Have you been awarded a project you maybe shouldn’t have priced? I’m sure you have done favors for construction customers and then got yourself into trouble because you couldn’t complete the work in the time allowed.
Sometimes contractors allow themselves to be bullied to accept terms and conditions which aren’t favorable. We even allow customers to make decisions that we know will lead to their unhappiness later and invariably lead to us being blamed. We often wait for payment, having to argue for variations we are entitled to.
Maybe as contractors, we are too compliant, too accommodating, too eager to please, too scared of losing the project – and maybe, dare I say it, too damn stupid.
What contractors should tell their construction customers
Obviously this should be said politely and with a reason given. Customers can be quite insistent that you undertake their projects, yet you might not have the resources or expertise to construct it. Customers will be unhappy when you decline the project, but remember, they will be even unhappier if the project is executed poorly. Don’t accept conditions or circumstances which could be ruinous for the project or your company.
Do you realize there will be time/cost implications?
Construction customers are often quick to make changes without considering the additional costs involved. They sometimes seem to expect the contractor to swallow these costs and are then surprised when the change order arrives.
Have you allowed these costs in your budget?
How often have you faced a customer with a budget problem and then it seems to be your fault! Budget over-runs are dangerous causing customers to cut corners to save costs and in the worst-case scenario running out of money leaving the contractor unpaid.
That’s my price
customers don’t normally visit the supermarket and then haggle with the cashier over the price of their corn flakes. Why is there an automatic assumption that contractor’s prices are negotiable? I’m sure when you price a project you spend time and effort ensuring you have the best winning price. Yet, contractors in the excitement of possibly winning the project throw caution to the wind and give all manner of discounts to land the project. Do you really want to win the project at a price less than your costs?
When will I receive payment?
The contract specifies when payments are due, why should contractors accept being paid late? You have suppliers, subcontractors, and employees that have to be paid on time. Don’t be afraid to ask for your money or send reminders. Some customers are habitually slow payers. Don’t let them earn interest on your money at your cost. You are not a bank.
Do you realize this may not meet your expectations?
In the efforts of saving money customers sometimes specify cheaper materials. When they look horrible or start to fail whose fault is it? Well theirs, but that doesn’t stop them blaming the contractor! You want to be proud of the project when it’s finished. It’s your name on it.
We can’t shorten the schedule any further
Wow, I’m sure we all wish we had said this! Why be bullied into a schedule that’s impossible? Your customer will be unhappy with you for refusing to bend to their demands, but they’ll be even madder if the project is late and doesn’t meet the schedule you agreed to accept, and they will have no hesitation in imposing penalties if you deliver the project late.
We made a mistake
We all make mistakes and sometimes we just have to admit to them. Yet, some contractors go to extraordinary lengths to try and argue themselves out of trouble, usually just wasting time and effort, damaging reputation and annoying the customer. Of course, if you are right, then don’t be bullied into accepting that the customer is always right – sometimes they aren’t. Support your employees when they are right.
Learn to use some of these phrases; they may just help build a more successful company. Customers might dislike the new you, but they’ll end up appreciating your honesty. I’ve often said no to customers, and almost always afterward we’ve developed long-lasting business relationships built on trust and honesty. Those customers who can’t accept your refusal to be bullied can move on – you really don’t need the pain of working for them.