Yesterday I found a flyer on my front door.

I’ve been staring at a project in my backyard for a few weeks. Staring hasn’t gotten it done. So I figured I’d see what it would cost to have these guys do it.

I called them. 10 minutes later the guy came by. He was down the street on another job. We walked out back. I told him what I needed done. He looked around for 20 seconds and said $300. I said “deal.”

That’s it. No proposal. No “I’ll get back to you tomorrow”. No “Let me see how much the materials will cost and I’ll drop an estimate in your mailbox next week.”

Just $300. Deal. When can you start? Wednesday. How long will it take? A few hours for a few guys.

He knows his business. I know what my time is worth. End of transaction. It was so damn refreshing.

I know everything can’t be done like this, but often it seems like we’ve slid down a path of formality with so many things that really don’t need it. Extensive contracts, delays, red tape, precise cost estimates based on precise amounts of materials, “let me think about it and I’ll get back to you,” etc. Essential? Sometimes yes, but most of the time probably not.

I remember the tail end of our time as a web design company. When we started we did 20 page proposals. I remember pulling all nighters getting a proposal ready. Pages and pages of stuff. What a waste of time.

Towards the end we were doing one page proposals. It didn’t seem to matter. We were going to get the job or we weren’t. Over six years I never saw a connection between length and detail of proposal and winning a job.

Same thing with contracts. Sometime we hire an outside contractor or specialist to give us a hand on a project. Our contractor agreement used to be 8 pages long. Lawyers wrote it. Our current contractor agreement is one page long. I wrote it then showed it to our lawyers. They said it was fine. Done.

I know it seems like a stretch to compare lessons from a door flyer for a small landscaping job to 10 page legal contracts for 3 month long expensive web design projects. But maybe it isn’t.