Sometimes you have to say NO!

Todd Rose (03-17-2012)

The hardest thing for me to do in this industry sometimes is to say no. A guy once told me,” don’t ever do a job that you are going to lose money on”. I remember thinking that was the craziest advice you could give to someone in business, meaning, “well duh, no sh-t it doesn’t take an idiot to know that or need to be told it”. Little did I know how many times I have been an idiot and did not listen to this man’s advice.

Just a little over a month ago I was asked to bid a stain job for a summer cabin in South Carolina. In order to save the client some money and give some options I was asked to bid before the rough in, after drywall but before paint, and then price if I were to do the job after painting, but before trim. No problem- I often bid jobs this way because I like to get on the concrete before anything has happened to it.

There were no specs for the job just a picture of an acid stained job from a popular website that listed 3 acid stain colors from a certain manufacturer, solvent sealer (no manufacturer listed), and a coat of wax. They asked if I could create the look and I said, “yeah, no problem”. I have been staining awhile and I have faith in my abilities to look at a picture and deliver the look of the picture. If I didn’t I would not take the job on. I may do this job to look like this picture with an acid stain, a water-based stain, a dye, or a combination of all three. I wouldn’t suggest doing this unless you have some good hard earned experience.

The builder asked if I would lower my price and if so I could get in after framing with no disruptions from other trades. I said, “sounds great I will put you in the schedule”. I then said to the builder that I have seen the picture and I didn’t really see the turquoise color that was listed, but had full faith I would make the floor look like the picture. The builder quickly became upset and said we sent you a picture with the three stains used and “that’s the colors and manufacturer you will use”. I said, “ wait a minute, I will stain the floor to look like the picture, but I have no idea how this contractor applied three different acids stains and didn’t know what the finish was or how old the concrete was. Now, is when things seem to go downhill quickly. I asked the builder if I could work directly with the owner and explain the process and what they are buying is the final look, not a particular product.

This builder was very reluctant to let me deal with the owner direct. This is a big warning sign to me. Have you ever had an owner love a job, but a builder or architect doesn’t? I have and before you know it the owner doesn’t like it as much as they did the day before. At this point I have talked with the builder several times and I am failing to explain the risks of making me use the 3 colors listed from one manufacturer. There are many reasons this is risky, but three right off hand are 1. I do not know how these three colors were applied- all at once, one after the other, which one was first 2. I cannot see from a picture the finish of the concrete and 3. I don’t apply greens or blues in acid stain form on concrete less than 60 days old. I know the manufacturers say 30 days, but I have had more than one blue or green acid stain job turn black in spots on young concrete, AND there is a simple solution to this problem- a water based blue or green that corresponds to the acid stain color.

Now I am real nervous about this whole job. I have a builder telling me how I will do a job to look like a picture from the internet, and I am not being allowed to deal with the end-user (who writes the check). I tell the builder I will need a modest $150.00 to do the samples since the job is 100 miles away and if you are holding me to the products listed when I have no idea of so many factors I cannot just do it for the hopes of I will get it right. I again ask if I can just do the job my way and let everyone judge the final look, not what was read on the internet. He now angrily asks if he has to pay $150.00 every time I make a sample. Mind you I have better things to do than drive 100 miles each way to make $150.00 for a sample. I am frustrated beyond belief at this point and say unless I can deal with owner I am going to have to withdrawal my bid. He gives me the number for the owner.

I am thinking sweet, finally I will get to explain and get on with the job. After a 45-minute conversation with the owner stating, “I just don’t see the problem it says right under the picture what three colors are used”. I give my last bit of energy to explaining it again that every bit of concrete stains differently and what you are hiring me for is to deliver the look of the picture and that it should not matter how I do it. The owner states that she understands and do it my way and they will look at the samples when done. About ten minutes later my phone rings and the owner asks me how much less expensive is the stain that I am going to use compared to the one listed under the picture. I calmly state, there is no difference in price and that if anything I am going to have more expense because I will have acid stains, dyes, and water-based stains on hand to deliver the look of the picture. We end the conversation and I am exhausted.

The next day the builder calls and says, “I am not paying you the $150.00 to just try it your way and you need to do one sample your way and one sample with the exact colors listed under the picture”. I said, “Do you know that this line of products is not even carried in stock in South Carolina”? He begins to raise his voice and continue to tell me how I will stain a piece of concrete to look like a picture. I won’t say what I said exactly, but you can bet I told him how “he needs to stain this piece of concrete”.

Not long ago I would have bent over backwards to make this job happen. But, I remember what that guy told me- “Don’t ever do a job you are going to lose money on”. This advice seems so simple, but many of us creative types have difficulty with this. By saying no I probably lost this builder for life, but I didn’t lose money on this one!

Have faith in all of your hard work that you have invested in to be good in this industry. Do your best at educating your clients, but don’t let someone tell you how to do your craft-your art! Most of all “don’t ever do a job you are going to lose money on”!


Todd Rose Todd’s next training seminar will be in Charleston, SC on April 14th and 15th  

Todd Rose

306 Deep River Rd
Summerville, SC 29483
Phone: 843-879-9210

Decorative Concrete Forum Contributor Writer