I had the luck to meet a craftsman during these holidays. He is not a software craftsman. He does not work with computers, but with construction and repairs of homes and apartments. He is a master mason.
During my stay in Spain, I had to interview and evaluate the proposals of three local constructions shops to almost rebuild from scratch an old apartment there.
I observed a bunch of similarities with the craftsmanship movement of our software industry. This actually helped me make a decision to pick the right person for the job. If I ever jump into freelancing, I would try to have all the attributes that made me pick this guy.
The first thing before starting a project this big, is to get a proposal. You tell them what you want to do, leave them the keys of the apartment, meet again in a couple of days to review their proposals.
All our proposals were a few pages long. They describe what needs to be done and the price for each of those items. Their language is sometimes technical. They describe the techniques and materials that they plan on using. So I had to learn a lot of new words and the whole process that goes into this “big refactoring” of the apartment.
After getting all the proposals, compared prices, interviewed again with all of them, made revisions to their original proposals, we chose our shop. Here is what helped us made that decision:
A couple of friends and family had recent experience working with them. They were very happy with the results. They were even proud to show the work that they did for them and walked us through all the details.
When interviewing with him, it was obvious that he is passionate about his work. He does not only do it for a living. He enjoys what he does. He took the time to explain the techniques that he would use and why he would apply them.
He listened to us and provided advice, ideas and alternatives about what could be done. He was honest about what could be done within budget and what could increase the final price.
Even though we did not ask for it, he was the only one that took the time to show his current work. We visited houses that his team is currently building and enhancing. We were also able to see his past work through the referrals.
He was not the cheapest or the more expensive option. He was also upfront that sometimes his team is slower than others. He takes the time to finish his job correctly.
A very agile method of payment. Him and his team will work for you for a week. At the end of the week, review their work and decide if you want to continue working with them. You can then pay weekly, every 2 weeks, or monthly. You decide how long is the iteration (he did not call it that, of course). There is no contract, only a handshake to continue to the next iteration.
The other 2 companies required a 30% up front followed by fixed payments on certain dates.
He also agreed to send me weekly pictures of the progress through email and I am going to ask him to have regular phone calls to talk about the project. I guess I will secretly call it ‘a standup call’ or something like that ;)
Of course, this made me wonder about ‘agile’. Why does it seems so easy for this 4 people construction shop to behave like the best ‘agile’ company I ever knew? They haven’t heard the term ‘agile’ and probably don’t care for it. They are craftsmen with a business model that makes sense and works for them.
Something I admire and hope to copy someday.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” - Cavett Robert