A few years ago we decided to renovate the back of our house. It was built in 1903 and needed a major overhaul. This process of finding contractors and getting quotes is always painful. But in our case we got lucky. We met Roy Tolliver.

Rather than talk about the timetable, permits and other impediments, Roy simply went to town hall and worked through the issues with the Town Administrators. He brought us a building permit, a reasonably price, and a can-do disposition.

It was still an extended process, but working with Roy taught me a lot about business and sales. After we hit a snag with the septic permit he expressed his frustration with what he called “Little Kings” — people who have a lot of authority in very small domain. In this case, it was the town administrator questioning whether the septic system was far enough away from the new foundation. Rather than get upset and spin in circles, Roy worked with the administrator to find a reasonable solution. The septic system needed to be moved, so we agreed on a revised plan and moved forward. He deferred to the king’s authority and find a way for him to “bless” the project. He overcame the roadblock quickly and the project moved forward and we poured the foundation just before the first frost.

Roy would describe himself as a builder. I’d describe him as a top-notch salesperson. Here’s are the lessons I learned from working with Roy:

  • Illustrate your knowledge about the whole process. Selling isn’t just agreeing on a price and signing a contract; it’s facilitating movement forward.
  • Simplify. There are lots of ways to price projects. Work with Roy was easy because he had a standard mark-up on materials and sub-contractors. He shared the invoices and we paid what he paid.
  • Build rapport. From the start we liked working with Roy because he was nice and showed a genuine interest in our family and vision for the house. We became partners — actually we became friends.
  • Commit to quality. We had to solve some tough problems once the project got started. The location of the stairs needed to be moved, the ceiling on one rooms was changed from wallboard to wood. With each shift, Roy participated in the creative process and helped to find a way to solve the problem without significant delay or cost increases. He cared about keeping costs under control, but also making sure the final result was consistent with his standards for quality.