5 comments on “Now the fun begins.

  1. Oh, what lovely projects. You’re exactly right about replacing rather than covering the exterior wood. Covering would simply exacerbate rot.

    Being an (ahem) independent contractor myself, I just laughed at your story of the suddenly falling prices. Anyone who cuts 50% in an instant HAS significantly overbid just to see if they can get one past you. I’m not much of a businesswoman, but I learned one thing early and have held to it. I give a labor and materials bid, with the caveat that I never will go more than 10% above the bid. If I do, I eat the overage. And if a job comes in at a lower cost, I charge the lower cost.

    Now and then I’ll work by the hour, usually for little jobs – odds and ends that you just can’t figure time on. But that’s usually for established customers, and works fine.

    Here’s a story that just occurred to me and may tickle you. I once was hired to varnish the interior of a boat that was being prepared for circumnavigation. They wanted EVERYTHING vanished: inside lockers, drawers, galley cupboards. I told them I didn’t have a clue how to bid that. He said, “I tell you what. I’ll pay you by the hour, but you have to meet my specifications. If I want something redone, you’ll redo it, but I’ll pay you for your time.”

    Fair enough. I got started, and then found out what I was up against. Every Friday night they would drive down to the boat. He would go aboard first with a flashlight, lie on the floor and shine the beam up along bulkheads, etc. If he found any sort of a drip or sag, he’d mark it with tape and I’d redo it 😉

    It took me three months, but when they left it looked beautiful. They’ve been gone ten years, including going through the tsunami in Phuket, and it still looks good. But what a project!

  2. What a project indeed! The occasional very large job used to worry me, though I took them on anyway. The problem was that I always had a waiting list of a few weeks and a single very large job could lengthen the wait for other customers considerably. Most of the regulars didn’t mind too much but potential new customers sometimes went elsewhere – couldn’t blame them.
    Don’t get me started on costings for self-employed people! One of the problems, I suspect, is that most employed people haven’t a clue what they actually cost their employers when everything is taken into account. Therefore they tend to think that whatever you propose to charge them per hour will be going straight into your pocket.
    I remember a lady who became quite agitated when I gave her my price for a job. She pointed out that it was far higher than the price she paid one of my competitors for an identical job the previous year. I, polite as ever (!) enquired why she had not returned to the competitor (of course I knew why already). “He has closed down” she said. “I wonder why?” I replied. I got the job!

    • It’s such fun – and rather comforting – to bump up against someone who understands how business runs.

      I wish someone could sit our dear President Obama down and give him a lesson or two in practical economics. He mentioned yesterday that small business owners were eager for credit, so that they might borrow to expand their payroll!!

      Anyone who’s been in business knows the first step if you can’t meet payroll is to lay off an employee or two. I keep having this recurring fantasy about putting politicians to work on road crews, construction crews and such – twelve hour days with hourly pay. And accountability for the quality of their work.

      Hmmmm… that was just a teensy snarky, wasn’t it? Ah, well. 😉

  3. Most of our UK politicians would be killed stone dead by a day of real work. Come to think of it, most have no relevant qualifications for the work that they are supposed to do as politicians – which is pretty serious when it applies to Ministers of State.
    As for understanding how business works, I am no expert but I have had a lifetime of experience in a wide variety of occupations. As I am now retired I suppose I could dredge the memory for a few more anecdotes but time is a great healer and a fading memory has its compensations.

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