I signed a contract with a builder last week. Ordinarily, that would be no big deal. But this contract with a builder was the first contract I'd signed with anybody in weeks. I do my best to resist the punditry's cries of wail and woe concerning the state of the US economy, but enough of it gets into my head that I start to get nervous when my phone doesn't ring for a couple of days.
Anyhow, in order to get this job with this builder, I had to do a couple of things I wouldn't normally agree to do. But as everybody knows, times is hard and the time to relax standards is upon us. Well, it's upon me at any rate.
The first thing I agreed to do that I wouldn't do normally was to prepare a bid. Now, under ordinary circumstances I decline to participate in bids. I don't sell tile, cabinetry, counters, etc. What I'm actually selling is me --my perspective and my expertise. I'm the only one who has those things, so a "bid" is meaningless. I normally work within a budget, but a bid? I don't think so. That was until I remembered the stories I'd read that morning about a collapsing Florida housing market.
So anyhow, my new pal the builder had a parts list, a layout and a bid from another supplier. "Can you beat this?" he wanted to know. My blood pressure started ticking up and I had to talk myself out of explaining to him that I wasn't in the business of helping people to shop. Since I'm more worried about business slowing down than I am in holding onto my pride, I looked over what he'd prepared.
The layout was appalling, just bad --real suburban tract house crap. I told him that there were some technical problems with his layout and he said that I'd be able to change things around if I got the job. Then he left me his set of prints and I told him I'd get back to him the following day. The only technical problem was my bruised ego by the way.
I spent the next four hours putting together what I would do with the space if these were normal times and I were free to do my thing the way I've become accustomed to. With that out of my system, I spent a half an hour recreating the crap he left me and preparing his bid. I used half my normal mark up and spent the rest of the day being with the idea of not making as much money as I'm used to. This was a double whammy I haven't had to deal with in years. This guy was not only telling me what to do, he was controlling how much money I stood to make at the same time. Ugh.
So I wrote up a bid and faxed it to him the next day as promised. He called me almost immediately and told me that I had the job. I'm grateful to have one last thing on the books for 2008. Really I am. But I can't help but wonder if this is what 2009 is going to look like.