If you follow my other social media (Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, etc.) then you are probably up to speed on my feelings pertaining to contractors and freelance workers. And when I talk about this situation I cannot stress enough that the things I mention do not extend universally to all contractors and freelance workers. That is a major problem with our society in general these days is that a person will make an observation or statement and immediately those words apply to everyone of a nationality or genre and it simply is unfair and incorrect.
For those who do not listen to my podcasts or follow my other social media besides this darn fine blog, here is what I am talking about…
In the spirit of laziness and supporting local business people, I posted a thread in a local online community bulletin board group asking for assistance with some yard work. I received a couple of responses and I reached out to the first guy who seemed quite eager for the work. After he was tardy for our meeting start time, the guy eventually showed up (in the dark) and we went over the scope of the work pertaining to my backyard. A short exchange took place and we mutually agreed on what was to be done (remove leaves from the backyard along with scrub bushes plus extraction and removal of the gravel bed around the back deck), the price for the work ($XXX) and expected time for said services to be performed (early Friday morning or perhaps Friday and Saturday). No problem.
This was the extent of the conversation and set of expectations two days before Thanksgiving. So let’s fast-forward to Friday morning. Timewise, early came and went as did the rest of the morning with no message or appearance from the contractor. Noon stretched to one o’clock and continued to edged past that hour. Unsure of what was ‘going on’, I sent a non-pressured message asking about the contractor’s expected arrival time and added a side note that me and my wife would be departing around the time the sun was to set to head to a gathering of friends elsewhere. The contractor soon responded that he would not be there (onsite) for that day (Friday) as he had to take his girlfriend to work unexpectedly and would not be able to have much daylight to work with…OK fine. But how were we to know this information? If I hadn’t messaged him, was he going to send a text after the fact or just not show up and keep us in the dark all day? Not cool in my opinion.
Saturday morning dawned and again we (my wife and I) anticipated the contractor’s arrival for hours without his physical presence manifesting itself. Needing to run some errands, my wife left and I stayed at home in case the contractor would show up at some point. The morning time came and went with no contractor contact. My wife and I did exchange a few texts pertaining to this and that while she went about her business of purchasing needed items. Roughly about ten minutes after one o’clock in the afternoon, I heard a strange noise at the front of the house. I went to investigate by heading to the kitchen window. Parked in the driveway was the contractor’s vehicle and he was raking the leaves…in the front yard.
I’m not really sure where the disconnect in our discussion was but he was finally there and working so I let him go about his process in the front yard. For those who question why I didn’t stop him and point him to the backyard, I respond by saying that in all honesty I didn’t think he would spend all that much time up there and quickly be on to the tasks in the backyard. On this point I was wrong. He proceeded to spend over two hours on the front yard before moving to the backyard just ahead of nightfall. While working in the front yard he broke his rake. In the interest of keeping him onsite and working, I offered to let him use my rake and also my leaf blower (he had his own leaf blower but mine was bigger and a bit more powerful).
The quality of work he did in the front yard was perfectly acceptable and we felt encouraged when he began attacking the monster that is the backyard. Using my tools (hand rake, electric leaf blower and my extention cords) he was making good progress in the backyard when darkness began to set in. The contractor and I agreed as an OK practice that he could burn some of the leaves in the backyard (he bagged them in the front yard). The misses and I were dressed and ready to go to our gathering so I approached him to let him know we were leaving and to give him half of his total payment. He indicated he was almost at a stopping point for the night and would resume the remainder tomorrow. OK fine.
When my wife and I arrived home it was very late (and still dark), so we went to bed without checking the backyard. Sunday morning happened like it does every week and when we got out of bed, I checked the backyard and saw things were pretty much in the same state as when we left for our gathering the previous night. A minor thing of nitpicking occurred though: When I gave the contractor his half payment on Saturday night, I gave him specific instructions to put my tools and such on the deck and out of sight when he finished for the night. What he actually did was leave my leaf blower in his wagon behind the deck. The hand rake and extention cords were also left out in the elements with rain in the forecast for later in the day.
For the most part our neighborhood is relatively low key and has minimal crime but you don’t want to temp fate…am I not correct here? Once again my wife had errands she needed to do, so I stayed behind to see if the contractor would show up to complete the tasks still to be done: finish with the leaves in the backyard, remove the scrub bushes on the side and most importantly removal of the rock bed.
By this point in the weekend I had ruled out his notion of early being anytime before noon. Once again the time leading up to noon yielded no contractor. As was the case with the day before, he showed up a little after one…on a riding lawnmower! He did a circuit of the front yard to clean up any leaves that had appeared overnight and then rapped on the front door. After a brief consultation, we deduced that the yard gate was not wide enough to allow his mower to drive into the backyard that way. He indicated that he could disable the side fence to gain access on the other side and with the use of more of my tools, he did so.
Say what you will about his poor communication skills and being unprepared for the job contingencies, but when he is engaged in the task at hand, he does work hard and the results are good. Not great results mind you, but good and for this undertaking we will accept good most gladly.
As of now it is Monday and we are unsure of what to expect from our contractor. He might have a regular job that he does during the week…who knows. So we will try to be patient and see if the yard work Gods-that-be come through for us. I anticipate getting back onto the roof this coming weekend (I was up there on Sunday cleaning gutters until the rains encroached) and if I survive that there will be more blog posts for you to consider or even an epilogue to this story.
In boiling things down, like a thesis statement, all I am asking of those in business for themselves or others is that above all else let there be good lines of communication. Most of the time it takes only a few seconds to communicate. If you send your message in an e-mail or via text message or some other sort of electronic words, you can convey the necessary info and then back away from it and disengage without a four hour conversation taking place. Just saying.
Everyone have a wonderful end of the month and good luck with your Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Long Weekend Sunday and Cyber Monday shenanigans. May the deals ever be in your favor.