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In business, some things aren’t as they appear
In business, some things aren’t as they appear
August 30, 2013 7:00 AM CDT

Some things aren’t as they appear

Contractor tip of the month


Do you take work from contractors or customers who you know, in the past, have been problematic contractors? We recently have and are now paying the price by currently fighting frivolous back charges from general contractors totaling around $70,000. Mostly this stems from the GCs taking on work too cheap, and then trying to make it up on the backs of their sub-contractors through unfair back charges. I am embarrassed to say that we suspicioned these were problematic contractors up front, and yet, we chose to do their work to keep our people busy. Now, all we can do is file lawsuits, or suffer the losses we set ourselves up to incur.

I recently played a prank on my youngest daughter, Rachel. I realize now it isn’t much different than what we deal with in business, only real con artists play for keeps.

On a camping trip, my friend, Wolf Man, and I took Rachel and her friend snipe hunting. As I was told 40 years ago, we explained that a snipe is a little furry bird to catch at night and play with. The girls were excited. We told them to get black trash bags and put a hot dog in them for bait to catch the snipes. It was dusk when we walked them to the nearby woods. We told them to hold the bags open close to the ground and wait for the snipes to run in after the hot dogs. They stood there holding their bags as Wolf Man and I rustled the snipe.

We yelled, “Get out snipes!” When we got back to the girls, they had not caught any. Showing them how much we wanted to help, we checked their bait (secretly tearing pieces of the hot dogs off and even dropping a potato that Wolf Man had chewed on in one bag). We left them and headed back to the camper, believing they would soon come running back.

Thirty minutes and a couple of beers later, these fearless girls remained waiting. Wolf Man and I went back out with sheets over us to scare them back to the campers. When we sneaked around the bank, Rachel asked, “What are the sheets for; you trying to scare us, Dad?”

Wolf Man said, “No, these sheets are so the snipes won’t recognize us.” The girls became leery, so I told them to check their bags. They saw the hot dogs and a potato were chewed.

“What’s this potato doing in here?” Rachel asked. Wolf Man said, “The snipes will take food from campsites and put it in bags.” Rachel replied, “Then they have to be out here as they have been in my bag!”

Rachel’s friend was ready to give up, so we all went back to the camper, where Rachel tried to recruit her older sisters and another friend to go back out. It was then that all the girls started texting their friends and questioning snipe hunting. Shortly thereafter, the hunt was over! The next time Rachel goes snipe hunting, I figure she will be taking her own prey.

Rachel learned that you can’t believe everything you hear, and, before you spend a lot of time on something, it’s best to do a little research to see if it’s worth your time. I learned something, too. If my business had followed our instincts instead of chasing after something that we doubted, we wouldn’t have to go to court to get money that is rightfully ours.

The work we did for the problem customers was just like that sneaky snipe Rachel was trying to catch: fun while it lasted, but a letdown in the end. Rachel trusted what I told her about snipe hunting. My business put more trust in problematic customers than we should have. In business, you should only work for contractors who have proven trustworthy. If not, you are setting yourself up for a loss before the project starts. And now, I have about as good of a chance getting all my money as Rachel did catching that snipe.

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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