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When Is It a Good Idea To Turn Down Work?

MONDAY, JUNE 6, 2011

By Burt Olhiser

My musings this month have to do with the reasons we turn down work. That’s right, dear readers. I am talking about what we don’t usually talk about, the fact that we often decide not to take on someone’s work, and why we make such decisions.

During my years contracting, I often turned down work either by refusing to do it, or more often by simply and quietly not submitting a bid. Now that my business is consulting rather than contracting, I still turn work down because competing firms may be more adept at solving the client’s problem, or because I’m just too busy.

On reflection, though, the reasons for declining consulting work opportunities are often still very much the same as they were during my contracting years.

Sometimes, I would turn down work because the client was unreasonable or established unachievable goals. Other times, I recognized that the project was way over my firm’s head because it required skills, equipment or other resources we did not possess, or because it was too demanding of the resources we did possess.

Declining a job was more often than not a tough, nerve-wracking decision:  do I, or don’t I jump? I would be lying if I didn’t confess that I often made the wrong decision.

Sometimes, when we jumped, we plunged into the deep end of the pool. My crew and I would be treading water like drowning men. Other times, when we didn’t jump, it was even more maddening because we would find ourselves with time on our hands to “clean the shop” or do other busy work.

So here is the question:

What are the most common reasons you turn down a job?

  • Unreasonable customer
  • I don’t turn down jobs
  • Substrate problems beyond my control
  • Scheduling
  • Other reasons?



Burt Olhiser

Burt Olhiser founded Vantage Point Consulting in 1991 after a 15-year stint as a successful Northern California painting contractor. He initially provided safety, training and business consulting services to fellow contractors. He was an instructor at UC Davis’ EPA Western Regional Lead Training Center until the program’s closure, at which time he moved to UC Berkeley's Center for Occupational & Environmental Health program where he still serves today. Burt also served as Environmental Health & Safety Director and Quality Control Manager for one of California's largest industrial painting contractors. A member of SSPC, CSI, PDCA, and NACE, Burt is a CDPH Lead Related Construction Professional, Certified Asbestos Consultant, Certified Professional Estimator, and NACE Certified Coatings Inspector. Burt is a contributing editor to D+D.



Tagged categories: Brushes and rollers; Paint application; Purdy; Consultants; Contractors; Customers; Good Technical Practice

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