It’s easy to want to cut corners and skimp on quality, especially if a job is running over budget, over time or is wearing you down. Smaller jobs, especially, can be easy money makers if you lower your quality level to complete them. But is it a good business practice?
Quality is Subjective
When you’re selling a service like contracting, the level of quality expected is influenced by your and your clients’ perceptions. Some people – clients and contractors alike – are type A perfectionists who expect every single job to be completely pristine right down to the last nail. Others are willing to accept flaws and imperfections as long as they aren’t visible and/or don’t compromise the integrity of the finished job. When deciding if a project is completed, it’s important to take into consideration not just your own level of satisfaction, but the client’s as well.
Cutting Corners to Save Costs
When it comes to materials, your budget is, in part, dictated by that of your client. A small starter home upgrade for a young family usually won’t have the same budget as a multimillion dollar mansion renovation for an established executive. Still, many contractors pride themselves with finding the best materials for the job at a price point that meets their needs – certainly an ethical contractor wouldn’t knowingly choose faulty or subpar materials just to fit a budget. Think of it like the difference between pine wood cabinets and teak: one’s definitely more of a luxury, but both have high quality options to choose from.
Cutting corners doesn’t just apply to material selection either – it also applies to craftsmanship. Think about the examples of the starter family and millionaire – it’s tempting to skimp on quality in spots where it won’t be noticed for the former, but it would probably cause hesitation to do so for the latter. And budgetary constraints relating to scheduling come into play, also. Some contractors pride themselves on providing the same level of quality across the board, even though it may not always be cost effective.
Providing Uniform Quality: Pros and Cons
When you provide a high standard of excellence in your work where others may be tempted to skimp or cut corners, clients remember and notice. That’s why many contractors feel it’s important to keep things consistent across the board. Other contractors aren’t interested in consistent, repeat business with small clients, preferring instead to make up the bulk of their work with quantity rather than quality. It’s very much the difference between a luxury department store like Nordstrom’s and a big box store like Wal-Mart: One makes its money by providing quality at a higher price, while the other makes its money by catering to quantity rather than quality.
Those who opt to have different quality levels for different jobs and price points are likely to find themselves losing repeat business. Depending on business model and goals, it may not be an impossible situation, though word of mouth still takes a hefty toll on contractors and other business owners.
Should You Stay Consistent?
When deciding whether it’s acceptable to provide a lower quality of workmanship on some jobs, ultimately it boils down to your business model and whether you’re comfortable absorbing the fallout with your reputation should your less-than-perfect work fall apart sooner than expected.
It’s also good to get a feel for your client’s expectations and needs and work to incorporate them when deciding whether to lower your quality level: more easygoing clients are more likely to accept some insignificant imperfections, while more control-oriented clients are more likely to lose their minds over them.
At the end of the day, it’s about whether you can live (and continue to work!) with the level of quality you put into your jobs.
Do you provide a uniform level of quality across all your jobs? Why or why not?