Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: Who are You Talking To? Your Guide to the 4 Types of Contractors

By Lance McCarthy

“Who else are you talking to?” is a question we ask all of our prospective clients in the first phone call. It catches a lot of people off guard because it somehow feels inappropriate. Like that information should be hidden. Why is that? I think this discomfort comes from the long history of distrust a homeowner and contractor has for each other. They both feel like the less they tell the other person, the safer they are. I believe the opposite is actually true. I think the contractor will be more successful by hiding less from the client, and that the same is true for the client.

So why do we even ask the question? When we know who else a client is talking to, we can get a sense of whether we would be a good fit for the project. I believe that most remodelers/contractors land in one of 4 different groups, and the more you know about those groups, the better you can choose the “who” on your project

Today I wanted to share these groups with you. It is important to note that no type is perfect. They all have advantages and disadvantages, the most important decision you can make is which set of strengths and weaknesses are the ones you want to work with?

Group 1: Tailgate Joe (any similarities to real “Joe’s” is complete coincidence)

  • Tailgate Joe is a smaller company.
  • Joe may be called a handyman, or someone’s “guy” (as in, “I have this guy”).
  • Signs: Joe likely works alone, and has no actual office.
  • Pluses are that you will probably like his price for most projects.  He is often charismatic, and is decent at working with his hands.
  • Minuses are that when he gets busy it is very difficult to get ahold of him, and he is probably not fast.  If his daughter is sick on Tuesday, he doesn’t work Tuesday.  He also will have more trouble staying current on all the complex codes and advancements in construction because it is impossible to be proficient at everything.


Group 2:  The Middlers

  • These are the companies who have gone legit, but aren’t big.
  • Signs: They have a real office, real employees and real insurance.  They will be in a trade organization, and their price will probably be a little uncomfortably high.
  • Pluses are that they have survived long enough to be pretty good at what they do, but are small enough to be used to working with budgets.
  • Minuses are that they cost more than Joe, but don’t have the stability of The Big Boys, so it is still possible that they can get overloaded with work, or experience other growing pains that could affect your project.


Group 3:  The Big Boys

  • These are the companies you see on TV.
  • Signs: That’s right, they have signs.  Billboard signs, truck signs, radio ads, all kinds of marketing that is needed to keep the phones ringing.
  • Pluses are that they are past the awkward teenage years of a business, so there is probably an established process for what they do.  They will have a strong warranty, and have resources and stability that a smaller company won’t have.
  • Minuses are that they may be growing too big to still be sensitive to an individual client’s needs, and of course the price.


Group 4: The Working Dead (that would be an interesting idea for a show)

  • This could be any size company, but the point is that they don’t charge enough to actually keep a company running.  This is either because they are cons, or just not competent, but the end result for the client is the same: Pain.
  • Signs: They have probably had a name change or two in the past few years.  They won’t be in any trade organizations.  Their price will be unbelievably low.
  • Pluses are that you will feel like you made the deal of the century when you accept the bid.  That is the only plus.  This is a company you should run (not walk) away from.
  • Minuses are that the bid won’t be real.  They will either disappear after collecting a down payment, or will go out of business, or will try to skewer you will loads of shady change orders.

The best way to ensure success on a project is to decide which type of contractor best fits your needs, then talking to several teams from inside that type. They will likely have very similar budgets to the same project, and similar advantages. If you are interested, I have put these types into a quick reference table that you can use to help. Go ahead, ask a company which group they see themselves in, and how accurate the description is.

Ready to Take the Next Step?