You Get What You Pay For (and other hard truths)

One of the challenges that my team and I find ourselves confronted with regularly is when a prospective client, or even a current client, gets frustrated because they come to us with an assessment or scope of work for a project which we review and then reject.  We do not dismiss these just because we did not create them, we do so because they either are incomplete, insufficient, or worse. Frequently, the document we are rejecting is something that was provided “free of charge”. I understand the frustration when we make this decision, but I do not apologize for making it, because we simply cannot take on the liability for using them. We see three major sources of these “free” services.


Contractor provided scopes of work

I understand that everyone, including me, likes a deal. I also have been working in the construction industry long enough to know that when it comes to “free” assessments or scopes of work, you are going to get what you pay for. In the case of contractor furnished “free” assessments or scopes of work, we see two major shortcomings. The first is that you are asking the vendor who wants to perform the project to determine what needs to be done; and consequently, there is an inherent conflict of interest baked into their recommendation. We regularly see contractor-furnished scopes of work that recommend the Cadillac solution to a problem when a Ford Pinto is all that is required. We recently reviewed a project where the contractor proposed a very costly complete structural rebuild of an area, when a simple repair was all that was ultimately required.

The second shortcoming is almost the exact opposite, the contractor provides a very detailed scope of work for one portion of the project that leaves out a number of detail items for ancillary issues. And when these ancillary issues come up during the course of the project, the contractor is happy to charge more for them. On a roofing project we are involved with, the original contractor-created scope of work left out required roof venting which would have added over 20% to the project cost had we not identified the shortcoming and convinced the client to let us rescope and rebid the project.


“I’ve got a guy” syndrome

We all know someone in our lives who has “a guy” they can recommend for everything. This can be invaluable, but we frequently see that “the guy” is not qualified to provide objective analysis or a technical opinion about a problem. Again, the advice may be “free”, but if you start with bad information and assumptions, it is impossible to end up with good results.


Volunteers/Donated Services

I cannot tell you the number of time that the assessment or scope of work that we are questioning was provided by a volunteer or someone who donated the services at a discount. One issue we see with this is that, like with “I’ve got a guy” syndrome, the advice you get is frequently not objective or complete. You also run the risk of having someone exposing themselves (and the property owner) to liability because if they get hurt while volunteering their services, they are going to end up being covered under the property owner’s insurance. In this scenario, you have the risk of bad advice coupled with a side of increased liability.


I understand that the temptation will always be there to get something for “free” rather than hiring someone for pay. The bottom line is this; while “free” is always nice, remember that you may just get what you paid for.

You Get What You Pay For