The Power of Processes
Updated: Dec 10, 2022
Imagine going to your doctor and telling her what your ailment is only for her to reply, "Well, what medicine do you want me to prescribe?" Or imagine you're injured. bleeding, in pain. You call 911 requesting help right away. The paramedics come, lay you down on your coffee table, and say, "okay Mr Jones, tell us what you want us to do."
Ridiculous, right? Any medical professional who allows their patients to diagnose and prescribe themselves won't be in that profession very long. We trust these experts because we trust their ability to diagnose. For certain, Doctors face self-diagnosed patients all the time. They know better than to just accept their patients' internet-educated guesses and start prescribing. That approach would land any doctor in deep and constant legal trouble. Doctors do not let their patients dictate their diagnostic process, thankfully. And neither should good contractors.
Think about your last visit to the doctor's office. You first filled out a questionnaire covering your basic health status. Next there was a questionnaire asking about the reason for this specific visit. What's wrong? You did this while waiting in the waiting room. Once it was your turn, you were first weighed and then your blood pressure was checked. From there you were led to an examination room. Depending on the issue being experienced, you may have been asked to remove certain items of clothing. After that, typically a nurse would enter the room and consult with you about your questionnaire, ask follow-up questions, and conduct a physical examination. After that, finally, in comes the doctor. And like a miraculous genius he is able to diagnose your issue in a matter of a few minutes, prescribe next steps and thank you for stopping by.
Doctor Wonderful has a great PROCESS for diagnosing patients. With this system each patient has received plenty of personal attention to diagnose their condition. From the time they started filling out the questionnaire to the time the doctor finally came into the exam room, that patient has been engaged in a supremely efficient patient diagnosing system. This frees up the doctor's time to really focus on the more challenging cases. Most patients will be accurately diagnosed before the doctor ever sets foot in the exam room. He just needs to confirm the diagnosis, issue his prescription, and move on. Some of these patients will be better served seeing a specialist. The doctor, already aware of this, can have referrals ready to go as he enters the exam room. Patients that this doctor isn't equipped to help need to move on as soon as possible to get their health concern addressed by the best possible practitioner. Having an efficient and thorough process allows doctors to help many, many more patients than they'd otherwise be able to if they tried to handle all of these tasks on their own. It's an excellent system, when you think about it.
Imagine again, calling a doctor and saying "I want you to make a house call" without giving him any information beyond, "I think I need a doctor." Instead of seeing dozens of patients a day and helping many dozen a day, how many house visits could an average doctor perform per day? Not many. And how many would turn out to be a waste of his time? That he could have better spent serving others who really needed his expertise? We don't have house call doctors any more, for good reason. Who makes house calls now? Paramedics. For life threatening emergencies. That have still been diagnosed as necessary by a 911 operator.
I think you might see where I'm going with this. Almost every day I receive at least one call with the request, "can you come and give me a bid." If I did that, it would be akin to the doctor skipping the whole process. It's like calling over the Paramedics every time you think you might, maybe need to go to see a doctor. It's going to be really hard for a contractor who acts like a free paramedic to stay in business. Contractors should be employing their own similar diagnostic process when a customer calls.
Sharp contractors will engage every phone caller asking for a bid in a process similar to what the doctor's office personnel do. First, the questions. Is this even within his scope of work and expertise? Is it a job size that the contractor can handle? Can the contractor and customer agree on a schedule? If the answers are yes, or even probably, then next, he should conduct an exam. But not in person yet. This can be done with a few cell phone pictures and a follow up call. After that, the contractor can decide if it's a job he can perform well, if he wants to do it, and when he could do it. Now he can offer his verbal price estimate to the caller. EVERY job should be estimated verbally before any commitment is made for a site visit. Site visits cost contractors their most valuable resource: time. Site visits to estimate a job increase overhead expenses on all jobs so they should be rare. Site visits should be like the doctor entering the exam room to confirm the diagnosis and offer the prescription.
Beware the small contractor that loves giving free on-site estimates without performing any of the above diagnostics. When he arrives at your job, he's already invested. He has created a need to sell you his services to not lose money on this trip. Rather than relying on a diagnostic process that saves everyone time and money, he's going to rely on his ability to talk potential customers into buying his services. This means he is going to try to give you his best sales pitch. He's likely read all the high pressure sales techniques and tricks books and will put you through the ABC Selling Routine (Always Be Closing). If this has happened to you, I feel for you. It sucks not to know a price for something and then having a salesman standing in your home asking you to make a split decision for something that you had no idea what it was going to cost.
Like doctors, professional contractors shouldn't need to Always Be Closing sales. Their price should be based on THEIR value. Specialists in every field make more for a reason. They announce their prices up front. They don't have to use persuasion techniques.
If you call Mesa Masonry for a bid be prepared for a few questions first. Typically I'll ask where the job is located first. If it's too far away, there's no reason to say are your time telling me all about if. Next, Inusually ask how big the job is. I might ask how long the wall will be or how tall. If the job is too big for me, again, let's not waste time and find that out early. If the job is in my service area, it's something I skilled at doing and it's not too big for me, I'll usually next ask for a picture or a few pictures. At this point I will either pass and thank you for considering me or I will give you a very reliable price estimate.
Now it's your turn. If my price is within your budget for the project and you're comfortable with it, we can proceed to either writing the contract (if the job is very straightforward) or we can schedule a site visit to confirm the estimated price or adjust it accordingly and then proceed with the contract (or not, depending on what we learn during the visit).
One of my favorite business sales sayings is "The best answer when you give someone your price is 'yes,' and the second best answer is 'no.'" No saves everyone wasted time. No let's both parties move on productively. No is respectful. I've got no problem with hearing "no." It's a lot better than "let me talk to my husband," or "can you send that over in writing and I'll get back with you?" The second best answer really is no.
If this sounds familiar, this is the way you think too, and you have some masonry you would like to discuss, I hope you will contact me.
I'll do my best not to waste your time, whether you hire me or not.