The Contractor’s Dilemma

I was reminded recently of the iron triangle.  I’ve run a lot of large projects, but even the small ones track the same principles.

My preference is to deliver, to my clients, these three things: exceptional service, low prices, and high quality.  The drawback, then, is that work doesn’t happen quickly.

But now we’re in the literal dead of winter, and it’s cold.  It is really, really cold.  So let’s say that your heating system is swapped out – it needs to be a VERY FAST changeout.  If things go wrong, it turns very quickly into a VERY SLOW changeout.

If you paid full price, up front, then you can expect good, fast service.  If you didn’t, then we all have to work together to make a project work.

This is one of the issues I have with energy-efficiency programs.  Their grants make so much possible, but their process is not fast.  (I literally started a process to participate in a program, and was not fully onboarded, until yesterday…a 6-month timeline.) It means that the contractors that work within the system need to plan around stretched payment schedules, because now that something’s not “cheap,” something else needs to give.  It’s either the speed, or the quality.

Since I won’t compromise on the quality, it means the speed suffers.  I won’t compromise on the quality, because the things I do will last for decades.

Here’s the skinny: if a contractor installs something, they need to be paid for it.  If they’re not paid for it quickly, then they’re essentially giving interest-free loans to the people who are paying for it.  Because they bought the equipment/materials, and those suppliers need to be paid, and if they’re not paid on time interest starts getting added…it’s a big mess.

Contractors live and die because of cash flow.  There’s future cash, current cash, future bills, and current bills.  So when it takes two weeks to get paid, it affects me, it affects my install partners…and it affects you.

The great thing about NYSERDA’s system is their grants.  They’re not small, and usually measured in the “thousands of dollars.”  But that means that there’s some give-and-take.

The very best thing you can do, if you’re taking NYSERDA’s grant money, is to accept that a project can take a while.  If you’re getting a NYSERDA loan, add another month.  Or two.  But know that it’s worth it, because you’ll save literal thousands of dollars on your project.

Time really is money.  But if you want it faster…call someone who can do it right away.  And then accept that there’s a good chance it’ll be rushed, lower quality, and will cost more.

I’ve seen it time and time again.

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