Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Can't, I Won't and You Can't Make Me

I think one of the hardest things to do in this life is to ask for help. I've had to learn to ask for help with some things (like lugging the 50 lb. sack of dog food out of the cart and into my truck), but I still don't ask for help out with the groceries even if I'm limping like a three-legged dog. There is a prideful part of me that says I should not ask for help unless I really need it, which means if it cannot possibly get done any other way. A painful limp does not make it impossible, merely difficult, so I stick my chin out and do it my own self.

I have carried this to ridiculous extremes at times, refusing to ask someone else to open the jar of spaghetti sauce, for instance. I have not ever had a hard time letting someone else change my tire, though. Not sure why, maybe because I've never had to ask, kind gentlemen just stop and offer their assistance (thus making gracious acceptance the right thing to do).

Probably the most difficult thing for me is to ask for financial help. This is humbling and humiliating beyond anything I can think of, aside from a public pelvic exam. I don't know if this is a universal human reaction, or an American reaction or merely my own, but this is something I DO NOT do. The situation has to be dire.

Lately the situation has been dire, and today, coming to the end of myself, I was forced to ask a friend for help. I don't know if I could have gotten the words out, but her help was offered before I could even ask, and part of me, the hugest part of me, my pride, my sense of who I am wanted to say, no thank you, I'll be fine. She would have known I was lying.

Let me suggest to any of you who want to go into contracting, either as a general or a sub-contractor, that you carefully calculate your estimated costs and expenses, your equipment and staffing needs, weigh them, add them, go over them twice, and when you have come up with the minimum required number, double it. This is the minimum of what you need to make this work. From the start hire a good bookkeeper, buy the right software and put someone in charge of ensuring that billings are done, that collections are pursued and that all bills are reviewed and paid.

If you are a general contractor, let me make this plea--never let your subs dangle. Always pay them on time, and do due diligence with the owner to ensure that they have the financial capability to do the project and verify as best you can that they will not leave you and your subs hanging out to dry.

Do not assume that huge projects for Fortune 500 companies are safe. Assume that they will be worse than just about anyone else in paying their bills.

Unless you do this, you could take on projects that will give you sleepless nights worrying about paying your bills, worrying about hanging your subs out to dry. You could leave your subs begging for money to meet payroll.

If you are considering being a subcontractor, please carefully consider your ability to carry the full cost of jobs on your back for 60 - 90 days. For though payments are supposed to be made within about 20 days, I can assure you that is rare. If you find a company that treats you well and fairly, and pays on time, never undervalue that relationship.

No comments: