Friday, April 06, 2012
Following Up on a Bad Sand Job
By Scott Avery
Yesterday I took a look at a job that was pretty messed up by another contractor. Normally I make it a point not to even entertain these phone calls, but this homeowner was just genuinely distraught with valid concerns. We never even exchanged the name of the contractor, which is cool because I don’t want to know.
The real problem of the job (fir flooring) was a lack of adequate hardplating to provide an even burnish to the floor and remove some sanding errors. Over the years what I’ve picked up on over the years living in the Northwest is that contractors think because fir is softer that it means it is easier to sand and they speed through the hardplating. The opposite is actually true because fir will readily highlight the difference between the sanding of the edger and belt machine.
The homeowner was not picky, but he had seen all of the errors and called everything into question with the contractor. The contractor got very defensive and said that nobody in this town could have done a better job. He also said that the floor could not be sanded again because it was too thin. Neither statement was true because the sanding could have been better and the floor has plenty of life left in it for a re-sand.
Excuses may make a customer go away and get you a check, but this career should be more than that. The joy for me to running a business aside from profit is fulfillment. I remember once hearing Steve Seabaugh talk about seeing his customers in Wal-Mart and getting into 30 minute conversations with them. That’s exactly how every job should conclude, with customers who really like you, your employees, etc… The ability to sleep at night happily is the reason to learn and be passionate in this business.
As I drove away from looking at that sanding job I was thinking about the resistance from the contractor and the emotion and effort necessary to put up such a fight with the homeowner. For the next few months even though the contractor was paid, you know that in the back of his mind will be the thoughts of an unsatisfied customer. The negative emotional baggage nagging at his conscience could likely affect his attitude on the next estimate.
Everything could be different for this contractor if he would change a few things by becoming educated and being honest with himself and admitting an error. The contractor’s sanding may not improve if he doesn’t start talking with other more experienced contractors and talking shop. This could happen simply by going to a few distributor barbecues and being friendly. That’s free and it comes with food, so why not go there and make a friend. My other suggestion is formal technical training, but I swear that for some contractors that’s sort of like joining Alcoholics Anonymous—where the hardest step is admitting there is a problem.
The Expo is next week, and here’s my take on things. If you live within 500 miles of Orlando, grab some Red Bull and hop in your truck. Even if you only stay one night and drive all through the night, I can promise you that there will be more collective expertise for sanding and installing wood floors than you will ever find in your town by chance. Road trips are fun, and like Howard said a while ago, you can do Expo for a low cost. Just avoiding one problem job because of what you learned at this event will easily be worth the cost of the gas. See you next week.