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  #11  
Old 10-26-2001, 10:10 AM
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parkwest parkwest is offline
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Three words:

SIGNED WORK ORDERS

I wouldn't walk on someone else property without one. Protects you and your customers. A contractor must learn to work with contracts.
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Do what you agreed to do and don't encroach on others or their property.

Liberty: Freedom from the control of others - Webster dictionary 1828

If you think you can do it or you think you can't... either way, you're right!

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  #12  
Old 10-26-2001, 12:15 PM
HBFOXJr HBFOXJr is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by SprinklerGuy
I have done the small claims court gig...here in AZ if you win you get a judgement...up to you to collect.....isn't that the thing you want? Also, small claims court, no lawyers, I'd have to do all the legwork. I am running a business here, not practicing law.

.Here in NJ not a lot of legwork. We discovered that if you get the forms, you can fill them out and mail them in. Of course you have to appear someplace sometime, but you have to do that if you use a lawyer. If a judgement isn't satisfied the defendent is in default. It is up to you to notify the courts that you haven't been satisfied as per the agreement and the judge will then seize assets or file leins. You might have to wait but you'l get it after any govenmental body or big time creditor in the case of bankruptsy.


Here's how it happened, you be the judge of whether or not I could have prevented this:

We started working for this company in July of 1999. We were there at least 2-3 times per month repairing sprinklers. Big property so plenty of work. Each time we submitted an invoice, we were paid, no question. They asked why we were so expensive and we said "cuz we're good" of course that is what we'd say right?


About 4 months ago we got asked to do a job for them, involved quite a bit of labor, checking drip and repairing as we go, on a LARGE commercial site. I gave them an estimate in writing that said we would spend 2 days there at so much per day and reevaluate after that. Well 2 days into the job I called the manager and told him I needed at least 2 more days.....go for it he said, use the same PO.

So a working raltionship and trust existed.

Now they won't pay and the manager has been fired.

Any history of prior OK work with this manager?

The other invoice was for a leak under a parking lot, we spend 3 hours excavating and a couple more fixing and then a couple of hours cleaning it up to make it look nice. Keep in mind, we never called for approval on anything, they always had trusted us. Never questioned anything.

The manager, same one that got fired, said he went and dug up the repair site and found the pipe 1 foot below ground, Why did it take 7 hours to repair that???? That pipe was in our way.....on the way down to the 2 1/2" mainline!!!! Said they would only pay for 1/2 that repair.


Make them dig it up and check it again. Then they'll know how much agravation was involved.

My question is this: we have to trust our clients as much or more than they trust us. If we sit around and wait for approval, they will complain when we bill them for it, if we sit around and wait for approval and they turn it down, we have wasted serious time that we will not be compensated for. This is not a situation where the homeowner has already agreed in principle to pay at least the service charge....these commercial property managers get in trouble for that. How do I go about this so that noone gets hurt. The landscaper wants the pipes fixed.....now! This is the first time burned this way in almost 10 years so.......I will take my lumps I suppose and hope it never happens again.

Maybe a written agreement that I will be paid x amount of dollars to diagnose and wait by phone for approval......That doesn't work if it is a small job, just adds to their bill for no reason. any suggestions?
I would charge for estimates if not there doing routine service work asked for. Then schedule not approved stuff for another day after a written authorization comes. You have tough ones and you gotta be tougher and more ingenius. Don't worry about getting them back in service quickly or the landscaper needing water. That's not your problem. Getting paid for what you do is your problem. If they don't like it let them figure out how to stream line the process.

Ideas-

Impose a spending limit per incident then require written approval to exceed. Get all requests, even the initial one in writing.

Here, it is common for flat rate start ups and winterizations to be done with repairs T&M on a specified rate schedule. That still doesn't solve the time trust question. Anyone on site who can sign you in and out.

Make them have someone on site for the duration of serious repairs.

Get an annual budget to service the site and only exceed it with written authorization
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Last edited by HBFOXJr; 10-26-2001 at 12:21 PM.
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  #13  
Old 10-26-2001, 12:46 PM
SprinklerGuy SprinklerGuy is offline
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FOX......great advice. I have thought about those things...written approval etc. But, there's always a but, there are many other companies that are our competitors that will take the chance. I know most people would say that we don't need bad customers but....they have always been good. Never a problem. When you are a growing company, you need to keep the techs busy with work so you loosen the constraints a little. this time I got burned.

As for the landscapers, if they aren't happy they will find someone else. My goal is to keep everyone happy, that is why the growth in my company has been so significant over the last few years. But, perhaps I need a policy that addresses this. I like the idea of the charging for the evaluation and then coming back, problem is sometimes we are booked for 2 weeks and there isn't time to get back.

I'm afraid there is no easy answer. Maybe we need to get on some sort of a retainer type, but there is still the trust thing. If only people would trust, I trust them to pay, they should trust me to not lie. That 's what it boils down to.....trust. If only they knew how honest I really was.....................
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  #14  
Old 10-26-2001, 01:40 PM
HBFOXJr HBFOXJr is offline
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trust

Gotta have it and its good to have the trust clarified in black and white.

What do the landscapers being happy have to do with this? Did they refer you? Do you do other jobs with them? Who wouldn't be happy, the customer or the landscaper if repairs didn't happen ASAP?

No matter what, the landscapers have to know you don't have carte blanche to do as you please, when you please, you have to follow procedures to get paid.

This is a good reason to develop book rates for repairs as I have threatened lamely to do for years. Do like the other service industries where you get 2 hr to change an alternator and 10 hours for a transmission. etc.

This would allow incentive or commision pay to techs.

I've thought about rotor head replacement, spray head, valve rebuild, valve replacement (all by size category), single pipe repair (by size), compound pipe repair ( T's), clock replacement etc. Many things would be simplified. The hourly rate could go up and not be noticed, no quibbles over time, no long parts lists (pre calulated in the rate) and more.
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  #15  
Old 10-26-2001, 01:46 PM
SprinklerGuy SprinklerGuy is offline
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That's what the plumbers do around here. The problem is all of this stuff is great except if it causes a slowdown in business....my kids and wife and Target,Kmart, Walmart all suffer lol

As for the landscaper, yes he refers me alone to all his sites. Normally they trust him and the trust automatically is given to me. He usually goes to bat for me also, but he got fired around the same time I did.....did I mention that?

I like to keep the landscapers happy because they send me a lot of work and keep my guys busy when we are slow. One call to them and they find work for us. I haven't had to do that in a couple of years though......

The other problem with book rates: If you are the only guy in town doing that....could be a problem. I would love to have that though! the plumbers love it because the office help can do more est. on the phone.

I think they get the service fee regardless, minimum, and then if you want them to do the work it is built into the book rate. If you don't want them to, at least they get the minimum. Sounds good.
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  #16  
Old 10-26-2001, 01:56 PM
HBFOXJr HBFOXJr is offline
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I think there is more behind this than you know and you guys could be 2 of several victims.

Yeh, book rate is different but I'm not sure it's a marketing problem. Then again you could be T&M for residential an single stand alone commercial and book rate for multiple properties, multi family, property manager kind of stuff.

I'd like an explanation from management as to why after several years of a good working relationship a problem developed.

Seems like a house cleaning if the manager, the sprinkler and the landscape people all got canned at the same time. Think the manager and the landscaper had some kind of personal or financial hanky panky going down and you went for the ride with them?
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  #17  
Old 10-26-2001, 04:24 PM
SprinklerGuy SprinklerGuy is offline
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If there was hanky panky, the landscaper wasn't involved. Cleaning house is definitely what they did, seems like they would just pay this bill though and move on. could they be bluffing, I know we can still settle all the way up to the pre trial date.
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  #18  
Old 10-27-2001, 10:40 AM
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parkwest parkwest is offline
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Location: Boise, Idaho, usA
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Quote:
Originally posted by SprinklerGuy
I have done the small claims court gig...here in AZ if you win you get a judgement...up to you to collect.....isn't that the thing you want? Also, small claims court, no lawyers, I'd have to do all the legwork. I am running a business here, not practicing law.

My question is this: we have to trust our clients as much or more than they trust us.
Point 1. Small claims= no lawyers= no billing by the hour, which translates into no long drawn out settlements. You go in state your case, present your contract. They give their argument. Judge decides.

Point 2. Object of running a business is to make money and the more the better. Not much of a business if customers don't pay because owner doesn't know enough business law to know all his options to collect.

Point 3. TRUST: Never trust someone more than you're willing to loose and you will never be sorry. Wise old saying. Trusting them is what got you into this situation. Welcome to "Business 2001."
__________________
Do what you agreed to do and don't encroach on others or their property.

Liberty: Freedom from the control of others - Webster dictionary 1828

If you think you can do it or you think you can't... either way, you're right!

"The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that the warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or a curse." excerpt from "Tales of Power"
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  #19  
Old 10-28-2001, 11:40 AM
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cp cp is offline
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Hang in there and don't give up...

Whether this was the best way to handle this is not is going to be a lesson learned. You are past the point of no return so ride it out to the end and be prepared if you do not get what you think you deserve.
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