Not all tradespeople are cowboys

Not all tradespeople are Cowboys.

The perception of tradespeople as being “Cowboys” has become ubiquitous.

This is partly because tradespeople are themselves so ready to criticise the work of other tradespeople (“What bunch of cowboy’s did this for you?”) and also due to wide-spread media coverage of “Cowboy Builders”.

However, the vast majority of tradespeople are, in fact, not Cowboys. They are ordinary people trying to do the best job they can, make a living for themselves and provide for their families.

Certainly there are individuals masquerading as tradespeople, doing work that they lack the skills and experience for. Rest assured though that they are in the minority and they can easily be avoided (see our “How to avoid the Cowboys” for more, and also “How to avoid disputes with tradespeople”).

No one benefits by branding all tradespeople as Cowboys

An unintended consequence of the liberal use of the term “Cowboy” and plethora of “cowboy builder” stories is that it, naturally enough, creates feelings of fear and mistrust amongst property owners. We would argue that commencing a business transaction with this mind-set benefit’s nobody.

We’d encourage property owners planning to engage the services of a tradesperson to:

  • Consider and treat tradespeople as they would any professional service provider (Doctor, Accountant, Fitness Trainer, Lawyer etc)
  • Take a few simple steps to protect themselves from the “cowboys” that are out there (See “How to Avoid the Cowboys ”)
  • Clearly communicate with tradespeople, by which we mean:
    • Be clear about requirements
    • Don’t be reticent to answer questions (What’s your budget? Are you looking for the cheapest price? Will you supply your own materials?)
    • Never assume anything
    • Maintain a dialogue if anything goes awry
  • See “How to avoid disputes with tradespeople” for more

What (or who) is a cowboy tradesperson?

Our definition would be “someone who is paid to carry out property maintenance, repair and renovation tasks that they either do in a knowingly substandard fashion or that they lack the training, skills, qualifications and experience to do correctly.”

We would say a Cowboy tradesperson is NOT one who:

  • Fails to send a quote in a timely manner. They are unreliable and disorganised, yes, but not a cowboy.
  • Makes a mistake;
    • we all make mistakes, in private and professional lives. It’s fair that we should expect any employed person to do tasks to the best of their abilities and they do have a legal obligation to do so.
  • Charges more than others;
    • it’s accepted that some lawyers, doctors or accountants charge more than others but we believe and accept that there are reasons for this;  more seniority, training or experience. Why not with tradespeople?
  • Charges for additional work;
    • As long as the additional work is necessary to achieve the agreed outcome. There is a difference between not thinking a job through (that’s the tradesman’s error and should not- in our opinion – always  result in additional charges) and unforeseeable requirements. It also depends if a quote or an estimate was agreed on (See “The difference between quotes and estimates” for more)
  • Does not fix a problem first time;
    • Most fixes require an element of trial and error. Sometimes all trials and errors are made in one visit. Sometimes they need to be left to see if the problem is solved.
    • What a tradesperson should do is communicate what has been done and what the potential outcome might be, especially if that outcome might be further work.
  • Has their work criticised by another tradesperson;
    • Different tradespeople have different opinions. As do different lawyers, doctors and tax advisers.
    • Unfortunately criticising another tradesperson’s work is a favourite past time of many tradespeople.
  • Charges for collecting materials / travel time / research;
    • Engaging a tradesperson means you are employing the service they provide. It’s fair to pay for all the time they are providing that service as you would any professional service provider. HomeForce do not, though, classify a charge just to attend a job as part of “the service” that would be a “Call Out Charge“, Bear in mind that tradespeople do need to make a living and so ensure that a sufficient amount per hour is charged or a minimum charge is made to ensure they are covered for their entire time providing a service.

Most tradespeople are poor communicators

Although we say that only a few individuals are cowboy tradespeople we do also believe that the level of service offered by many (but not all) tradespeople is what let’s them down. This also contributes to a poor reputation.

We believe the primary cause of this is that tradespeople are often poor communicators. They don’t know what to say when and how to say it. However, we don’t feel this is a reason to classify all tradespeople as Cowboys’.

It is also the area that HomeForce works hardest in helping tradespeople to improve. By doing so we try to ensure that HomeForce tradespeople do not get mistaken for Cowboys.

To book a tradesperson (verified as a non-Cowboy)