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RE: Eating $$ (Over-Runs)

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I'd like to clarify something I wrote before I respond to a bunch of mail
all at once:

By me:
> I work for a small sole proprietorship.  (Me, the boss, and a drafter).
We
> work on small projects combined with small consultations in the $350
range.

It was not meant to read that ALL projects are in the $350 range.  Most of
our small consultations are $250 to $550.  We do alot of small buildings,
however, for around $2500 to $4500.  Our bids are pretty close to the
competition, depending which firm misses a complication in the design and
underbids- thereby getting the job (another gripe of mine).

   >Set your sights a tad higher. Go after larger projects.
   >Little projects never really pay, but they can lead to
   >larger jobs or better clients.

I'm not sure if that advice applies to the $350 range or the small building
jobs as well.  The Architects we generally work with rarely have large
projects, it's usually churches, additions, etc.  But we do get some bigger
ones when they come along.  I think  projects working with an Architect are
a whole different kettle of fish (not _always_ better) from the
consultations with contractors.  Furthermore, as an EIT, I have to work
within the scope of my firm and my experience.

   >By the way ........ What is "snubbing"?

A common term in trusspeak for cutting a truss short on the end.

   >I would, however, ask how the owner of this
   >business survived for 20
   >years specializing in "small jobs" at such low fee's. Is
   >there this much
   >competition in the area for small projects or, as in my
   >case, do you feel an
   >obligation to serve the community by taking small jobs that
   >noone else will
   >touch?
   >Sorry to sound so harsh...

Not at all.  Actually, I think there is some considerable competition.  It
seems some people are willing to do this fill-in work cheap.  There is an
engineer around here that takes on these jobs, apparently walks around the
room once, waves his arms, and says add a few nails here and there and don't
worry about it.  Not good service, but cheap.

We do feel an obligation to give the average Joe reasonable access to
engineering service.  The problem I run into with that (aside from the
annoying con jobs some pull) is with these new truss designs and LVL's
stacking left and right, a "simple" remodeling plan can turn into rocket
science.

I think my boss was successful with little jobs because he is pretty
efficient, does not seem to mind repetitive work, has had little overhead,
and is located in a small town so word-of-mouth means many little odd jobs
rolling in all the time.  We also are sort of retained by a few companies we
do alot of engineering for (one truss mfgr. included).

Many people have mentioned contract documents.  Does this apply to the $350
jobs you do?  I never see many of the contractors who send me prints to work
from.  I have thought of drafting up a generic contract for the on-site
visits.  I agree that a 3 minute discussion and then hoping for the best is
not wise, but a separate contract for each little job seems really
cumbersome.  Maybe another argument against the small jobs.  By the sound of
it, not many people are messing with jobs less than $1000.

Just an additional anecdote, it was timely that right after I sent the first
post on this thread, a contractor called me up.  He was trained as a
mechanical engineer but not certified (this opening line has _always_ meant
an unreasonable request will follow).  He knows all the beam sizes for a
townhouse plan but the city wants the footings designed and (2) beams
checked.  (I have no idea why these items were singled out.)  He figures
it's less than an hour's work.  I get the plans and it is the ugliest mess
of stacked beams and cantilevers (bad plans, too) I have ever seen.  He told
me the steel beam supplier designed the beams and can give me the reactions.
The steel beam supplier said he was unhappily roped into doing the calcs (2)
years ago (for the first time the plan was built) and he remembers the job
because it was such a headache.  But he does not have the calcs anymore.
Furthermore, when he went to look for the information he was moving boxes of
files around and threw out his back so he can't walk.  I'm not about to
start talking about Karma on an engineering forum (or anywhere else) but
some jobs just seem to have that badness you can just about smell....  By
the way, this contractor used to work with another engineer, he told me, who
would jot some hand calcs on a sheet of paper for him for something like
this and give it to the city.  But this engineer is now accepting larger
jobs.  I'm beginning to put this all together now.

I'm really on a roll here, but I have to mention another story about someone
trained as a mechanical engineer but who didn't have the "piece of paper."
He wanted someone to come out to the site, look at a truss repair he did,
write a letter on the spot okaying it, before lunch.  As I was trying to
explain that we have other customers and could not drop everything, he
grunted "thanks for nothing" and hung up.

Regards,
Ed