Canadian Contractor

I've worked for neurosurgeons who didn't know how to turn off the stop under their sink to stop a leak

"There is no shortage of poor craftsmen who still have more (practical) ability than a lot of doctors out there..."

July 4, 2014
By Steve Payne

Editor’s Note: Here’s a post from Greg about the Trades versus “White Collar” or “Professional” careers thing, that we all should have settled about 8 recessions ago… i.e., the whole white collar office job thing used to be considered the “way to go” for our kids about 30 or 40 years ago. We’ve all, hopefully, learned otherwise since then. 

“I have an unusual background. My grandfather was a contractor, my father had an electrical contractor’s license and also ran crews for my grandfather before he branched into other things… and I am a contractor

“But I took time to get a formal education. I went to university for some time and have four degrees, including a masters in piano performance. I found after graduation that the educational system is another business. It is more concerned about filling seats than giving you practical life skills and insight into how to get a job with all the wisdom they provided.

“I had been putting myself through school by doing renovations, mostly on my professors’ homes. After I graduated, and as there were no positions open in my field at a university, where I had expected to settle, I kept on with renovations.


“I’ve been doing renovations and new construction now for some 30 years full-time. I typically don’t mention I have an education as I think it’s irrelevant and people like to put you into boxes for their own comfort issues.

“I’ve worked for neurosurgeons who didn’t know how to turn off the stop under their sink to stop a leak… My point in all this is that it takes every bit as much ability and brain power to be a good professional contractor as it does to be a good white collar worker. There is no shortage of poor craftsmen who still have more (practical) ability than a lot of the doctors out there, and there is no shortage of poor doctors who are hacks and shouldn’t have a job. Or lawyers, or bureaucrats or whatever other industry that is somehow held in high esteem. My contractor grandfather died because 5′ of surgical gauze, a safety pin and 2 sponges were left in him from an operation. My grandmother died as well from a botched operation. My mother died because she was misdiagnosed, was sent home from emergency and died that night from a perforated bowel and going septic.

“I know after being a contractor for decades, that it’s every bit as hard to find a great tradesman as it is to find a good doctor. I know too as I could have easily made a career in academia if I was willing to live somewhere other than the West Coast. Being a contractor is a tough career, under valued and under appreciated. All the quick catch phrases like Home Depot puts out (“You can do it and we can help!”) have only devalued our industry. Someone can take a one-hour tile setting overview at some store and suddenly think, “Yeah! This isn’t so hard!” The store loads them up with a bunch of stuff, they screw up whatever and then the store gladly sells them even more stuff. After all, they’re there to sell and that system totally works for their benefit. But the fallout is that once again, the general public sees little value in our ability because “It’s just THAT EASY!!” as Shell Busey would tell the world.

“I am never intimidated by some ignorant doctor or lawyer who my company might work for. And neither should you be. One of the greatest benefits from having a university education is that i see through the facade of pride and ego… You’re not a someone because you have an education. You’re a someone by treating people with respect and value. Do your best and get what your time is worth. You can not only turn a shut off but even fix a leaking tap and 100,000 things more. Something a lot of white collar people can’t. It’s one thing to have a hobby (I do writing, photography and legal prep work as hobbies, too) and quite another thing to be a professional contractor. Being a full time contractor means you not only did a hobby build or renovation, but you also have to be exceptionally versatile and knowledgeable. There might be 100,000 buildings in a town, or 1,000,000. Everyone has unique problems, history and challenges to address. It takes a huge amount of knowledge, capacity, insight, time and resources to be a professional contractor.”

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2 Comments » for I've worked for neurosurgeons who didn't know how to turn off the stop under their sink to stop a leak
  1. Harry says:

    I know Greg personally and have had tens of thousands of dollars work done on our deck and home. He is one of the most attentive and honourable people I know. (And one of the very few in this industry that has any integrity.) He has sincerely impacted my life with his presence, and we have become good friends. I can recommend his services with the highest regard. You would do well to hire him for your next renovation, indeed!

  2. Kevin Koch says:

    Speaking of doctors and lawyers some contractors charge the same fees as them and even higher. How does a contractor charge more than a doctor?
    It’s easy.
    Many plumbing and heating contractors have bought into a new slick scheme called “Straightforward Pricing”. “Straightforward Pricing” is trademarked. Under this new scheme the contractors go away from charging by the hour but instead they go by a price list with different tier levels that also includes a diagnostic fee, as if they are doctors. Straightforward pricing contractors pay monthly fees for support and training on how to maximize profits. Some of these contractors have taken their pricing to a whole new level.

    Here is an example of how straightforward pricing works.
    My 84 year-old friend called a heating contractor to fix her furnace. The contractor was on site less then 30 minutes, no new parts were used yet the bill was an alarming $738.00. The contractor charged a diagnose fee and used their Straightforward price list to arrive at $738.00 for the service call.

    Bottom line is that you should not compare a blue collar or white collar profession and try to put them on an equal playing field.
    You have to do your homework in hiring a doctor, a lawyer or a contractor because there are dumb ones in every profession.
    I have learned that the amount of money anybody charges has nothing to do with your expectations.

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