3 Qualities of a Good Contractor

I was reading another contractor’s site the other day and they had an article on the 3 qualities of a good contractor. In their opinion the three main qualities are:
Reliable. Responsive. Results-Driven.

Although I think this is a good way to breakdown the issue, I kept getting it wrong everytime I tried to remember it. So I thought a better way to come up with it is to break down what they mean and then see if I can’t come up with a better phrase that is easy to remember. Lets see, where do we start?

What is the standard of reliability or in other words what must a contractor do to be reliable. In my opinion reliability is about fulfilling commitments. So is “committed” a better term than “reliable”.

According to Dictionary.com reliable means: “dependable in achievement, accuracy, honesty, etc” That is a pretty good cross section of what a contractor should be. On the other hand committed means: “to bind or obligate, as by pledge or assurance;”

While not as broad, I think there is a difference that makes me lean towards committed. The keyword here is dependable used in defining reliable. Dependable does not strike me as a word that means that you will do it every time. Contractors all claim to be reliable. It is so overused that it really has become virtually meaningless. If you asked any contractor if he is reliable he would say yes. If asked if the the contractor was reliable, references might respond something like: “Well, in general, yes”. But if you ask a reference if the contractor is committed, I think that would set a different tone. In my mind if someone tells you that the contractor is “committed”, it means that they strive for the highest standard possible before, during and after the job as they really stand behind what they do.

I like this term. Responsiveness refers to communication and it is a critical part of the job process. When someone is working for me, there is nothing worse than a contractor who is non-responsive. Everything can be right but the fact that the contractor is non-responsive just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So my vote is responsive stays.

I think the meaning here refers to the end product and that the organization which includes the office, the field, the equipment or whatever is all focused on completing the end product to the satisfaction of the customer.

Answers.com defines it this way:

“A results-driven organization concentrates on meeting objectives, delivering to the required time, cost and quality, and holds performance to be more important than procedures”.

Ok, I can see why they would want to use “results-driven” but like “reliable” it seems very cliche to me. Every contractor claims to be results driven but the concept is very abstract and it is not anything that you can hold your contractor accountable to. So I would like to go a different rout completely on this one and talk about a different aspect of contracting that is very prevalent in the industry, namely, change orders.

Quite frankly, the nature of contracting results in changes. We take our best guess and give you an estimate and based on that estimate as long as their are no unforeseen conditions then the price that we gave you should hold true. Changes occur for many reasons including that the customer wants to increase or decrease the scope of the work. When changes occur however, the issue of trust enters the relationship big time. So many questions can arise but in the interests of time, the customer is usually at the mercy of the contractor. In defense of the contractor, however, he may do his best to give the customer a fair an honest price but often the customer still assumes they are being overcharged. Its a difficult situation for everyone. In these instances we strive to be “fair and reasonable” since we know that the long term relationship is far more important than the short gain that can be had in these situations. But “fair and reasonable” is too long for my replacement phrase so I had to look for another word. I decided that “equitable” was the word that implied fairness, reasonability, and something else that I think goes a long way to building good relationships – objectiveness.

So there you have it. My 3 words for what a good contractor should be.
Committed. Responsive. Equitable.
Its not as appealing from a marketing perspective, but it is also not cliche and it is what you should be looking for in a contractor. We try to do more than just aspire to these ideals.