The Grasshopper and the Ant

Aesop’s Fable:

In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

Winter isn’t that far away. Will you be a grasshopper or an ant?

The Customer Ain’t Always Right

We have all heard the adage that the customer is always right. Even when they are wrong. I’m sorry to burst that bubble, but when they are wrong, they are wrong. And pretending otherwise won’t serve anyone well.

If we pretend that the customer is right, we put ourselves in the position of catering to the customer’s every whim. And that will never turn out well.

The best way to avoid being in that position is to train the customer before work ever begins. Explain what you expect of her. If you don’t want other tradesmen around when you are working, explain that and put it in your contract.

One of the biggest sources of problems between contractors and customers is unrealized expectations. But that is a two-way street. The customer has expectations, and we should try to uncover them. If they are reasonable, then we should endeavor to meet them. If they aren’t reasonable, we should try to change the expectations or walk away.

And then we must inform the customer of our expectations. If we don’t do that, we shouldn’t be surprised when the customer fails to meet them.

Going Where the Work Is

I hear a lot of contractors say that they will travel to where the work is. I don’t know if they are bragging or complaining. But I personally think it is a waste of time.

As an example, I knew one contractor who was regularly traveling to New Orleans from Houston–a distance of about 350 miles. He was essentially claiming that there was no work in the Houston, despite being home to more than four million people.  The real problem wasn’t a lack of work in Houston. The problem was that he didn’t know how to find it. And so, he would pack up his crew and drive to a distant city, because that “was where the work was.”

Years ago, I took a different approach. I was tired of driving fifty miles to give an estimate. So I dramatically shrunk my service area and shifted my marketing money to the smaller area. Interestingly, my volume increased and I spent a lot less time on the road.

Yes, we must go where the work is. But it’s often a lot closer than we realize.

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