Watch Your Time

It's really a no-brainer...but if you don't watch the time, you'll find yourself battling with a runaway timecard. This situation can occur with your private landscape guy, a subcontractor, or even general contractor on "time and material" projects. Even with the more credible outfits, once a timecard has been submitted and the employee has been paid, good luck on un-ringing the bell, so to speak. As spoken of in a previous article, all contracts need to have some kind of agreement, or stipulation on the scope of work, general timeframe, and perhaps a "guaranteed not to exceed" provision in the case of a time and material type of project. Simply put, if you hire a guy to rake your yard you may desire to pay him a lump sum, or since you've had a heavier than normal rainfall this season and the leaves have half compacted, you decide to pay him by the hour, You have a hunch is that it will take him a good part of the day to complete the job, but you don't bother with hammering out any of the details as you are rushing out the door for an important business trip. Whether you want to keep him on for more work down the road, would you not be upset if, upon returning from your business trip you find a bill on your door for 20+ hours, and he hasn't even touched the backyard? Believe it or not, this is not that uncommon of an event. Well, how do you watch the time? Direct supervision is a sure answer, but it is impractical if you have a life... In the case of the "leaf raker", by leaving things open-ended and not having any mechanism in place to gauge his progress, you've left yourself in a vulnerable position. At this point, it is irrelative whether he was loofing or not. In relative terms, the larger the job, the greater the risk of having a real nightmare of a runaway timecard. Try for an example, a skilled tradesman who charges \$80-\$125 per hour of work. In many cases the actual runaway timecard is legitimate, but the reality of the costs is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. I was personally caught by surprise a few months ago, when, what I thought was a double billing on a job actually turned out to be additional labor (the company billed out in 30 day increments and the work spanned across 2 billing cycles). I thought the first month's bill was steep enough as it was, not to mention receiving a delayed, "second punch". Needless to say, the bell had already been rung... Time may be of the essence, however, many needless disputes can be avoided if you take pause, re-group, and or get your paperwork squared away before you commence work. Good luck.

My next blog on this subject area will be discussing the basic mechanics of a time and material and fixed-priced jobs, and as change orders pop up, how "economies of scale" should be implemented.