Level of Experience
Many seasoned contractors will denigrate the “new guy on the block,” but all of us were new to this industry at one time. Whether new or seasoned, the contractor should be willing to share the level of experience they have in the industry and in particular to the job you are asking them to complete. A higher level of experience contributes greatly to the job.
There are many questions you can ask to better understand the contractor’s level of experience. How long has he been in business? Has he performed a number of jobs like the job you are considering? Ask to see examples or pictures of jobs similar to yours and to visit past and current jobs. Talk about the quality of the work and decide if it will meet your standards. Interview past customers who had jobs like yours completed by the contractor. An experienced contractor should be able to offer a wide array of options, thus demonstrating knowledge of and experience with a variety of products, materials and techniques.
Does the contractor have a working knowledge of the many types and ages of homes in the area? Knowing what is likely to be behind a wall or under a floor helps the contractor provide reliable estimates. An extremely low bid may indicate lack of experience or an inability to later cover the actual costs involved in the job.
If a contractor underestimates costs of too many jobs, they will ultimately go out of business. Nine out of ten businesses in our industry fail in the first five years. Little or no experience is the most common cause of business failure. If your contractor goes out of business halfway through your project, it will be very difficult for another contractor to take over where he left off. The first contractor may have used materials or techniques that are not familiar to the second contractor. Plus, unless there are very specific drawings, the second contractor may not understand your wishes in the same way that the first contractor did.
Unacceptable: The contractor hasn’t picked a niche yet because his business is too new and he is inexperienced. This contractor will go on every lead and take every job and then figure out how to do it.
Good: The contractor’s business is developed enough that he knows his core competencies and only follows leads that his business can handle.
Better: The contractor has picked a niche, is very focused on what his business does and knows they are good at it. The business has lead qualification systems that help the contractor rate and determine if a particular lead “fits” their company.
Best: The contractor has a clear picture of his niche, brands his business in this niche and works to develop a public image within this niche.