentality. If I know that I’m not going to be able to serve their needs, there is no reason to pretend that we will, even if the project is a dream job.
So how do you know who to hire?
1. Find out who you are first.
That sounds rather odd advice. You may be sitting in your chair reading this blog and thinking to yourself, “I know exactly who I am. Heck, I’ve known me for 45 years.”
I’m not going to say you’re wrong; however, I do very few construction projects where two people are not involved. Whether it is a business partnership, a spouse, or another family member. You may be one person, but more than likely the other person is completely different. Then the question comes, who are you together? Who’s going to be the person really handling the project? If the answer is both of you, you may need a psychologist more than you do a contractor. There are going to be a lot of issues and head butting unless the two of you are on the same page and going in the same direction.
Figuring out who you or we are before you decide which contractor to even call is the most important part of this entire sequence.
2. Get your ideas together.
This is where my firm excels. Our clients are the people that don’t have any time to do anything other than run their lives. These are the people that call us and say, “I know I want a kitchen remodel, but I don’t know where to start and I don’t have the time to figure it out.” We create the design and assist with all of their color selections, so they don’t have to run all around town unless they really want to.
You don’t need 100% clarity because a good contractor is going to be able to pull it out of you. The contractor should be able to design something close to what you’re looking for without a lot of problems. The biggest goal is to have a semi-organized idea of what you’re looking for.
3. Interview contractors
I can’t tell you how many times my sales team goes to a house to look at a project and the entire conversation is about what the client wants and nothing else. I agree that this is a huge part and the reason why we are there in the first place; however, it’s very important to understand bullet point number one in this blog: Who are you or we?
If you have an engineer’s mind or are an engineer, the worst person you can hire is a contractor that runs his business out of his truck and gives you an estimate on one hand-written sheet of paper.
These two personalities are not inclined to have the best relationship. Very analytical people who want to know every detail of every product going into their home are not going to like the guy who runs to Home Depot to grab a product that he did not run by the client. This client needs a contractor that is extremely organized and will plan everything with him. You need to find a contractor or firm that is going to fit your personality.
All in all, selecting a contractor or firm is not difficult. Just remember to heed the advice that not all contractors are created equal and all contractors specialize in different fields whether they think they do or not. Find a contractor that has expertise in the field that you are looking to conquer in your project and you will be much better off.
Jon Pruitt is a State Certified Building Contractor, Real Estate Agent, Parade of Homes winner in the $500,000 value and above category, recipient of the West Florida Home Builders Association “Builder of the Year” award, and Past President of the West Florida Home Builders Association. He attended Pensacola State College and the University of Florida for business. He has always had a strong community background and continues to be involved with many charitable organizations. On top of his organizational duties, Jon sits on the boards, or was previously involved with, the West Florida Home Builders Association, Five Flags Rotary, Mobile Better Business Bureau, Florida Gator Alumni Association, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Membership Committee, Leadership Pensacola Class of 2014, Leadership Pensacola Call to Action, Skills USA, as well as many other organizations. Jon is a martial artist in the arts of Hapkido and Kyukido. He stays active with weight training, boating, diving/spearfishing, and spending time with his two young daughters.