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Finding and Creating Good Clients
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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

  

Universal Truths

  1. How they are with others is likely how they will be with you.
  2. How they start a project is likely how they will be the whole time.
  3. Being fair doesn’t mean being a push-over.
  4. Don’t assume that just because a client has money that they are willing to part with it.
  5. 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.
  6. You cannot “fix” someone with issues. All you can do is protect yourself.

 

Top 10 Traits to Look for in a Good Client

  1. Positive past experiences with your profession.
  2. Good reputation within the community (understanding, generous, reasonable).
  3. Realistic expectations about budget, schedule, quality and involvement –understands that projects never go 100% smoothly.
  4. Understands that changes due to outside forces are normal – expects to pay for changes and limits the amount of changes they make.
  5. Experience/knowledge of this project type.
  6. 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.
  7. A commitment to direct communication & responsiveness.
  8. A clearly articulated vision & excitement about the project and working with you.
  9. Trusting (hands-off).
  10. Pays bills on time.

 

The Top 10 Red Flags of a Bad Client

  1. Bad past experiences with your profession (“I’ll be your worst client”).
  2. Bad reputation within the community (critical, litigious, blaming, cheap).
  3. Unrealistic expectations about budget, schedule, quality and involvement – demands perfection.
  4. Refuses changes due to outside forces – makes lots of changes themselves and expects to get them for free
  5. No Experience/knowledge of this project type.
  6. Disrespect for what your do professionally (“I could do that”) & a sense of entitlement, and they want you to change your process or product.
  7. The client doesn’t think they need an architect (or GC) during construction. Or the architect is not involved in CA/was fired.
  8. Difficult communication or unavailable.
  9. A vague vision, indecisiveness, & resignation about the project and working with you.
  10. Not trusting – micro-managing – on-site a lot.
  11. Pays late or challenges bills.

 

How to Get and Keep Clients on the Good Path

  1. Be willing to say “No” or set sufficient conditions.
  2. Set strong boundaries and expectations early – spend time reviewing the contract together.
  3. Compete on the basis of value rather than price.
  4. Offer realistic estimates rather than complying with their wishful thinking.
  5. Charge extra the first time and every time if they change the scope of work (be consistent).
  6. Immediately stop work if you are not paid on time.
  7. Show them a model of the desired process. Acknowledge and reward them when they follow it.
  8. 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.
  9. Immediately confirm all verbal agreements or assumptions with a follow-up email.
  10. Never do work without written approval.
  11. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into giving estimates or opinions too quickly; ask for the time to do it right.
  12. Proactively invite feedback & hear it.

  

How to Course Correct and Mitigate Damage if Things Go Badly

  1. If you are providing free services to correct something, put in writing the limits of that resolution. Clarify that it is not a precedent.
  2. Solving the problem is almost always cheaper than fighting about it.
  3. Restate your original intention to provide the desired outcome. Get agreement from client that they have the same desire.
  4. Deliver bad news as soon as possible. Do it in person or on the phone – not by email or text.
  5. 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.
  6. Require a retainer that is held until the final bill is paid.

 

 

 

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