Saturday, April 04, 2009

Why Contractors are Like Professional Athletes

Our contractor has postponed our bathroom remodeling project twice in the last 14 months.

I think contractors live in some kind of fantasy world. They are the stars. They are the talent. They have unlimited demand for their services. They can charge whatever they want. They are paid to play with cool power tools. They are paid to do what others do as an unpaid hobby.

Contractors and professional athletes -- they have a lot in common.

Here are excerpts from an email I received today from our contractor's wife / business manager/ agent. The wife's comments are in purple, the color of royalty. My comments are in black italics; the color reserved for peons.

We leave tomorrow for our four week vacation trip; it has been altered considerably due to civil unrest in Thailand.

Hhm... let me see.. my last four week vacation was in 1989, but the contractor and his family take one every year.

My goodness it was so thoughtless of the Thai People's Alliance for Democracy to demand an end to corruption and restoration of democratic rule by shutting down the airport. Obviously they did not realize that American contractors and their families had reservations for five star hotels in Bangkok. They should stop protesting and get back to work as maids and busboys for the multinational corporations serving American tourists.

We are now going to Mexico instead.

Oh my God... four weeks vacation in Mexico during the winter that is such a hardship. Damn those Thais.

We would like to meet with you on the morning of ---. to go over last minute details and drop off tools. Will this work for you?

Of course, I have been waiting only fourteen months so if --- is the date, I will drop everything to be the bag carrier for the contractor's tools.

Also effective at the start of 2009, his hourly rate is $45/ hr

So nice of you to give me notice of his 50% wage increase. Let's see I have not had a raise since 2001. The unemployment rate including those who are too discouraged to look is 12.5%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the lowest overall numbers for construction jobs last month in the past four years! But what the hell... raise your rates... enjoy your fantasy.

and we will need a 10K deposit before he commences work.

Hhmmm... well according to the California Contractors State License Board:

The down payment cannot be more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or 10 percent of the contract price, whichever is less, for a home improvement job.

No, you don't get to bypass state law by calling it a "deposit" instead of a "down payment".

Also, according to the California Contractors State License Board pamphlet for consumers (page 16):

Scheduling the Payments
Make sure the payment schedule is based on the contractor’s performance. Never let your
payments get ahead of the contractor’s work, and make sure the contract provides for a
“retention” — a percentage of each payment or of the total job, ordinarily 10 percent, which
you retain until the job is complete.

So that is what the law says, but I am sure that plenty of people are lined up, panting, checkbook in hand, for these contractors.

What mystifies me is that the jobs for software engineers are moving overseas, but contractor jobs, which require skill, but not as much skill as a software engineers, remain wanting.

I get that athletes like Tiger Woods or Shaquille O'Neal are the best in the world and that the fans want to pay really big bucks to watch them play sports. But how does this work for contractors?

Excessive Use of Adjectives on AM Radio

As I was driving North on California Highway One, all the traffic came to a halt near Aptos. I figured I better turn on the radio and try to get a traffic report to find out what was going on.
I found an AM station reporting that a big rig truck had a tire blow out, slid across the freeway, and burst into flames. So, we were going to be stuck a while.

While I was channel hopping to find a radio station with the news, I caught portions of conversations between the radio host and the callers. There was a very strange phenomenon occurring. The callers seem to have a fascination with long strings of adjectives. For example, one caller described a lawyer as a double decaf latte drinking, granola eating, Volvo driving, Eastern, liberal. Okay. I could visualize that person, and I probably know a lawyer who has most of those characteristics. However, the story and the conversation stopped there. The string of adjectives seemed to be the point. The caller seemed quite pleased with himself for coming up with the description. The host said something complimentary and moved on to the next caller.

Huh? Where is the plot? Where is the action? Where is the denouement? Where is the conclusion?

How about this:

The double decaf latte drinking, granola eating, Volvo driving, Eastern, liberal lawyer walked into the court room and made his closing arguments in his defense of his client, the accused child molester. As a public defender, this was his ninth time defending a child molester and the unseemliness of the whole process was wearing him down. He finished his summation and quickly drove home. In the quietness of his kitchen, he poured himself a Jack Daniels straight up and sat at the kitchen table gulping it down, staring out the window at the brick wall of the office building next door. He finished the drink, pulled his revolver out of the kitchen drawer, inserted it into his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

Okay. That was depressing. But at least it was a story. I challenge the AM radio callers to come up with more than a string of adjectives.

But then, the traffic started moving again, and I, the Darjeeling tea drinking, bicycle riding, Western, independent, married, software company president, turned off the radio and concentrated on driving back to my office where I could continue to ponder ways to attract, develop, motivate, and retain highly talented employees.