My mom still lives in the house I grew up in, a sprawling mid-century ranch that was custom built by the original owner in 1961. As time passes, the list of major projects seems to grow, and the current corrective action revolves around a block wall that is buckling outward due to poor drainage in the retained flower bed behind it. As you can see by this photo, it’s not something that can be ignored.

A small amount of research led to two possible contractors to assist with this, and the first one I called bowed out of the discussion immediately. The second was a company I had heard of but had no experience with.

I ended up speaking with the vice-president about the project, and sent him a few photos. While I was on vacation, he left me two voice mails to tell me he was going to go assess the situation in person, and that he had been to the house. Solid, proactive communication.

Last week he sent the proposal for the repair work, and I won’t mince words, it was about double the cost I had been picturing. Ouch. But here’s the thing, it was also one of the most articulate and detailed proposals I have ever seen. It had each step clearly outlined and included detailed descriptions of each part of the process. In short, their proposal convinced me that this company was going to do a meticulous job on this project.

Now, common sense says we should get a second proposal. But we probably won’t, because even though we may get a lower price, it is doubtful that another contractor would give us a proposal that instills this much confidence. In fact, if we did get a lower price, there’s a good chance we would go with the more expensive company - specifically because it’s clear that they are going to do a great job.

So consider your proposals. It’s REALLY easy to fire off a price to someone in the name of speed, without providing enough information to impress upon them that you are the best company for the job. On the other hand, a clear but detailed proposal will allow you to sell your work at a premium. Send your proposals to a couple friends who aren’t connected to your business, get some feedback, and look for ways you can add articulate details to your estimates.