Building a house is quite a project to do. Talking about vendors there’s a bunch of choices. You can go with a single company doing the whole thing from a scratch. You can choose several of them for different tasks. You can leave them with buying all the materials or you can do it on your own.
Actually it’s quite similar to software projects. In a big project you can go with single vendor leaving integrations issues behind but you can choose a number of them being able to do several tasks concurrently but risking some integration clashes. Hardware can be delivered by the vendor (including their margin) or you can buy it on your own.
With a house you have quite significant core of the project – foundation, walls and roof. I’ve chosen to go with one main vendor for the core and few others for smaller (but not less important) tasks. My main concern was a coarse-grain schedule I planned and I wanted to buy some additional time with different companies working simultaneously.
It appeared I had to find few different contractors to my project. While price was of course important factor I strictly followed one rule:
Recommended vendors only.
Actually the name of the company isn’t as important as people who are to perform specific tasks. As far as my friends or colleagues or me could say much good about specific people their chances were growing. The stronger and more detailed the recommendation was the bigger were chances to make it to the top of my list.
One more thing about recommendations: I really don’t care about recommendations delivered by potential contractors themselves. They sure have some, but since this information is controlled by the company it has little value for me. Recommendations I care about are from people I trust.
This approach means the money goes to second plan. However I was able get fair price in each case. Most likely not the best on the market, but if I can get a fair price for a quality work I won’t push harder. Both parties have to be happy after all. And it’s not on my rules of negotiations list anyway.
Getting back to analogy to a professional life, unfortunately it’s still a rare situation when customer doesn’t treat a price as a number one issue. They forget that developing software is more complex task than digging holes and there’s a price for a quality too. If you’re not willing to pay it you’ll probably get a product which lacks quality you want it or not.
For me the rule: first trusted recommendation, second fair (not necessarily the lowest) price works great. I wish I see that approach more in my professional life.