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I hear horror stories all the time about "that terrible contractor" or "the most unreasonable
customer ever".

I often wonder while I'm hearing these horror stories what happened? I mean when does this happen and why? As I was thinking about this I thought that it was interesting because in all relationships between a client and a contractor they normally start out really great. There is excitement at the beginning and everyone is feeling really good and are ready to get started with
their relationship.

But somewhere along the way the excitement and happiness starts to end. Somewhere along the way the client and/or the contractor realize that the honeymoon is over and the relationship actually is going to take some work to keep it going in a positive direction. This could be created by many things; challenges in working through changes, project taking longer than desired, costs, simply having a contractor working on your home for what seems to be eternity is enough to create anxiety for a client.

So what is the answer? Well I'm no Dr. Phil, but I'll do my best to give my interpretation. With the experience of completing hundreds of projects and dealing with many different clients, I have found there to be a few key items that may help in relationship lasting beyond the honeymoon stage.

It doesn't matter if a project is one thousand dollars or one million dollars, this is hard earned money that the client has worked for and is paying the contractor to complete work. Work is what provides that contractor, his employees, and his subcontractors a paycheck. Even with this, too many times I see a lack of appreciation from contractors and/or even from the contractor’s employees or subs towards the client. Yes, the same client as I mentioned above as being the one providing those paychecks. What is often not taken into account is that the client who is providing those paychecks needs to work hard themselves to earn the money that they are using to pay for the very project that these guys are working on. There have been times where I have asked our employees and/or subs, “If you were paying for this would you accept it?” It is unbelievable when people simply put it into perspective, their mindset changes.

Contractors, contractor’s employees and subs need to show the highest respect and appreciation to the client, they have worked hard, and in many cases will continue to work hard, to earn their money to pay for the work that is being completed, regardless of the size of project or the client, they all deserve the same respect and appreciation.

I do not believe contractors realize what an inconvenience we are creating for our clients while completing their projects. Sure the client understands that the work is going to take place and of course they understand that things are going to be torn apart so the work can happen. What I mean is that for us contractors it's a job, it's what we do. For a client it's not what they do and many cases it becomes overwhelming for the client. Especially when things do not go smoothly, and in construction there always seems to be hurdles and road blocks that just weren't expected. All these things contribute to the inconvenience factor that I think contractors just do not take into consideration and just simply need too.

I think everyone is happy when they go shopping and they're excited about the items that they're going to purchase. But something happens as soon as the register pops up that total and the Benjamin Franklins start coming out of the pocket. I personally do not like going shopping with my wife because I always like to fill up the basket with all of my goodies but I'm always floored when I see the cost of that basket full of stuff, especially when we visit Costco.

This brings me to my point, although we get a huge amount items from Costco, and the value for
the items we are buying may be good, it's still a reality shock when the money starts exchanging hands. There is no difference with construction projects. The client realizes that they are getting a basket full but the mindset simply starts to change when the goods have to be paid for. Now does this hold true for everyone, of course not, but it does hold true for many. I think this works both ways. Homeowners and contractors may take issue with this but here it goes. Contractors need to suck it up and realize who is paying their wages. If a client wants something and are paying for it, then provide them what they want, period.

Now, if the client wants something, don't expect it for free. To many times I believe clients expect additional work and/or changes to be completed by the contractor at no cost. What they neglect to understand is that there are added costs for these items and by not paying for them the contractor then absorbs the cost and that's just simply is not fair.

I think there needs to be an understanding both ways on this and if there is, I believe it will help avoid animosity and tension in the relationship. Just think about it, it does matter how much you spend at Costco, they’re not handing you free pizza slices and soda on the way out the door.

Contractors need to understand that it is very easy for clients to become very emotional during their projects. Contractors see a project for simply that, a project, or just another job. The problem with this is that it's not just a project or just another job to the client, it's their HOME. This is easy to understand from both perspectives and I think both just need to realize this, especially the contractor.

I save this for last because I believe that communication is in itself an issue as well as a solution to all of the above. What I mean by this is that I think good communication is key to work through any problem. Too many times we avoid communication and then the smallest of problems become blown out of portion. A lot of people have a difficult time with communication, but this is a key component to any relationship. We often times let our emotions take over and we'll find it easier to complain to others and/or simply avoid the issue completely until, like a volcano we explode, and once that happens it's difficult to recover and to mend the relationship.

Just like a marriage the honeymoon is easy, it's after the honeymoon that takes the work to make the relationship be successful. So, respect, appreciation, understanding, and communication, if both contractor and clients have these four items then I believe most relationships will be very successful well beyond the honeymoon.

Honeymoons are great, but long relationships are even better. This is easy as long as you put your effort into it.

Good luck and happy building to you.

Rick Young


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