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10 Surefire Ways Of Spotting A Cowboy Builder

10 Surefire Ways Of Spotting A Cowboy Builder

When you’re planning construction, you’ve got a lot on your mind – the last thing you want to worry about is whether your builder has skipped town or not. But that’s what happens to people every year at the hands of cowboy builders. These guys offer temptingly low costs and impossible promises, then leave behind disasters and unfinished jobs before getting out of dodge.

For those interested in protecting themselves from this unfortunate fate, there are signs to look out for. The following list will help you identify cowboy builders before they can squeeze your wallet.

1. They will be available immediately for work

An established business will have a fairly full schedule. If someone tells you he’s available for work tomorrow, be suspicious. Why isn’t he busy? Why doesn’t he have other customers to attend to first? It may mean he doesn’t have any customers. When you discuss scheduling with your builder, take the time to examine the dates presented to you. If the availability seems suspiciously convenient, it probably is.

2. They won’t have references to provide you with

A reputable builder can offer you names and addresses of previous customers; a cowboy builder will be reluctant to share that information with you, or refuse outright.

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Further, a reputable builder’s references will check out. Always be sure to call and visit the references provided. Ask to see the work the builder completed, as well as inquire into the quality and timeframe of the work. If you can’t get anyone to show you an example of a builder’s previous work, assume there is no good example.

3. They will provide an exceptionally cheap quote

When looking for a builder, you’re probably going to shop around a bit looking for quotes. Don’t go with the cheapest price – that may be a cowboy builder, whose charges have nothing to do with the cost of your proposed project and everything to do with how much they can swindle from you.

Make sure to ask for an itemized quote. In the UK, some financial institutions provide an online app that helps customers determine what the going rate is for a building job. This can help you ascertain whether your builder is lowballing you or overcharging. Materials and costs should be explained, and a pay schedule should be created to either pay in installments or upon completion of the work. If they ask you to pay upfront, find another builder.

4. They won’t have a registration or license to show you

Always ask your builder to show their credentials. Many countries have national registries or organizations that builders are required to register with in order to be legally recognized and licensed. Look into the registration your builder should have, then check to see if he does have it. If your builder tries to offer any reason for not having credentials, walk away. Whatever the reason is, it’s not good enough to put your own property in jeopardy.

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5. They won’t have a landline or address

A cowboy builder doesn’t lock himself down to any particular place as part of his strategy. If your builder can’t provide a landline number or a permanent address to contact, then he might have reason to stay under the radar. That’s not good news for you. Although landline numbers are declining in popularity, a lack of a business address is a big red flag.

6. They will ask you to pay in cash

Along with asking you to pay upfront, a cowboy builder will often ask for cash payments. This allows them to avoid paying taxes or registering the payment as income. It also prevents you from having a paper trail to prove that you’ve paid him. Never pay your builder in cash. A transaction with a paper trail is critical to protecting yourself in case of a shoddy or unfinished job, and provides you with the means to claim a refund.

7. They won’t have a clear timeframe for finishing the project

An experienced builder can give you a reasonable estimate for how much time your project will take, from beginning to end, including estimating what will be accomplished at what point.

If your builder won’t commit to a time frame or seems unsure or how long it will take him to complete a project, he either doesn’t have the experience to calculate it or isn’t intending to finish it. Get a timeframe in writing, and even after hiring your builder, remember to check the time frame to make sure that he’s following his own schedule.

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8. They don’t have a history

If you look up your builder online, you expect to find some indication of his presence and history. Past customers will have talked about their experiences, registration for his business will be available, and information about him will be online. If your builder has none of these, definitely be wary. They could be offline, but it’s unlikely that any reputable builder has no online presence to back up his work.

9. They won’t explain the work they’re doing to you

A decent builder will take the time to communicate with a client about project expectations and requirements. Be sure to talk to your builder about what exactly will be happening during the project. What materials will he use, how will he construct, what does he need to do, what variables are still present?

If your builder dismisses your questions, refuses to simplify explanations and generally resists being transparent about his building plans, you may be dealing with a cowboy builder who’s hiding behind jargon to mask his credentials or ill intentions. Red flag.

10. They will refuse to sign a contract

Never begin a medium to large project without a contract, and consider a contract for a small project as well. A contract will lay out all the terms of the project, including payment plans, construction plans and timelines. These are all critical to have in writing. A builder who’s reluctant to sign a contract is trying to protect himself, but not you.

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Contracts are mutually beneficial for customers and reputable builders. If your builder is afraid of contracts, he might just be a cowboy builder, and you should stay away.

Construction projects can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult to keep track of everything that can go wrong. You want to know your builder can handle his side of the job.

Featured photo credit: Dave Barker via flickr.com

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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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