Extreme Makeover Confessional Of A Do It Yourself Contractor

Apr 21, 2010

My wife and I have just completed giving our rental house a complete makeover.  The good news is we came in 20% over budget and 33% behind schedule.  The bad news is we worked too many hours to say that we enjoyed the job.  The concept was we would do the work we knew how to do ourselves and hire the contractor for the jobs we would not be able to do without violating several laws and creating more problems than we solved.

I have helped finish basements in two of our homes and I have learned to frame, sheetrock, wire, plumb, paint and a few other trade skills.  Not bad for a soft handed CPA.

 What I learned is that there are some people that God created with talents to do things like mudding and sanding sheetrock.  I swore after the first time of trying to mud, tape and sand some walls in my boys future bedroom I learned that I was not talented or interested in doing that task again.  On the other hand, I really enjoy electrical, low voltage and home theatre wiring.  I found that the challenge is one that I enjoy.

My wife is a saint, trooper, cheerleader and wonderful support. The fact that she did not bury me deep behind the walls of this last project is a testimony to her commitment for “better or WORSE”!

We laid subfloors and tile, painted every surface within the house, installed doors, hardware, new electrical switches and outlets, light fixtures, sinks, vanities, toilets, hardware and refaced the fireplace.  We ARE still married, ARE still talking to one another and ARE committed to never doing that much remodeling ever again.

We spent more time in Home Depot, Lowes and the rental house then we did in our own home over the past 120 days.  The house is listed for sale and now we are looking back on our DIY project with pride and lessons learned.

How many of you are performing Do It Yourself tasks within your own business?  Doing more than you should, because it saves money, despite the true cost to you or your company.

My wife gave me some very sage advice during the phase of installing new trim in every inch of the house.  I was thinking I would paint all the trim. I have some experience painting, in fact I owned a painting company that helped fund my college education.   She told me to subcontract the job to a professional painter.  I had convinced myself that I had the time, talent and could save money by doing it myself.  Following her request I got two bids to caulk and paint trim and doors.  The second bid was 60% less than the first one and that contractor was recommended by someone I trust.  It went against everything in me to hand this task and our money to a painting contractor.

By the time the contractor finished the work, in a fraction of the time I would have taken, with superior results than I would have achieved I came to appreciate the wisdom of my wife.  She knew that my time was better spent running my business. Despite the “talent” I possess in painting I was not the best man for the job.

This experience is reminiscent of watching other business owners attempting to wear too many hats within their companies. The DIY concept is appropriate for some things in life, but rarely wise when time, resources and expertise demand that engaging the right talent for the job will result in a more efficient and effective process.

Outsourcing talent has become a solution in many industries.  I work with men and women who serve as outsourced contractors in Human Resources, Operations, Information Technology, Sales and Marketing and other executive talents that provide these services to companies in an affordable way to engage the talent needed without requiring the company to buy a full time employee.

Here are the lessons I learned about outsourcing talent:

1.       Define your expectations up front.

2.       Expand your understanding by listening to the contractor.

3.       Price should not be the primary decision factor!

4.       One contractor may offer to do other tasks but hiring an expert is more efficient.

5.       Expect to expand the scope of work you need them for as you work together for a while.
What contribution can you make to your company that is the most valuable?  What tasks are you the least qualified to do?  How much value could you add to the company if you acquired the talent to handle the things that you are least qualified to do?   How would that focus of your talents make the greatest contribution to the company? 


More from David L. Odom…

About the Author

Dave is an experienced CFO / Exit Planning Consultant with over 30 years of expertise serving small to mid-ranged companies in finance and accounting. His background includes working in public accounting, for a Fortune 100 construction company, founding and managing a CPA firm for 15 years, prior to purchasing an international brokerage company and acting as its President and CEO. Recently he served as the Executive VP and CFO for a $35 Billion real estate brokerage franchising company on the West Coast, which accounted for approximately $900 Million in commissions and $40 Million in franchise fees.

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