Canadian Contractor

12 Rules for Contractors

Practical advice based on 12 Rules for Life, the bestselling book by Fairview, Alberta's own Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

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March 16, 2018 by canadiancontractor

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is possibly the most famous Canadian on YouTube today. The U of T psychology professor with the tens of millions of views for his interviews and lectures has just written a book called 12 Rules For Life. It’s become a runaway bestseller. We like his rules. So much so that, with apologies to Dr. Peterson, we’ve adapted them for this industry. Enjoy. And buy his book!


1. Stand up straight. Be proud of your profession.

Implied in this one is that you are doing the kind of work for which you can be proud. If you are not, change what you are doing. You need to be proud of what you do.


2. Treat yourself like you treat your clients and your staff.

If you treat them badly, and you obey this rule, you’ll stop. If you treat them well and you obey this rule, you’ll likely treat yourself better.


3. Hire subs and choose suppliers that want you to succeed.

The circle of people you spend time with affects you in ways deeper than you know. Hang out with subs, suppliers and clients who know how to deal with your faults and confront them positively but also know how to bring out your best characteristics and strengthen them.


4. Compare your company’s results to your own past results, not some other company’s.

There will always be a better company to make you feel like a failure and a worse company to make you feel like a hero. Both are bad.


5. Don’t let your staff do anything that will make you hate them.

When you dislike your staff, you’ll resent them, treat them badly and eventually allow your company will fall into disorder. Only you know what will make you dislike them so only you will know what to stop them from doing. You’re the boss. Stop them.


6. Set your own company in perfect order before you badmouth a competitor.

Trying to fix other people’s problems is a great way to avoid your own. You get to show off your virtue and avoid hard truths. If you really want to help other people, make your company perfect. They will see it and ask for your help and then you’ll be in a position to provide it.


7. Do the type of work that you find meaningful, not just what people offer you.

If you’re a high-end, custom homes type of firm that specializes in carriage trade finishing work, don’t be doing an IKEA kitchen just because someone has a fast cheque for you. Compromising your quality to stay busy will hurt your bottom line.


8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.

This rule is exactly as Jordan Peterson phrases it in his book. In our industry, can you think of a better way to manage people and projects?


9. Assume that the person who tells you there’s a better way to do it might actually know something.

In this business, everyone from subs to architects and from employees to designers will constantly have ideas for you to do things differently than you planned. Give these ideas a hearing. You can always say No.


10. Be precise in your written contracts.

Put your commitments in writing, above all. A renovation contract is a like a seatbelt in a car: You only need one if you think your head would be damaged by colliding with the windshield.


11. Try not to bother your crew when they are having fun.

Unless it’s an issue of safety, or a major screw up, when your crew starts to have fun, let them. If you’ve hired competent, hardworking people in the first place, responsibly fun worksites are more productive than sweatshops.


12. First time in the door, pet your customers’ cats and dogs.

Your mental balance, in this industry, is more important than any other attribute. If you’re too busy to take a few seconds to admire your clients’ goofy pets, you are already way too freaked out to manage their project efficiently.





Canadian Contractor is the independent voice of residential renovators and home builders everywhere in Canada.
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