Concrete and Good Boundaries

Husband and I are pretty good gardeners.  We can grow vegetables, flowers, and shrubs, but we can’t grow grass.  We have struggled with our lawn since the day we moved into the house 30 years ago.  Over the years the garden beds have become larger and the square footage of grass has become smaller. The neighbor’s and our own trees have shaded large parts of the lawn where no grass would grow. Husband’s grill area was on a bare plot of dirt and weeds. He has grilled in the mud for years. All we ever had success with was putting down bags of mulch to mitigate the muck.

Three weeks ago,  one of the secretaries at my work stopped by and handed me a brochure for her and her husband’s new concrete and landscaping business.  Both are Hispanic. She is born in California; he is from Mexico. There also is a landscape architect as a co-owner.  This was really good news, since we have approached other local masonry and landscaping companies over the years and none were interested in taking us on. They were too busy and our job didn’t interest them, I guess.

I thought long and hard about getting involved in a business relationship with someone I worked with. She doesn’t work for me directly, but we are on the same floor and I see her all the time.  What if they did a lousy job?  What if there were legal problems? What if the cost was too expensive and we had to disappoint them?  How would this impact our personal boundaries at work?  We decided to take the risk. We were desperate. Our yard really needed some sprucing up.

Ruby, Fernando, and Lorenzo the landscape architect came over.  We explained our needs, they measured and gave us an idea what they could do.  The next day Ruby helped us pick out the color and pattern for the decorative concrete. They had a proposal in less than a week, it was very reasonably priced, and we signed a contract. They were to put in a large cement patio for the grilling area, put  a cement path in a shaded area on the south and west side of the house that would encircle the deck, and replace a smaller patio that bordered our deck. They also were to replace a wooden fence that was badly in need of repair.

They started work a couple of days later, and were just about finished last weekend. They will come next week to dye the edges of the concrete a dark grey to contrast with the slate colored cement that is patterned to look like stone. (The concrete has to cure for a week or two before they can apply the dye.)  We are very happy with the work.  Both Husband and I felt such a sense of calm walking on the new concrete. The flower beds look awful with all the construction workers trampling on them, but they will rebound next spring.

Have you ever been in a business or professional relationship with a coworker or friend?  Why or why not? How did it work out?  

33 thoughts on “Concrete and Good Boundaries”

  1. Not a very fascinating response, but in my 20+ years as a freelancer, a lot of my work was with former coworkers who were also friends. In many cases, they had also moved on to other employment.

    With one former coworker, who was acting as writer and editor, I designed and produced about a dozen how-to books for Handyman Club of America. With another, I designed, but didn’t produce 4 books for the show Hometime. Most recently, a writer and editor friend I had worked with back when I was an employee engaged me to participate on a project he was editing for an online entity called Hunker. The topics were home, garden, and do-it-yourself related. We were given a list of subjects from which we could choose and were expected to write an article of about 1000 words, for which we were paid $100. Since none of the topics were anything I could write about authoritatively, they required preliminary research and then the writing and a then a round or two of revision. We were also expected to source our own photos to illustrate each article. Needless to say, the money wasn’t good and amounted to an hourly rate about what you might expect from a job in retail but it had the advantage of being something I could do at home and on my own schedule. I wrote about 50 articles before Hunker decided to change the way they were doing things and announced that heretofore they would assign specific articles to each writer. In the previous regime, there had been some topics that none of the writers had wanted to take on, topics like, “What does landscaping cost?” that were so regionally specific and open ended that the amount of research and the length of the article would have made the writing an uneconomic proposition. I was afraid, under the new regime, that I would get stuck with topics like those and demurred from further employment with Hunker.
    To answer the second part of the question, the outcomes of working with/for former coworkers have been uniformly good but I have to be much more attentive to deadlines and communication than I ever was when I worked for a large employer.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ruby has tried to be more accommodating for me at work, offering to get files and such for me from medical records when she never used to , but I have politely declined.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. On my professional board,, we sometimes have to deal with psychologists who hire current patients to do work for them, like computer tech services. Those relationships are unethical and usually have disastrous results.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Local talk DJ had republican congressional candidate, a Trump suck-up, on his show and threw him softball questions. Turns out he has been a paid marketing advisor to the candidate for a few years. But he sees nothing wrong with that. He is off the air until elections are over.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A friend in the nursery business says that there are lawn people and garden people. There are few lawn and garden people.
    Back when I still did some picture framing, I worked with an awful women, who was paid to teach English but seldom did. She wanted a picture framed. She was a nasty person. I suggested she go to professional shop. Too expensive she said. So I took the job. Now what was I going to charge here. There is a rule in such things that people will despise the thing for which they pay little money. I charged her for materials only. In the hundreds of frame jobs that was the only where the picture (a print) bowed away from the matt and glass. I told her I would fix it. She told me I was as incompetent as a framer as an English teacher and took it to the pro shop I suggested. She would not let me give her the money back, it gave her such power to attack me to my face and behind my back. As you can see we already had a sour relationship, despite the fact that I won a big arbitration case for her that earned her many more dollars. Her husband was the supt. He apologized to me about 100 times. My fault at the core of it. I quit doing framing jobs for anyone but Ducks Unlimited.
    This is Clyde

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’ve quoted Michael Pollan on the subject of lawns here before:
      “A lawn is nature under totalitarian control”
      Here’s another quote from him:
      “Lawns are nature purged of sex and death. No wonder Americans like them so much.”

      Liked by 6 people

  5. The only business arrangement I have ever had with a friend or coworker was pet sitting for my good friend, Pam. We agree on just about everything as far as our dogs are concerned. She would go to Arizona for weeks at a time and leave her house and her dog in my care. It was an easy gig for me. She was a generous employer and was never critical. We are still good friends. Her dog is 15 years old now and I still adore her.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Renee– the new landscaping looks great!
    Having just cut out some concrete, and now working on hiring someone to put it back, I can relate. Except mine is just plain, interior flooring. Yours looks wonderful!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It was fun to watch them imprint the cement with these mats that had the patterns on them. They pounded the mats with heavy pounder things, and then removed the mats and there were the block shapes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Not exactly business, but we’ve sold or bought things to/from family members before. I figure the fairest way to do that is to have each party write down privately what price they think is fair, and (if they’re not too far apart), the average is your price.

    A friend and I once bartered my organizing skills for her bodywork. We used our respective price/hour, and I’ve owed her 10 hours since 2005. She’s moving soon, so she may be able to cash that in…


    1. Mixing money and friendship/family can be so tricky or fraught that I avoid it wherever I can. Unless there is an objective third party evaluation for something, the discrepancy between two people’s estimation of an object’s worth can be wildly different. If it’s a commodity item, you might be able to find comparable values but if it’s an artwork or other hand crafted item, often the hours involved often create a discrepancy between what the maker considers a fair return for his/her time and what the market expects. I personally prefer giving my artworks away and not having to assign a value to them.

      Unless I am providing a service in the same context as the one I work in professionally, I have no idea what my time is worth. And even in those circumstances where I am doing what I do professionally, there’s a difference between working for an organization and working for an individual. When someone in an organization hires me, they are not doing it with their own money.

      The best transaction, in my opinion, between friends is the realm of pet sitting where the sitter is happy to provide the service, gratis, for the pleasure of engaging with the pet and the pet owner is happy to show their appreciation with some generous thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know for a fact that our late Daisy was so comfortable in your care that she really didn’t want to go home. That made me feel bad, but I knew it meant that she was well taken care of.

        When I lived in Cheyenne, my ex and I often house and baby sat for young doctors on the base. On one occasion, the parents were gone long enough on a ski trip to Aspen that their youngest child, a year-and-a-half year old girl, didn’t want to go to her mother’s outstretched arms when they returned. Anita was so crushed she cried. I hope that she later realized that her daughter had been well cared for in her absence and that Nadeen’s reaction wasn’t a reflection on her mothering skills.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. House and pet sitting I don’t consider in the same category as actually hiring someone to do work for me. I’ve done both frequently, and there has never been a problem, and there’s never been money involved.

    I once hired a former secretary, who had started her own housecleaning service, to clean house for me. That turned out to not be a very good idea. While she had been an excellent secretary, it turned out that she was a pretty lousy house cleaner. I was trying to help her get her new business off the ground, and paid her the going rate that she had set. Her business never got off the ground, and crashed within a year. I was apparently not the only one who found her services lacking. I had never really been close to her, so it wasn’t a huge loss, but it was still disappointing.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Actually, come to think of it, we did have a house sitting situation that didn’t turn out so well.

    Prior to one of our trips to Mexico, we decided to hire one of husbands’ co-workers to house- and pet-sit for us. He was newly married, and we invited him and his wife over for dinner a couple of weeks before our departure to make sure we were all on the same page. It was a pleasant dinner, and we left for Mexico feeling comfortable with the arrangement with this young, Evangelical couple.

    On our third night in Kino we got an email from our next door neighbor. He was concerned that there was never any light on at our house, and there didn’t seem to be anyone at our house ever. Fortunately, Mike had the key to our house and could go over to check on the animals, feed them, and let them out into the back yard, but clearly, this wasn’t what we had bargained for.

    As it turned out, the couple that we had paid an agreed upon price to stay at our house for the ten days we were gone, decided that all they needed to do was stop over twice a day. I was hopping mad when I discovered this, but fortunately I was not the one working with him, so it didn’t affect my relationship to anyone. Had I known that in advance, I would have kenneled both pets, but I was trying to keep them both in their familiar surroundings, and that was a total flop. Had it not been for Mike, it would have been even worse.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I must add I have hired four friends/colleagues for small jobs with great success. I know they made sure they got it right, but all 4 were skilled at the task. Then, of course, I have exchanged work with a few more.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I’ve been thinking about this all day – most of business/friendship/coworker transactions have been me selling goods and services to others…. cakes/baked goods, pet sitting services (this was years ago), cards. The most significant though was the other way round. 7 1/2 years ago my bff and her husband came to me to say they knew I was having financial issues (got over my head with credit cards) and they wanted to lend me the money to pay off the cards. At basically no interest with the proviso that I would also provide kitty care (they had two older cats w/ medical issues) when they traveled. I insisted that we have a contract and I’m happy to say that I am 2 1/2 years from being paid off. I call the spreadsheet that keeps track of this “Fat Out of Fire.xls” I did spend about a week thinking about this and discussing it w/ bff before taking the loan because you hear so many stories about money ruining friendships.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have friends who have a strict rule against lending money to friends. I don’t, and have lent friends money on many different occasions. So far, I have never regretted it. On one occasion it did take quite a bit of nudging to get my money back, and I decided to never lend that particular friend money again. But otherwise, I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I thought I could help.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Really, when you stop to think about it, if you wouldn’t help out a friend in a financial bind, who would you help out? In Renee”s example above, I can see how that decision could be fraught with possible negative consequences, especially since the people she hired didn’t have much of a track record. But if your personal friendships would prevent you from helping out someone in need because of some principle, there’s something wrong with either your principle or your friendship. I’m a firm believer that a good deed can’t be undone. If I err on the side of charity and give to someone who is less than honest with me about their circumstances, the onus is on them.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. At one of my former jobs I hired a friend as an assistant, for myself and another department.. She was fabulous, and everyone loved her. She moved on to bigger and better things within a couple of years, but I had no regrets. We are still friends thirty years later.


  13. its nice to hear the charitable side of the question. my take was remembering the schmucks i had i thought were friends and the fooled me until i gave them the chance to stick it to me which they did in spades.
    my wife tells me i get into trouble trusting people to be truthful only to discover that they never are.
    her observations cant be denied but if you look at the world as a home to slimeballs and scumbags thats what you will see.
    id rather be wrong and optimistic than right in a world of buttholes.
    my sister who is a decent person abused my childrens petsitting to the point it could have gotten ugly. they just told her to do it differently and she must have figures it out. they had told her no when it was just cats then she got the most in your face little yipping jack russel on the planet. lord knows who she got but i think she has had to cancel a few trips because you cant take an atomic whirling dervish for a trip to the boundry waters or even sit in the friends for the day if they get to know its a problem coming

    Liked by 1 person

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