Tough Call: Thrown Under the Bus

Thrown under the bus

A builder struggling to complete projects on time is blaming you and your team for the delays—though he knows it’s not true. What would you do?

There’s a lot to love about this business. During your 27 years working your way up through the ranks at your company, the pros have easily offset the minuses. The vast majority of your customers are hard-working, honest, honorable builders and remodelers. They don’t just show up to work and punch the clock. Not even close. Instead, they’ve built careers out of working with homeowners to make their dream house become reality. As their supplier, you know how incredibly rewarding it is when a project is complete and the homeowners are handed the keys to their new abode.

On the flipside, you know how frustrating it can be for homeowners when the completion date on their new home is pushed back, and back, and back. From your experience with the majority of your builders, these delays are rare. But you’re wrestling with a situation right now that is taking up way too much of your mental capacity. Here’s the story:

Thrown under the busYou’ve worked with Scott Scapegoat of Scapegoat Homes for as long as you can remember. He’s never been your biggest or most consistent customer, but when he does choose to buy from you, he’s been good to work with, has always paid his bills the day they come due (never one day early or late). He has a reputation for always being on time, with everything he does. Especially when it comes to his homes. “On time. Every time. Scapegoat Homes.”

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Like many in our industry who survived the Great Recession, Scott is lapping up the increase in housing business. In fact, despite his claim that his homes are always on time because he never builds more than one at a time, he has three homes underway, and is getting ready to break ground on number four. Fortunately, thanks to some new services you’re offering, your company has earned the business for all four homes. Which was great, until Scott started completing homes late.

When that happened, word got back to you that he’s blaming late material deliveries from your company for the delays. Naturally, this concerned you, so you checked when the orders were placed, along with the scheduled and actual delivery dates. As it happened, your team did nothing wrong.

You have no trouble accepting the blame when you and your team make a mistake. But you’re not okay with someone disparaging your company to save face—which is exactly what Scott is doing. You have no problem sharing the blame with a good customer, even when you did nothing wrong. But you’re not okay with him branding you with the blame. Especially when it starts affecting your sales, which it apparently is. “Boss, a couple of my builders said they’ve heard through the grapevine that we’re having trouble delivering material when promised,” one of your outside salespeople said. “They’re hesitant to buy from us. Are we in trouble?” What would you do?

1. Stay Calm You know that Scott stretched his company too thin by taking on so many jobs. Tell him you understand, but his tales are hurting your reputation.

2. Fire Back Tell your salespeople, and any builders who doubt your company, that you delivered on-time and in-full—then show the paperwork to prove it.

3. Confront Call Scott and tell him what you’ve been hearing, and ask him to explain why he’s blaming your company for his inability to meet completion dates.

4. Bye, Scott. You’ve got plenty of builder customers who won’t throw you under the bus when they encounter a problem. Tell Scott he’s done as your customer.


If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to

What would you do?

See how your judgment compares with others in the industry at
Final results will appear in The Buzz section of the August 2017 issue.

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