The Ultimate Testimonial

A comical view into the world of challenging drywall employees.  Owner Nick Harmon takes a front seat view of what might happen.

The Ultimate Testimonial By Nick Harmon

Few may know that Fresco Harmony is two separate companies.

One company is Fresco Harmony Services or FHS which handles anything pertaining to product application. The other is Fresco Harmony Industries or FHI which handles product sales, shipping, customer service, some R&D, and anything pertaining to product manufacturing. Having two companies is beneficial to researching scope of work, but also aids in observing problems other applicators may face while using our product in the field. In other words, FHS researches the product constantly. By having these real world experiences we can build better Fresco Harmony systems and continue to make our product as efficient as possible. FHS deals with any number of challenges that can occur when adding color to drywall joint compound. One challenge that doesn’t receive enough attention is handling expectation. This story is about that.

People can look at samples all they want, but what someone is expecting and what they actually receive are rarely the same. To ensure proper communication, our system outlines these aspects with a simple contract. Here is a copy of the actual terms of use that FHS includes with every project.

Price includes all materials, masking, Fresco Harmony 3 coat process, clean up, and load out. We also offer free color consultation. We patch and fix any existing blemishes and tape and fix all cracks (within reason) prior to start. We also paint all existing vent and outlet covers (unless otherwise noted) with match paint and leave one half pint of match paint per dominant color for touch up. Price does not include color changes, change orders, or patchwork after project has begun, all of which will be billed at $60.00 per hour, plus materials. Fresco Harmony assumes no responsibility for fixtures and furniture that must be moved or removed to achieve work. We handle your belongings as delicately as possible but request you move items of value. Deposits are final.* Please be advised, you are contracting an original work of art. It is wise to expect variation from sample to surface, due to lighting, temperature, substrate, applicator, and other colors present. We will, however, do everything possible to ensure a consistent transition from sample to surface. Your project will receive the same scrutiny as every other project we take on, and you will be our top priority until it’s completion. We look forward to transforming your space.

Sincerely, Nick Harmon

(Actual Numbers)
Fresco Harmony License #386670 Fresco Harmony Ins Policy #ZB0796-9

For this story I’ll be addressing this part-

It is wise to expect variation from sample to surface due to lighting, temperature, substrate, applicator, and other colors present. We will, however, do everything possible to ensure a consistent transition from sample to surface.

This clause is both important and often overlooked. It’s nearly impossible to guarantee anything of artistic nature. Especially when it pertains to walls. Anything can happen to walls. They’re equally as susceptible to damage as floors. I’m forthright in letting customers know that FHS has accomplished over 750,000 sq/ft of wall surface area over the past 14 years and we take great pride in what we do. Our clients are privy to a host of satisfied customers spanning a decade. I might even offer potential clients a field trip to our office on Louisiana to see what it looks like in real life. If the sample has them wanting it, seeing it in real life generally causes them to buy it. Some choose to see the walls before purchase, but many don’t. I let clients know up front that we’ll always come back to do a round of touchup if needed. I take pride in taking care of my clients, and I want them to feel comfortable. Likewise, I want to be taken care of should my team or I need anything from them. The clients in this story chose a designer with whom I’d worked for many years. She was somewhat difficult, but we had managed a relationship. The designer was incredible at selling Fresco Harmony but questionable in managing expectations.

The designer received a 10% finder’s fee from FHS for clients to whom she sold FHS. This was great because she found us lots of work, but also not so great because she had a tendency to oversell. Then she’d tell the clients they were receiving Fresco Harmony at the wholesale cost. This particular deal was shady, but like I said, she found us work and her clients got beautiful walls, so I turned a blind eye.

The clients in this story were successful professionals moving in from LA and primarily worked with said designer on all details of the project. It was a real double-edged sword working with her because by the end of the job clients would be skeptical of her performance and I’d have to restore her integrity with said clients even though I shared their skepticism.

The first day of the project had an ominous beginning. The designer was also acting as s self appointed general contractor but had hired an unlicensed pot grower

person to run the project as Job Site Foreman.
My mom was visiting from out of town and I had brought her along to see the

site. I wanted to do a walk-through before we began the job. I had met the foreman before and he seemed ok, but as soon as we got to the job, he launched into a story about how he had gotten into an actual fist fight with the electrician the day prior. He was adamant about my not mentioning the infraction to the designer or the home owner, which made me even more uncomfortable. My mom looked at me funny and said, “That’s weird!” I dismissed the action as an interesting happenstance and called my worker to let him know the job was ready to start.

My worker at the time was an energetic 50 something who was a good hand at Fresco Harmony. He was messy but thorough. He’d done enough jobs with me that I felt comfortable with him taking on projects alone, but I’d be on the job too so I wasn’t worried. He was real rough around the edges and liked his drink. He had recently lost his drivers license to a DUI charge, but had consistent rides to work with his girlfriend. He was very racist, and had only a few teeth. He loved Guns and Roses and had an extremely limited vocabulary with “Fuck” being a common word that he leaned on heavily. I’ve been in the trade long enough to not judge a book by it’s cover. I was mildly nervous about his interactions with clients but the designer liked him well enough and she had the LA clients convinced he was “Da Vinci with the trowel.” He got along with the job site foreman too, especially after he learned he had a new connection for weed. The stage was set.

We were probably two weeks into the job on the Monday when it happened. It was a Monday when I arrived to work around 10:00 a.m. because I run two businesses so later starts are normal for me. My worker and his girlfriend were sitting in her car smoking cigarettes, something they both liked to do and did often. He was getting paid by the sq/ft on the project which gave hime more liberality. Piece rate pay is nice because I don’t have to monitor hours so much, and the job still gets done. Well, that was until he started letting his girlfriend help with aspects of the finish. I liked her well enough but wasn’t comfortable with a random person being on the job-site. Also I learned that on this particular morning the two had decided to bring two of their dogs to the site with them. I have a strict “No Dogs Rule” on the job site and was instantly annoyed. A, “No Dog” policy should go with out saying but the job-site foreman had already set the standard by bringing his 5 dogs to the job every day. I asked my worker what time they had gotten to work that morning. He responded that they’d been working on the project since 10:00 PM the previous evening and added they were pretty tired. This piqued my interest, and not in a good way.

“You worked all night? Aren’t you tired?” I asked, while in the background of my mind my drug radar was going off. It was clear the two had been in the house over night, with their dogs, working to beat the band. My frustration level

reached critical mass as I tried my best to remain calm. I told him to have his girlfriend take the dogs home. Further, I explained that it wasn’t professional to work over night; she shouldn’t be there, and that I have a strict “No Dog Policy.” He became combative so I suggested that they just take the day off and start fresh the next morning.

I don’t know if it was due to a lack of sleep, the excessive drug use, or the barking Pomeranians, but something snapped in him. He came at me with his razor sharp 4” drywall knife and threatened to take my life. Still calm, I instructed him that he had just crossed the line and that he needed to leave and that I would call the police shortly. After some time, he gathered his things and left. Last I heard was a threat of filing some type of workers claim against me if I didn’t pay him the remainder of what I owed. After he was safely gone I called the police and filed a report with them.

It was a very challenging day to say the least. This type of infraction had never happened to me before, I had a ton of work still left to do, and I’d lost my worker. Furthermore, I was in the quandary as to file a restraining order; I was nervous for the safety of the house, and concerned for my clients. My first instinct was to contact the Job site foremen. He reassured me that he and my worker had become buddies and that my worker wouldn’t cause any further harm. I really wanted to contact the clients and fill them in on what was happening. After all, they were my clients. Weren’t they?…

One Month Earlier…
I had arrived in Chicago weary from travel but excited to be taking part in a specialty drywall training at a company called Trim-Tex. Just as I stepped into my hotel room the phone rang, and it was the designer asking me about the finish on the exterior walls of the porch. I was curious what she was talking about because I had never agreed to finish the exterior walls. Fresco Harmony is mainly an interior finish. She explained that she had already convinced the clients that the exterior porch areas would be included in Fresco Harmony bid and that I needed to call the clients because they were under the impression it was part of the bid. I told her that I’d never finished exterior walls in my jobs, she new that, and she’d never specified them for a project in the 10 years we’d worked together. I explained that FHS is in no way rated for exterior areas. I wasn’t even looking in the contract for exterior walls, but all of the sudden I found myself, according to her, responsible for these areas. I wanted to keep good relations with the clients, so I called them to explain the situation. I told them I didn’t realize Fresco Harmony was specified for the exterior porch walls and that I didn’t feel comfortable applying my finish to their home’s exteriors walls. Only the exterior porch ceilings were to get FHS. I offered to research exterior finishes to apply in the stead of Fresco Harmony, said

for the misunderstanding. I offered my services at my time and material rate, and that I’d do my best to ensure a quality finish. In retrospect, they should have changed gears and hired an experienced stucco company. I’m always up for learning new things and had confidence in my ability to find a solution.

As their project grew on the trust level between myself, the designer and, the foreman was wearing thin. There was uncertainty surrounding my ability to finish the project even though I was very much still on schedule. One issue I faced was getting a final draw for the interior so that I could keep the exterior areas on schedule. The designer was misinterpreting my wishes to the clients who would in turn feel uncomfortable with allowing said funds.

The main issue was that the porch ceilings were included in the original Fresco Harmony bid. I was aware of the areas in question but I didn’t want to complete these areas until I was finishing the exterior walls because it’s more efficient to complete one area at a time. The clients were concerned that I wasn’t done with the initial scope of the project and I kept trying to reassure them that those exterior ceilings were only going to take a couple hours to finish. The job was essentially done and I’d scheduled two weeks during a very busy time to finish those pesky exterior walls. I needed the funds to keep working. After much deliberation, I finally received the money and began the exteriors one week behind schedule. Later they held back the exterior money until I finished patches on the interior. This is where the contract I mentioned earlier goes out the window. Remember this?

Price does not include color changes, change orders, or patchwork after project has begun. All of which will be billed at $60.00 per hour plus materials.

True to my word the exterior areas ended up costing around $2,000.00. I wasn’t very happy with the finish as I’d never used the exterior product before and they ended up looking like painted stucco, but at least the finish was rated for exterior use. I was, however, confident the walls wouldn’t fall off the first time someone blasted them with a water hose.

Tensions were mounting between the client and designer as the job approached completion. The designer was in need of an extra laborer and had the foreman ask me if I had any issues with bringing in the guy who threatened my life to help him finish up (yes you read that correctly.) This immediately cleared up any misconceptions I may have had about them liking me or not. I admit, I lost it a little at this point and let the foreman know that if he brought in that asshole, I would absolutely tell the clients about his fight with the electrician, and everything that had been going on since. I admit, it was common schoolyard tactics, but he left

me no other option. That threat prompted him to then threaten me with physical violence if I did such a thing. Another square off for yours truly in less than two weeks. Certainly a record for me. In the end, I think he knew I was serious about not wanting to be around a person I’d filed charges against. But also I just felt defeated by everybody.

I wanted to quit and leave the $2,000.00 on the table but my integrity won out. It was important to me to do the best job I could and help the clients even though they were fighting me at every turn.

By this time the exterior areas were finished but they still didn’t want to pay because now there was interior damage from the all the subs scrambling to finish. Again, the project was complete in accordance with the contract yet they were holding over $2,000.00 because they were afraid of my not returning to do 3 hours of work not in the contract and not caused by me. Yes, it’s my responsibility to fix but they were going through the house, subjectively pointing out areas not to their liking as well as lots of damage caused by other trades.

If you, or someone you know is thinking about having any specialized finish done, for Gods sake, research applicator and product first. Don’t just blindly trust that the walls will magically appear the way you think they’re going to. I can’t stress this enough. Finish varies from product to product and from company to company.

1. In the end, I completed the exterior areas and they actually looked great and very clean.

2. I took control of the project away from my worker when he was showing up irresponsibly.

3. I was constantly working with a designer and foreman who didn’t support me.

4. the very people I was protecting were withholding money from me because they didn’t trust me.

Bottom line: They held my exterior draw until they felt like paying me. The whole debacle turned out fine. I remained professional under the circumstances and finished the interior patches and damage caused from other trades.

Oh, and as for my worker…

A few months after the project had ended I received a call from our local Fresco Harmony product distributer, Custom Paint Center, saying they needed 15 Color Packs of Westbrook Tan. I’m always curious about who’s ordering that much product, so I contacted the store to see who was buying. Low and behold, it was my old friend and that crazy designer on another project.

So I’m telling this story to my friend Brian Stiner with Noventum Custom Software when he told me, “That’s like the Ultimate Testimonial! That guy totally tried to kill you and is still using your product. Ha Ha… You should write that

down.”
I thought Brian had a good idea so there’s the story…
You may not like me, but you’re going to have a hell of a time not liking

Fresco Harmony. BTW, my crazy ex employee is still working for the designer and foreman using my product and I’m still supplying them because I think everyone should have beautiful walls, even if the guy installing them could be life threatening.

 

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