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Showing results for tags 'ethics'.
Hello all. I tried a search for this topic, but didn't come up with anything although I'm sure it's been discussed. This treads closely to the trade secret discussion, but is different enough for me to start a new topic. If this has been already discussed, please point me in the right direction, if not, I'm curious as to everyone's thoughts. I'm wondering what the consensus is on selling items you forge that are based on designs that found here on IFI or other places. I know of at least one printed discussion involving one highly successful professional smith who feels that if you didn't come up with the design, you shouldn't try selling it, and another professional smith who says it's OK as long as you don't claim that you came up with the idea and don't try to pass it off as your idea. I tend to fall on the side that if I made it, I should be able to sell it as a hand-forged object, made by me, which is the truth. Where the idea came from is, well a non-issue. I'm pretty sure someone smarter than me was once quoted as saying something to the effect that, "There are no new ideas anymore." What got me thinking about this is the bottle opener thread. I'm a part-time (read:hobby) smith who does demos at the state fair and am allowed to sell items that I forge, both during demos and while working in my own shop. And I'd like to sell as much stuff as possible to pay for my addiction. Bottle openers seems to be good sale items, relatively inexpensive and easier to carry around the fair than, say, andirons. They are also relatively quick and easy to make, and make for good demo items. Is it OK to use ideas found on the web? By OK, I mean ethically, not legally.
I have been the Chief Estimator of an Electrical Contractor for the last four years. Prior to that I spent a few years as the estimator for a mid-sized commercial General Contractor. Recently I attended a professional seminar geared towards construction estimators (sounds fun huh?). That event left several impressions that I imagine the sponsors didn't intend. First off, an estimator from a GC piped up at one point exasperated that some subcontractors were not bidding exclusively to him. He was angry because he felt the explanation they provided (can't afford to put all our eggs in one basket) ignored that helping him win would lead to them getting work. This same gent later interrupted when the topic changed to discussing bid results post deadline. He stated that it was his policy to withhold bid results if he won (standard procedure) AND if his competitor had won but wasn't underway. As a subcontractor it would have been impolite to answer either statement but here's the thing. This GC is soliciting and accepting approximately 5-7 bids per trade. Absolutely every project I've ever been awarded I had to compete for. The question becomes, how does this GC compete for my bid? If this GC won even half the projects he competitively bid- he would have the highest hit rate of any company I know. The situation is that he's just not a real contender and his subs know that. He's also unwilling to give bid results so when it's time for me to show my boss that I'm hitting the mark and doing things right - I have nothing to show for it. GC's withhold bid results when they win because they want to give their Project Managers a chance to review the estimators work. If upon review, they find a mistake that means that bidder B was actually low - the Project Manager can award to bidder B. If the bid results were made public right away - Bidder A would contest the award even though they weren't really the low bidder which creates bad blood. It's a policy meant to allow for quality control - it shouldn't affect your outcome as a subcontractor. If I had to guess why this guy withholds bid results until the job's underway I'd say it's because he's holding out hope that the awarded GC will pull their bid before getting underway which might lead to his firm getting the job. If you're not 2nd low - there's very little risk that will happen. This brings me to another point. General Contractors typically blast the marketplace with emails that are either sent by their staff or by a bid service company. Absolutely everything necessary for a bid is dumped into my inbox including nag emails asking if I'll bid. As an average the projects will take me about six hours to bid. I average 320 bids a year. A typical GC bids about 1 or 2 projects a month - some bid five times that. The companies that bid more often - win less often. None - not even one client will share bid results voluntarily. I have to contact them an average of four times to get an answer. The bid results I do get virtually never include actual numbers or accurate percentages. I get "competitive", "close", "I used your number", and so on. As an average, I will only get bid results on 40% of the projects I bid typically three to five weeks after the deadline. This means my feedback look is delayed by a fiscal quarter. Keep in mind that the majority of the GC's bid's are read aloud within 15 minutes of the bid deadline. One lesson taught at the seminar I mentioned earlier was that successful bidding practices means bidding less and winning more. I have a couple of clients that my boss can't seem to admit are bad for business. They bid roughly 50 projects apiece in a given year. Out of those projects, they'll award us one and they'll be terrible projects. Most of the time they tell me that I was low but they didn't win. If you take my billable hourly rate to their annual workload it's obvious that we're losing money by associating with them. As a businessman it's important to see that every time you lose a bid- you must find a way to win other work that's profitable enough to pay for that lost investment. I took a moment a while back and did some calculations. Taking my average win percentage (excluding these two clients) I'd need to bid 105 projects to win sufficient work to break even on the cost of bidding to these two clients. That means that my bosses loyalty to these firms consumes about two thirds of my output! To put that another way all the profit we make in a year comes from whatever I bid approximately two days a week. Not bidding these two clients would literally double the annual profit. Any company with a 2% win rate should overhaul their estimating and marketing programs before wasting any more of the markets time. I genuinely can't imagine how they've stayed in business this long. The takeaway from this is that the perception that loyalty and relationships should trump all in business is based on the presupposition that the work in common will be profitable. GC's who call begging for bids are inevitably out of options because they chase bad work, for broke clients that they never win. It's odd to actually say it, but I genuinely feel that these folks are unethical for wasting the markets time. During my tenure as a GC estimator I had a policy of posting bid results within 24 hours of receiving word that I'd lost. I posted a spreadsheet listing the companies and their bids along with a note on who I'd used and why. I posted the spreadsheet on the same bid letting system we used for the invites so anyone who'd bid got all the results. Within weeks I started receiving bids from subs I'd never heard of before simply because they knew I would provide bid results if I lost. Bidders quickly learned how they compared in the markeplace and adjusted to stay competitive. I got better pricing and won more often than before that policy. The solution to reducing high prices can be as simple as being a better client. Finally, I'd like to share an observation. Business owners are always attracted to "shiny objects" i.e. a project that's burst onto the scene that starts tomorrow, is fully funded, and has incomplete drawings, but if you'll price their alternates, unit prices, and come in under budget the job's yours. These are the hallmarks of a dirtbag client. There's never enough time to fully design it, define it, or price it - but there will be time to ask for umpteen revisions before they call and "negotiate it". "Hey - your number looks good and you're apparent low but we budgeted 20% less waddaya say?" You'll lose money - it'll hurt your business, and trying to outsmart a career grafter isn't a resume builder. The fact is that there will always be a surplus of terrible projects. People don't go out of business because of jobs they lost - they go out of business losing money on jobs they won.