Over my years running a remodeling company I learned some lessons the hard way. Unfortunately for me and our employees it took several bad experiences for me to learn some of those.

One of the lessons was: Some of the best jobs are the ones you never did.

What am I talking about?

You know the feeling. Something in your gut is telling you to get out of here, to leave the building as soon as possible because these prospects, if allowed to become your clients, could put you out of business. Not working for them makes you a lot of money, money you would have lost trying to satisfy people were not a fit for you and the way your company does business.

How did I learn this?

Going to arbitration a couple of times helped. Monumentally painful experiences listening to your client lie while being deposed. Just thinking about it now makes my stomach churn.

I came to believe there is no such thing as American justice for contractors. So don’t get in too deep with people you should not work with.

So what did I do with the lesson learned?

Here is an example. We were referred by long-time friends to a couple we were acquainted with. The wife was the driver of the project. Super-busy with work, she was out of town often. The husband was a stay-at-home dad.

We went through our process, signing a design agreement, then producing a plan and specs, followed by providing a scope of work and a firm price.

Something was nagging me. They had previously worked with a one-man show who did time and materials billings with no cap on costs. That allowed the wife, primarily, when she was in town to say, “Change this. Build it like this instead.” Back in the day we worked like that, but we did not anymore.

After we signed the contract I kept thinking about the likelihood of this project being successful. Deciding I did not want to learn the same lesson again, I called the clients. Here is what I said:

“Are you sure the way we work is the best fit for the way you like to work? I remember you mentioning that you had altered the plans several times while a previous project was underway, which was easy to do because you working with one man who liked to work that way. We do everything possible to avoid changes while construction is underway. Should we simply agree to not work together? If so you can keep the plans. We will not be responsible for them any further.”

Here is what they said:

“Paul, thanks for making this call. We were thinking the same thing!”

So I tore up the contract and returned their deposit.

In doing so we made a lot of money for the company, because we could go work with people who were a fit for the way we did business. And we left these potential clients feeling good about us.

What lesson or lessons do you find yourself learning over and over again? Stop taking classes and graduate!