An open letter to our lead carpenter

Thank you. You have made a virtually unbearable situation much better. You know by now how emotional this experience has been for me and I want you to know that you, as a person has made it bearable.

I appreciate your attention to detail. You are indeed a master at your craft. A real artist. In this “world of contracting” you really pay attention; I don’t get the impression of “lip service” from you. You are personable, friendly and seemingly honest in your profession. You have a real edge on the rest of them. Don’t lose it.

Don’t get your head all swelled up, you’re not perfect! I have high expectations, and having a boss like your’s makes meeting my expectations even more difficult – you have to pick up the slack. You did a relatively good job of it, most of the time. I cannot say I haven’t been disappointed, because I have been, but it has been mostly from your time management skill, or lack there of (which, I am sure is no surprise!)

This is a very unique business you are in – you are not just going to work, you are going to work in my home, it is a very personal affair! You are in my home more than I am during this relationship. My home, which I normally protect with alarms and locks, you, a virtual stranger, are in ALL the time when I am not. You cannot imagine how personal this is. Trust is a HUGE deal in this situation, and honesty goes hand in hand – this should be at the top of your mind at all times (this is another place where your boss really fell down ).

I have learned a lot from this experience; you may come across another cork-up-the-ass client like me again, so I am going to tell you about them…I hope you can take something away from this and be the best contractor out there. You have it in you.

  1. Be honest and truthful, even if it means that you will lose some business due to pricing or timing. It’s better to lay your cards on the table and then no one will be disappointed (or angry).
  2. For quoting and allowances: know the costs. Your boss didn’t bother consulting anyone on his costing when he did our estimate. A quote should include a visit from a structural engineer (if the reno includes structure, like our’s), an HVAC, plumbing component – this is particularly important if some items are pulled out as ‘allowances’ such as a kitchen, particularly if they are as detailed as we were (yes, there will be changes but customers can accept those, what we cannot accept is an allowance that is literally half of what it should have been to keep his quote down).
  3. This profession of your’s seems to breed ambiguity and vagueness. Under promise and over deliver: prepare a schedule (a realistic one), this was a huge selling point for us with your boss but he didn’t carry through and it fell off the rails fast. You don’t need anything fancy (like MS Project), just words would be good. In my business we call it a critical path. It gives the customer a reasonably good sense of what happens, the order it is supposed to happen, even if you don’t assign dates at all benchmarks.
  4. Always quote extras BEFORE the work is done, even if it is rough estimate (but be relatively close).
  5. If you say you will show up at a specific time, then do so, or call (not hours after).
  6. If you say you will call, then do it.
  7. Keep making your recommendations. You have a unique skill that combines your creativity and logic of what makes sense. Not all contractors have this skill. I appreciated your logic. Just keep in mind that sometimes the effort is worth it (yes, I have an example).

Thanks again for all the hard work, your input on many things that turned out better than we thought it could and of course, the conversations at beer o’clock (JT and I loved coming home and listening to you describe (with such pride) the accomplishments on our home!).

Keep in touch, we have grown fond of you as a friend. You may always use us as a reference, just let us know when and whom.

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