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My Thoughts; The trouble with tradespeople

BY ROB MACLELLAN

TRURO, N.S. —

You gotta love the folks who work in skilled trades – when you can get hold of them.
For a long time, skilled trades were somehow thought of as less when it came to an after-high school education. Our children were exhorted to attend college or university to further their education and future careers.
Thankfully, the pendulum has swung back toward centre. Skilled trades have been held in better regard, as they should. Folks who work in skilled trades are essential in keeping our infrastructure together and moving forward, be it our roads, bridges, homes, automobiles, or new construction.
We all possess individual skill sets, but invariably a job will crop up where no manner of YouTube videos will help your repair or building project. At that point, you reach for the telephone book or out to friends and colleagues to obtain a referral for a competent tradesperson. 
I find most people have mediocre to poor communication skills. You call, you text, you message, and people just do not get back to you in a timely manner – or in a full manner. You know what I mean. You ask multiple questions and they respond to only one of your questions. Getting partial answers can be very frustrating. This may be true of many folks you know, but it can be especially frustrating when trying to get a response from a tradesperson you have contacted.
When we reach out to local tradespeople, it is usually because we have an emergency: a sewer backing up, a flooded basement, a fallen tree. You check the phone book and find a contractor who advertises a 24/7 service. You call, only to leave a message, and hours go by before you hear back from them. If at all. Why would you even offer 24/7 service if you don’t stand behind it?
Let’s say you are planning a project for your home or cottage and you need a quote. You contact a tradesperson to provide you with an estimate. It takes forever for them to show up and look things over. They leave with a promise to quickly get back to you with a quote. You never get the call. So you contact them again. They respond, “I haven’t had time to put it together for you”, or “Oh, yes, I do have that for you, I meant to call you back. I’m at work right now and my numbers are at home. I’ll call you tonight.” And that call is never made.
Most tradespeople are very busy and depending on the season, can be swamped with requests for work. They depend on our need for their skills to make their living. It seems to me a smart business practice would be to contact customers with regular updates: when they will be able to get to your job, where they are with their progress, or to request further information or discuss possible changes if your job is not progressing smoothly.
I know those of us who seek the services of these skilled workers could have much better communication skills, too. One of the biggest errors we all make is forming realized or unrealized assumptions about the job. We have to remember that none of us reads minds; what we want, and what the tradesperson is going to deliver, need to be spelled out in detail.
Some customers and some tradespeople are excellent communicators, but most of us are not. Both parties need to sharpen their games to get the job done in a way that respects the needs and the time of those involved.

Rob MacLellan is an advocate for education and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at 902-305-0311 or at rob@nsnonprofitconsulting.com.

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