It seems I am perpetually late at different points in time. Even this is late, in the midst of work and its demands. There are some things that require a scheduled delivery date and some that don't. The former, usually, is related in some way to openings, start-ups or implementation of some new system, etc. Then, there is the latter. Since this is a racing oriented publication, I'll keep it limited to that area and try not to jump the curb.
Any number of people, when they read this, may think to themselves, “He means me! Who has he talked to?", or they may say, “He should have told me I was bugging him!" Relax, lighten up Francis. This is based on years of doing things for other people for money.
The pleasure one derives from this hobby is many fold. There is the satisfaction of fabricating something from scratch. Creating a work of mechanical art, one in which form and function live in harmony. There is also the resurrection of historical relics, be it a restoration or a re-creation of a long lost machine. Our impatience gets the best of us at times. If we do it ourselves, for ourselves, we make it our mission to do all we can to get it right, complete and finished within the constraints of time, ability and money. There is a pride like none other, when you can point to something and say "I did that." To whatever degree, percentage or stage. . .you did it. Some things may get farmed out and the timing of which is subject to your means and the priority with which those performing the work place on it.
Here comes the rub. . .
I have been doing my work, lettering, pin striping, etc. since 1976. . . I was 13 when I started. I have also owned a body shop, did restorations and metalwork and custom painting as well. I learned that those who want something will pay for it. Some may not want to pay what it is worth and some will happily shell out the dough because they want it at any cost. My line of work sometimes makes me the "show" which some find entertaining. They believe it is part of what they paid for. They want to watch and regale you with stories of the guy that did their cousin’s race car for $50 bucks and a 12 pack. They will brag on their kid who loves to draw and how you should give him a job designing. Their wives have an eye for color and layout. They are going to send you so much work you won't know what to do.
Then. . .there are the ones who want to help. They volunteer to hold things, get what you need in the way of a drink, smoke, etc. There is a rule around my shop, simple and put in plain terms the moment they reach to hold something. . .DON'T unless you are asked.
I have had vehicles come into the shop and the first thing the owner says," No hurry, take your time." Three days later they call asking if it’s done. They stop by unannounced, alone or with a friend. They want to hang around and talk, usually distracting the process and getting in the way. If you tell a sign guy, a chassis builder, a carpenter, or any other skilled person, “No hurry" well, they won't.
Unfortunately, the words have different meanings to different people. When stopping in keep this in mind. What this person is doing for you, is usually how they make a living or supplement what they do. . .to live and raise a family. We don't come by your job and stop you from what you do to make your pay. We don't tell you how to run your business, "help" you do the job and then deduct the " value" from the tab.
How many times have you stopped in and the guy has to quit working on your stuff ( or someone else's) to talk to you, answer your questions, hear your tale of how you wowed the gal at the gas station, etc.? Time is money and the time some spend wasting others time always comes out of someone’s pocket. Typically it's the guy you are bugging who just wants to do the job for you and get paid. . .and more often than not it was a "deal" price. Sometimes these deals would have been much more financially advantageous if we wrote you a check and told you to leave.
You also have to remember, you aren't the only one employing the person to do work. Here's where the priority part comes in. I will use myself as an example. I have had a couple opportunities to receive some smoking deals on labor rates for a couple projects. The understood condition is, the high paying jobs are a priority and mine may have to wait in line. I'm fine with that, it's only fair and my stuff isn’t on a deadline. Sure, I would love to have it finished by X-date but in all reality, if this cat got it finished super-fast, I would still have other aspects of it that would never let me get the thing done quickly. I've seen projects start with the greatest of intentions and best of friends, only to erode into hard feelings, debts and unfinished messes. In the spirit of this tome, I could pin it all on the "customer" and their impatience. On the other side of the coin, I have been trying to get a deadline out and a customer will drop by unannounced to discuss his ideas. You risk a few things this way. First, the deadline is likely not met. Second, you piss the guy off because his ideas can't be discussed. Lastly, something usually gets screwed up because you lost focus. No win.
But, usually it is an equal mixture of both sides.
On the craftsman side, business may not be their forte. Conveying the ground rules, conditions and terms wasn't a strength to begin with and is constantly a source of drama for them. This alone is the main reason why so many end up in ruin, close their doors and flat out fail. A lot of us do this for the love of these piles of crap and the reality of commerce doesn't fall in its proper place until we realize the money vs work formula is way off. Time and experience teaches us how to do it right, if we’re lucky.
I recently had some work done, that in my estimation, was a pretty fair deal and left satisfied. As in all deals I do, and should be done, I paid the man up front and followed with each successive payment as the funds were used. I got what I paid for and he wasn't taking it out of his pocket. I know way too many who have worked in good faith but when the owner shows up, they have no money to pay. When you let the job leave without getting the balance you set yourself up to fall.
Some well-known and loved folks have done that and when the word gets out, some rush to their defense. Others will say it was their own fault for letting it go. My favorite tale was about Lil John Buttera. A guy had him do a car and came to pick it up without any intention of settling up. John told him no money, no car. The guy asks if he can look at it. The reply was priceless. " When you pay for it, you can look at it all you want." There are a million more stories I have heard from guys who were part of the heyday. . .who were screwed out of their money or annoyed by customers.
Maybe common sense should prevail. When you factor in the cool factor of getting to build your dream, whatever it may be, or the fact someone is paying you to build it for them, keep some things in mind. The reality is, it's a business. You are paying for or getting paid to do something. There's no room for emotion when it comes to metallurgic existence. Tell the customer what they are getting and don't promise the moon.
On the flip side, tell the craftsman what you expect. If you don't understand something, don't act like a big shot know-it-all, ask questions until you do. If you can get it in writing, all the better. Don't commit to something over your head or beyond your bank account.
Tell the customer when they can come by and don't come by without calling. Take photos of everything you do. Don't badger the builder to send photos. It's done when it's done, unless you’re paying the person to work exclusively on your stuff. Don't pay for junk or substandard work, research your vendor. Respect each other’s positions and thoughts. If you are paying to have something done exactly, make it clear, we aren't mind readers. When you leave it up to us, you are committing to paying us to do what we feel is best.
Okay, I am late for an install, always late for something.
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD - By Eddie Buck