Why hire a professional?

Have you ever hired someone and didn’t get what was pitched to you? Have you ever had a written contract that didn’t work out? Sometimes you can have all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted and have what you think is a boilerplate contract – and still feel like you get less than what you paid for.

I’m positive that everyone has a story like this to tell. For example; I had a roof replaced on a house that I owned back in Boston in 1984. I got the three usual bids. The first guy showed up in a fairly used truck, with a shoebox containing photos of roofs he had done, a generic contract and his own opinions of how good he was. He gave me the lowest bid. A week later I received his contract in the mail including a coffee cup ring at the bottom (I think this was the Dunkin Donuts Seal of Approval).

The second contractor, who owned the company, pulled up in a clean truck with signage on the side. He didn’t say much but showed interest in the project. This guy had a briefcase which held samples of his work and a tape measure. He began by counting off from one corner of the house (by foot) to the other corner. He then asked if he could take a look in the attic to inspect the rafters to see if they could hold the weight of the new roof. This struck me as an odd request, but I humored him. He said “everything looks fine”, and went back to his office to write up the bid, which he promptly delivered the following day.

The third roofer showed up in a brand new truck representing a fancy franchise roofing company. He pulled out a tape measure and proceeded to measure very thoroughly just about every detail on the roof. He went to his truck and returned about 15 minutes later with a fully written contract which included every kind of guarantee under the sun. Before I’d even had a chance to properly review it, he quickly asked me when I would like them to start. Needless to say, this was an extremely high bid.

Not surprisingly, I went with the middle bid and got more than what was asked. The crew was very professional, clean and on time. The owner of the company showed up every day, did some pointing around, brought coffee for everyone, including myself. He bantered back and forth with his crew, helped load scrap into the truck, and then took off around 11:00. I got the sense that he had been around the roofing business for a while when he showed up for the estimate; he was interested, attentive and possessed an air of certainty and authority while being quite casual about it all. This was true even more so after I signed the contract. I could observe that he really enjoyed what he did, his workers respected him. During our short venture together his professionalism radiated throughout the entire process.

A few months later I was working on a project and having lunchtime with another tradesman. The subject of roofing came up and I told him the story of having my roof done and who had done it. It turns out that this guy had worked for that outfit and he told me that it was one of the best crews he had ever worked for. He said the old man really towed the line about smoking on the job site and strongly discouraged the use of rough language. He also always made them wear shirts in hot weather but always had water for the crew and took care of them. Then he asked me this question: “Did he ask to go up in your attic?” I replied “Yes he did.” He laughed and said, “He did that on every bid! And, did he ask to buy anything up in your attic?” I replied, “No”. He laughed and told me that he had a warehouse full of antique furniture with more than half of it coming from people’s attics. He’d offer them a couple of bucks and most of the time they’d sell. Apparently, he made more money buying and selling furniture from people’s attics than roofing. I guess he enjoyed the game of being a professional, whatever the trade he was in.

A professional has a duty or personal conviction as their prime motivation rather than personal gain or money. That’s what the owner of this roofing company embodied. Because of this, he won my business. A professional has total certainty in knowing what he does and because of this earns the trust of the client. A professional is interested in the client’s project, he listens to their ideas and helps direct them to the desired finish. You can’t hire a second-rate contractor and expect professional results. You hire a professional for that.

“If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait till you hire an amateur.”
- Red Adair (Oilfield firefighter)

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