Five Ways to Know You Won’t Work Well Together with a Contractor

Tips for feeling out a client relationship to avoid issues down the road.

Whether constructing a residential, retail, commercial or outdoor project, the relationship between the contractor and the client is of utmost importance. Both sides can have an idea of what the end product will look like, but to get from Point A to Point B, there has to be a good relationship. To maintain this positive relationship, one thing has to stay consistent: communication.

Mike Corvino, owner of Deckcrafters, has been in the construction business for 28 years. He brought on his son-in-law, Luke Stewart, who has been his partner in business for the last 12 years. They work predominantly on decks for residences. With a business that is built almost completely off of referrals, they know how to maintain strong client relationships.

“Feeling out a relationship is a learned skill,” said Stewart. “You have to do it and understand how to do it.”

For those that might not have the experience in reading a client like the Deckcrafters duo, Corvino and Stewart offered up five tips on how to know that you won’t work well with a client and how communication benefits the relationship on both sides.

1. Knowing what is being offered in the contract.

To get the project started off on the right foot, it is important that the client understands exactly what is being offered in the contract. Very simply, be clear and concise so that you won’t have any problems down the line. Once you get started, you do not want the client thinking they are going to get something that was never offered.

2. Understand the schedule of the project.

The client needs to know when we are going to start working and stop working. Do they want you to get there early? Work weekends? If you get all of the scheduling in front of the client in the beginning they won’t just think of you as the loud guys in their back yard. Give them an idea of the beginning and end date, as well as when you do “A” you move on to “B.” By explaining the process, including the permits and inspections, the client has a better understanding of why things take a certain amount of time and don’t question why something is not completed.

3. Payment plans should not have surprises.

No one likes handing over money, which is why it is important to have a payment schedule. For instance, with building decks, there is a deposit check at the beginning. When framing is inspected and before putting the decking down, another check is needed. Another one is due when the project is nearly 75% complete. As long as there is a clear and concise payment plan, the potential for friction is reduced. There has to be a balance of how much work is being completed, and both the client and contractor have to agree that this amount of work is worthy of a check. To avoid arguments in the middle of a project, agree upon these timelines before the work begins.

4. Present the possibility of unforeseen problems or changes.

Based on a contractor’s professional experience, they should be able to explain what they can expect and the possibility of problems. For example, there’s always a possibility that Corvino and Stewart can take off a piece of a structure and find mold or termite damage. From there, they would submit a change order and include the work or repairs that are needed. Knowing upfront that problems like these are a possibility relieves stress in the overall process.

5. It’s not over until it’s over.

It sounds simple, but there are a few factors that come into play upon completion of a project. It is not just, “Let’s take the check and go.” It’s best for contractors to do a walkthrough with their clients to make sure that what was promised has been delivered. If they aren’t happy, Corvino and Stewart have a “punch list.” This list contains all of the things that are bothering them and we make sure to fix them so everything is completed to the client’s satisfaction.

“Be professional, transparent, thorough, punctual and prompt,” said Stewart. “But most of all, communicate.”

With communication as an overall goal, clients and contractors remain on the same page during the entire construction process. While getting the construction process from Point A to Point B, keep everything surface level so everyone can enjoy the end result.