Canadian Contractor

Steve Maxwell   

That little voice that says “No!”

"Contracting is like getting married again and again, every time you shake hands with a new client."

It was the spring of 2003 when I was reminded how important it is to listen to that little voice inside your head, the one that sometimes says “no.”

A contractor friend living 30 miles away was visiting a neighbour of mine who had advertised for a major renovation. He was parked outside the place for less than half an hour, then left.

“Did you get the job?” I asked a couple weeks later. He was one of the best contractors in the area, but I also knew this particular client could be “interesting.” Was he sharp enough to pick up on that?

“I got the job,” he said. “But I turned it down. The whole thing smells like trouble. A hassle job is worse than no job at all.”

His hunch was right. A few weeks later, another contractor started work on that project, but the job ended bitterly. Complaints, late payments, gossip, unattainable expectations and that trapped feeling you get when a building project turns into a battle zone. The homeowner even stole materials from the project, squirrelling them away as “scraps” on another property, ready for handyman projects of his own.

The discipline to keep your enthusiasm in check when sizing up a job is often the difference between projects that make money and those you regret. We all want work, sure, but who can afford nightmare jobs?

Contracting is like getting married again and again, every time you shake hands with a new client. Some of your contracting marriage partners will be dreams come true that eventually turn into friends.

Others are the kind of people that little voice warns you about. Have you learned to hear the voice?

Let your enthusiasm get the better of you, take on a few bad jobs, then feel the sting of your own foolishness. You’ll soon get smarter. Smarter, that is, or broke.



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1 Comment » for That little voice that says “No!”
  1. Marten says:

    When I first started my own company I wanted to take on the world and every job I could find. Had it a few times where I thought this person is to weird but took on the job anyway. Each time I got burnt. Took a few times to figure out but now when I meet someone if I think it is a problem I will walk away, think and then contact the person later and say thanks but will pass on that project. Working for free is easy when it is your terms but hard when it is someone else. Could tell you several stories.

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