One Man’s Story – Chapter 2

I made my way to the Brown project which was in the Main Street and walked around with Bill looking over the previous day’s work. They had erected the new walls and the electrical sub contractor had roughed in the wiring and the guys were working on hanging the sheetrock. I figured that most of it would be done by lunch time and then Bill and  Mike could start with the tape and float. The rest of the guys would be cleaning up as we prided ourselves on having a clean construction site.

I spent some time talking over details with the owner and cleared up a few things so that we knew how to proceed and then sent Harvey in to the local Lumber Yard to pick up trim to finish out the section we were working on. Tape and float should be finished tomorrow which would give Glen the opportunity to hang the trim, When Harvey returned he and Matthew or Matt as we called him, started prime coating the trim ready to take paint as soon as it was installed. Things seemed to be moving along pretty smoothly so I headed over to visit with another client who was wanting some work done and spent an hour talking to her about her project. I told her I would work up a quickie estimate just to give her a ball park figure to work with and then she could decide if she wanted to continue.

I spent a lot of time working up estimates for people in order that they could make decisions if they wanted to proceed. Even though it took probably 40 percent of my time, I figured it to be money well spent in both good will and sometimes the resulting projects. Being a bit of an artist, I could usually draw them a picture of what the finished product would look like and this helped them a lot especially if they wanted a fireplace or a set of steps, something that was visual. I liked to meet people and see how they lived. The ones with money which in most cases was pretty obvious, were the hardest to deal with and also to work for as they always had opinions on how or what to do. I usually padded their estimates in order to cover the unexpected which you could nearly always bank on . The nicest people to work for were those who  had a project and had a rough idea of what they wanted and were always willing to listen to get other ideas. They had open minds which always helped as sometimes, some of the things they wanted done were just very difficult.

I had a group of subcontractors that I always turned to for things like moving dirt, major concrete, electrical and plumbing, you know , the specialized things  that were not worth our attempting to do as we didn’t have the equipment. We had a good relationship and always turned work each others way whenever possible.

I drove back to the office. Pat gave me a list of people who had called so I spent some time on the phone either answering their questions or setting up appointments for the following week. “Did you go over my numbers on that Black estimate”? I asked “Yes and I made a couple of notations for you to check” she replied I took the estimate to my desk in the corner and checked the notes that Pat had added and made some changes to the estimate. I gave it to Pat to type up and then called Mrs Black to make arrangements to meet with her the following day.

Mrs Black was a widow whose husband had been killed in a car accident a couple of years ago and had left her in a comfortable position for the rest of her life. She lived on the edge of town on a couple of acres and rode horses for a hobby. She was also a member of the local Riding Club and held some position in the organization. As I was not much of a horseman and an even worse rider, I didn’t keep up with the Riding Club but work was work and I would take almost anything within reason if I thought we could do it and it would make us a buck. I forgot to mention that because we lived in the snow zone during the winter, our construction season was relatively short starting around April and running through November or early December. Sometimes it would be shorter than that if the frosts were severe or we had an early heavy snowfall or two.

What I tried to do was to give my clients a break in the cost for any indoor work so that they would put it off until the winter months. That way, although we wouldn’t be employed full-time, at least the guys had something more than unemployment to carry them over the winter months. Mrs Brown’s project which was to remodel her kitchen and bathroom, was one of those that I wanted to convince her to put off. I already had a lot of work lined up, almost enough to fill up our season but had room for a couple more projects if necessary.

Link to Chapter 3