A Recap from CGBG's May In-Depth with Sandra Weeks and Scott Rodwin
The discussion that successful business owners Sandy Weeks of Blue Spruce Design & Construction and Scott Rodwin of Rodwin Architecture & Skycastle Construction provided back in May was a huge hit. We can’t cover all the valuable insight they provided, but they did create some helpful “Top 10” lists.
By Sandra Weeks and Scott Rodwin
- How they are with others is likely how they will be with you.
- How they start a project is likely how they will be the whole time.
- Being fair doesn’t mean being a push-over.
- Don’t assume that just because a client has money that they are willing to part with it.
- Contracts are required even between friends. Negotiate while you are still friendly. Contracts are primarily a statement of expectations. It may be the least fun part of the project, but it’s worth the extra time to be clear and thorough.
- You cannot “fix” someone with issues. All you can do is protect yourself.
Top 10 Traits to Look for in a Good Client
- Positive past experiences with your profession.
- Good reputation within the community (understanding, generous, reasonable).
- Realistic expectations about budget, schedule, quality and involvement –understands that projects never go 100% smoothly.
- Understands that changes due to outside forces are normal – expects to pay for changes and limits the amount of changes they make.
- Experience/knowledge of this project type.
- An expressed respect for what you (and the rest of the team) do professionally, a sense of gratitude and on-board with your process and product.
- A commitment to direct communication & responsiveness.
- A clearly articulated vision & excitement about the project and working with you.
- Trusting (hands-off).
- Pays bills on time.
The Top 10 Red Flags of a Bad Client
- Bad past experiences with your profession (“I’ll be your worst client”).
- Bad reputation within the community (critical, litigious, blaming, cheap).
- Unrealistic expectations about budget, schedule, quality and involvement – demands perfection.
- Refuses changes due to outside forces – makes lots of changes themselves and expects to get them for free
- No Experience/knowledge of this project type.
- Disrespect for what your do professionally (“I could do that”) & a sense of entitlement, and they want you to change your process or product.
- The client doesn’t think they need an architect (or GC) during construction. Or the architect is not involved in CA/was fired.
- Difficult communication or unavailable.
- A vague vision, indecisiveness, & resignation about the project and working with you.
- Not trusting – micro-managing – on-site a lot.
- Pays late or challenges bills.
How to Get and Keep Clients on the Good Path
- Be willing to say “No” or set sufficient conditions.
- Set strong boundaries and expectations early – spend time reviewing the contract together.
- Compete on the basis of value rather than price.
- Offer realistic estimates rather than complying with their wishful thinking.
- Charge extra the first time and every time if they change the scope of work (be consistent).
- Immediately stop work if you are not paid on time.
- Show them a model of the desired process. Acknowledge and reward them when they follow it.
- Get to know them personally. Create open communication channels and a basis for trust. Best to talk in person or by phone. Email is only for documentation and delivery of reference materials. Never argue by email.
- Immediately confirm all verbal agreements or assumptions with a follow-up email.
- Never do work without written approval.
- Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into giving estimates or opinions too quickly; ask for the time to do it right.
- Proactively invite feedback & hear it.
How to Course Correct and Mitigate Damage if Things Go Badly
- If you are providing free services to correct something, put in writing the limits of that resolution. Clarify that it is not a precedent.
- Solving the problem is almost always cheaper than fighting about it.
- Restate your original intention to provide the desired outcome. Get agreement from client that they have the same desire.
- Deliver bad news as soon as possible. Do it in person or on the phone – not by email or text.
- Include a clause in your contract that guarantees the right to start with mediation or arbitration. Then include that in a lawsuit the prevailing party can add collection and legal costs to the bill.
- Require a retainer that is held until the final bill is paid.