2,400 rusty screws

When I lived at the Oregon coast, my wife proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is a patient, determined badass.

We had paid an out-of-work unlicensed contractor to build a deck for us. The deck was 60′ long, 10′ deep, and made from 3″ wide Ipe decking and pressure-treated wood for the support structure.

The contractor was a nice guy but took some shortcuts without asking us. I think I’ve mentioned this guy to you before. There was always some reason he couldn’t work a full day. One day the reason was that his brother had shot himself in the leg with his own gun; twice.

Anyway, one of the shortcuts he took was to use the cheapest Phillips-head screws he could find instead of premium ceramic-coated star-drive screws.

His excuse for this shortcut was that we were paying him a flat rate for the project and he needed to keep his costs down.

We just wanted the deck built and went along with it.

6 months later, half of the cheap-ass screws he used were beginning to rust. This, of course, was a 100% predictable outcome of using the cheap screws.

My wife unscrewed each of those screws and replaced it with a premium ceramic-coated star-drive screw that had an actual chance of surviving the 8 months of rain per year the deck would be facing for the rest of its life.

I figure there are 2,400 screws in that deck: 4 boards per foot x 60 feet, 2 screws every 2′ for the length of a 10′ board = 2,400 screws.

My wife went out each day for an hour or so and unscrewed rusty old screws and replaced them with new ones until the project was done. It took a lot of days. Like I said, she’s a patient, determined badass.

Everything about this story makes me think about custom software projects and how you market your services.

  • We just wanted the deck built without having to care about the details of how, like what screws were used, so we turned a blind eye to some of those how choices. But… I had to actually live with the results of the builder taking shortcuts in how they built it. How could that have gone better? For example, when would have been the right point in that project for the contractor to get our signoff on the kind of screws used?
  • We had spoken to a far more expensive contractor before we hired the one we went with. How could that more expensive contractor have better communicated to us that they would not take shortcuts like using cheap screws and that it was worth paying them over twice as much? And how could they have done that without making it seem like a scare tactic?

How do you market your expertise? How do you assure your clients you will get the project done quickly but without using “cheap screws”?

If you don’t market your services because you don’t have to, congratulations! If you don’t market your services because you don’t know how to do that effectively, check out http://thepositioningmanual.com. It’ll help you with the very first step, which is defining who you focus on and what you do for them.

Talk to you soon,
-P

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