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I am a plumbing contractor in the midwest (kansas city area), and I do 90% of my work on a bid basis. That is, low bid gets awarded the job. Sometimes you have bids out there that don't get accepted for 3-6 months or even a year. Because of this, and the inherent nature of our business to slow down without cause or event, when times are slow, I bid everything thrown my way. In an effort to keep my employees busy and to be able to stay in business. Inveriably, every other year I end up with twice as many jobs as I can handle. Now I am in the heat of battle, with 14+ projects, and at least 4 fast tracked jobs, I cannot appropriately man the jobs. I am in fear of losing control of all for trying to please everyone all at once.

It is nearly impossible to hire new help quickly without suffering quality or integrity in their work. I am currently contacting other plumbing contractors in the area to see if they can "send temporary help". One has come to my aide, but others are reluctant unless they can maintain their profit. Does anyone have any suggestions as to my options here? I have already weighed the option of higher labor costs with the thought of being fired from a contract and agree it is best to lose profit and gain respectability.

I have never failed at contract in the five years I have owned the company, and I do not wish to start now, but with the unbelievable pressures coming down on me from all angles, I don't know what my options are? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Tom
 

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Once you've signed a contract your options really get narrow. I would suggest shedding any work that you don't have a signed agreement on.
You also want to get a really good handle on which customers need what and when they need it. From that info work out a written schedule. Workload can get unneccesarily overwhelming when you don't have a well informed plan for executing it.
I agree that losing money through higher labor costs is a better option than losing money because of non-performance issues. As a last resort you might consider going to some of your customers, putting the cards on the table in regards to your production capacity and finding out if they can help you with your staffing shortfalls. That beats leaving them in the dark to fend for themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
southsidetoo

PipeGuy said:
Once you've signed a contract your options really get narrow. I would suggest shedding any work that you don't have a signed agreement on.
You also want to get a really good handle on which customers need what and when they need it. From that info work out a written schedule. Workload can get unneccesarily overwhelming when you don't have a well informed plan for executing it.
I agree that losing money through higher labor costs is a better option than losing money because of non-performance issues. As a last resort you might consider going to some of your customers, putting the cards on the table in regards to your production capacity and finding out if they can help you with your staffing shortfalls. That beats leaving them in the dark to fend for themselves.
I agree, but all of the schedules require us there at the same times, I am currently dealing with 3 GC's trying to get their help on these projects, but some their desire to help is minimal, and the consensus seems to be too bad soo sad.
Thanks for your response.
 

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God damn, that is the ugly side of the way contracting can seem to go. The logical answer is to bid a bit higher on all those jobs, logic would dictate that you would get less of them, but the ones you would get would pay a better profit and smooth out the feast to famine issues.

The problem is: is the competition so tight that even raising your bids a bit would end up getting them all thrown out of consideration and then you end up with nothing.

One way or another you have to level out the peaks and valleys of the feast to famine issues of the way you are doing business.

It sounds like a major part of the problem with bidding out so many jobs so far in advance is at the time you are bidding, you want the job at the bid you gave, but 6 months later when you are busy, you might not want that job now at the bid you gave 6 months ago. Is there a way to turn that in your favor, with clauses that allow you to re-bid after so many months have past or an included % increase based on each month that passes between the bid and acceptance?
 

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Been there, done that...

For now: Talk to your customers, BE HONEST about your situation, and see if you can work something out.

For the future: Don't let your mouth write a check that your a$$ can't cash.
 

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I believe you would be better off to get the higher priced labor to fullfill your obligations and break even if you can or you may be held liable for damages arising out of your non performance. Damages at the very least to be the differance in your cost to do the job to what it takes to get the job done.( another contractor. ) Of course communication at this point is crucial.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all your input, but I think I knew the answer, I just wanted to get some feedback from other contractors. I agree Mike that controlling the ebb and flow of business is the gold mine that needs to be tapped. If I could do it two years in a row I could probably retire.
At least we are communicating with the contractors, we just need more bodies and more hours in the day. Thanks all
 

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southsidetoo said:
...If I could do it two years in a row I could probably retire...
Don't sweat this one too much. As a contractor, your risk of actually suffering a catastrophic retirement within the next two years is minimal. ;)
 

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Don't sweat this one too much. As a contractor, your risk of actually suffering a catastrophic retirement within the next two years is minimal.
That's an understatement for sure Mike, unless he hits the powerball!! :cheesygri
 

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Catastrophic Retirement

If you think that you may actually be at risk, you should know that there are several government programs, insurance companies, financial institutions, and oil companies that have comprehensive plans to help you prevent it. Great strides have been made in the past two decades to help eliminate this horrible affliction, and according to a recently released U.S. Government study conducted by the social security administration, in conjunction with medicaid and medicare, we may see a complete eradication of this horrible disease in our lifetimes.

This plan has been developed and endorsed by both parties (the ba$tards, and the other ba$tards).

There, I feel much better now...
 

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I know how you feel, I have been in this business for many years my grandad, and dad both had there hands in it as well (it was started in 1926)

I have 3 people besides myself on my payroll, they have been with me for many years and will work everday if I ask, as long as they get payed for what they do.

My brother has his own business, the same as mine and next week we are going over there for a few days to help him out.

We will often work together when times are tough, we try to work out a price per hour each year and stick to it for the entire year.

See if you can get together with another compay in your area, and maybe you could work out a deal as I have.

Bernie
 

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Discussion Starter #12
mikesewell, you are funny. The laughs help thanks.
Bernie, I am currently looking for two "partners" to trade skilled labor with. I like the idea and maybe nobody has to miss a rain day.

Thanks all for your comments/suggestions.
 

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southsidetoo,
Not to be missed, is the stress that this situation causes. If you really care about your customers, a problem like you are currently dealing with can put tremendous pressure on you, and be very destructive to you, your business, and your personal relationships. Don't forget that your problem will end in the near future, and will soon be just an unpleasant memory. I hope that the people who are closest to you are very understanding, and give you the support that you need, and I hope that you don't make their lives difficult while you are sorting this all out. Unless someone has actually gotten themselves snarled up in a problem like this, there is no way that they can understand the emotional stress, and mental anguish that it can cause. Hang in there, in the long run you will profit from your mistake.

Best wishes,
 

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Yes the stress can be a real witch, be careful and rember to stop ounce in a while and pull down your pants and slide on the ice.

I will pull the crew for a day of golf, or a moring of fishing, funny how soome thing so mundan can pull a lot of labor out of the guys.

And yes this will all be over in a month, look foward to some time off.

BJD
 

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southsidetoo said:
It is nearly impossible to hire new help quickly without suffering quality or integrity in their work. I am currently contacting other plumbing contractors in the area to see if they can "send temporary help".
Yes, I know what you mean by this. While expensive, the local union hall should be able to send a great many guys that already know what to do to your job. Granted, you'll spend more on their labor than you ever thought in your wildest dreams, but your project will get done.
 
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