On May 29th, I was the speaker at the Pittsburgh CFI chapter meeting. The topics covered were Seam Peaking, Seam Sealing, and Berber Seaming. I also answered questions about the upcoming Pittsburgh certification on June 22 and 23. The turnout was about 30 people, way too low for the amount of quality installation information being given out, but it was a much better turnout than I have seen at the seminars I have done for my distributors over the last few years, not for lack of trying by the distributors. They send out mailers, follow up with faxes, and even make phone calls the day before the event. Then five or ten installers show up, if we are lucky.

So what do you think is the problem? People don’t want to listen to me talk? Could be a factor, but it’s not only me, it’s the whole industry. Installers not interested in improving their skills and making more money? Are installers happy with the status quo? Must be; the vast majority of installers don’t seem to be doing anything to change it. Oh, a few of you have contacted me about getting copies of the pricing spreadsheet or the columns “Selling You” and “Cost of Doing Business and where to get The Bluebook pricing guide. Although, not nearly enough of you.

Letters to the mill presidents…what a joke. I wrote the letter for you, gave you their names and address; all you had to do was tear out the page, photocopy it, address six envelopes, buy six stamps, and mail the damn things. Too much trouble for you? Well, I guess you don’t care about improving your life and making more money. You would rather just piss and moan about how rough it is and how you get mistreated, by pick one or more; the mills, the retailer or workroom you sub for. Or maybe you were mistreated as a child, your mother didn’t nurse you when you were a baby, the old man was mean and gave you a whack even though you “didn’t do nothing.”

Well, I’m tired of hearing it. If you are a sub-contractor, you are a small business owner. Small business is the backbone of this country. Get a spine! You don’t go to the grocery store and tell them what you are going to pay for a loaf of bread, try going to the gas station and tell the attendant you are only paying a dollar a gallon for gas. After he stops laughing, pony up your three bucks a gallon or hit the road. OOPS sorry, I forgot, you can’t hit the road you don’t have any gas.

After the chapter meeting, I was talking to the guys, answering questions and swapping installation stories. One young installer, who did ceramic as well, started complaining about the retailer he sub-contracted for. His complaint it seems was that the retailer did the estimating and determined how much to charge for the prep work. It was never enough. He was extremely frustrated; how could he solve the problem? Going somewhere else was not really an option because he lived in a small town, not a lot of places to go. I told him you are a business owner just like the retailer. You have costs of doing business and need to make a profit, just like the retailer. So, what to do?

Grandpa used to say, “There is more than one way to skin a cat. Cats don’t like any of them, but sometimes it’s just a matter of getting the fur off.” So here are a couple of possible solutions:

  • When you get to the job determine what the prep work is call the store and tell them the prep work is X amount of dollars. If they say we did not figure that much, ask if they want you to tell the customer that upon detailed examination by the expert (you the installer) there needs to be additional prep work at X amount of dollars. It’s called sales. Or you could tell the retailer when they measure, and inform the customer there might be hidden prep work and charges may change once the expert (you, the installer) has the opportunity to inspect the job in depth.
  • Bill for the extra time if the retailer refuses to pay, keep your bill with the unpaid portion marked. At the end of the month send them a past due unpaid balance notice. If they refuse to pay that keep your records and write it off your taxes as an unpaid bad debt. You did the extra work and didn’t get paid for it you should at least get the write off. If the retailer asks why he keeps getting these past due unpaid balance notices, tell him. Maybe he won’t want to be seen as a deadbeat by the IRS.
That’s just an example of thinking like a businessperson. If you are going to change things and improve your lot in life you have get off your ass and do it! Don’t want to do what’s required to run a business? Then quit sub-contracting, join the union or find someone to hire you by the hour. Or, if you’re happy with the way things are, suck it up and quit complaining.