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Work the same for a penny as a pound

Listed under Blog Posted Jan 26 2010

Years ago I met a builder, who told me he worked the same for a penny as he did for a pound. It sounded a bizarre way to do business, and very counter-intuitive to how most people attack business.

i.e. surely the idea is to have a set of rates that a) past customers have been happy to pay and b) equates to an income that is fair to you. Talking pennies one moment, and pounds the next smacked of someone with no business sense, and little credibility. He sounded like a guesstimator who would have no idea if he was going to break even or lose his shirt one job to the next. Or he would be forever negotiating strenuously with no rhyme nor reason to his position. At best, he sounded like a good tradesman who wasn’t business savvy.

However, the “builder” in question was a gentlemen called Don Donovan and talking penny and pounds, he wasn’t being literal, he was referring to his attitude to work. Once he had worked out all the figures, and arrived at a price he was happy with, and secured a job, his attitude was one track – to do the very best he could. The money never crossed his mind till he finished. If he realized he had underestimated, it didn’t detract him from doing his best, and if he got ahead of schedule, the better than expected pay cheque didn’t mean much to him either.

I like Don, because he talks my language. I have the same attitude as him. It is my responsibility to provide a fair quote and stick to it. Unless a 3rd party moves the goal posts, my price is fixed and stays fixed, and the quality of work has to be high, regardless of whether i am ahead or behind schedule.

You probably won’t have heard of Don, he is sort of reclusive, elusive, and a polarizing personality. Most people, he just shouts at or ignores. All part of being an artistic genius, I suppose. He was once lauded by the Telegraph as the most important artist in England back in the 70’s , but he hates the art world with a passion. He is very shy and speaks a bit gruffly too. He once applied for a job restoring leadwork at a prestigious mansion in Gloucestershire. When they asked him about his abilities, he told them that he could do anything, even write in lead. They misunderstood and hung up on him. If they had seen the sign on his house they would have understood that he can “write”, as in create any shape freehand in molten lead, not just write with a pencil.

I am lucky to have the patience to be around Don, and he has shared many of his insights and philosophies with me. Be it building a beautiful eclectic house from leftover building materials, or creating a canvass with a background that would put Miro to shame, or hammering copper roofed dovecotes or carving a statue or welding a 6 foot cockerel, whatever he did, if I was around, he would give some priceless tips. And his main refrain was “I work the same for a penny as a pound.”

If you would like a free no obligation quote, please contact me, and if you accept my price, I will apply Don Donovan’s philosophy to your job – plus I will turn up when I say I will, and I will work everyday till the job is finished.

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