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Life is busy and everything keeps moving faster. We need shortcuts to help us decide many things. There just isn’t enough time to spend on important decisions as we would like.  One of those areas is finding great service people. 

We have all had bad experiences with repair folks. The latest criminals in this field are the people who tell you they will be at your house between the hours of 3 a.m. and the apocalypse! Who has time to wait for a smelly plumber that shows up at the very end of the time slot, usually a four-hour window, and then even more time is needed to actually do the work. And then usually they have to order a part and then come back next week.  Ohhhhh….don’t get me started.

So how do we find the gems? Well, in the words of Marvin Gaye, you’ve got to hear it through the grapevine. Getting information and recommendations from people we know is invaluable!

Even better than Angie’s list, Yelp and other online sites, the recommendation of someone you trust is the best. And here is a fairly safe rule of thumb: find out who your affluent friends use, and if you can afford them, you will usually be very satisfied.

Here is a list of the eight ‘must have’ professionals that make our lives run smooth!

Car repair guy. #1 advice: stay away from dealer repair shops unless it is a warranty fix. They are always higher when you compare pricing.  For years we got our cars fixed at a place called Irvine Auto Care*. They did a marvelous job of building goodwill by fixing little things for free. They also developed trust by sometimes advising us to fix something or recommended places to take our car that specialized in a certain type of repair.

Interesting side note: The store was named “Irvine” Auto Care even though it was located just across the border in the neighboring city of Tustin. Gary, the owner, said he got the idea after reading the book “Gorilla Marketing.”  Irvine is a considerably larger market than Tustin. Gary rightly reasoned that people from Irvine would hesitate to drive to Tustin, which sounded much further away. He built a very successful business before selling.

If you really like a mechanic, get his personal cell number and email address. If the mechanic ever decides to go out on his own, believe me his old boss will not tell you where he went!

House cleaner. The number one rule for hiring a house cleaner is trust! These folks are in your house, for goodness sakes. The number two thing to look for is how well they clean.  How much you pay will be subject to the size of your home and how much you want them to do. It is recommended that you pay them a flat fee vs. paying hourly. And spot check occasionally but discreetly to make sure the work is being done correctly.

Hair stylist. women tend to not to go to their hair stylist as often as most guys do. I am a once a month guy. Obviously, when you find someone you like, stick with them. But the next most important hurdle when dealing with a hair cut is the scheduling challenge. Unless your person will allow you to schedule a specific time, convince your “barber” that they should text or email you once a month and ask you if you prefer morning or afternoon times that you would be available. This will save you from waiting in line or having to constantly figure out what days of the week your person is working.

Gardener. I believe the vast majority of landscape folks could be called “whackers” instead of gardeners. Gardening connotes growing and cultivating flowers, shrubs and grass. Over the years, the gardener’s I have hired main job, as far as I can tell, is to get a weed whacker and machine gun everything, then follow up with a leaf blower and get rid of the evidence.

As a long time urban dweller, I have a very small amount of grass at my home. Literally it is a patch in front of my house that is 5′ x 9′, smaller than most family’s room rugs.  Yet for the last 5 years, there has been more dirt showing than grass. Finally, my wife, no stranger to plain talk, said to our man, “Aren’t we paying you to make sure there is grass here?” We now have a lovely green mini-lawn!

My point, besides unloading my long time frustration on you, is you need to clearly communicate expectations and then follow up.  And don’t be afraid to negotiate price. If your gardener isn’t “cutting it” don’t be afraid to shuffle the deck and find someone else.

Dentist. One of my “thriftier” friends always went to a fairly expensive dentist. He would visit three stores to get the best price on Chef Boyardee. So when he said that you should never scrimp on dental care, he got my attention. I couldn’t agree more. Look for quality individual practitioners rather than the big corporate dental factories. You will have a much better outcome.

I am appalled at the high number of bargain basement dentistry offices that exist today. Many lure you in with offers of free or very inexpensive check ups and initial teeth cleaning. Then they prescribe expensive and often unnecessary procedures. This really upsets me. These are trusted advisors and professionals. So buyer beware!

Fix it man.  To find someone to hang a mirror, repair the screen door or re-hang a door and other minor repair tasks around your house, ask a residential real estate agent. Many times, in order to close a sale, something needs to get fixed: removing a doggy door, fixing a hole in the wall, etc. Real estate people are great referral sources! And since there are 3 real estate agents on every block, your resources should be plentiful!

Computer expert. Unless you are a savant, you will need the services of a computer expert. We seem to regularly have issues with our wireless capabilities, speed, printing issues, upgrades, etc. One of my best friends owns a computer store and he has saved my bacon more times than I can count (Thank you Coastline Micro!).

My single best computer tip: before you call for repair, completely shut down everything: computer, printer, router, modem, etc. Hitting the reset button solves a high degree of problems!  Second best tip: don’t scrimp with hardware! Get equipment that is fast. Remember, it is a new world. You don’t want to be driving a Model T on the interstate!

Web guru. This is different than a computer expert. The Internet is still relatively young and we are learning more every day. Getting someone to help you navigate and use it properly is time and money well spent.


Images courtesy of shapeshift and Claudio.Ar