08 December 2008

Times is hard

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.


  1. Ug. At least you have one more to end your year. Sales are down for everyone.

    I think we have to ask ourselves, "Are we order takers or designers?" Do we wait for the client who wants our expertise and can pay for it? The times, they are a changing, and the back log of clients waiting in the wings has dried up. The beauty of sales is that this market requires we think creatively not only in design, but in the art of the sale.

  2. Paul,
    Times is bad but you will survive. You have so much to offer on so many levels. Keep your head up and your fabulous taste intact! MA

  3. Good point Laurie, it's time to dig in. The days of waiting around for clients willing to pay for expertise seem to ending, at least in my market. All isn't woe though, there are a lot of people in far worse shape than I am and I lose sight of that sometimes.

  4. Thanks Ming,I appreciate your vote of confidence!


Talk to me!