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Paul Burri: History of a Simple Home Repair Job

Professionalism pays, for the customer and for the person performing the work

We needed a relatively simple repair job on our house recently. Here’s a short history of how that went.

No. 1 — I called a friend of a friend who is a handyman-type person and asked him to look at the job and give me a bid. A few days later he showed up, took a quick look at the job and gave me a verbal quote of $60. Based on prior information, I knew that was a very low bid and I said, “I’ll give you $100.” We agreed there was no rush on the job and he would let me know when he had the time to do the job.

Weeks went by and I finally called him to ask when he could get to the job. It was then that he told me that he thought the job was worth $200. (Remember, he had bid $60 and I had offered him $100.) I told him I’d think about it.

No. 2 — I looked in the newspaper under “Handyman” and called the second guy. He showed up, looked at the job and told me, again verbally, that the job would cost $100, but, “You furnish the material.” When I told him I didn’t want to be responsible for running around to buy whatever he needed — and maybe buy the wrong stuff — he answered that he meant that he would supply the material but it would be extra. When I asked him how much extra, he said he wasn’t sure. I told him I’d think about it.

No. 3 — I found the third guy on the Internet. He showed up, handed me his business card and inspected the job. Then he went out to his truck, wrote out a detailed estimate of what the job would cost and came back and handed it to me. It showed what he would do, how long he thought it would take and what the materials would cost. He was thorough and professional. His price? $230.

Guess who I gave the job to?

When I have a job that I need to have done, I want it to be done quickly, professionally, and of course, as economically as possible. Note: I did not say as cheaply as possible.

When someone — as in the case of the first two so-called handymen — treats me unprofessionally, I will tend to assume that their work will be unprofessional as well. Perhaps that’s unfair. But the way I look at it is this: If I get a professional estimate, I can be pretty sure I will get a professional job. On the other hand, I may get professional work from unprofessional business people who act unprofessionally but I’d rather not take the chance. And I don’t want to take the chance that the work will be done unprofessionally (read: badly). I’d rather pay a little more to be sure the job is done right.

My point to anyone who is in business: Act professionally and you will be respected for it and you’ll get more work. Get some business cards. They are easy and inexpensive on the Internet. Buy a simple estimate book and rubber-stamp your name on the pages.

Be professional — no matter what kind of work you do.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul

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