I have had three phone calls this week from new companies starting in the Field Services business. I had two calls last week. I’m not talking about contractors, the people in the field doing the work; I’m talking about companies that will be hiring the contractors. All have called asking if I would give them a recommendation for membership in an organization they wished to join. I told each of them that I could not.
I have not found an organization in this industry that has accomplished much of anything as far as benefits for the contractor in the field. There is one organization that came very close to success but it has failed to gain the support it needs to be truly successful.
Over the years, I’ve had many field reps, both inspectors and contractors, call to ask for my opinion on membership in first one organization or another. When I give them my opinion , they may challenge my opinion with some very poor reasons for membership. Let’s look at some of these reasons and how I feel about them:
“It’ll mean more business for me”. What makes you think that? Did you get that in writing. Did someone insinuate that membership would get you more business? What if there’s already 15 members in your area? Do they get their work taken away to give to you? This could go on and on but my opinion on this reason is “Hogwash.”
“I’ll be on their membership list”. So what? Either companies need your services or they do not. I promise you that if you are willing to take an assignment in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico, they are not going to look to see if you are on a list. If you’re willing to work in the most crime infested neighborhoods of the inner city, it’s not important that you’re on the list. Another thing about membership lists. Is it an open list or a closed list? Open to the public or for members only? I feel that a closed list is nothing more than another way to gain another membership fee – you gotta pay to look. How many members are on this list – 300, 500, 1000? How many of those are actually hiring companies and how many of those are contractors not hiring but working? Also, notice that there is absolutely no opportunity for a hiring company outside the industry or any non-member to know of your existence. Again, my opinion on this reason is “Hogwash.”
“They will represent me”. I will have to admit I almost fall down and die when I hear this so-called reason for membership! Represent you to whom? Have they ever sent notification of who they met with on your behalf, what was discussed on your behalf and what was accomplished on your behalf? Did your fees get raised and not subsequently taken by a higher “discount fee?” I thought so. “Hogwash.” Another thing, I disrespect any organization that claims to speak for the industry when I know that I have not had my say on a subject. They do not speak for me. I have not yet given up my voice to speak for myself. “More hogwash.”
“They offer insurance.” That’s great! How many options did they give you? Did they tell you why you need it in the first place? Did they tell you how much liability and burden you are going to take on this business? Did they tell you how many insurance claims put other contractors out of business? Where is their support on these issues? “Hogwash, hogwash, hogwash.”
“They offer training.” If they offer training why does practically every company in this industry require that contractors have their “contractors manual”, or go through a “probationary period” or some other such requirement that is so much like the others yet their very own “our way of doing things”? If they offer training why don’t all the companies accept their training in lieu of their manual, or probation or whatever?
“They say they have networking opportunities”. Let’s make this one real short. If it is working so well, why do so many companies have their own group on Yahoo or Google or Linkedin or Facebook?
Why are so many contractors calling around the country trying to find work? Network with whom – the same ten or fifteen members that actually hire contractors; as needed and on their terms? “Hogwash.”
“They offer certification.”Wow! What percentage of the companies out there accept any certification other than their own insufferable telephone conference training or having contractors sign for receipt of “the contractors manual”. More hogwash!
Why did I write this article? I wrote this article hoping it will make you think. I wrote this article hoping it would make you question things that go on in this business. I wrote this article to entice you to learn the history of this business and it’s players. Who is working for you? Who is working against you? What is the status quo?
This article is not criticism of organizations in this industry – it’s criticism of the entire industry, the status quo. One more thing: of the five new companies that called me, one is requiring a 40% discount fee from it’s contractors! Who stands between you and this type of company? Will their membership application be accepted?
I will have more on the subject of the sorry condition of this industry. A condition that we all have contributed to – some actively, most by doing nothing. There are serious issues that need to come out in the open. Issues that are almost taboo: contracts, fees, independent contractor status, insurance, safety in the field and other touchy subjects normally not mentioned.
As is usually the case with most articles I write, I’ll leave you with a quote:
“The status quo is the only solution that cannot be vetoed,” meaning that the status quo cannot simply be decided against; action must be taken if it is to change.
These are the words of Clark Kerr; a man that had the courage to challenge the status quo of his time.