Originally Posted by JimLewis
So, I agree to a certain extent that constructive criticism is helpful. But there's a huge difference between someone being constructive and someone just piping off or even being a jerk. Too often, it's one of the latter. Too often people responding to postings of other contractors work are only negative. Often with a lot of rude mixed in as well. And no matter how much better you are then someone else at something - the person you are being critical of is not going to be persuaded of anything when the criticism comes off as being rude, condescending or from someone who is appearing to be a know-it-all. Those comments are never persuasive, no matter how correct they might be.
It's constantly amazing to me that most of the people posting in these forums are owners and as such also the top salesman for their company. And yet they apparently know very little about the art of persuasion. It's like nobody has ever bothered to read books like "How to Win Friends & Influence People". Otherwise they'd understand the difference between what is persuasive a what is rude and condescending.
This is probably the #1 biggest problem in most of the forums. But more-so in certain forums like this one where people would share more photos if it weren't for all the negative or condescending comments.
The #2 problem is that often people from different parts of the country see something in a photo that looks really odd and unprofessional based on their experience, but it is something that is totally normal elsewhere. A perfect example for this forum is the use of pavers for steps. On the East coast and other parts of the country, apparently it's really common place to use coping for steps (or maybe wall caps). Well, here in the NW, it's not. Even the top landscape firms in the area use pavers over steps. It's commonplace. None of the 5 paver manufacturers in this area even SELL a coping stone. It's just not used here. In this area, it's 100% professional to do steps with pavers on the top. Almost every single home in the Street of Dreams home show in 2011 and 2012 had steps like that. And those are typically $2Mil. homes with the nicest landscapes money can buy. But the guys here would just rip someone a new a-hole for doing it that way.
I've had the same experience with basalt dry-stack rock walls when we've posted photos. People criticize us because they don't like the look. Well, guess what, buddy? That's the most popular kind of wall - by far - in the NW. Maybe it doesn't look good to you, but here people love that. People specifically request that.
I could go on and on with examples. This is what I mean by pissing matches. Everything thinks the way THEY do it where THEY live is the best, most professional way to do it. Forgetting to take into account that we don't have the same suppliers, same soil types, same local influences, same natural materials, etc.
The #3 problem is contractors here often look at a job and question how it was done and why those materials were chosen. Perfect example is a flagstone patio. A lot of guys would install a paver patio with a mortar base, cut each piece of flagstone to fit together with very tight joints, and fill the joints with mortar. We could do that too. But that kind of flagstone patio can be anywhere from $40 - $60 per sq. ft. here. Most of our clientele doesn't have that kind of budget. So most landscape companies in the area here do it similar to how we do it; compact gravel base, fit it together as closely as you can naturally (no cutting) and gator dust in the joints. Sure it doesn't look as amazing as the aforementioned patio. But this variety of flagstone patio is WAY more common in these parts than the other kind. Namely because it can be done for $15-$20 per sq. ft., and that's more within the budget of the typical homeowner here. But if I posted a job of a patio like that I'd get skewered. Nevermind the fact that the homeowner chose that option for budget reasons. Nevermind the fact that it's common to do it that way here. I'd get skewered for even posting one photo of that because it's not as nice as the way other guys here would do it.
Same thing goes for things like seat walls. We'd love to do one in stone. Doing one right now actually. But 98% of the time, that's not within our client's budgets. So we use free standing wall blocks with matching caps most of the time. But when I post a photo of a nice seat wall using those, we get skewered and told the wall looks "amateurish". Well, guess what, Genius? It was either that kind of seat wall or nothing - given their budget. But nobody cares about that. They want to pound their chest and show that they way THEY do seat walls is so much better.
The #4 problem is that contractors all have their own idea of what SHOULD HAVE been used as a material for a job. I'll post a photo of a patio we installed using Venetian pavers by Pavestone and some Jacka$$ will chime in with, "That looks like crap. I would have used Bluestone." Well, good for you! But the client really wanted that paver. And Bluestone costs 3x as much as those pavers here. So that would have been over their budget too. But I guess you know best......
It's that kind of stuff that I mean when I say pissing match. It gets so old for most people that they don't post photos here at all anymore, myself included.
Constructive criticism is helpful if it's truly constructive and provided in a friendly way. It also helps if you say something nice first, rather than ONLY offering a rude comment. Then you are more P-E-R-S-U-A-S-I-V-E. But half the people here don't get that concept at all. So the help they are trying to offer gets totally ignored and they've totally wasted their time without even realizing it.
Best post ever/thread.
By the way Jim, you helped me understand pricing my first large planting job way back in 2006, got the job and made great money on it.