So you hired a third-party contractor to do something, whatever it may be, striping the pavement, putting in a speed bump, fixing a roll-up door, but then suddenly the relationship gets awkward. It's not working out. It's not functional. Things aren't happening. The question is when do you call it quits with a contractor? We're going to be talking about that strange, sometimes awkward relationship that exists between the self storage owner and the contractor, and it's always on the knife's edge of feast or famine, success or ruin.
Episode 67: When Do You Call It Quits On A Contractor Transcript
0:00:12.0 Frank Rolfe: So you hired a third-party contractor to do something, whatever it may be, striping the pavement, putting in a speed bump, fixing a roll-up door, but then suddenly the relationship gets awkward. It's not working out. It's not functional. Things aren't happening. The question is when do you call it quits with a contractor? This is Frank Rolfe with the Self Storage University podcast. We're going to be talking about that strange, sometimes awkward relationship that exists between the self storage owner and the contractor, and it's always on the knife's edge of feast or famine, success or ruin. So how do you do it and at what point do you cut the contractor loose? Well the first question is, did you tighten down the schedule to begin with? Do they really know what you're expectations are? Because many times the self storage owner doesn't really tell the contractor what they really want. So they'll say yeah I need you to come out and fix the roll-up door on unit number 125, but you don't let them know your sense of urgency. You don't let them know the days and the times where the manager is there to help them do it.
0:01:20.8 Frank Rolfe: You don't let them know what your expectations are. That is not going to work. If you look at most contractors, they have a number of customers. Rarely does life go where they happen to magically get a call the very day they end one job to then start the next. So what happens then is when they get that call, which typically happens about 10 minutes after they start your job, they just start juggling all these people trying to keep them all happy. And those who communicate what they're trying to do are the winners. So if you tell the person I need to get this done, I need to get it done by this certain date because someone's moving in, well then you'll probably get that accomplished. But if you don't clearly tell them your expectations and what your deadlines are, then things just don't work out. So the first issue with the contractor is make sure you communicate everything. Be completely honest in what you want. Don't just think to yourself, oh well they know I want to get it done as quickly as possible. They know that you do, but they just don't know how urgent things truly are. So make sure you give them those expectations.
0:02:25.2 Frank Rolfe: Number two, what is reasonable? And at one point is your relationship no longer working. Now if I call someone up to come stripe the parking lot telling them I want it done by tomorrow, that is not reasonable. They have other jobs going on. They are never going to make that. And if the next day they really said, yeah well you know we're dead right now, we can come out and do it tomorrow and it's pouring down rain, then clearly they're not going to get it done. So sometimes your relationship breaks down because even though you've given the correct expectations, you are unreasonable on their ability to meet those. And sometimes a contractor just thinks you're a nut and so they take the job anyway assuming you can't be this crazy. You can't possibly expect for them to show up when it's pouring down rain. So you got to be a little reasonable here. Now at what point does it become unreasonable? Well that's for you to decide. It's too hard to say. But you can't expect things to always work out on your plan and your timeline because there are other issues at hand.
0:03:30.3 Frank Rolfe: There's employees calling in sick. We all know that happens all the time now in a post-COVID world. It's called the great resignation. People just don't want to work anymore. They don't want to show up anymore. So you have to be reasonable about that. You've got weather expectations. Right now in the winter of course there's lots of things that can't be done at certain temperatures. So just be reasonable. When you are unreasonable more than likely you will become at odds with the contractor because you are not really putting in the effort or the mental expectations that are fair. Next, try and solve the crisis. Don't let it fester into a giant mess. So how do you solve it? Well you need to contract the contractor and tell them specifically what you feel and give them the opportunity to cure it. You know in the world of contracts that's called a cure period. So if I put a self-storage facility under contract and I end up buying it and the seller carries the paper on it and I miss a payment what do they do? They send me a demand letter saying that I screwed up.
0:04:32.2 Frank Rolfe: I never sent them my payment. But they give me a cure period to resolve that. If I resolve that then everything is fine. The same has to happen with the contractor. If you're not happy with their work or the timing you need to let them know that but give them a chance to fix it. There's a study done once and that study found that a customer who feels that things went bad and then gets the problem solved is more loyal than one who never did anything bad at all. Now that's completely unfair right? That doesn't make any sense that the unhappy customer made happy is more loyal than the one who was never unhappy. But that's just human nature. We tend to like people who say I'm sorry, I'm sorry you're unhappy let me see how I can solve that for you. So give them that opportunity. Let them know the problem but then give them a chance to fix it. Don't just tell them your problem and then fire them. Say here's why I'm unhappy and see if they counter with I'm sorry but I can solve that. I can now make you unhappy and here's what I'm gonna do to make you a happy customer again.
0:05:31.7 Frank Rolfe: Now if it all still doesn't work if you gave them the correct expectations and you've been very reasonable and you've given the opportunity to solve it they still won't. They don't. They can't. They just it's not in their psyche to be a good fair contractor then you got to cut them loose. Because what happens is if at this point now if you don't cut them loose it's just going to fester into a complete catastrophe. There's an old saying it's easier to change people than to change people. What does that mean? It means that we really don't have the capability in the storage business to change someone. We don't have the luxury of that. We're not a giant company like IBM where we have all different departments and places to rehab people. No. If it's not working out just move on to the next. Don't stick with someone who is failing. That's always been the mark of a bad experience. And how do you do that? Well you just have to let them go and you have to work out a favorable money payment plan for whatever work they did. So just explain to them it's not working you can't go on like this anymore but at the same time you want a pair to pay them for what they've done.
0:06:37.2 Frank Rolfe: Now you hope you're able to get that resolved because if you're not they may try to slap a lien on your property claiming that you never pay them in full. So see if you can and make sure whatever you pay them you have something which gives you a release that they can't come back later and ask for money. In some states you can do that by writing that on the check itself. If they deposit the check then that is full and final payment and therefore that's the end of their relationship.
0:06:58.3 Frank Rolfe: But don't stick with people who don't work out. That is that is never going to be a successful plan. Now don't let contractors push you around but at the same time make sure they understand that you feel you are being pushed around. But if it is not solved then you just have to cut them loose. Now managing contractors has always been a very very difficult feat for almost all storage owners and really everyone in America whether you're trying to rehab your own personal home or a self storage facility or whatever a case may be. Contractors have always been tough and it's never been tougher than it has in a post-COVID world where there seem to be fewer of them and they seem to not respond too much to money and the demands for money like they used to in the olden days. So these days you feel kind of fortunate to find a contractor right? That seems to be the way things are going. So it's very very important in a world where there are fewer contractors and they're harder to find to try and make every relationship with a contractor work out. Remember that if you have a successful relationship with a contractor you can use that same contractor over and over again.
0:08:04.2 Frank Rolfe: Think how much time you're gonna save not having to go out there trying to find a different contractor every time that you need to get that pothole fixed. Over the years if you can, in all the times you have to cold call around and find somebody and build a relationship and all these things it's gonna save you hours and hours of time. As we all know time means money but initially in that instance time means stress and we all have enough stress in our lives we don't need to add in extra stress. The bottom line to it is take more time, devote more time to being a good manager of your contractors. The more effort you put in in this regard the better the benefits will be for you and your business and your manager. There are still good contractors out there despite the fact they seem to be few and far between. You have to find them and you have to forge good bonds with them. The more you're able to do that the more you can have contractors you have a winning relationship with, the easier your life is going to be. This is Frank Rolfe the Self Storage University podcast. Hope you enjoyed this talk to you again soon.