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Speed, Quality, Price; Pick any 2 you like. In my cartoon bubble, you can’t have it all, you only get 2 of these 3; like Vegas – one of them goes to the house.

I want to contract a fence so I get 3 bids: the first salesman pitches his fence as fast & cheap, the second pitches his as fast & perfect, the third pitches his on perfect because he does it all himself. It’s reasonable for me to conclude that the #1 is going to be sloppy, #2 is going to be expensive, and #3 is going to take a long time.

To illustrate my point, an anecdote; I actually have contracted 3 fences in my life. Here’s the story:

The firstfencewas back in Minnesota, we needed a picket fence for our first house and I got 3 estimates.

The house was small, and sat in the middle of the lot and the neighborhood pets and kids had used the property as a public footpath for years because of its pivotal location. We needed a fence but it was going to be a lot (300+ feet) of fencing, and, expensive.

One of the bidswas comparatively cheap compared to the others, and the quality of their work that I looked at was good. The references I spoke to told me that the guy was a little disorganized and the job took a long time.

I chose this contractor anyway because the price and quality were in the sweet spot – the warning signs about the contractor being a lousy manager of clients, projects, schedules, and himself were all true, as I learned first hand.

The job eventually got done, but there were constant delays – they had a few jobs ongoing and it seemed like they were juggling them, or there was always some other excuse why they weren’t there working. Fine with me, it was my first house and I gladly suffered the inconvenience for the good quality and low price; but speed went to the house as the fence took a long time to complete.

The 2nd fence I bought was a different story; our first house in Colorado – a big wind storm had blown down an 8 foot stockade bordering our property, the fence was both a privacy barrier to a very busy strip mall & parking lot – it kept eyes out of our backyard, but it also kept our young kids and our dog contained.

I got 3 bids and chose the one who could start the next day and finish by day’s end. The fence was perfect, the speed was excellent, but the price went to the house – it cost a lot more. Life got back to normal within a day or two so the experience was a good one for me.

My 3rd fence experience was totally different than the first 2. It was a side fence at our shop with a large vehicle gate. I had my 3 estimates in hand, I chose the contractor who could get the job done quickly and at the best price.

I kept 1 eye closed on the quality aspects, because I decided it didn’t matter that much; cedar stockade with a functioning gate, sure it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t care that much if the grade of lumber was less, or it wasn’t quite as straight, or if the workers were less experienced – it was a shop fence. Speed and price were fine, quality went to the house.

Of course there are times when this rule may not apply, outliers. A perfect example of an outlier would be the odd arrangement of circumstances where a contractor with a talented team and a reputation for great quality had a hole in the schedule that needed to be filled to keep the team working – a perfect storm of circumstances that gets you the best price, the best quality and immediate engagement – a rare convergence that benefits you (you get the best quality, service and price), and the contractor (he/she gets to fill a hole in the schedule), and the company’s staff (they get to earn wages).

Aside from that rare convergence, something is usually sacrificed.

Here’s the point: when contracting work on your home, first get your bids in hand, then ask yourself questions about the speed, quality, and price of the jobs represented by the various bids.Then, with the Prices in hand ask questions about how long the job will take and what level of quality you can expect to see when it’s done.

Pretend, in your cartoon bubble, that the bids you have all represent a finished project, which is behind a curtain – and you can’t peek.But if you could, you would find that each job had 2 of the big 3, but the 3rd is going to the house.

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