A Once Faithful Client
Imagine starting your own business and working hard for a trusted client, only to have them stab you in the back for nothing in return. Small business owners take a giant leap of faith when orchestrating a business. Their future relies heavily on the success of their business. The sheer thought of someone taking advantage could set back a small business to the point of no return.
“Malcolm” was in this exact situation after working with “Gus” and his son “Connor” throughout the course of a year only to have them back out on their tab. Their actions blindsided Malcolm because he never thought in his nine years of being a business owner that someone would stoop so low as to ditch their obligation as a patron.
After repeatedly reminding the father-son duo about their unpaid fees totaling in the thousands, Malcolm quickly realized just how ‘loyal’ his clients really were. Because he had employees to pay, and other clients to answer to, at first, Malcolm wasn’t sure how to properly address the situation. But after digging deep, Malcolm concocted a satisfying and rather profitable revenge plan to give his dishonest clients a taste of karma.
After seeing his work on a commercial property and newer builds in the community, Gus hired Malcolm to take care of projects for his personal home, thus beginning the friendship between the two. He also asked Malcolm to do projects on the homes he bought and rented out, including installations. Malcolm was thrilled to have a new client.
However, Malcolm mainly focused on maintenance, so his crew didn’t have a ton of experience with installations. The homes Gus built were not ‘track homes’ or the cookie-cutter-type primarily in the suburbs.
A small home for Gus was thirty-five hundred sq ft on a twenty-five thousand sq ft lot, and an average size he developed was eighty-five hundred to ten-thousand sq ft home with all the bells and whistles. Nonetheless, Gus was more generous in his landscape budgets than many of the contractors Malcolm had met. Because of this, the two of them started a promising partnership.
Malcolm and his crew finished the first four projects for Gus with no issues. When December came, Gus approached Malcolm and asked if he wanted to keep his maintenance crew working through the Winter for additional projects.
Normally Malcolm dismissed his workers and rehired the ones who wanted to return after the Winter season. Malcolm knew Gus’ next home project wasn’t set to break ground till late January so he asked what he had in mind for his crew to do. Gus then told Malcolm that he and his son, Connor, had been experimenting with spray foam insulation in their homes and had decided to invest in purchasing equipment to start their own company.
Malcolm knew it cost about one hundred thousand bucks to make such an investment. It was an impressive feat, but Malcolm wasn’t so quick to bulk on Gus’ offer and requested to speak with his crew first.
The following week, Malcolm signed a contract to work with Gus for three months at a specified pay rate for the five crew members who agreed to stay for the Winter season. At the time, Gus was confident he had enough work to keep Malcolm and his crew busy for the next three months. Their job involved insulating an incredible house for a plastic surgeon who spared no expense for the gadgets and materials. The next series of projects were government buildings on a military installation. Weeks later, Malcolm and his crew were even completing various projects at new apartment complexes.
Everything was going smoothly, and Malcolm couldn’t be happier to have his crew longer than just the Spring and Summer months. At the same time, Gus’ insulation company appeared to take off thanks to Malcolm and the hard work of his crew. For people who didn’t have much experience, Malcolm’s crew caught on fast and were excited to keep their employment.
But all good things come to an end.
A month had come and gone and Malcolm and his crew had not gotten paid for their hard work. Malcolm had been a contractor most of his life, so he was used to getting paid in one lump sum a month for projects done the previous month. With past clients, Malcolm even had to remind them to pay him and his crew. However, his crew was used to a more timely pay schedule and were beginning to grow impatient.
Malcolm understood their frustrations and assured his team that he would get in contact with Gus to get the issue resolved. Unfortunately, Gus was not his first line while insulating, it was his son, Connor. Malcolm didn’t have a problem with Connor, but he always found himself biting his tongue in his presence because of his abrasive attitude.
Gus entrusted Connor to handle the administrative liabilities of their new insulation company. Therefore, Gus was missing in action most of the time. When Malcolm confronted Connor about his crew waiting to be compensated, he assured Malcolm that once the checks from their new clients started rolling in, the crew would be paid.
At the time, Malcolm understood Connor’s claims because every new company needed time to adjust. His landscaping business was definitely slow in the beginning, so Malcolm used funds from his business to pay his crew to keep the peace.
In the meantime, Malcolm worked out an agreement that he would keep track of everything paid and that he would get Connor to cut a check once he was able to. Malcolm also made sure to note that Gus had an outstanding unpaid landscaping invoice totaling ten thousand dollars, but he wasn’t worried because Malcolm knew how Gus wasn’t always super quick about payment.
Everything seemed fine, until several more weeks slipped by. Malcolm found it strange that Gus not only hadn’t paid his overdue invoice yet but was also going to great lengths to avoid him.
With Spring right around the corner, Malcolm knew something had to be done. What Malcolm didn’t realize, was that Gus and Connor knew something he didn’t.
So It’s Like That?
At the end of February 2009, Malcolm was preparing his landscaping business for the new season. Now disheartened that he still hadn’t received a payment from insulation or the last landscape project, things got ugly as Malcolm started calling Connor and Gus daily to inquire about the money.
Malcolm called Gus, but after leaving several voicemails with no callbacks, Malcolm knew he was intentionally being ignored. Connor also stopped answering Malcolm’s calls and texts.
The one time Malcolm did manage to get a hold of Gus, the older business owner kept beating around the bush, which only infuriated Malcolm even more.
‘Hello?’ Gus answered.
‘It’s Malcolm,’ Malcolm started. ‘You and Connor still owe me for the jobs we did over the Winter and the last landscaping project. It’s been nearly three months.’
Gus paused then stammered. ‘Oh. Yeah, Connor was supposed to take care of that. Ask him.’
‘But Connor said he was checking in with you.’ Malcolm could feel his voice rising but took a deep breath.
‘Gus this is ridiculous,’ Malcolm finally said.
‘We’ll get you your money soon,’ Gus said nonchalantly before hanging up.
With a sinking feeling, Malcolm had to sit back and rethink his relationship with Gus. Something was telling Malcolm he was being taken for a ride, but he just didn’t want to believe that a friend would do something so crooked.
Little did he know, his suspicions were even worse than he imagined.
Back In Business
By mid-April 2009, all communication stopped. Malcolm ended up filing a contractor’s lien on the landscape project to be paid out before Gus’ house sold. This prompted a call from Gus.
‘Hey,’ Gus said in a cheery tone, ‘Why don’t you come to my home for lunch so we can talk things over?’
Malcolm obliged, thinking Gus was trying to smooth things over and pay his dues. The next day, Malcolm made an appearance and greeted Gus hoping his face didn’t give away his annoyance. After digging in and making small talk, Gus suddenly spoke.
‘I’ve been in the small business world for years and had my share of getting screwed over. Over time, I learned it was just something I had to learn from,’ Gus said.
Confused, Malcolm took a long sip of his drink before asking Gus what he meant.
‘I’ve had to just live with it,’ Gus shrugged. ‘That’s just how things are sometimes.’
After he said that, Malcolm knew exactly what Gus was saying. Malcolm shook his head at Gus then said, ‘I’ve been screwed out of money that people owed me as well, just not by anyone I considered a friend.’
Gus didn’t even flinch when Malcolm rose from the table, threw down his napkin, and slammed the door as he left his house. Right then and there, Malcolm knew his kindness had been taken far from granted.
He could have sued, he could have maliciously revoked the hard work he did, but instead, Malcolm thought of an even better way to stick it to Gus and Connor.
To get revenge, Malcolm did what any small business owner was good at.
Embracing a new beginning.
In May 2009, Malcolm started his own Spray Foam Insulation company with the same level of equipment Gus and Connor started with. It started slowly, but soon clients were showing an interest in Malcolm’s new side of the business.
A few weeks later, Malcolm was surprised to see a familiar number pop up on his caller ID. When he answered the phone, Gus was on the other end with a forced cheery voice. To Malcolm’s surprise, Gus began asking him landscaping questions and making small talk as if they were still on good terms.
Without hesitating, Malcolm replied, ‘Oh, I don’t landscape anymore.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Gus asked.
When Malcolm explained how he was now the proud owner of an up-and-coming spray foam insulation company, Gus immediately ended the call. Malcolm couldn’t believe how satisfying it was to get under Gus’ skin.
Not even five minutes later, Malcolm received a phone call from Connor who had been completely ignoring his calls for weeks. He let the phone ring three times before picking up.
‘Hello?’ Malcolm answered.
‘You think this is some kind of joke?’ Connor spat into the receiver. ‘What’s a nobody like you doing with an insulation business?’
‘It’s a free country,’ Malcolm replied.
‘No little landscaper is gonna make it in this community. You’re gonna look stupid when our business runs circles around your pathetic wannabe company.’
Without waiting for a response, Connor hung up, leaving Malcolm speechless. He couldn’t believe how childish Connor was behaving. Hearing his claims only made Malcolm want to push his new business even more. There may have been five other competitors but with hard work and persistence, Malcolm knew his investment would not only piss off Gus and Connor, but it would give him the best form of payback there was:
Success over his enemies.
Things Can Only Get Better
Word of Malcolm’s insulation business spread fast. The very first job they worked on was a former client of Gus’ business. The client was skeptical of Malcolm’s work only because Gus’ crew insulated his home incorrectly and exhibited poor workmanship. Luckily Malcolm’s only involvement on the client’s house was prep work and clean up. He and his crew ended up removing all of the insulation Gus’ crew did and re-installing it. The job overall cost about sixty-five thousand dollars, which the client turned around and sued Gus for and won.
Malcolm then acquired a contract to do work on a millitary installation that had recently canceled the contract they had with Gus’ business because of poor communication on his part. Soon, clients started pouring in with amusing stories to share about how poor Gus and Connor’s insulation business was compared to Malcolm’s.
Malcolm took delight in knowing he was systematically taking apart Gus’ company simply by being better and honest with people. News continued to spread about Malcolm’s business and before he knew it, his insulation business became a go-to option for clients because Gus’ company had screwed so many people over.
Around the same time, the housing market took a giant dump. Gus still had four very large houses that couldn’t sell. Soon, Gus ended up going bankrupt by mid 2009. Connor, on the other hand, kept his head above water somehow a bit longer. But in October of 2009 Malcolm got a call from a Repo man asking if he knew Connor and where to find his spray foam equipment.
Malcolm’s father in law happen to be an retired cop and a private investigator. Malcolm ended up putting him on the case to find said equipment. Two days later, Malcolm’s father called with the address and specific location of the equipment which was behind a barn on an island with the tires aired down. Malcolm then made the call to the Repo man and two hours later he called him from Connor’s property as he was pulling in with a very large trailer behind his truck asking where he could send the bounty check.
Gus and Connor’s business was finished.
Who’s Laughing Now?
Malcolm continued to run his insulation business for a strong three years before he sold it. However, Malcolm still had his landscaping business which he still runs today. He never knew what became of Gus and Connor after turning them in, but the moral of the story was certain:
Landscapers may work in the dirt and seem simple, but piss one off and they will ruin you.