Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

“No good deed goes unpunished” applies especially to renovation pros

Call me a cynic, but anyone who has been in this business for a while knows I am right

In his post here two weeks ago, Rob Koci wrote about an experience he wished he’d never had when he was renovating a Toronto home.

The owner, for reason’s Rob still doesn’t understand, talked him into feeding – and walking – their dogs. During the day, while Rob was busy running a busy reno crew.

He paid the price, in profitability and stress. And as Rob wrote, he realized that his fault was in not clearly establishing boundaries to the business relationship.

“The greatest casualty of not drawing clear lines around your responsibilities is you,” Rob wrote. “The wound you incur will bleed money.”

This might be the one time this year where Rob and I agree about something on these pages. Yes, understanding where your responsibilities begin and end (on your worksite, with your employees, towards your family and friends) will help keep you sane.

That especially includes the most difficult boundary-testers of all: your customers. (Well, tied with your kids. But they can’t fire you, usually.)

Rob and I have often chuckled about the phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

When you do significant “favors” for your clients that they aren’t paying for, in extra construction, extra duties on their properties, or extra work of any kind – remember that the warm feeling you get (“I’m such a nice person!”) is an ego-trip your business cannot afford.

The reason for this is that giveaways and freebies – or insanely deeply discounted services – are rarely understood by clients to be a product of your beautiful, selfless soul. They just assume that you must be making enough money elsewhere to do this extra stuff anyway. Which leads them to the inescapable conclusion that… they DID pay for the extras, after all! So when one of those extras fall short or must be discontinued, they can and will hate you for it. They are entitled, are they not?

I’ve experienced this ten thousand times in my work life. Not only in construction, but in publishing and in volunteer activities. Your beneficent gifts will be met with a warm smile. Then they become standard parts of your responsibilities.

Try not to do free work, or go overboard on extra services, to fill up your own sense of what a swell person you are. Because while you bask in the warm glow of how decent a person you are, your business, which feeds your family and your employees, is getting a chill it may not appreciate.

Call me a cynic, but anyone who has been in this business for a while knows I am right.





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1 Comment » for “No good deed goes unpunished” applies especially to renovation pros
  1. Great article. I was once told, if you work for nothing, you’ll never be unemployed. Don’t sell yourself short.

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