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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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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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