The Customer Has to Want It

I’ve recently changed construction companies, for my day job, and my new boss is very interested in continuing education. Not surprisingly, given that information, he comes from a business executive background, rather than having progressed along a sort of tradesman-up route to management.
I offer that information by way of explaining why I’m sitting in a tent in the parking lot of JT’s Lumber in Middletown watching presentations by carpenter Gary Katz. (No relation, but I saw on the registration list that there’s also a Jeff Katz in attendance, meaning that there are three unrelated Katzes in this group of about 30 people. 10%. We’re taking over.
The thought that demanded my lunch break to mention on Anchor Rising is that Gary is going over all sorts of “must do” techniques to ensure the longevity of materials and arguing for the purchase of good, long-lasting tools (read: expensive tools). The two points have a related problem: Contractors have to either find the right clients or sell the extra expense for doing work the right way, and even so, they have to compete with others who don’t take the necessary steps or say that they do.
Turning to the question of expensive tools, I can sympathize with the penny-pinching clients. I’ve done just fine with my midrange tools and lack the money to buy tools just because they’d be marginally easier to use or last me into my eighties. Having begun in the high-end of the carpentry trade, I found it difficult to adjust when, for side jobs, I had clients who didn’t want to pay for the deluxe treatment, even though I felt like a hack for doing less.
Which brings us back to the conversation in the comment section of my post about employee motivation. Therein, Russ points out that most people aren’t motivated by money so much as a desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I’ve no doubt that true professionals in all fields seek after those rewards, but in a real sense, they have to be purchased. Mastery is wonderful, but one must find the resources to support it, and until they hit a livable income threshold, it’s a trade that I wouldn’t expect most people to make.

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Russ
Russ
11 years ago

I’ve no doubt that true professionals in all fields seek after those rewards, but in a real sense, they have to be purchased. Mastery is wonderful, but one must find the resources to support it, and until they hit a livable income threshold, it’s a trade that I wouldn’t expect most people to make.

No doubt, not paying people enough is a powerful demotivator but that’s not the same as saying it is an effective way of motivating employees (we initially were talking about “ambition” as an alternative motivator).
I’m also confused by your discussion of mastery as somehow synonymous with expense or with gold-plating. Part of mastery is effectively understanding and meeting the needs of your clients, not meeting some arbitrary standard of what you think is cool or what is most costly.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

Well said. I work a profession that demands constant off-hours of self-training to stay sharp. It also requires ‘one of everything’ electronic, which can add up. Back when the best I could do was work part-time fixing people’s computers, I worked a lot of side jobs; enough to comprise about 30% of my income. Since then, I’ve climbed up the technical food chain to the point where I barely ever touch computers other than my own. I manage hundreds of machines at a time, for thousands of users. Still, I spend a significant portion of my free time fixing people’s computers; usually without charging. I love having mastery of the skill, even though it’s way below my ‘pay grade’. I’ve also found that I can help offset my own social impact and leave the world a better place if I donate my time in these small increments to friends, family, and neighbors. Sometimes it comes back, too. I had a neighbor who I fixed up a few months ago haul away a whole load of debris from some renovations, free of charge. I know an electrician, a plumber, and a lawyer who now owe me a few hours of their spare time. I do have limits, though. I say ‘no’ far more often than I used to, and getting me to change my mind would entail paying me more than my day job rate, way beyond a regular computer repair outfit. Put more simply: I’ll fix your computer for free because I want to. Outside of that, it will take a pile of cash larger than you want to spend to get me to miss out on precious free time. Pro-bono work offers me and the world more than a business relationship can, and I wouldn’t be able to pursue… Read more »

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

I sometimes think the expensive tools are a little of “mine is bigger than yours”.
Before I decided I could handle it myself, I spoke to some “barn people” from Pennsylvania who were working locally. In order to justify their fees, they made aq big deal about the price of the tools. I had to wonder, the place was built around 1770, with hand tools.
The only specialized tool I could see was a mortiizer. They went on about how it cost $4,000. I decided to look into it, basically this is a small electric chain saw. The technology must be limited. I looked into it. The German machine they use does cost about $4,000. Makita makes them for $1,400. They are regularly avaiable on eBay for $700. Made me wonder.
Big firm lawyers are advised to travel first class and use expensive hotels, theory is that the travel bills will put their bills “in perspective”.
BTW, the toolmaker and I are doing just fine without the German machine.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

I sometimes think the expensive tools are a little of “mine is bigger than yours”.
As my mother used to say ” A poor workman always blames his tools”

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