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Country Discussion Topics
To add your comments to this topic, click on one of the 'Reply' links below.

What's the secret to getting good tradespeople?
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Tom A    Posted 10-02-2002 at 13:14:07       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I don't understand. I call folks to do some work for me...usually get references from friends that they're good workers. I either talk to them or leave a message 'cuz they're out. Then they either don't show (yep, I'll try calling a time or two more) ever, or else they'll come out give me an estimate which I'll accept and then they never show up to start work. I guess times are good?

I'm talking plumbers, heating repair, barn repair, gutter installation, mason, electrician. I have the ability to do much of the stuff, but I don't have the time to do it all. And I have never tried to argue an estimate down, so it isn't like I'm asking them to work for free. The only guy (so far) who is reliable is my farrier and it took me calling three other guys first to find one willing to come out at all.

So what's the secret? Is there something I'm doing wrong?


Mike D. sorta long, but hope it helps.    Posted 10-03-2002 at 06:20:31       [Reply]  [No Email]
Hello again Tom,
I'm glad you posted this question. Like BOSS
below, I am also a tradesman. Points he raised are valid. I've been through the upswings and downturns in the constuction industry trends, and one thing I've seen: help is plentiful when the interest rates are up to the sky. Likewise, when rates are low you can't find a soul to drive a nail.

You aren't doing anything wrong by what I can tell. Guys are against the wall with work now. Most can't bring themselves to say no to work, then when the time comes to turn you down they are embarrassed to do so.

Quite a few of the handyman outfits are old guys that want to work by themselves and pick and choose what they take on. I've met men on the job that were very capable at nearly every trade and they choose handyman/punchout work over the trades because it didn't require all the b.s. that comes with the job. Many good tradesmen see flaws inherant with general contracting like:
lawyers, vague customers, poor plans, etc. I could go on, I been at this stuff since 71'.

My old friend used to say that in the depression you couldn't find a groundhog. Similar with good tradesmen when the rates are the lowest in 30 years.

For personal reasons, I can only work three days a week now. I mostly pick jobs that I can finish in that time frame. A lot of guys are in the same boat. When someone hands me a big list of stuff they want done I ask them what is the most important items on the list. I take them on with the understanding that it might be a longer wait on the other items. I have never been turned down when I present this to a perspective customer.
You may want to consider breaking down your work into 2-3 day tasks. Then call a couple of men and ask if they can work you in here & there. You may be surprised how they may respond. Whenever I have a customer approach me in this fashion it tells me that they are flexible and honest.

If I weren't so busy with these boys and old farm equipment I'd drive up there for a day or two, that is if you can keep them groundhogs from chewin up my extension cords...

Take Care,

Rootietoot    Posted 10-03-2002 at 05:55:16       [Reply]  [Send Email]
We like to use people that are young and hungry. Most of the really established businesses here are busy on new construction, but the young eager types seem to be more available, and willing to work. We get their names from postings on the board at the local building supply, since most aren't in the phone book. We've used "Two Young Dudes Plumbing" and they did an ace job, and had a college fellow paint our parents 175 yr old house for $20,000 (that's right) LESS than the professional restoration company bid and he even cleaned the paint chips off the ground around the place.

Ray    Posted 10-02-2002 at 18:13:14       [Reply]  [No Email]
I've been going through the same thing,been
trying to get a shingle roof on a house for 3
years,told the last contractor just to do it,
didn't even want an estimate,he didn't show.
Same with painters,have a 40x70 building that
needs painted,talked to 5 painters,none came
back.My wife wanted some of that white plastic
fence around the house,talked to 4 guys in the
business about 500 ft of fence,one showed up
to measure,that was 6 months ago,still waiting
on an estimate.

DeadCarp    Posted 10-02-2002 at 16:50:41       [Reply]  [No Email]
Got any Amish communities around? Yes they'e willing use a phone, yes they have smomebody lined up to drive them, yes they're thier own bosses and seems to take a lotta coffee breaks, yes they are honest & do a good prompt job. They also have one of the few lifestyles that produces good workers anymore. :)

Bob /Ont.    Posted 10-02-2002 at 16:31:56       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Well Tom, I guess I'm luckey, I work weekends 3/12's and have 4 days off to get some of my work done. I find it easyer to do it myself than put up with the hassel of dealing with people like that.
Later Bob

BOSS    Posted 10-02-2002 at 16:05:21       [Reply]  [No Email]
I am in the business, and I can tell you, we pick and choose you, just as much as you pick and choose us.
I am always about 4 months out on a job. I always tell the person how far out I am when they call me for an estimate. I don't want to waste my time or yours coming out to give a price.
Some of the things I watch out for when I talk to a person or do an estimate for, so I can keep away from "trouble" customers.....
1. a DYIer, they can always do a better job than you.
2. A customer thats getting more than 3 bids, Chances are they are going for the lowest bid.
3. The customer says they aren't happy with ANY of the people that worked for them before, They won't be happy with me either.
4. The customer wants me to bid many different things, they are just seeing what they can afford. and they probably can't afford anything.
5. The customer asks," how are you going to do that?" about everything, chances are they are using your knowledge to do it themselves.
I usually stay away from a customer that falls into one of these categories, I don't need the hassle. Because, I have already been through the hassle.
Some things to protect yourself,
1. never ask for references, ask for the 3 last jobs they did, they are always going to give you their best customers.
2. Ask for PROOF of insurance, this year insurance prices skyrocketed, most companies just dropped their insurance and are gambling that nothing goes wrong.
3. call the BBB and see if they have any complaints, BBB will only have a complaint, if the business didn't resolve or try to resolve a problem.
4. They need to "feel" right, trust your instincts

As to why they don't show??
1. they can make more money on another job.
2. They went out of business.
3. they got too backed up and don't want you to yell at them, so they just don't come back
4. they meesed up on the bid they gave you and found out later that they will lose money doing it.
By the way, I have NEVER not shown for any of these reasons. :)

jamo    Posted 10-02-2002 at 14:01:01       [Reply]  [Send Email]
And here I thought it was me! I can't get anyone out here for anything either. IF, and that's a big if, I get someone to call me back, they don't show. My farrier is good and after calling 17 different well drilling companies in 3 different counties, I finally found someone to do the job. That's not small peanuts. You think someone would want the work. I can't even get the handyman next door to show up!

jamo    Posted 10-02-2002 at 18:19:25       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I'm telling ya I've done all that. I think it's because there are cities 15 miles each way and there is more money to be made without the hassle of travel. Don't really blame them, just wish I could find ANYBODY, to do the work. Well, not really just anybody.

WallSal55 - I have had the same problem...    Posted 10-02-2002 at 13:41:58       [Reply]  [No Email]
and the main problem is getting someone to show up. I try to do business with those who return
my call promptly--as most of the time an answering
machine is what you get.
Some folks are booked up way ahead, but they
do not tell you that, leave you hanging. One question I always ask is how many jobs do you
have on the list? What week or month will you get to our house/project? This usually works out well. (I will pay someone what they're worth if
they show up, so I am open to advice is the selection process, too.)

JoeK    Posted 10-02-2002 at 14:14:16       [Reply]  [No Email]
Around here one of the major problems is"work selection" ie:would the plumber rather be installing a new(clean,shiny)system in a new home and spend the day(billing hrs)working there or be running from place to place unstopping plugged toilets and such.Same game w/carpenters etc.Also some trades are booked or subcontracted weeks or months in advance on larger jobs.I've had lots better luck using older semi retired pros who don't"Want" the big jobs or long hours.Another thing is running a small ad for the work,and specifying "licensed contractor only" if work requires it.

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