Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: Can’t we all just get along? How doing business has changed.

By Lance McCarthy

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.  But who decided dogs were good role models?  They roll on snakes and lick themselves.  We have become accustomed to the idea that sharing and cooperation are sure paths to loserdom, and that the best way to get what you want is to grab it from the other kid.  That’s how you win on Survivor.  That’s how you play Monopoly.  That’s how you make Ukraine part of your country (Putin, if you are reading this, please put Crimea back where you found it).    Take no prisoners.  Trust no one.  Shoot first.  That’s how you win.

But what if sharing and cooperation really are the best way to get what you want?  I have come to believe that if combat ever worked, that time is long gone, especially when it comes to the client v. contractor relationship.  Now let me explain what I mean.  ons that I don’t hear from visitors in tours very often, but that will help you get to know a contractor quickly.   

At gunpoint

Remember the phrase “buyer beware”?  That phrase comes from an ancient Roman term caveat emptor.  It means that the seller knows a lot more about what they are selling than the buyer does.  If you want are into big words, the term would be informational asymmetry.  (Try dropping that bad boy out at your next book club meeting!)

Informational Asymmetry is bad because me (the seller who knows a lot more) can take advantage of you (the buyer who doesn’t know very much).  It makes the buying experience feel like a hostage exchange.  “Just lower your gun, slide the money across the table, and I will let him go.”  


Free information for everyone

Interestingly enough, we are now living in a time where information is actually floating around for anyone to find.   Remember the last time you bought a car?  How you were checking Kelly Blue Book and Carfax on your phone while you were sitting in the car salesman’s office?  Remember the last time you went to a movie?  How you checked fan reviews and critic reviews and could even find out how many incidents of kissing or smoking were in the movie before you even got to the theatre?  (Scratch that, remember when you actually went to a theatre instead of streaming a movie on your tablet?)

Information is everywhere, and that is a good thing for the most part.  One of the really great outcomes in my opinion is that it means the buyer-seller relationship can change.  Since neither party controls the information, the “trust no one” mentality is actually counterproductive.  Unfortunately, like a soldier home from war, many people who were really good at the old model are struggling to learn the new ways.  Effective communication and collaboration skills are now the most important tools that one can possess.  

Here are three times this comes into play when you are dealing with a contractor:


Budget.  The old model meant the client should keep his budget a secret or it would be taken advantage of, and the contractor had to hide her costs or she would be asked to lower them.  The new model means budget and cost is discussed openly so that the project can be designed and developed to meet the client’s needs.


Team.  The old days meant there were three bids for the contractor and then three bids for each subcontractor and the best-lowest wins.  The new model means a team is built of people who are skilled at working together and finding creative solutions to improve efficiency and reduce cost.  


Contract Documents.  The old days meant a one-page description of the work with a number at the bottom, then a contract full of legal language.  The new model means a whole set of documents are created to “build the project on paper”.  These documents are created collaboratively by the designer, contractor, trade partners and client.  They include detailed floor plans, elevation drawings, a complete product list, a starting timeline, a detailed scope of work, and some sort of reference to acceptable standards of finish.  They are living documents that represent a fair agreement for everyone involved.

Doesn’t that all sound nice?  Welcome to the new world–a lot of people working together to create something that is better than any one of them could have done on their own.  

Now that we’ve solved that, let’s work on Congress and ISIS…

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