© Gaye Wilson 2009

fencingI recently hired a contractor to erect some fences on my property. I did it the right way – I contacted several fencers, and asked for quotes.

The first round was woeful. Some of the fencers didn’t bother to turn up, some didn’t give me a quote after they came and looked. One person gave me a ballpark figure seemingly plucked out of the air (which didn’t give me a feeling of confidence about his competence!).

I got frustrated with all this, and rang a few more fencers. This time I told them that I wasn’t getting any joy from other fencers, and asked if they were reliable, would turn up when they said they would, and would actually give me a quote once they’d turned up. Of course, this lot all said they were reliable, would turn up on time, and would give me a fair quote.

  • The first one didn’t show.
  • The second one didn’t answer his phone.
  • The third one said he’d come  next week, but then I had to chase him three times for the quote.
  • The fourth one said he’d call me.

Then the second one called back. He had missed my call, but did actually call back. He came that afternoon, gave me some advice and wrote out a quote on the spot. Nice! But he was very expensive, and I didn’t feel comfortable with his attitude.

To cut a long story short, I finally hired a fencer, more than two months after I started the process. He had some good ideas, his prices were mid-range, and although he talked a lot, I liked his suggestions.

He rang last week and said he’d be here first thing on Monday morning, i.e. 8:30 am. I rang him at 10:30 on Monday morning to find out where he was. He’d been hung up at the office doing paperwork, but hadn’t bothered to keep me informed.

He finally arrived three hours late, and said that he’d get the posts up for the dog pen that day, and the wire up the next day.

But he and his assistant only spent two hours here on Monday, and there were only two posts in the ground when they knocked off for the day.

The next day, they arrived at 9:30 am and left at 5:30 pm. But every time I looked out the window they appeared to be chatting to each other rather than constructing the fence. They left with all the posts up, but nothing more done.

Today I rushed out to do errands before they were due to come and install the wire. After I got home, I received a phone call to say that his supplier had given him the wrong corner braces (or some essential part), and that they were not in stock, and wouldn’t be here until sometime next week.

Say what?

Why didn’t this contractor, who proclaimed loudly to all and sundry that he is a professional and reliable, CHECK THE SUPPLIES BEFORE HE GOT HERE? Why didn’t he tell me there was a potential problem yesterday, when he discovered the discrepancy?

Okay, there’s another fence he can get on with while we’re waiting for the parts.

But no. He doesn’t have all the bits for that fence yet either.


Now call me silly, but I really can’t understand why a professional wouldn’t check that a delivery is correct. And why didn’t he check before he got to my place? And why didn’t he say something to me last night when he left, rather than ring me this morning, when I had rearranged my day to be here, and say he won’t be here?



Deep breath. This happens all the time. But it shouldn’t.

How does this tale of incompetence and woe relate to All Paths to Victory?


If you want your business to thrive, you’ve got to make the customer happy.

When you have contracted to provide a service or a product, you need to do everything you can to make the customer happy. You need to make sure that whatever you need to complete the job is delivered on time, and you need to keep the customer informed at all times of progress. I don’t care whether you’re a fencer, a plumber, a builder, a rock star or a trainer, those same rules apply.

You wouldn’t expect to pay for tickets to a rock concert, only to be told when you arrive that the lead guitar has a broken string and there aren’t any replacements available, would you?

So, to be professional you need to ensure that you:

  • keep the customer informed every step of the way
  • turn up when you say you will
  • do the very best job you can
  • make sure that any supplies you need to complete the job are checked when they are delivered, and rectify any problems immediately – the customer should not ever know that your supplier let you down – you should be on top of everything all the time

Expand your network

Something that puzzled me about the fencing contactor is that he appears to use only one supplier. This seems to me to be a potentially dangerous practice.  To keep your business afloat, especially in these economic times, wouldn’t it be a useful thing to expand your network of suppliers and other people who could potentially help your business? You could set up arrangements with other service/product suppliers whereby  you call each other or refer to each other when there is a problem that you can’t fix, or when you have too much work and need a sub-contractor, or simply when someone you meet needs something that can be supplied by someone in your network. Coaches trained at Coach University (as I was) call this the Team 100 Program. (Click here to email me about ways we can work together to create your own Team 100.)

Be ultra-reliable

People don’t give repeat business to people who aren’t reliable. Yes, that’s right, I said people who aren’t reliable. Businesses are made up of people, and if you, as the customer, deal with someone who is incompetent, rude, clueless or unreliable, that gives you the impression that the entire company is like that.

To be ultra-reliable you have to

  • train your staff
  • put failsafe systems into place, so that you can get the supplies you need when you need them or somehow ensure that you provide your customer with the correct service/product on time, every time
  • have a company culture of reliability
  • make the effort to be reliable – as soon as you are unreliable, there goes your entire reputation.

These points apply even if you are a sole trader. It’s sometimes harder to be ultra-reliable when you are a sole trader, which is why you need a Team 100.

What is my opinion of the fencing contractor now? Well, not so good, as you might imagine. So this person has ruined, not only my entire fortnight, but his own reputation. I won’t be recommending him to others.

Bottom line

To be reliable and keep a good reputation in business, you need to go out of your way to make the customer happy. If you’re unsure of how to do this, or you want to create failsafe systems for your business, or if you want to create your own Team 100, email me now.