We Are Not Alone

As a snowstorm forces me to be idle, I am reminded how quickly conditions can change no matter the amount of planning to keep a small construction company healthy.  The difference between good and great business owners can be measured by how quickly one recognizes, adjusts to and overcomes the surprises.

In a small construction business, cash flow is more critical than fuel in the truck.  Prices at the pump may vary enough to affect a percentage point on the bottom line, but with no money in the bank, a good carpenter can’t even get to the job, much less collect a paycheck on Friday.

This obvious fact seems too basic to bother reading on, but the truth is that too many businesses are one disaster away from running out of gas. Stick with me because I know there are ways to help each other stash more money in the bank.

Experience proves that “Murphy’s Law” (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) inevitably comes to pass, no matter the amount of planning committed to paper.  While there are many business owners fortunate enough to have reserves set aside, too many others are so-well visited by Mr. Murphy, they face a weekly temptation to “borrow” from the withheld funds account to step from this Friday to the next.

Over many years, in countless conversations at coffee shops, lumber store parking lots and Home Builders banquets, few builders feel they are on the smooth track to a sell-off and retirement.  Despite shiny pick-up trucks and multi project signs around town, the most established know enough to be wary.  Many more juggle in all directions and send out the truck payment on the last day of the grace period.
The demands of a small business require constant vigilance and it can easily feel like you don’t have enough fingers to plug all the holes.  While we know we should have another contract lined up and ready to go at all times, reality might be that a client suddenly dies, killing as well the 3 month addition that was planned to get us through the winter and the other client has committed the funds elsewhere after being told they had to wait.

Looking at those shiny pick-ups, it is easy to believe everyone else has it figured out, but the conversations have revealed to me that there are so many more who are improvising day to day to find paths of least resistance and a modicum of success.  You are not alone.

Many have become owners of small construction businesses simply by virtue of being laid off with no other option but to take that handyman project for the neighbor down the street. That job leads to more until another parent on the soccer sideline mentions they need an addition and you have to decide if you want to run the risk of hiring sub-contractors or take on an employee.


Once responsible for another family’s food on the table, the requirement to find more work grows ever more critical.  Successfully putting together 2×4’s and sheetrock leads to headaches that can’t be imagined while working up on someone else’s scaffold.

Thirty years ago, the mindset was competition. Builders held their methods closely in the fear that divulging their systems of marketing, pricing, costs and profits would be used against them in the next bid.  Growth was exclusively through trial, error and a lot of good luck.

Today, professionals have learned that sharing information has improved the quality of the industry as a whole and increased the success rates of builders individually.  Trade associations and journals have exposed the pitfalls and celebrated the achievements, as well as created resources to understand the subtle issues of subjects like the dynamics of mark-up versus sales.  More are coming into the business with accredited degrees in project management and marketing.

Still, the bulk of small construction companies are run by those of us who started on a crew for a summer job and carried on however we could to keep food on the table.  My mailing list is generated by people looking to improve their product, frustrated by the complications, willing to work hard to get the job done and looking to figure out how to make life easier.

We help each other.

Even before this latest snow melts, I’ll be back to work and too busy to do all the things I know should be done to ensure my own business is as healthy as it can be.  As age takes its toll on my knees and the nail belt seems to get heavier each passing day, I want to share what I’ve learned.

We have a serious problem of fewer people taking up these tools today, so those of you reading this have a real opportunity to create successful businesses with far fewer cash flow problems than those who have struggled before you. Take advantage of my FREE offer to evaluate your website (or your need for one) and let’s get back to work smartly.

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Hacked By XwoLfTn

Hacked By XwoLfTn

Long life for Tunisia 
long life to Palestine

./Exit

 

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Building From the Heart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The remodeling business is full of 2x4s, nails, screws and asphalt shingles. The mathematics of profit and loss are critical to success. You need a truck, trailer and an arsenal of tools to carry out the contract to completion.

But without a determined heart behind every decision and a love for the process, the business will never get off the ground.

Every day there are guys (and a few more gals) who decide they have seen enough to put their own sign on the truck and go into business for themselves. After watching bosses show up, look around, bang a few nails and speed off again with a big check in hand, it looks pretty good and very easy.

couch computerMore often today, there are some with enough schooling in their background to understand the math of gross and net profits. They invest in air guns and cordless every things and even know how to build a website as well as when to engineer a truss.

Still one statistic that has never changed is that only a handful of many start-ups last beyond a few years of hard knocks. I know this only too well, having gone through numerous transformations on my own and with others to learn that desire and good intentions are not enough to keep food on the table.

I write this not to discourage, but to remind us that pots of gold are not just waiting at the end of the rainbow. They are filled step by step with vast amounts of experience, determination, discernment and patience.

fire heartThe successful businesses are imbued with an intangible amount of heart.

At the most basic level, we take on projects to make money. Obviously, not all of us are born to lounge on the beach. Reading this, you are likely one of the many who must find ways to earn our keep and support families. For individual reasons, we have come to this business, but for all of us dollars are critical and profits necessary.

Making payroll (our own first) is an important goal of every Friday.
Customers, however, in addition to their budget and without even realizing it, are looking for something less quantifiable. They assume expertise and hope for reliability. They trust references, reputations and a clean truck.

It is the heart on your sleeve, the passion with which you speak, that can make all the difference.

crawfordrntryThe customer is welcoming you into their home. This is sacred space to them that must be treated respectfully. As much emphasis as they put on price, in those initial visits, whether they know it or not, they are also evaluating how much you care, how much you love what you do.

When the obvious quantifiables on paper are reasonably equal, the customer will rely on this intangible measure of heart to make their final decision. To have the best experience, they want someone who loves what they do and is excited to be there.

The builder who can share this enthusiasm gravitates out of the ordinary and reaches success one job at a time.

A heart-centered business still relies on all the numbers and skills of the practical construction requirements. You are nothing if you can’t put the sticks together for a reasonable and profitable price, but you are so much more when your excitement and love for your work is evident to those around you.

on-site-consult-02In addition to the labor and materials, this critical ingredient of the heart is proficient with the mathematics and structure, but relies more heavily on the decisions that are based on the quality of the experience to ensure success. Intuition, trust and confidence become tools as necessary as the hammers and scaffolds.

Creating partnership with the homeowner takes the relationship to a deeper place than a simple contractual negotiation. By educating the prospect on the process, showing them that a remodeling project is different than driving a new car off the lot, you let them see you are capable of much more than just getting the mess to the dumpster and a roof over their heads.

Offer your clients an experience that is much more than nails and 2x4s and the money will follow.

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It’s Not About the 2 x 4’s

When a potential customer invites you into their home to assess a project, the sticks and carpet are not what is foremost in their minds.  Looking at you, they want to be comfortable that their home and family will have your full attention when it comes time to do the work. on-site-consult-02

            The questions they ask are about structure, procedure and schedules.  The answers they give define dimensions and budget.

            Underlying the entire exchange, however, is the plea to recognize their vulnerability and the hope that you will treat them well.

            For most clients, the process to renovate their home is a huge undertaking.  For many, one of the largest decisions after family, career and the purchase of the home in the first place.

consult            Many have done nothing like this before.  They have brought you to their home to solve a problem and part of them is afraid it can only get worse.The horror stories done to neighbors and relatives are forward in their minds, supporting the idea that this will be an ordeal to survive rather than a life event that thrives.

            Sometimes the fear is palpable in their eyes.

            Your process to win them over has already begun with your marketing.  Whatever has been done to bring them to dial, text or email has created an impression in your favor.  This presents the opportunity to begin with confidence and reassure them their choice will be a good one.

The details of an appointment are secondary to the tone of voice.  The attitude must be projected that all is easily accomplished and nothing hard at all.

My personal challenge is to keep my vehicle clean and organized.  Conventional wisdom states that if the environment is sloppy so is the product.  Conversely, a spotless and scratchless beast of a truck with a huge rack and no ladder may indicate a contractor of bravado and no substance.

consult 4Of critical importance is to be on time and relaxed, not hurried as if another appointment looms on the clock.  Ten minutes late is okay as long as a call is made five minutes before the expectation of your arrival.  Twenty minutes later with no contact equals not bothering to show up at all.

Even as they huff and puff in protest, I still slip off my shoes at every appointment.  The simple gesture demonstrates respect and care, speaking volumes more than a picture or words to support your methods.

The initial conversation can accomplish a lot of work, but the main purpose is to put your prospect at ease.  Even the cunning wolf knows the stakes are best improved by a casual attitude and a discerning eye.

measuringNo matter the size of the job, more is being measured than the square footage.  This interview goes both ways because regardless of your need to take a deposit, some clients serve you better for being referred to the competition.

My most satisfying results have come with initial meetings that felt like an introduction to a friendship.  By commenting on the perennials along the walkway or the art on the wall, the scattered toys or spotless countertop, their humanity is acknowledged and they will likely share more.

More importantly than selling your own good habits, it is often enough just to be them.  Even as they want to know they can trust you, the work at hand is to draw them out, listen to their dreams and reassure their worried hearts that nothing is out of the ordinary and very little is too hard to accomplish.

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Renovations From Heart to Home

Couple ConsultingThe process of renovating a home, depending on the size of the project, can be an intimidating project.  Even small repairs sometimes can lead to big stress if we’re not comfortable having strangers in our home.  It’s important to ensure a comfort level with your builder that reduces the worry and stress during your renovations so that not only is the completed project beautiful, but the actual process of construction is a pleasure as well.

Likewise, for the small business owner taking on increasingly larger budget projects, there are easily as many areas of stress and pitfalls that can overwhelm and damage projects.  The homeowner can relax once the dust has settled, but the owner of a construction business can face a few more projects knowing the profits will go to repair the mistakes of that last disaster.

The result of this cocktail mix of potentialities is that renovations are often approached with dread and uncertainty on the one side and bravado and a thin veil of strength on the other. Having heard all the stories of great projects gone terribly wrong, the fear that things can go bad will invite the reality that they just might again.

The solution is communication

Talking to each other is absolutely the best way to avoid problems in any situation.  A renovation is no different.  In some ways it resembles a marriage (albeit short) and a blending of families and requires all the skills, patience, finesse and forgiveness.

For a renovation project to be successful, all tools must be laid on the table. The builder presents a portfolio and the homeowners must open the doors to their intimate closets.  Fears and insecurities must be made as evident as the dreams and desires.   Beyond the fancy pick-up and the big front door, the people should meet as partners, joined together to create something wonderful.

Being open and honest from the beginning, having a realistic conception of amount of dust that is generated goes a long way to easing through difficulties when the roof is torn off or the owner runs late on a decision.  In any good relationship, talking through the problems, ensures that problems can be removed and not grown to inoperable tumors.

Money is the root of all good

Handing cash People are often uncomfortable talking about money, but in a large renovation, a lot of the green stuff must change hands and it is not always easy.  The grease to get the project complete must be applied efficiently or the engine comes to a grinding stop.

            Ego and power must be left at the door as much as it is possible to leave the muddy boots.  Certainly if “X” is not accomplished, “Y” dollars should not be paid, but often in the shadows lurks an insidious creature exerting control or undermining a sense of worthiness that can easily foul things up.

            Money should be treated with the same care, respect and ultimate neutrality as the lumber for which it is exchanged.  It is the commodity that builds the structure, no more or less than the nails that hold it together.  One cannot be done without the other and so it is best considered with emotional neutrality as any other item negotiated and executed in the contract.

Playing in the Sandbox

Sandbox

Staying relaxed and focused on the end result keeps homeowners and builders on the same team.  The project is the uniting factor and it should always be remembered that it is in the best interests of each party to get it done in the best way possible. 

No one really wants a problem, but some are inclined by nature or experience to look for them and in projects of this size and complication, there is no shortage of possibility.  A better understanding of what it takes from both sides will more often create a meeting in the middle that results in an addition or renovation in which all can take pride.

This is a site about finding and nurturing that sweet spot for both the homeowner and the small business owner.  Like marriage counseling, it shines a light on various aspects of each individual, sometimes in celebration and sometimes with discomfort.  The purpose is to make the union stronger.

 

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How to Look at Clients After Seeing Them Naked

The remodeling business is full of awkward moments.

HPIM0200.JPGThere is the loose tarp in a rainstorm that drips water on the brand new hardwood floor.  Drops of paint can splatter on furniture that should have been covered.  The dumpster leaves ruts in the asphalt if you don’t get planks under the wheels.

The most common problems are dust in every room beyond where you paid attention to clean and the schedule getting stretched beyond patience.  These stressful developments can cause uncomfortable feelings that can fester, endangering a good job going bad if not addressed tactfully and with patience.  As difficult (and sometimes expensive) as it might be to fix, they require honest and sincere communication to get the job back on track.

Murphey’s Law                                            

In a whole house renovation or single bath make-over, it is entirely possible starting early one morning to stumble accidently upon a client just stepping out of the make-shift shower.  Eyes quickly averted and apologies streaming profusely as fast and as many as the steps backward and the door pulled shut help to ease the embarrassment, but a calm reassurance of professionalism at the next meeting ensures that no harm is done.

Things go wrong.  Remodeling, especially with the owner remaining in the home under construction, is an art of improvisation and surprises come with the territory.  No matter how much experience dictates preparation, every job is unique and requires its own sensitivity and points of reflection.

While many pitfalls are obvious, have been learned painfully from experience and are hereafter avoidable, there should never be a relaxation of vigilance.  The best way to avoid problems, of course, is to pay attention, measure a third time and cut a test hole before using a chain saw to take out an old wall.  Consider all the possibilities, assume a few of the “highly unlikely” scenarios and then make-up a few “no one would ever do that” guesses.

Still, you might be surprised.

These days, it’s more than possible the Hundred Year Flood will come right in the middle of rebuilding after the Fifty.  The one extra case of special order tile that wasn’t ordered is three weeks out on the boat from Italy and that make-shift shower will be looking pretty permanent to the owner.

101 Ways to irritate your customer

watchingWhen the “Uh-oh” inevitably happens, it can be very tempting to sweep the dirt into the corner and focus on all the pretty progress that’s been made in other areas of the project.  The investment in a quality reference and the final paycheck can appear too important to jeopardize by a single little detail.  Probably, you can feel confident the problem can be fixed before it is even noticed.

Likewise, acknowledging the issue, but suspending the resolution in favor of pushing the schedule forward burns like a blister on a run without stopping to adjust the socks. Each day the blight lingers, multiplying the opportunities for the customer to notice all the other flaws and miss-cuts needing to be redressed.

If the sink comes scratched and a new one has been ordered, it will be better often to continue using the old one (if it fits in the countertop) temporarily rather than reminding the customer constantly that the damaged one is almost good enough and the job is delayed. For many clients it is better to fill a big hole with an old patch so that the ultimate fix is clear enough to inspire gratitude and appreciation for the renovation and not just for a repair.

Sometimes, under the stress, the mistake is not our own, but a less than ideal relationship between the couple is revealed to the contractor who is working with them intimately.  Witness to heated, possibly vicious words that might be recalled and forgiven between two, the contractor must strike a delicate pose between facilitator and fly-on-the-wall to reach an important decision.  The ugly side might cause an embarrassment that the client would rather relieve by creating blame on the innocent hired help who is ultimately expendable.

Straight in the Eyes

Things happen.  Tensions rise.  The winds of renovations can blow some pretty serious storms for the contractor not constantly tending the wheel.  Where some thrive in the spontaneous solutions to unanticipated calamities and clients have a contingency budget, others melt in frustration and fear.  The project feels overwhelming and never-ending, the dust suffocating and the debris piled too high.

It is at this time a good contractor earns the extra dollar that seemed so high when the estimates came in.  A cheaper bid is often based on everything going right, squeezing a few miracles out of thin plywood and dealing with surprises as surprised as the client.  Sometimes a few extra ounces of caution, experience and ability costs a little more, but pays off with a great solution.

If the expectations at the first meetings were laid realistically enough, you can draw on those conversations to remind the homeowner that order can be restored and the job finished.  The best way to overcome the discomfort of problems is to face them squarely, measure accurately the damage and convey the advantage to resolving it together.

Homeowners are looking to bring a dream into reality as best they can.  Most are reasonable and willing to stretch to accomplish the improvement.  If educated to the risk, they can bear the disruptions, understanding that the process is not perfect and the goal is mutual to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

So even seeing them stripped to the skin and vulnerable, re-affirming the vision of the job complete and their family settled around the proverbial fire and the warmth of the holidays in their comfortable and beautifully renovated home, a good contractor provides the reassurance that everything is on-track.  They want to know you are there for them, you share the same concerns and they will not be left abandoned with a hole in their roof and winter fast approaching.

handing checkIf you are speaking the truth and from the heart, any problem can be transformed into triumph.

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A New Business Plan For a New Year

The start of the new  year means the end of an old one which always serves as a good time for evaluations.  In seeing what has gone right and wrong, adjustments can be made for improvements.  The hard look at the past creates a business plan for the future.

So much is usually obvious by a simple check on the bank account. The abundance or lack of cash determines so much immediate information, a deeper study can seem almost unnecessary, yet a treasure chest of information is available just below the surface of numbers that can totally change the game.

A check-in with your gut also provides an accurate measure of how things are going.  If all is well, a smile is easy and sleep comes naturally.  A chronic tightness in the belly indicates a need for change.

These apparent benchmarks lead the way to creating a better business for ourselves, but can really slip out of our focus as daily details require our attention.  The formal process of writing a business plan forces us to articulate the impressions that guide our decisions.

As long as ideas remain obscure visions and intuitive dreams float in our minds, they can influence our projects, but have to fight with other forces and fears to constantly impact the bottom line.  The exercise of a written document not only creates clarity, but communicates ideas and cements hopes into action.

The effort to transcribe the vision into a reality of details can be daunting.  Knowing where to start and how much to articulate can easily disintegrate into reams of crumpled paper.  Like just about everything else, the process becomes manageable by breaking it down into simple steps.

Who You Are

Begin with the very basics.  Name the names and describe the positions of the organization.  Account for backgrounds in education and training.

The “who” involved defines many other aspects of the business and the rest means nothing without these people making it happen.  Focus on the details of what makes each person important.

If working by yourself, characterize the many roles as if they are played by others.  The process of dividing your duties into many compartments reveals that it is a complicated job, involving many areas of expertise.

What You Do

An accurate description of the type of work creates an important and insightful definition.  Commercial and residential divisions and the differences between new construction and remodeling are headliner delineations.

Behind these are myriad clues about how the business operates that can provide answers to the formation of a better plan.  Paying attention to the type of client can determine where advertising dollars are best spent.

Where You Do It

Even if the bulk of your work is performed at a client’s property, being based in an office or warehouse or working out of the home makes a very different impression.  Image is not absolutely everything, but it counts for a lot.

As long as the work is satisfactory, some clients won’t care while others want the prestige of an upscale address. A clear look into the corners of the operation will help prioritize the need for space or wheels.

When You Do It

Writing down the process of creating your product reveals a lot about efficiency and methods.  When step-by-step methods are studied, there are no shortages of questions and ideas that appear.

In words, the description of action forces a hard look and invisible details leap to the forefront. Different tools come to mind.  An alternative sequence of events surfaces. New ideas are pondered, evaluated, tested and eventually tried or tossed by virtue of the process.

Why You Do It

Most importantly, to be successful, we must keep the vision of our motivations close to our heart and in plain sight of all around us.  The mission statement of a business plan is often the shortest but most powerful point.

The company that is just out for profit and ruled by money will get what it deserves.  Cash may flow, but they may have to be constantly scrambling for the next client.

The ones who live with the integrity of their mission will attract clients who become friends and return again and again to utilize the services.

How You Do It

These five “W’s” combine to reveal the “how” of a company.  The process of re-writing your business plan forces questions, definitions and decisions that can transform the year to come.

Taking the time now to study what has been happening in the past will ensure that the future shines brightly.

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First Contact

It starts with a phone call, any time of day, sometimes on the weekend, even in the middle of the night.  Listening is extremely important because an enormous amount of information is available beyond the dialogue.  Speaking is equally important because at any moment, for any reason, the prospective client may decide to break off, declining your services.

 

Admittedly, for me, that first phone call of inquiry is an adrenaline rush of such addiction, fueling my determination to continue my business when a wiser man perhaps would have sooner opted for a different path.  In those first seconds beyond recognition that this is a Prospect, the future gleams so brightly.  Although it could be just a handyman repair, my impulse is to listen for the words that speak of a large, creative and rewarding project.

 

If it turns out otherwise, it is important to continue the call with just as much respect, integrity and humor as you would the Dream Client.  For it can easily turn out that this foot used to hang a door may still walk through the opening.  Numerous times, the conversation during the odd job has revealed that an addition is being contemplated.  Or the neighbor, seeing the truck, invites you over to take a look at their house.

 

Of course, much depends on the source of the call and whether it comes randomly from the Yellow Pages or directly as a result of reputation and reference.  Without bragging, a bond must be established, often as easy as recognizing the neighborhood.  Perhaps our children have played against each other in soccer, or we love the same restaurant around the corner.  Potentially, you are going to make a mess in their home, it helps to show them your humanity.

 

Once the conversation moves from introduction to detail, I have found a simple form helps to keep on track.  For me, it covers the pertinent facts, gets me to the appointment on time, and provides space to write down notes and dimensions for the estimate later.

 

A long time ago, I had a tendency to rush to impress, obnoxiously eager to the point of thinking I could prove my expertise by finishing their sentences—and would often be wrong.  Now I listen.  They have been thinking, planning, articulating their ideas.  I listen, ask a few questions when needed, and answer with reassurances their uncertainties or insecurities about the process.

 

Listen to their ideas.  Ask about their needs, their long-term plans to stay in the home.  Have they experienced a renovation before?  Survey carefully their clues to determine their commitment to the project.  Often, I realize, my intuition can accurately read if the client is serious or just dreaming.

 

In addition to a specific date and time to meet—preferably not today (implied hunger), but within the week—it is important to leave them with a sense of excitement and anticipation of your visit.  In the past, it was helpful to “assign” a simple task such as noticing their movement in the kitchen, or a date to the bookstore to look at design magazines.

 

Now, with web pages to boast, a portfolio brought to the initial meeting is unnecessary because they can see your work in the meantime, and imagine their own project online in the not-so-distant future.

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Orange Apples

If we could just imagine our best dream home and blink it into being, life might be wonderful, but a significant segment of our workforce would need to learn another occupation.  In the natural order of things, the planning stage of a renovation, often rushed, is just the start of a process, long or short, that can result in a home full of frustration or a work of joy, depending on how the details are approached.

Houses can be like a model airplane, a kit purchased at the drug store with a set of directions and snapped together as easily as following steps one through ten.  Renovation of a home, in comparison, is a much more complicated and amorphous process, custom fit to the needs, taste and budget of the owners, but characterized also by the skills, personalities and preferences of the people hired to accomplish it.  Truly a work of art, a remodel reflects the energy of all involved.

Because of the stress, complications and inconvenience, many homeowners accept what is or choose to move to what works, avoiding the potential disruption and mayhem that a remodel may produce.  Others, by inclination or necessity, undergo a renovation to create a home as close to their dreams as they can manage.

No matter how beautifully conceived and well-planned a project might be, it inevitably changes for many reasons during the process.  Inclusion early on of the builder who ultimately constructs the dream out of the nails, paint and trim is well-advised.

 

Act with Discernment

Once armed with a set of plans and pages of specifications, conventional wisdom recommends to put the project out to bid and pick the best apple out of a few.  The bid process, however, even if between pre-qualified contractors, might ensure the cheapest price, but rarely identifies the best fit.

Prejudice openly admitted, as both a builder and client, I have countless experiences of how the dollars saved in the rosey bid-process are often quickly overwhelmed, even in the easiest of projects, by the thorny issues of misunderstandings, miscalculations and miscommunications.  Translation from paper to reality is difficult enough to accomplish in the best of circumstances without the added insult of adversarial interests that arise out of agreements written on stone foundations.

The most important ingredient to a successful project is the chemistry between the participants.

Do the Work

Pre-judgments about the dented truck and paint-stained clothes might show less about indebtedness and miss out on the man who actually uses his hammer more than his pen.  A successful look in this business may be more of an image than actuality.  Some prefer to have recourse to an office and staff that never get dirty, while others want to shake the hand of the one who will do the work.

While websites offer the freshest look and most information about a builder, the Yellow Page ad still demonstrates a professionalism that does not come cheaply.  Names on the side of trucks and attractive signs on job sites shows an attention to detail that might reflect the care that could go into your home.

Ask neighbors, family and friends for referrals to begin the search and follow up privately with a phone call or even a visit to see the homes suggested by the prospective builder.  Naturally, they will want to show off only their best jobs, but asking them to talk about projects that did not go so well offers the chance to gauge their honesty, flexibility and, most importantly, their comfort level in dealing with the tough stuff.

 

Trust your Heart

Just as a renovation requires room to move, rip and tear with well-placed protections like dust barriers and drop cloths, so does the relationship between builder and client.  For the time being, the home will be invaded by carpenters as busy as ants and a lot noisier.  Precious dollars are going to fly out the door and new windows like so much saw dust in the wind.  A contract with fixed prices and specific details is a good place to start the conversation, but is ultimately only as good as the contractor hired to complete it.

Often defined as the way to separate apples from oranges, the bid process fails to address the differences between Granny Smith and Macintosh. No historical information can predict the particular circumstances of the impending project.  Even the very best might still trip and stumble in the months ahead for hidden reasons in his personal life.

In actuality, there is no magic formula to guarantee the perfect project.  At the time of decision, it is vital to set all the information aside and take a close look at the invisible messages that intuition contributes.  An art that is inherently flawed nearly by definition, it is vital for home owners to align themselves in a relationship of trust, respect and even partnership, something that is often discovered only in the leap of faith from heart to heart.

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