3 lessons on interacting with “difficult” service providers
I own a 20 acre farm in Florida. To me its more than a hobby, it will eventually be a lifestyle business. However it is run just by me, so sometimes I need services provided by individuals/companies to keep the farm up to date. In September I had to hire a land clearing company (I will withhold the name) from North Central Florida to clear large debris, trees and trash that were laying around on the farm. I recently returned to farming in September and this was my first instance with having an outside company do some work for me. I quickly learned a couple of lessons.
- You can never be too clear or precise on your expectations. I have taken plenty of courses and have some experience with Performance Work Statements and Work Breakdown Structures…I never thought I had to use this on my farm. I was clear on the outcome of the work, the land cleared, and that is what I contracted for. The Project Manager was clear on what means he wanted to use to accomplish the work, using the least amount of machines and gas possible, that was not part of the contract. I had to argue almost daily with the Project Manager because he kept stating that to accomplish certain tasks he would need to use a certain type of equipment and that it would cost more. That was his problem, not mine, I signed for a service not for what type of equipment he used. I didn’t pay a cent more than what the contract stated but the arguing did give me a lot of headaches.
- Never let them upsell or downsell you. Everyone is familiar with the term upsell, a vendor will try to sell you services that you do not really need. But few are familiar with what I call downsell. In this instance the vendor will offer a “discount” so they can do less work. I had the issue with the company referenced above. The farm had tires and old rusted metal in some areas. Instead of clearing the land the project manager suggested we just dig a while on the land and he would dump all of that into the hole and give me a “discount”! In this instance he had a point, the contract didn’t state he had to remove it, but obviously this was less than an ideal solution. I didn’t budge, the work was for $5500.00. I would pay that fixed price no more or less, but he had to clear the garbage, and for me (the client) clearing meant not in my property.
- Prompt payment. Its easy to pay the service provider when the work was done with no issues. However when plenty of issues arise it might be gratifying to delay, or at least dispute, the payment. Do not let these issues cloud your judgement! If the work was done according to standard, payment should be made promptly based on the terms of the agreement. This is even more important if you are paying as a “company” instead of as an individual. Business credit is very difficult to both acquire and maintain, a single delayed payment can have serious implications for your business credit rating.