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From the Editor

In May 2003, I purchased a HUD home — a real fixer-upper, beyond anything you could possibly imagine. Upon leaving the property, the previous tenants took everything from the house that they could rip, strip or hack out. For instance, ceiling fans were literally ripped off of their mounts and shower handles were broken off flush with the wall. If that weren't enough, vandals broke in and damaged what was left.

Not one daunted by a little bit of work and attracted by — even in its condition — a steal of a price, I happily snapped up the property, and my fiancé and I started work. One year later, we still have a considerable amount to complete, but we have transformed the house from its ragged condition into a real thing of beauty.

When it came time to have several trees removed, the instant justification of getting to use a chainsaw was rather tempting. But instead, we left it to professionals to do the job. After interviewing several companies, we hired a certified arborist, a Better Business Bureau member who showed up on-time and with references in hand. His skill level and professionalism were of a high enough standard that we felt more than comfortable putting the project in his hands.

True to form, his company's performance met, if not exceeded, our expectations. His crew removed the trees without incident and was just as courteous as he had been. They even "swept" the yard of any stray bark, twigs and other debris, leaving the stumps as the only evidence.

However, one fine detail marred this perfect service. You see, this professional company outsourced its stump grinding jobs to another individual. After the subcontractor broke several appointments and used every excuse in the book, from closing on a home and his father having brain surgery, to his stump grinder being in the shop and not being able to find a babysitter, we had had enough. The icing on the cake was being told, "Don't get so agitated. This is just part of the tree business."

There are several things that business owners, including mason contractors, can learn from this. The most obvious is never hire a subcontractor who does not uphold your standards. Clients do not separate your subcontractor's work from your own, and you will be ultimately responsible for their performance.

Secondly, clients do not hold you to the standards of others in the industry — if they liked what your competitors offered, they would have hired them to do the job. Clients expect a higher standard that they feel they wouldn't get from your competitors. So, when you win that bid, don't turn around and lower yourself to the ranks of the competition. Go above and beyond the industry standard.



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