Okay, so I’m writing this post not only for my clients, but for other contractors as well because I see this as area that many contractors and clients can mess up a little bit. Funny thing, it’s the main thing we ALL mess up the most in EVERY area of our life most likely and that is COMMUNICATION. More specifically, managing the expectations of a client.
Working with a new client hopefully is fun, and easy, but that is not always the case. Sometimes it can be very stressful for all parties involved. Therefore, you HAVE to get to know each other and understand expectations very early on so that you both can make a decision based off whether or not it is a good idea to work with each other. This is yet another reason why I recommend so strongly that my clients not make decisions based off the price the contractor is offering them. Take time to get to know them, it is important you like the person/s character and clearly communicate your expectations from the beginning. Otherwise your project will be a frustrating mess (not to mention your home will be at least partially demolished) for the entirety of the project because frankly, you and the contractor never laid out clear lines of communication and expectation. NEVER and I mean NEVER assume anything in business. ALWAYS COMMUNICATE even if it seems redundant and you as a customer should do the same.
This list of things is something both the contractor and the customer should keep in mind when choosing a contractor or backtrack and fix immediately if you’ve already started a project and haven’t done these things already.
1: BE AUTHENTIC:
In other words, cut the crap. Be polite of course but be you. There’s too much fluff in most businesspeople. Far too many over promise and under deliver. A good contractor will flip that equation and under promise and over deliver. Be clear about what you are going to offer the client and transparent about the process and the challenges you will encounter along the way. Building and remodeling is almost always at least somewhat stressful for the contractor and especially the client at some point in the process, be transparent and communicate that. The point is, when the project is finished, the customer is going to love it, but with most builds and remodels it must get ugly before it gets pretty. Make sure to set realistic expectations from the get-go.
2: SET CLEAR DELIVERABLES:
Send your clients a highly detailed list of realistic checkpoints in the project but also communicate that this list is highly subjective to many matters not in our control or really anybody’s control. Review this list with your clients and be sure to communicate with them that this is what you are aiming for, but this building and remodeling is a highly variable industry with many moving parts. Things that can cause delays are permitting and government, weather delays, the necessity to finish a previous project before they get to yours, lead times on ordered products, waiting on inspections, or simply a part of the process simply taking longer than expected. The point is, a good contractor is going to do the best they can for the entirety of the project.
3: Personally Get to Know Them:
Especially on larger projects, I prefer to sit down with customers over a meal and just get to know them. You are going to see this person or their team often, so it’s imperative you like the person. This also shows both parties that you’re a real human and develops a strong business relationship. Understanding both parties’ interests, struggles, values etc. can help you both know how to communicate with each other in the future.
4: Establish Regular Communication:
Personally, this is the biggest pitfall I see in the general contracting business. There are a decent number of contractors that do good, honest work. But they don’t communicate with their customers. Simple things like when they plan to show up on a daily basis, the schedule of events, if it’s okay to place tools and equipment in certain places on their property etc. Contractors remember you are working in people’s most prized possessions, their homes, so they’re going to want to know what you’re up to on a very regular basis. It’s your job to inform them. Also, ask your clients how they prefer to communicate and how often, and either meet those expectations, or refuse the job because you can’t meet the client’s expectations.
5: Set Clear Expectations:
By now you’ve hopefully done this. But from the beginning expectations need to be clearly communicated and both parties need to deliver on them or walk away from each other and not do business. Make sure no one expects something that is impossible.
6: Always sign a Contract:
Your contract is your set of expectations and how you will deliver those in writing. Don’t skimp on this, make sure it is detailed so if there is a miscommunication, you can refer to the contract.
7: Think Like a Customer:
Although a client may tell you what they expect, they may not tell you everything out of forgetting, lack of experience with contractors, or lack of comfortability of clearly communicating expectations. Think as if you were the client in every project and how you would react if it were your home and act accordingly.
8: Don’t be afraid to walk:
To walk away that is. If you’ve been upfront and super clear with the deliverables of the contract and one party is still bullying the other, you have every right to walk away (note this is not legal advice). You were transparent, honest, respectful, set clear expectations, got to know them, established regular communication and were authentic and somehow things now have gone south? Both parties should consider walking away. If nothing else, don’t be afraid to check a contractor or a client if they are being “bullies” or not obeying expectations previously set. You both were chosen for a reason. Contractors should be screening their customers just as much as customers are screening their contractors.
This article may seem straight forward and a little blunt for your liking. I assure you we are friendly people. We just like to be “real” as people would say. We simply want to work on people’s homes and deliver them the best product we know how to. I suggest customers try to understand that from the beginning. We really try hard to build a foundation of trust from the beginning and carry through with the above list so customers can really understand we simply are trying to deliver the best product we can and do good, honest work. If you are hiring a contractor, I recommend you establish these techniques immediately to help the process run more smoothly.