Things Aren’t Going Well and It’s Your Fault

Danny Johnson / 21 comments

Things aren’t going so hot and it’s your fault. You don’t want to think it’s your fault, but the vast majority of the time, it is.

Why aren’t you changing the way I want you to?

Seems strange to say…maybe.

There’s a very profound notion that we cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves. If it’s somebody else’s fault though, what are we to do? There’s the rub. We can only change ourselves, and if we want to fix it (whatever ‘it’ is – flashbacks of Bill Clinton just made me laugh to myself), it has to be our fault.

What happened (an example)

I was checking on a rehab we have in progress and it put me in a funk. I’d love to say that I walked in and was amazed at the progress and quality of work. The opposite happened. Things had not progressed as quickly as they should have been and there were mistakes, major mistakes.

The tile was installed incorrectly. The 12×24 inch tile was supposed to be stacked horizontally, where the 24 inch side is horizontal and the 12 inch side is vertical. It wasn’t. It was reversed.

It looked weird.

The whole tub surround was done that way. “What the hell is this,” was all I could mutter. The response was, “yeah, the tile guy did it wrong.” No kidding.

How come nobody caught it before the whole thing was finished?

Then I walked into the master bathroom….

It was done the exact same way! Not only that, the tub and shower are separate in the master and both had been done incorrectly. The GC was not on the job while I was there. I’m guessing he hasn’t been on the job much lately…

Now my temper was starting to flare. I try to catch it more these days and I’m doing a decent job of it. When the temper is lost, it’s time to stop, take a deep breath and think things through.

I went to my car and I did exactly that. My immediate reaction when I saw the lack of progress and mistakes made was to blame the GC (general contractor). But, was it really his fault? He did make the mistake of not staying on top of his people and he is the one that has to deal with it, but it causes problems for the whole rehab. Which means, it causes problems for me.

Big fat BUT, it was my fault for not staying on top of the GC. This kind of thing has been going on since we started rehabbing houses over 10 years ago. It shouldn’t be a big shocker. In the past, I would always get angry and just pin the blame on the contractor…but they kept doing it. Because that is what some of them do. It’s just reality. Accept it.

I placed a call to the absent contractor and asked him why things were not progressing quickly and correctly enough. He didn’t mention anything about the tile. Then I asked about the tile. His response was something akin to, “Oh. Can you believe that idiot did that?”

He’s playing the same game I was playing. It’s immediately someone else’s fault. I don’t think it occurred to him he needed to blame himself for not staying on top of a new tile person. How do I know the tile guy was new? Because we have been doing all tile patterns the same for YEARS. It’s not something we change often.

But, I didn’t get angry with him because I had realized that ultimately I was responsible for not being there often enough myself. Which happens when you use the same contractor for a couple years and dozens of rehabs.

The buck has to stop somewhere and that somewhere is with us. We are the ones that have the investment at stake and nobody cares about our situation more than we do or we should.

This isn’t just about rehabs and contractors

This idea that we need to be responsible for everything that happens also fits with everything else that happens in your life.

People make too many excuses. I’m not excluded from that.

When things aren’t going well, we have to step up to the plate and make it happen the way we want it to happen. This reminds me of something my father always reminds me of, “someone always needs to be pushing.” If you are relying on someone to do something for you, whether it be a title company to handle a closing, a Realtor to submit an offer, a landscaper to mow a lawn, a student to pass out flyers for you, and you want to make sure it is done quickly and the way you want, you have to be pushing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to be an a-hole. Just keep checking in with people and getting status reports.

Had I done that I wouldn’t have made another mistake the previous week. My wife had scheduled to have the staging furniture for one of the houses we just sold moved to one that we just finished rehabbing.

To make a long story short, I got a call saying there was no carpet in the house we were moving the furniture to. What!!?! That was supposed to have been done the week before. I had the text’s to prove it. But it wasn’t and it was might fault again for not making sure the house was ready. Live and learn.

If we want real change, it has to be our fault.

If we want real change, it has to be our fault….so that we can change it.

What say you?

Have you been blaming someone else when you should be blaming yourself? I’d love to hear about it especially if it has to do with flipping houses, whether you are getting started or having been doing it a while. Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Thank you.

Danny
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21 awesome responses to “Things Aren’t Going Well and It’s Your Fault”

  1. Ralph on

    This post really hit a chord. I’m reading “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield and everything in the first two chapters is about taking responsibility and not blaming anyone but YOU. Everything that happens to you ultimately comes back to you. Flipping and real estate investing is no different.

  2. Brooks Conkle on

    Agree completely man. Great reminder to start off 2014!

    It’s a pill the size of your hand that you attempt to swallow, but it’s just gotta be done…

    Happy New Year to You and your Family.

  3. James on

    Danny, I usually delete emails from other bloggers, but I always take the time to read through yours. What’s funny is that I have experienced the same trials and learned the same lessons as yourself. Some have seen the work that my contractor does and asks for a referral, but they quickly realize why I make the money that I make with him. Flipping/Rehabbing is an art of managing people. It’s not only about buying low and selling high.

    Same is true for wholesaling houses. When I get a property under contract, I absolutely must stay persistent with the Seller, the Escrow Officer, and of course the End Buyer. I need to know where everything is in the process at all times. I have found that this limits the number of deals that I can close giving this level of attention. So, if I want to scale my business, I must hire someone who has the same type of passion for this industry to help me. Keep up the good work Danny.

  4. Con on

    Danny
    I’ll give you a list of things that are my fault concerning our first house rehab but first I wanted to comment on one thing you said “We are the ones that have the investment at stake and nobody cares about our situation more than we do or we should.”

    That is so true. In my short experience rehabbing I’ve found that I should have been more vocal with my desires throughout the process as I am the one with the investment at stake. I should have held the foundation guy responsible, the roofer responsible, etc. All of the contractors get paid and we, the investors, tend to be left with any shortcomings.

    Here is my short list of many things on our first rehab that are all my fault: 1) paying TOO MUCH for the property 2) not vetting my partner 3) listening to the wholesale company and not getting a home inspection 4) not smoothing out that darn floor before laying the wood laminate and 5) believing the wholesale company’s cost rehab estimate was accurate.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. kevin on

    Danny, this is so true, but not just in flipping, but ANY time you manage people – job, retail, etc – walk into any small business and if the owner isn’t around, chances are the place will be not doing as well as it should.

    Like your dad says, someone needs to be pushing. The problem is, I get tired of it ONLY being me who is pushing. I walk away and the urgency and attention disappear. I’ve found that I HAVE to get everyone under the same plan and urgency – I need to make sure everyone knows the deadline and everyone is working toward it and everyone is aware of the major items that will mess it up – and speak up IMMEDIATELY when things start falling off. I try to pass on the ‘push’ and urgency of time and quality. And then keep checking in to make sure we’re where we’re supposed to be. Still doesn’t solve ALL the problems – Why is there no carpet in here?! But it helps to pass on the pushing and keep checking in – sort of like trust but verify.

    It may also help in rehabs to have a bit of a scrum stand-up (if you’re familiar with that from your programming days) – ultimately in coding you doing daily, but in rehab if you do it weekly or so, it will probably help – what did we do last week?, what are we doing this week?, what blockers do we need to solve? Unfortunately it can feel like managing grown children, but once everyone is used to it, everyone comes to support it if it is quick and effective. It helps make sure everyone knows what the plan is and everyone is there to support the plan and get it done.

    But I’ve frustratingly become very aware over the last couple of years that I have NO power over other humans – I can require, command, expect, encourage and help, but I can’t make you care, do it well, or even do it at all. But I CAN replace you with someone who will! haha 🙂

    k

  6. Lubasha on

    Thank you Danny for keeping in touch with me. You are the only one who’s messages I read and see the real person and understand what you talk about. All the rest sound like pure hype aimed to milk from novices or get the dumbest fool from working investors. I don’t have GC and supervise the process myself but even then I have “surprises” all the way during rehab. It is aching, but have no one to blame, just myself. Swear to myself never fall in this trap again and guess what? They are always others on your way.

  7. Pilot Bob on

    “Not me. I never do that. I know the buck stops with me.” [puffs out chest]

    [going through my automated email of “fixer uppers” that I receive from the MLS and seeing several fresh, right-priced, REO deals marked “pending”]
    “OMG! Look at all these houses I’ve missed putting bids on in the last 2 weeks WTH! Why hasn’t my RE Agent seen these and called me. GAUD! Damn missed opportunities!!!!”

    [as I fume, I think back to this morning’s article]

  8. Nancy Frain on

    Well written. We always want to point the finger. If it’s our last project, maybe that works, but mistakes are how people figure out what not to do next time.

  9. Don R. on

    During the last 30 years I learned that being your own boss means being responsible 100% for each and every project. Sometimes it takes longer to interview people then for the project itself and still things go wrong all the time even with previously reliable teams…

  10. Mandy on

    I agree and disagree. Maybe, I still have some growing to do, but I believe that if I delegate responsibility, and pay someone to do it, I shouldn’t have to be one step behind him, like his mother, making sure he is doing what we agreed he should do.

    On the other hand, I agree that if he is constantly making the same types of mistakes, then I need to take responsibility that I’m playing a role in that somewhere. Maybe lack of communication. Maybe lack of attention to detail,i.e., I’m overestimating how much responsibility he is capable of managing.

    In any case, whether or not I believe the blame lies with me or someone else, I have learned and try to adjust my behavior for the fact that blowing up is counterintuitive. For the most part, blame placing and yelling does not work. At best, it makes the person overly self-conscious/less confident and in turn more prone to accidents, at worst, they get defensive, refuse to accept any blame and somehow turn it on you, then make absolutely no effort to change their behavior or act to sabotage you.

  11. Eleia on

    this is so true, if it is to be, then its up to me! I shall get it done!