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Posted: July 03, 2013

Accidental excellence

Our doing-it-right is purely selfish

David Sneed

I have a good company, and most people assume it’s because we focus on being the best. But the truth is: that’s not our main concern. Quality is just an accident.

Here’s how it happens: 

My personal goal is to make everything easy. I don’t like problems—so I’ve built my business to achieve “simple” in three easy steps.

  • The first key to trouble-free is being okay with leaving money on the table. I have a price I charge per foot for each style of fence, and it rarely changes.

Our costs go up a bit in summer and down in the winter, but I keep mine the same. That’s the easy way to bill for our services.

  • Second, I’ve stopped going to the customer’s house to do an estimate. I look on Google Earth; measure it from my desk; and say “Yep, $27/ft.” 

That’s easy too.

  • Third, when we show up and it’s a little bit harder than normal, I don’t raise my price. That saves a ton of trouble because I’ve just jettisoned a leading cause of unhappy customers. I make it up on easier-than-normal jobs—and all the driving I didn’t have to do.

And talk about “green.” I’m saving 20,000 miles a year.

Here’s where the quality thing comes in. 

After we finish your fence, I don’t want to see you again. I don’t want to hear from you, either.

Yes, you’re probably a great person to be around, fun at parties or what not, but if you call me it’s because there’s a problem. THAT is a giant headache, and contractors lose a lot of sleep over ‘call-backs.’

The solution?  Doing it right the first time. Even though it costs more, it’s worth it to me in peace of mind.

Key for us is materials. I buy the best wood on the market no matter what. Our fasteners are tops and our sealant keeps everything nice. I don’t have to do it this way, but it makes YOU happy. A happy you doesn’t call me.

And my guys are paid enough to care. I could give them a couple bucks less an hour and keep the money myself, but unhappy employees make bad fences. Bad fences mean that when I pick up the phone, it might be you.

My love of “easy” turns out a top-notch product. Our doing-it-right is purely selfish.

Meanwhile: Could I have charged more because your shed was hard to work around?  Sure. I’ve left money on the table.

But you’re going to feel like I’ve nickel-and-dimed you, and you’ll be harder to please.  I don’t need that in my life.

My advice to newer contractors? Stop trying to squeeze every dollar you can out of a job. Pay for the good stuff, be nice, and don’t change your price after you give it. Be happy making 8 percent less than you could be—and enjoy your sleep!

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

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Readers Respond

Thanks Chase, I didn't know any of them but Googled them all. And thank you Colorado Springs, that was a very nice compliment. Norm, you're putting on some weight. By David Sneed on 2013 07 02
"Measure twice, cut once" I always say. And "Anything worth doing is worth doing right". Well, I might not have coined those phrases, but I use them everyday when I tinker on this old house. By Norm Abrams on 2013 07 02
Bravo!! Wish you were in Colorado Springs! By C Chappell on 2013 07 02
Philip B. Crosby, W. Edwards Deming, Armand V. Feigenbaum, Kaoru Ishikawa and Joseph M. Juran are high-five'n your post... By C LeBlanc on 2013 07 02

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