Why Contractors Don’t Show Up

why contractors don't show up

They say that unmet expectations are at the heart of disappointment and that disappointment leads to broken relationships. That’s certainly true in marriage and friendship, but often that disappointment comes from expectations that were never verbalized in the first place. Before I start sounding too much like my shrink, I really do have a point in this edition of David C. Smith’s Soap Box: Why contractors don’t show up.

Disappointment is one thing, but broken promises? Why don’t contractors show up when they say they will? Furthermore—why do some never show up at all?

Understanding the Cause of Why Contractors Don’t Show Up

When contractors don’t show up it can be downright infuriating. However, before finding the cure, you have to understand the underlying conditions. In this case, the job itself simply wasn’t “big enough”.

My parents have been looking to remodel their 1950’s home. It’s nothing massive, but it’s certainly special to them. They wanted to add a couple of rooms and shift some things around to make it more functional. The changes would give my mom her own quilting room so she could stop sharing it with my dad’s treadmill and Bowflex.

Sounds simple, right?

Interviewing Contractors for the Work

Like all renovation and remodel jobs, you begin by interviewing contractors. The first couple of contractors who came by were discouraging with quotes so high they could have just built a separate structure. Eventually, my parents turned to the guy who managed their church’s $4 million construction project to see if he knew anyone who would take on a project their size.

To their surprise, he said he’d take a look himself and offered to get it done for less than half of what the other guys quoted.

So Far, So Good

He explained to them that it wasn’t the job itself that was expensive, but that the contractors taking a look at it didn’t feel it was worth their effort. If you assign a fair price, smaller work often doesn’t feel worthwhile. It’s a lot like a landscaper being hired to go into a new neighborhood to mow one lawn when he has a neighborhood where he already mows dozens.

In any case, plans were drafted, permits were drawn, and subcontractors hired. Work started immediately. Our contractor took the lead to get the leveling done so the framers could get started.

And that’s when it hit the fan.

The Contractors Didn’t Show Up

The framers, electrician, plumber—in fact, every single subcontractor—failed to show. These were guys with reputable work under their belt, so what happened?

As our contractor became more frustrated with every phone call, each subcontractor told him the same thing: A more profitable job came up, so they bailed on his project.

They did this without notice and, apparently, without remorse.

How Do You Get Contractors to Show Up?

The lesson learned here is fourfold:

  1. While we love to have the best, most experienced, and highest-tier companies work for us, that doesn’t work on smaller jobs. Small jobs simply aren’t worth the time for many larger contractors who often sub for big companies on larger work.
  2. You can still get great work done on smaller projects. It simply requires a change in mindset.
  3. Smaller contractors who specialize in smaller, more localized jobs in your area will place your job in a higher priority.
  4. These same contracts often price work more fairly since they have less overhead and aren’t trying to compensate for redirecting their efforts from larger work to a smaller project.

Now, does that excuse bad behavior? Absolutely not. Not by a mile. If you agree to take on a project, you should do it. Period. A man’s word needs to mean something in this world, and anyone who breaks their word over convenience and money should be held accountable—by the loss of reputation. That’s our opinion, anyway.

The Good News

Things did work out in the end. The work resumed but at the cost of weeks worth of waiting. Needless to say, there was much frustration experienced by my parents and the very well-respected contractor who hated disappointing his clients—even when it wasn’t his fault.

My parents and grandparents grew up in a world where a man’s word was binding. They taught me the same thing (though admittedly I’ve failed in that regard more frequently than I’d like to admit). So, what happened in our culture over the past couple of decades to change that?

Share this article with your kids. Maybe we can change the future together.

Have you ever had subcontractors bail on your project or even had your project lead take off? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, please tell us how you run your construction business when it comes to smaller projects. Feel free to jump on the soapbox on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels!

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