Dealing with friends and family in the business realm can be a complex and sometimes thorny issue, and the world of contracting is no exception. Those who run a contracting business, particularly smaller ones that are always on the hunt for new business, may be contacted by friends or family members about performing work for them. While these people may expect discounts or other personal upgrades based on simply knowing you, you have to be careful about how far you’re willing to go.
At Contractors School, we’re here to help with numerous contractor areas, from obtaining a contractor’s license to several management and operations services tailored to existing contracting businesses in Salt Lake City and other parts of Utah. Many of our contractors have direct experience dealing with family members and friends who may be requesting services, a situation where you should be looking to ride the fence between helping them out, and still maintaining your profit margins. Here are some of the key elements to keep an eye on if you’re in this position.
While there may be parts of this process where you’re a bit more casual than you would be in other scenarios, there have to be limits here. There’s nothing wrong with taking on a friendly, slightly casual demeanor when first discussing the project with your friend or family member, or even when considering your options and laying out material choices or other variables.
However, when it comes to the actual details of the job, plus the work itself, you need to remember that you’re a professional first and foremost. The work you’re doing will be part of your future catalog and leaving out certain important details just because you’re friends with the client will not reflect well on your record.
This theme also extends to job-site behavior. Just because you’re on a friend’s property doesn’t mean you can be lax about any safety measures. For instance, you should always wear the proper uniform and follow all company guidelines no matter what the setting. In addition, maintaining a professional demeanor throughout will help stop friends and family from pushing too hard and trying to take advantage of your relationship – they will know you take this seriously and will approach things the same way from their end.
For some people, hiring out to a friend or family member comes with an expectation of significant leeway or perks compared to other clients. And while you may indeed be able to offer a few such perks to friends or family members, it’s vital to set – and stick to – limits in this area.
For instance, maybe you’ve agreed to lower the price of a certain material that your friend needs plenty of; you’ve determined that doing so will not ruin your profit margins and offering the perk may help you gain future business. There’s nothing wrong with this!
However, you can’t let yourself get taken advantage of beyond this one area. If your friend starts asking for the same discount on every material used, not just the one you agreed on, you have to be willing, and able, to put your foot down and say no. If you don’t think you’re capable of this, you shouldn’t be working with (or for) someone you have a personal relationship with.
One great way to avoid the kinds of issues we just mentioned is the use of a contract. Just like any other contracting situation, the work should be agreed upon in writing before any projects commence. A building contract should include everything from material costs up through expected labor, it should also specifically note any special discounts or perks you’re offering to the client based on your relationship.
Keeping things in writing is a great way of limiting client confusion. Any friends or family who had unrealistic expectations of discounts or other services will be able to see your cost breakdowns and understand exactly why you can’t meet these unusual expectations.
Certain contracting jobs will naturally require some basic negotiation and decisions from the client, with areas ranging from material selection to job scheduling, and more. Again, you need to have the personal wherewithal to resist making unrealistic concessions or cutting corners during this phase – doing so may lead to a final product that’s nowhere near the quality you should be striving for, and once again, this work will still go into your catalog even though it’s not a typical client situation. Be clear with your client, and up-front about which areas are negotiable and which are simply set based on some of the realities of the industry.
Finally, some newer contractors may find themselves in a position where they’re unsure of what to do. They want to lend a hand to friends or family, plus potentially grow their business recognition in the process, but they don’t want to be taken advantage of or lose money by giving too many perks to a friend.
In these cases, it pays to speak to a mentor or an experienced third-party in the contracting world – such as our pros at Contractors School. A more experienced contractor will likely have been in a similar situation in the past and can offer expertise in areas where you should be flexible, versus those where you need to hold steady.
For more on dealing with friends and family as a contractor, or to learn about any of our contractor exams or other contractor services in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah, speak to our staff at Contractors School today