EZ Scaffold Corp.
EZG Manufacturing
Federated Insurance
Fraco USA, Inc.
Hohmann and Barnard, Inc.
Husqvarna Construction Products N.A.
Hydro Mobile, Inc.
iQ Power Tools
Kennison Forest Products, Inc.
Mortar Net Solutions
Non-Stop Scaffolding
Southwest Scaffolding
Tradesmen's Software, Inc.
February 25, 2011 12:55 PM CST

When Do You Give Up On a Potential Job?

Contractor tip of the month


At what point do you give up on a potential job? When the customer won’t return your calls concerning your bid? When you’re told you weren’t the low bidder? When the contract has been awarded to someone else? The answer is none of the above.

Under only two conditions should you give up on a project: The customer dies, or you die. Other than that, you still have a live project out there.

I am amazed by how soon some estimators or project managers will give up on a project before it is truly lost. One time, I had an estimator send a customer who would not return his phone calls on a very large project this message, “Dear Mr. Customer, is this a dead issue? Should we destroy our prints?”

Talk about being hot; I could have strangled him on the spot. All I could think about are the projects we almost gave up on in the past before discovering things like the low bidder didn’t have everything in his bid, so it made our number good; the low bidder wasn’t qualified so they ended up using us; the low bidder went out of business before the job started so they gave it to us; or, the low bidder went out of business in the middle of the job, and we were called in to finish the job (usually at a higher price than we originally bid to do the work the first time). Those thoughts frustrated me even more.

Immediately, my estimator and I had a “discussion” on all the reasons you just can’t do that. And, I decided I was running point on negotiations and went to work to see if I could bring the customer back around to using our company. When she (the customer) returned my calls, I explained that my estimator and I were not on the same page as I would never give up on her or the project. She understood and disregarded the email. She also thanked me for all the work we had done on the project and said she would love to use my company, but we were too high. Do you think I just said thanks and gave up? No way! After all, she and I were both still alive, right?

So instead I pleaded, “Wait a minute, we can’t be high. I know the production rates and the real cost of doing this job. The other contractor must not have everything included in his scope of work, or maybe he is taking on work cheap because he is treading water financially. I would hate to see the contractor you choose go out of business in the middle of your project. Would you give us a chance to sit down with your team to show you how we can do this job better than the competition and the ways we can save you money in the process?”

“Okay,” she said, “let me go back to my team with this information and see if they will hear you out.”

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I just brought this job back from the dead.”

The next morning I rolled out a new policy. No one is to give up on a job unless the customer dies or you die.

Many more negotiations were held on the project, and you are probably wondering if I got it. Actually, it doesn’t matter if I got it, what matters, is that you got the moral of the story: Never give up on a project unless the customer dies, or you do!

About the Author

Damian Lang is a mason contractor in southeast Ohio and inventor of many labor saving masonry systems and products. Lang has served as the Marketing Committee Chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America. He is also author of the book Rewarding and Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry. To network with Damian on contractor tips or tips you have and would like published, contact him at or 740-749-3512.


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