How is it that with all of the data on the internet......
All of the potential for continuing education and training....
All of the professional advice....
All of the watch-dog websites and government bodies....
That there are still shady characters out there that will take your money knowing that they aren't going to provide you with a top notch, solid, professional final product?!
I guess it's up to all of us to weed out the charlatans and get the good contractors out to the property to show off their expertise.
Here's something to look for in all of your potential contractors:
Check their credentials:
If you are digging a pond or need your subdivision's retention pond maintained, make sure the contractor you pick has a degreed biologist on staff. Just about anyone can spray a pond, or get certified to handle chemicals and whatnot. A degreed Biologist will bring a more nuanced approach to the project. The strategies recommend by one who is educated in his/her craft will, most times, be more effective and last longer. Instead of applying a band-aid to the symptom, we will look to solve the underlying problem. Find out who you are dealing with and what they know.
This holds true for all fields and trades. Make sure your contractor has the necessary experience, education, and certifications to pull-off the project you have in mind.
Whether it's landscaping, plumbing, or pouring concrete.... make sure the outfit you choose is comprised of the pros they say they are.
See if the contractors are involved with any contractor associations or larger communities that promote further education. For my industry, it's the MAPMS (Midwest Plant Management Society), the WLCA (Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association), and the USFS (US Fishery Society). All of these organizations look out for each other and their industry. They also provide continuing education opportunities and conferences. We gather periodically to learn from other contractors and experts from all of our suppliers. We also stay up-to-date on all the research coming from academia; we all know that the future solutions to common problems will come from a combination of university research and practical experience. ANY contractor worth his/her salt will be a part of these groups. Nobody has all of the answers. If they tell you they know it all.....Choose a different company.
If your a contractor reading this please consider the opportunity that these types of organizations offer. The networking alone makes it worthwhile. These groups are full of people who face the same challenges and pitfalls that you do, and a little commiseration goes a long way in improving your mental health. Oh yeah, and you'll probably learn something too.....So that's nice.
Take your time:
Don't pick out your contractor after the first phone call. Ask a ton of questions, see how long the company has been in business. Get bids from at least 2-3 contractors, and get to know the guys/gals that you are trusting with your property/home and money.
Ask to see some referrals:
See what other people have said about the contractor you're about to pick. As a contractor myself, I do not enjoy the third degree I sometimes get from potential clients. I know, however, that they are just doing their due diligence, and they usually end up being some of my best customers because they truly care and are involved in the project from day one. So get to know your potential contractors, find somebody you trust. It'll be a better experience for all involved.
Meet with the contractor face-to-face:
We are all better judges of character when, while talking to someone, you can look them in the eye. This is a bit old fashioned (all you young'uns, with all your Gameboy video games and rocket scooters). I just figure it's harder to get away with half-truths and deceptions when you're standing toe-to-toe. This isn't a license to be defensive, or worse, aggressive. Being too mistrustful is a good way to get the pain-in-the-ass tax (usually 15%) added to your bid proposal.
So, be wise when selecting a contractor. Ask good questions, and check on the answers you are given.
Once again, feel free to ask questions in the comments section.
Until next time.......