ONETIME- Worthless help: Problem at the urology clinic


Mike Fermahin of Sarisand Tile

One time when I was a general contractor's supervisor, this kid was on my crew. He was just a typical rural high school dropout who was a gopher and cleaned up our site. 


One day he came over to me and said in his thick accent, "'Bo, you gotta help me out, Bo." And I said, "What's the matter?" And he said, "'Bo, I ain't ever gonna git nowhere bein' a clean-up man. How am I gonna make any money?" 

I said, "I'm gonna give you some responsibility." 

We were working on a urology clinic. In it, there's a stainless steel portal where the urine sample cup gets passed through a door in the wall to someone else on the opposite side through another door. They're easy to put in: you just cut a hole in the wall and there are two sleeves that connect to each other. 

I told him, "I've got a problem. These two sleeves aren't going together because the screws aren't long enough. After work, stop by a hardware store and find screws that will fit these. Tomorrow, you can cut them and put 'em in." 

He said, "'Bo, I got it!" 

The next day, he came in looking guilty.

He said, "'Bo, you gonna be mad as hell... Look at this."

He pulled out the stainless steel sleeves, which were all bent and mangled. And I said, "What the hell have you done?" 

He said, "'Bo, I went to the hardware store looking for the screws, and I slammed the door, and the damn thing got caught in the door!" And I said, "Get your dumb ass around..." He said, "I know, I know: get the broom..." 

If you need a cleanup guy or gopher– every big construction site has to have them, guys like that are fine. 

But to avoid hiring flakes, it's all luck of the draw, then you weed them out. You're always going to find worthless help. 

When I did commercial work, I used to get temporary help through temp services. Out of ten, you would probably get one good one. You call the temp service and try to keep him. But I've gotten guys that show up and want to bum money. You loan them some, then they vanish.

 But remember: allegedly skilled help is sometimes not much better. 

Sometimes the more you work with someone or a group, you start finding out who you can work with and who you can't, and you start positioning yourself to work with them more often. That's usually how more stuff gets done properly. 

But when you get people on jobs that don't do things the way you want them done, then it snowballs and affects everything down the line. 


[Clarification: Mr. Fermahin has done some subcontracting for Sarisand Tile but is not an employee of the company.]