Why I Don't Make Bids

Why I don’t Make Bids

(From the “Handyguy Way” page).
One of the biggest differences between my service and most other handyman services is that I don’t make bids. I work hourly. I work diligently and I remain focused. I take the time to do a good job but I don’t add time to a job to increase costs. In short, the time it takes to do a job is dictated largely by the job itself, and it includes potentially unknown aspects. Any time I work on something there is a risk that an obvious symptom of a problem actually hides a more serious problem we don’t know about. If I made a bid I’d have to inflate that bid enough to cover the risk that the job might be harder than I think. That is what most contractors and many handymen do. The bigger bids make more money but the worker accepts more of the risk in the project.

Sharing the risk differently has an important effect on our business relationship. If I take all the risk, I’d have to inflate my “bid” to cover the potential cost, or else I’d be losing money every time a project had an unexpected problem. Whereas, if my client accepts the risk, there is no need to inflate any costs, and if the project goes as well as we all hope, it costs a lot less than it would have if a bid had been made. If a project becomes more complicated and takes more time, it is obvious why when we see it together. My client can see how the additional time is being spent. If a project runs into unexpected problems, those problems were there waiting for us to uncover. I happen to believe that most of that risk is owned by the owner of the property, and when we share risk this way the cost of the projects is kept to a minimum and is never inflated. My work is lower cost because it isn’t inflated. I bear some risk too - if I cause a problem myself. I do my best to avoid causing problems but I also take some responsibility if I do cause an accident. I do my best to fix any problem I create. If there is cost associated with the problem, I may return some or all of the payment for the job. There is always some risk in any project, but it is good to separate my personal responsibility for my own actions from intrinsic risks in the project, such as unexpected dry rot, unseen obstacles, etc., that were not of my making. I own the former and my client owns the latter. We share the risk because the most I can lose is the entire fee I would have been paid.

I do make estimates, and they’re generally pretty good. But they aren’t a bid because they aren’t a concrete promise that it can be done in that time. They are estimates based on what I know up to that point. It might take more time, or less. How often does it happen that I’m wrong? For small projects like replacing a door or a light fixture it is pretty rare. I know how long it takes to do these things in general because of how many times I’ve done them (countless). If I’m wrong it is more often the case that it takes less time, not more. Larger projects are harder to estimate and I am usually within about +/- 10-15%.

Obviously I have to win your trust before you’re going to feel comfortable with a bid-free project. Most of my clients start with a small project to see how it works.

I work transparently. I will answer any questions you have before, during and after the project. You can work with me to reduce the time needed and therefore the cost, and you can see what I’m doing at any point. You can watch me work if you wish. Whether you do or not, I’ll be sure to bring any important choices to your attention. Choices come up in the same way that problems do. Sometimes there are choices we didn’t expect. But, choice is power and it is my goal to make you powerful during the project. This is when your choices can take effect and lead to a better result, according to your definition of better. I make sure to bring such choices to you without bothering you with details that don’t really involve meaningful choices. Working transparently is consistent with “Trust but verify”. I make it easy to verify your trust in me at any point in the project.

One problem with bids is that it creates an incentive for the worker to do things in ways that have problems later, simply to reduce the cost of the project. Bids create a race to the bottom to reduce costs in any way possible to make the most profit on the project. Bid-free work neatly avoids this pitfall by involving the client in decisions that have long-term effects and by avoiding any incentive for the worker to use one solution or another against the wishes of the owner. I am happy to use the kind of materials you want to be used if they will work. I am happy to install things so that they can be more easily removed later if you wish, for example with screws instead of nails. I have no incentive to use low-quality materials or to skimp on using enough materials. I take your side and unless you tell me otherwise, I assume you’d like all the work I do to last for years and solve problems, not create them.

I make no bid because I work for you, not for me. I am determined to earn and keep your trust.

What can I do for you?