I've worked in both the fire protection and concrete industries in Florida and have seen several approaches to deal with the “working for free” problem (Editorial Comment, March 2005).

  • Periodically, weed out less desirable contractors and owners so that the remaining customers are profitable and fair.
  • Designate some customers as less desirable and mark up the jobs. If you are awarded the job, the extra profit potential offsets the risk of nonpayment or partial nonpayment.
  • A lien is always going to generate discussion from the owner of the property and secures your right of payment. It also provides some security for your claim for payment.
  • Work stoppage—whether the contract allows it or not, if an owner or contractor is not paying, there is always work you could be doing for a paying customer. Just because you can't “legally” delay a job, doesn't mean you can't find a valid reason to be elsewhere. You can't continue to fund material and labor if a job isn't funding you. When there are no men or equipment on a job, owners and general contractors want to talk about why.
  • A very good and aggressive attorney to pursue liens and bond claims is also a great way to get paid. If they aren't paying you, then they're not a customer. An aggressive attorney early in the process can greatly increase the chance of payment.

Bob Gibson, Accounting Manager, Tilt-Con Corp., Altamonte Springs, Fla.