Many people seem totally snowed and intimidated when it comes to choosing a contractor. I have heard of people simply not doing a desired project because they feared they could not find someone reputable and trustworthy. That is a horrible statement about the industry.
I always look for direct referrals, whether it is for a subcontractor, a doctor or an auto mechanic. I want to ask people I trust. Then I check on the experience and background of the people I am interested in, and, importantly, I want to see how I feel with them. Do I feel confidence in them? Do I feel like I could entrust myself to them?
When it comes to a construction subcontractor, I usually want to see a couple of examples of their work, yet a strong recommendation from a trusted colleague will usually convince me to give someone a shot.
Years ago when I started germinating the roots of Conscious Cooperation, I asked myself what makes clients comfortable. Uncomfortable? How does conflict build and can you nip it in the bud? How do you build trust? What should clients be able to expect from me? I asked myself why a client should hire me and not someone else?
These questions really started to put me into the customers’ shoes. Some answers I was able to feel my way through and arrive at myself. Others I simply asked customers. I had surprising conversations with customers about their sense of safety and trust. When I asked new clients questions that addressed the emotional side of construction, most of them looked at me in wonder and then said that my questions made them feel safe. They never expected to have such a conversation. They trusted my construction abilities and were convinced that I would have their best interest in mind. That is a huge and important leap for a client.
So, my quick guide to choosing a contractor:
1. Ask trusted people, who are knowledgeable about the construction process, for some referrals. Ask trades people you know. Ask people you know who have recently had projects done. Ask the building department; they may or may not give out names, but it is worth asking. Ask suppliers of materials. I got a great tile installer by asking the designer at a tile supply house.
2. Pick two or three contractors and get together. Look at any documents they bring. Do they seem professional? Are they intelligent? Do they listen well? That is big!! Do they ask you about your project or spend more time trying to sell themselves? Do they seem to talk knowledgeably? Do they answer your questions well? How experienced are they with your type of project? How many years have they been in business?
3. Ask to talk to a few of their customers, and follow up. Ask what was their experience working with the contractor. Did the contractor perform high quality work? Were they good to their word? Were they respectful? Were they punctual? Did the customers feel well served?
4. Ask to see some work. Does it look good and feel good? A well done project carries an air of quality that you can feel.
5. Check your gut. Do you feel like you trust them? Are you at all uneasy? Some people don’t really trust anyone, and that stance I take with a large grain of salt, because there are plenty of trustworthy and competent people out there. We get a sense about people. Can you see having a particular contractor around you and your family for months at a time?
6. To be safe, you may see if there are any complaints lodged against a contractor. Sometimes complaints are unjust, too, but a contractor with no complaints on their record is certainly a plus.
7. Start with the belief and conviction that you will find someone skilled, honest and personable. It is important to be careful and really listen to your gut, but be open to a good match and successful outcome. Your attitude is an important component.