There is an expression that I use probably more than I should:
He’s got a big bag of nothing
or just simply
He’s got a big bag
The meaning behind this phrase is a person who will talk at length about a subject they don’t know anything about. It’s not much different than saying someone is “full of hot air” or “all talk and no action”. Lately, I have been using this phrase while trying to describe different types of clients and the way they approach their construction budgets – and yes, it involves bags – (but in this case, the bag is an metaphor for the clients project budget).
Quantity over Quality
Client #1 views their bag as empty but sized to accommodate the budget – i.e. – they can put $500,000 worth of stuff in that bag. The way they perceive things, they select a project item and put it into the bag. After a while, the bag is full but they still have items left that they want inside that $500,000 capacity bag … so what do they do? They cram it on top, jam it into the side – whatever it takes as long as it gets in the bag. Don’t worry about the fact that some of the items already in there are getting smashed, broken, deformed … it doesn’t matter. If everything has to get a little worse so that there are more goodies in there than they are happy campers. Just get more stuff in that bag!
Quality over Quantity
Client #2 has their $500,000 bag but the way they see things, their budget is already in this bag. As they select items from the list, they take money out of the bag to cover the expense. When the bag is empty, they stop pulling items off their list. They may not get as much stuff but what they do get is going to be exactly what they wanted.
This type of get more for less type thinking is fairly unique when working with clients who don’t have any experience dealing with construction costs. Most people go though their daily routines selecting items based on a balance of want vs. need vs. cost. It’s a skill that most people master out of necessity:
12 pack of Coke vs. case of Big K Cola – (does it really matter?)
iPad vs. Mortgage – (mortgage should win here)
Some fresh meat vs. lots of rotted meat – (I’ll take the fresh please)
I try to help my clients understand the importance of identifying a budget and sticking to it – but I also put a lot of importance on setting priorities and understanding the cost of the things they want in their projects. Get what you need and then start adding items from your wish list. All too often I hear horror stories of very intelligent and successful people that make terrible decisions based on what makes sense to them – despite any evidence to the contrary. If they don’t get everything they want for what they think it should cost, then they simply move from contractor to contractor until they find someone who tells them what they want to hear. Do I really need to tell you that the end of that story is never a happy one?
“Sure, I can build your dream house for $80 a foot” … “you didn’t think that you were going to get straight walls for that price right?”
“What do you mean you can’t get it to cool below 80 degrees? Was that important ’cause at $80 a foot, I didn’t price it with air conditioning.”
“You bought our ‘Atrium’ style plan … ’cause at $80 a foot it doesn’t come with a roof. Roofs are going to cost extra.”
While it might seem like I’m poking fun at contractors – I’m not. If you are getting the same basic pricing from everyone who looks at your project, you can’t expect to find one who can still give you what you want without there being consequences. If three bids come in and they are all around $50k to $70k over your project budget, the solution isn’t to find cheaper contractors.
If you are one of the people out there reading this, shaking your head in agreement, then you should pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for grasping what seems like an easy concept – you clearly have a bag with something in it. Too bad everyone doesn’t think like you do because there are a lot of people walking around out there with a big bag of junk.