Good, Fast and Cheap... You (and Your Clients) Can Pick Only Two

Good, fast or cheap -- you can't have it all

What drives you? Are you driven by price or by quality? Could you be driven by both? With ever more intense competition from both legit and non-legit contractors, this is a battle we face daily.

We chose many, many years ago to be a quality-driven company. Unfortunately this comes with the fact that we will lose jobs, as many property managers are all about price. For the ones that are willing to pay, we feel we can offer them better service and better quality. 

Recently I was faced with a call from a big client whom we had previously done work for, calling and wanting a bid on what sounded like a big project. But there were red flags right from the start: They had no scope of work, and they were quick to point out that multiple bidders were coming over the next few days to also price it out. 

My problem sits at the fact that I know we won’t be competitive on the “low bid” model; that’s just not us. But I also know that’s what this client now wants. This client was not this way initially but the client has changed. It’s what this client has turned into wanting.

So I was faced with do I bid or not? Sure, it doesn’t hurt to bid. However, these folks require bidders to meet with them to walk the parking lot, which always turns into a several hour ordeal. As I thought about this, I don't ever want to get complacent or “fat and happy,” however I know our style of estimating and our style of work. I also know our style of clients, which are the ones that appreciate the way we estimate, the way we approach our jobs and the quality of work we provide. This client used to be a client that appreciated that, but it wasn’t one of those types of those clients anymore.

So what did we decide to do?

I ended up responding that if the client would provide a scope of work that we would love to bid. But I also reminded them that we are a lower-volume, higher-quality operation and likely couldn’t compete on the price level that they seemed to want. I don't know if it was the best solution, but where do you start and stop with these?

To further back up my thoughts, there is a saying, “Good, fast, cheap – pick only two.” If you want it “good and fast,” it won’t be cheap. If you want “cheap and fast,” it won’t be good.  If you want it “cheap and good,” it won’t be fast. 

I like that approach, but I’m not sure every customer does. I feel that sticking with the driven-by-quality model will pay off in the long run, even if that does mean fewer jobs. We don't want to “turn dollars” or, worse, lose money just to work. But all too often that’s what some contractors do. 

I’ve tried to spread the hashtags “#saynotolowbid” and stop the #racetothebottom in hopes that our industry would change. Contractors should charge more fairly for their services, and clients should pick middle bidders rather than the lowest.  It’s all in fun – I doubt it would ever be a movement – but hey, maybe it will catch on!

As an owner, I know we live and die by our reputation. So even though next season a client may not remember we were high priced, they would surely remember if we got the job, but failed at sealing, paving, or striping their lot.

I would encourage everyone to remain quality-focused. It’s something that will never hurt and it surely won’t hurt in the way that being the #lowbid guy who cuts corners can.