Motivating Tradesmen

Friday I started a kitchen installation in an industrial building that was being turned into a residence. Very cool. I'll try to put up a case study video of the project before long.

Anyway, the mastermind of the project showed up mid-morning. He was in his 60's and had the bearing of someone who had been around construction for many years.

We spoke for a few minutes, making jokes and getting acquainted. Then he mentioned that he needed some built-in cabinetry made for a certain spot in the building at some point in the future and asked if I would be interested. We looked at the proposed location and discussed his options. I said I might be interested and he could call me when he was ready.

Eventually he moved on to other things and I realized that he was a master at dealing with tradesmen — the people who actually do the work and upon whom the quality of the work largely depends.

Let's look closer at what he did:

“We spoke for a few minutes, making jokes and getting acquainted.”

He created a trusting, collegial atmosphere. A “we're friends, we're all on the same team” is definitely the way to get the most from a tradesman. Don't ride them too hard or they may be sloppy just to spite you. Don't ignore them or they'll feel you are a stranger. Just show some appreciation and attention to them and they'll give you their best.

“he mentioned that he needed some … [additional work done] … at some point in the future”

The best way to get people to perform well today is the possibility of future work.

Now I'm not saying he just made up that work as a ploy, but I am saying that it was awfully shrewd of him to bring it up just then as the kitchen install was beginning.

And if you can think of any possible future work for the tradesmen doing your project, it would not hurt to mention it. Just keep it nebulous and distant, but do get their card or number to show you're serious.