I'm currently working on an article for MJSA Journal about what to
do when things go wrong between contract service providers and
This is a great topic. I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this.
I don’t have any “horror stories” to tell. That said, I can’t say
with certainty that there aren’t some people who would have such
stories to tell about me. I hope not.
What I do have is a long history of experience in this area, and
I’ve got a good list of some of the problems that are typical. Feel
free to email or call me and I’ll share that with you.
But before we hear all those stories of failure and frustration from
our Orchid posters, I’d like to set the tone for at least one side of
the story. I would like to prematurely sum up all of it in one short
“Responsibility is empowerment”.
(As an editor, feel free to criticize that sentence. It’s not really
a good sentence, is it?)
I have found that there are, essentially, just a few things that can
be done to combat problems between contractors, vendors, retailers,
etc. You have to communicate your expectations clearly, set your
limits, and get agreement on what both parties have a right to
expect. And don’t expect things to always go smoothly. Eventually,
you will have accumulated a network of companies and individuals you
can trust and with whom you can expect mutual respect. And you would
be wise to stay loyal to these relationships. Start shopping for
bargains and you are likely to end up getting what you paid for. Good
people deserve to make a living too.
But you have to have a clear policy, and stick to it. And you have to
remember, if you are the contractor, that you are the expert, the
educator. And you need to live up to your end of the bargain. If you
don’t, be ready, if you can, to make things right. Nobody wants to
hear excuses. They are far more transparent than we think they are.
And blaming is worse.
Personally, as a subcontractor, I do everything I possibly can for
my accounts. And knowing that I’ve done my very best, I don’t feel
the need to defend myself. It happens, often, that I can’t get
someone to defer to my expertise. It takes patience to work through
that without bruising egos. But my business is about these
relationships, so it goes with the territory. And some relationships,
finally, just don’t work. I helps me, personally, and as a
businessman, to take the high road even when I’m right and the other
party is wrong. Does it matter who’s right? It does, but it doesn’t
move you forward. Being right, for it’s own sake, isn’t much of a
reward. I want happy customers, not just because I need their
business. I can always get new accounts. I gain strength from solving
problems. Solving a problem by turning it into a win-win solutions
has an amazing effect on me. I move ahead with my life when I have to
make tough decisions and can do that and survive. If I am sitting and
stewing about something, it’s my problem and I’m the only one who can
do anything about it. That said, I find myself stewing about things
on a somewhat regular basis. But I know it’s baloney. It’s an ongoing
opportunity to become a better person. And if I can be aware of my
shortcomings and change, I still have a place in the human race. When
I’m perfect, and I have the perfect business, the alarm clock is
going to go off and I’ll get out of bed and go down to the kitchen
for coffee and start another day in my real world. After writing
this, I’m reminded of all the people I do business with, retailers,
contractors, vendors… and the ones who have been great to work with
stick out quite clearly in my mind. To me, those are the “big kids”,
and I want to be one of them.
David L. Huffman