I found Chip standing outside my front door this past Saturday morning.
The time was precisely 12:00.
I remember because it was at that very moment that I was blown away.
My wife collects people. Plumbers, electricians, handymen. She needs to. If asked, she’ll say "put a tool in Marc’s hand, reserve a gurney at the emergency room." It never fails — a byproduct of inner city apartment living.
We go through service people like matchsticks. Few ever left an impression. Lori thinks they juggle too many clients at once. It sounds right. But it’s nonetheless unacceptable.
Chip was the new hire. A handyman. Referred by a friend. He communicated with us a week ago. Said he’d arrive at 12:00 on Saturday. I’ve heard that before so I made other plans just in case.
Chip entered with a tool box and air of confidence. Dispensing with small talk he attacked the project immediately assessing the parts and created a supply list for Home Depot. There was something about Chip. I decide to postpone my backup plan and join him.
For the first ten minutes he quietly drove his truck as I excused myself to take a call. When I hung up he asked what I do for a living and how I got into it. I explained.
I then asked him what his story is.
I’ve been dwelling on it since.
As it goes:
Chip was homeless between 1987 and 2003. Courtesy of alcohol and drugs. That was then. Today he owns a “service business” as he puts it. And a home. A truck. A trailer. A motorcycle. And a list of happy clients that refer him tons of business.
There is something about Chip. The way he navigated himself through Home Depot in search of an idea. The way he interacted with the sales staff in search of assistance. The way he passionately approached the simple task of installing some lighting in my house.
What I remember most about Chip was what he shared with me on the ride way home:
You know, there are a lot of handymen in San Luis. And I can honestly say that I am not any more skilled at what I do than my competition. But I don’t need to be. All I have to do is deliver on three simple things. I need to be on time. When I say I will be somewhere, you can take it to the bank. I need to complete the task when I say I will. Not two hours later. Not 2 weeks later. That means understanding the job as it is, not as the client describes. And 3, I charge $10.00 an hour less than everyone else. What I have figured out is that these three things are more valuable to homeowners than being the most skilled.
The hour I spent with Chip is something I wish could share with everyone I know. Five years ago he was living under the three towers in Morro Bay. Today, when he is not delivering on his promise to his customers, he’s back out in Morro Bay delivering on a different promise.
There is something about Chip.
I left him back at the house to finish the job. I had to take care of other things – things that did not require tools with sharp pointy ends.
Chip finished the job at 2:30. Precisely when he said he would. Not a drop of sheet rock dust anywhere. Lori re-hired him to install some air turbines in our attic next weekend. He had time to install during the week but I asked Lori request he come next Saturday. I wanted to be around when he comes back.
This morning I gave his name to a friend. He asked me how good the guy was. “He’s as good as anyone” I said, but he’s on time, gets the job done exactly when he says he will and he’s ten dollars cheaper than his competition”
The last thing Chip said to me was “If you love what you do for a living, you will never work again.” Some figure that out early in life. Some later on. At the bottom of life’s ravine.
You want to build a strong career? Start with the simple things.
The ones you can control.
The ones your competitors take for granted. The little things that will blow people away. Like returning a call immediately. Delivering your product or service ahead of time. Giving them a good deal even if they don’t ask for it
And make that your everything.
The Three Towers in Morro Bay, Ca