Pulling Nails


This blog post was written by Andrew Roelfs.

Stop wasting your most valuable resource.

I’ve recently been working on a project at our home. In order to help finish on a timely manner, I had to bite the bullet and hire a contractor to help me finish a few of our projects.  Like any good penny pinching Dutchman I informed our contractor that we were on a tight budget. Out of gate I set the expectation that I wasn’t expecting any surprises on the project. I also offered to assist the contractor when I could in the evenings to help things keep moving along.

When chatting with the contractor one morning about the upcoming work for the day he mentioned he’d be removing a bunch of nails from some sheeting to save some 2X4s. There were a lot of nails and he was going to spend the day trying to save a dozen 2X4s. Technically he was trying to save me money, at least lower my material cost, but by telling him to buy new 2X4s and throw the old stuff away I turned an 8-10 hour job into a 1 hour task. Since it’s a Time and Materials project, I probably came out a couple hundred bucks ahead on that decision.

This got me thinking. Where am I “pulling nails” in my work? Where am I blindly following orders in order to save a buck? Innovation is about figuring out a better way to get those nails pulled, but proper communication and scope management might make you realize you never really had to pull the nails in the first place.

By digging into what your client is after you can really understand their goals and align your scope with what the client is after. These are the things that will actually add value.  By planning your job well and giving transparency into your work progress you won’t have any surprises. Oh, and as for the byproduct, you’ll be spending time on things that add real value to the client, and not just wasting time. Try to see things from the client’s perspective.  I can tell you from experience time costs a whole lot more than a dozen 2X4s.