14. Size of the Company
Consumers believe that size mattered in their failed relationships with contractors. They complain that the contractor was a “one-man operation” and that he took forever to complete the job. Some may also feel that they were dealing with a huge operation and never talked to the same person twice. They experience contractors being “in over their head”, or get handed off to the next division of the company so many times they lose track. All of these experiences relate to size. All of this could have been avoided if the consumer had asked simple questions and the contractor had made simple disclosures on the front end. Do you want to work with a huge company or a small, specialized company? As a rule, a smaller company does fewer jobs and can devote more personalized time to your project. Conversely, large companies typically have more efficient systems, a greater division of labor and are capable of a far greater range of projects. Normally, when working with a small company you will have one or two points of contact versus a large company where you may have more points of contact and a greater chance for miscommunication. Is there a part of you that “likes to deal with the owner?” Is there a part of you that needs to have a relationship with the person doing the work? Is there a part of you that likes to give the business to the little guy? It is just as much a mistake to ask a large company to replace your storm door as it is to ask a handyman to put on an addition or do a whole house remodel.
Many companies change size over time and this usually affects the type of work they do and the size of projects they take on. Many small companies are flexible, have fewer rules and are more unpredictable. What you see is what you get. Larger companies have put systems and best practices in place because they can’t leave outcomes to chance. For many years, our industry tended to be more of the small companies. They were good tradesmen but often lacked the business skills to grow the business or be financially successful on a consistent basis. In recent years, the industry has changed greatly. National companies have put franchises in place. Many TV shows feature home improvement and design. The housing stock is getting older. The workforce is changing drastically – the trade schools have all but disappeared and young workers growing up in the trade are a thing of the past. These, and many other issues like the internet, have changed our industry greatly.
Unacceptable: The contractor doesn’t understand what his capabilities are. He doesn’t understand the relationship between size and capabilities.
Good: The contractor has an understanding of the size of the workforce it will take to complete a project and he does not make commitments he can’t meet.
Better: The contractor has a careful hiring process and only hires when he feels that the quality of work will be improved. The contractor has a tracking system so he knows the amount of work on the books and the backlog of work sold. This enables him to clearly communicate his job schedules to his customers.
Best: The contractor has a carefully-projected growth strategy for the next 10 years. The contractor has divisions of labor and people are hired for their overlapping skills. The contractor has working relationships with many other contractors, trade partners or labor providers so that his work force can expand or shrink as work load dictates.