I’m not the most expensive consultant I know. In fact, I’ve recently hired not one, but two separate consultants that charged $1,000 per hour.
One evening, Erika reported that the kitchen sink disposal wasn’t working. I walked in and did what any geek would do – I rebooted it. I flipped the electric switch on and off, and when that failed to resuscitate it, I guessed there was a circuit breaker on the bottom of it. Indeed there was, so I hit that button, but still nothing happened.
Now I’m not Bob Vila, but I understand the basics of mechanical repair. I knew the disposal operated by spinning sharp blades at high speed, and that if something got jammed in the blades, they’d stop working. I unplugged the electric cables, stuck a screwdriver in there, and said encouraging words. Still no workie. I even put my hand into the drain (I know, I know) and it didn’t feel anything like what I expected.
I gave up. I hit Yelp, looked for the highest-rated local plumber, and called him.
Me: “My kitchen disposal stopped working. I hit the switch, I reset the circuit breaker, and it’s not moving.”
Plumber: “Do you have the key?”
Me: “The what?”
Plumber: “Never mind. After this I’ve got another job near you, and I’ll call you when I’m done with that.”
A couple of hours later, he called from the front door of my high-rise. I went downstairs to let him in, and I noticed something odd. His partner sat out in the van, not bothering to come in, and the plumber himself wasn’t carrying anything at all.
He went straight to the disposal, pulled out some kind of multitool from his pocket, and plugged it into the bottom of the disposal. He put way, way, way more force into it than I would have done, and in a matter of seconds, the tool spun freely. He reset the circuit breaker, plugged it back in, and voila – all done. He ran a few loads of ice through the drain to make sure it was working.
Plumber: “Are you happy with the service and the result?”
Me: “Hell yeah.”
Plumber: “Alright, that’ll be $100.”
It took me longer to write the check out than it did for him to fix the disposal. As I walked him out, I checked the clock and realized the whole service call took four minutes.
$1,000/Hour Consultant #2: My Exterminator
My new exterminator did me a similar favor last week. He spent less than ten minutes waltzing through my condo, spraying the baseboards and the window frames. As he went along, he pointed out areas where my caulk had dried up and retreated, leaving big openings for bugs. “Go to Home Depot, get some clear caulk, and go right over the top of all your old stuff. You’ll never need to call me again. I don’t even need to spray if you don’t want me to. Everybody in this building has that same problem.”
I thought for a moment. “You knew this when I called you and gave you my address, didn’t you?” I said with a grin.
He smiled and nodded, and I wrote him a check for $150. “I’ll tell you a secret – it’s not just your building, but every one of ‘em built by this developer. You’re all my clients sooner or later.”
Why They’re Worth the Money
Some people might get angry that a professional breezed in, fixed something in seconds, and then charged a lot of money. Not me – I was absolutely ecstatic because the plumber and the exterminator made it seem so effortless. They knew exactly what the problem was, came armed with the solution, and didn’t waste anyone’s time.
Just because someone makes a task look easy doesn’t mean the task is easy for you and me. I’ve struggled with even the most basic home repairs, and I just shake my head when a pro comes in with specialized knowledge. Yes, I could have Googled for how to free a stuck disposal, but I didn’t have my disposal’s special wrench key. Even if I’d have bought the key, I wouldn’t know how much force to use, and I would have given up long before it worked. I would have gone on to other troubleshooting steps, and probably ended up replacing the whole disposal, thereby making a huge mess in the kitchen. I’d have lost hours and probably some blood.
When I waltz into a SQL Server, SAN, or virtualization implementation that is just flat out busted, I know how the DBAs and sysadmins feel. I feel that same way when my plumber comes in and fixes everything quickly. I feel guilty, because as A Guy, I feel like I should know how to do this stuff. I think that if I was being paid to be the Man of the House, I’d be fired. I’m good enough to do the general stuff, but when something specialized breaks, I’m way out of my comfort zone. I can struggle for days to fix it, or I can just call in a pro. Sometimes money is the best way to solve these problems.