Home building and remodeling is an intensely personal process. Homeowners are often apprehensive, nervous, excited and very anxious to share the vision they have of what their home could be. As a design-build contractor, it has been my privilege to help take these concepts and turn them into a reality for more than 35 years.
While I continually refine my own skills and methods, here are a few project management strategies I have developed that I hope you find helpful and applicable.
Better Understanding Your Client’s Goals
Be an active listener.
It sounds simple, but it’s crucial. And, sadly enough, it can set you apart from many other builders and remodelers out there. Here’s a quick snapshot of my listening techniques:
- Listen in a way that improves mutual understanding.
- Prioritize their ideas.
- Restate their goals to ensure that we’re on the same page.
Restating is especially valuable because it gives the homeowners opportunity to reabsorb their own ideas, further clarify any points and confirm you are on the right track.
Turning a Conversation Into an Actionable Plan
As you know, the next step is to take these ideas, plans and possibilities, and convert them into an actionable plan with concrete steps.
The key is to engage in conversations with the professionals you have aligned yourself with, including designers, architects, engineers, plumbers and electricians. Rather than simply tell them what you need done, draw them into the conversation and put emphasis and value on the skill sets and expertise that they bring to the table. Speaking a common language with clearly articulated goals will help the project to move forward smoothly, avoiding costly mistakes and miscommunication.
Make sure each expert you work with also shares a defined timetable and plan of action. This will help you immensely as you oversee all the working parts of the process, staying on-time and on-budget.
Keeping Your Building or Remodeling Project Running Smoothly
Transparency is your ally.
Keep the lines of communication flowing with not only your team, but also with the homeowner on a daily basis. It might sound intimidating, but make sure your client is in the loop, and encourage/accept their feedback. This involvement will simultaneously ensure they are happy with the work and abreast of all developments and progress.
In all honesty, I think this is where many builders fall short. They see the client’s involvement as a nuisance that slows down their progress, and perceive feedback as criticism. Remember, this is their home, and they have the right to know how the work is moving forward and be tightly involved in decisions that are made. You are their guide and consultant just as much as their builder, and it’s your job to manage the details while still never cutting them out of the loop or resenting their interest.
What If Something Unexpected Comes Up?
If you uncover a roadblock or issue, don’t hide it or try to resolve it completely on your own just so it does not need to be presented to the homeowner. Remember, communication is king!
As you discuss the obstacle, be prepared to offer solutions. The flavor of the conversation and your input should be positive and creative. It’s not a headache, but rather an opportunity to approach from a different angle or develop an answer to the issue.
The same principles apply if your client decides to go a different direction. If you become frustrated or overwhelmed, so will they. At the end of the day you both have the same goal: a successful, beautiful project.
Make the Most of Your Final Walk-Through
This is the last step, and your opportunity to enjoy the result of your project management and your team’s hard work.
It’s important, however, to make sure you do not take this opportunity lightly by simply breezing through and shaking their hand at the end.
- Be prepared – Anticipate their questions as best you can, and be ready with your answers and solutions.
- Point out the biggest changes and updates – Help your client remember how far the property has come by reminding them, or showing them pictures, of how things looked before.
- Emphasize quality – If you used specialized products or materials, make sure you outline the long-term benefits.
- Establish your relationship – You are your client’s builder now. Make sure they are aware that you are available for maintenance, the honoring of warranties, and other details that remind them that you are here to serve.
At the end of the day, the goal is to exceed your client’s expectations. Make them glad that they chose you, and ensure that you are the first name that comes to mind the next time home improvement inspiration strikes.
Keith Gerety is president of Gerety Building & Restoration, a full-service remodeling firm serving Westchester County, N.Y., and Fairfield County, Conn.