At Your Service: August 6, 2008

Summer is the time when between work and play we squeeze in the time to tackle chores around the house. Even those who are skilled with hammers and saws come to the point where it becomes apparent that we need a professional to do certain jobs. Which jobs to turn over to others is determined by our skill set and the time we are willing to devote to the task. We can make finding the right person for the job easier if we first set the scope of what we need someone to do for us.
Whatever type of service you need performed, the process of finding someone to do it is the same. What changes with the nature of the job, are the questions you need to ask to determine someone’s competence to meet your needs.
Begin your search by first jotting down exactly what you know about the job that needs doing. When you understand the task, it is easier to find someone to do it by inquiring about the quality of someone’s workmanship. On the other hand, if you need both an understanding of your situation and the know-how to complete the task, a more comprehensive search may be necessary. The clearer you are about your needs, the more likely it is that you will find someone to meet them.
Once you are clear about the nature of your job, the best way to find someone to do it is to simply ask around. Find out who you know that has had similar jobs done for them successfully and ask for the names of those providers. While your friends are always a good resource, their needs may have been different than yours. So, don’t stop there; also check the newspaper for those advertising such services.
When reading advertisements for various services, take note of what people have to say about their business. They are putting their best foot forward and are likely to include in their ads those things they do best. If the job you need to have done is not listed, make a point of asking why they don’t advertise those services. It may be that they will need to rent special equipment for your job, thereby increasing the cost to you. On the other hand, your job may be the type of work they do best, but don’t have a lot of demand for and their ad reflects only their most popular services.
Ask potential service providers all the questions you can think of about your job. The time to get the information is before the job starts, rather than later. This will reduce the number of surprises that come with the completion of the task. You may find that in the process of finding someone to do the job you learn that it is larger or smaller than you originally believed. An expert may discover that the real problem is different than what you had identified.
After talking to a few people, you may discover that you can do it yourself, or that indeed, you need more expertise than you thought. Use this information to weed out those whose skills are not a match to your needs. If someone cannot do this job, it does not mean they are not capable of doing similar work for others. Your situation may be unique. Remember though, that the more skilled and capable the service provider, the higher the cost is likely to be.
The higher cost will usually reflect a higher quality of work. It isn’t always true, but it is worth considering. If you want to plant a few shrubs, your neighbor’s son may be able to dig the holes for you. If you are building a retaining wall for your garden, you may want to find an experienced landscaper or stonemason.
Whatever service you need performed, take the time to find the right person for your job. Talk to as many different people and companies as time allows. Get referrals from those you know and cross reference those names against the ads of local service providers.
Make a list of those with the potential to do the task at hand and talk to as many of those people as you can. Revise your assumptions about the job and then choose the one that comes closest to matching your need and budget.
Choosing the right service provider can make all the difference in your experience upon completion of the job. When it has been well done, you will feel as if you got the job done and you got it done right, even though someone else actually did the work.
Perhaps more importantly, you can go about doing those things you saved the time for by hiring someone else to do the other job for you.