I don’t have regrets about the jobs that I bid for but don’t win for my San Francisco home improvement business. Those jobs fall into a few different categories.
- The client simply liked another contractor more. Maybe the contractor’s portfolio matched the customer’s needs. Maybe a friend’s recommendation was an important influence. Maybe the customer just didn’t like me, personally; despite my mother’s certainty that I’m a sweet child, not everyone sees it that way.
- The budget and the project don’t match. The project owner realizes that they can’t budget the project correctly, so they don’t proceed with the project. I respect that decision, and I stay friendly with these owners, because things change, and if the budget becomes available, I’m interested in getting the work. Sometimes the owner comes back with a smaller project.
- The budget and my approach to the project don’t work. We provide truly outstanding value: fair prices; great quality; productivity; respect for our clients and their families and neighbors; and we deliver on our promises. Some contractors focus more on price than on quality, or work only on weekends, or make other compromises. Some owners’ budgets require them to make these compromises. I stay friendly with these owners, too, because circumstances change, and if their standard changes, I’m interested in getting the business.
- The owner is naive and takes a bid from a low-balling contractor. I am careful about remaining close with these owners, as I sometimes have difficulty accepting their naiveté at face value. They often had multiple warning signs about the contractor, ranging from red flags in the contractor’s bid, to clear indications in my bid and other competing bids, that the cost structure of the job was different from the low-baller’s bid. When I’m in a bidding situation with an inexperienced owner, I do as much as possible to educate them about the value of my bid, primarily because I want the bid, but also so that if I don’t get the job and they have trouble with the contractor that they do choose, I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that they had all the information they needed to make the better decision. Like most contractors, I get the occasional phone call from this type of owner, seeking help getting out of the resulting mess. My usual response is to listen and offer some free advice, evaluating the status of the project and providing some ideas about how to get the project back on track in a businesslike fashion, preferably with the existing contractor.
- A greedy owner awards the job to a lowballing contractor. The contractor plans to make money off of the owner’s ignorance; the owner knows the bid is phony but expects to manipulate and threaten the contractor into delivering the project for a below-market price. These jobs end in shoddy work, shouting matches on the sidewalk, threats, and lawsuits. When I see these jobs, I thank my lucky stars that I’m not involved.
I never feel regrets about not getting these jobs. I’m kept busy with my outstanding, interesting, and fun customers.