LEFF Construction Design Build

by Emily Blackburn

Sebastopol, Calif.
GQ All-time Recommend Rate: 95%
GQ 2020 Recommend Rate: 95%
Number of Jobs in 2020: 15
Type of Firm: Design/Build
CEO: Dave Leff

1. Demand for services is stronger than ever. Supply delays are widespread. Building product prices are rising. Please name the concrete steps you take to keep customers satisfied as timelines and prices are fluctuating?

Concrete steps we take here at LEFF to keep customers satisfied as timelines and prices are fluctuating:

1. Our Design-Build process includes a first phase that delivers a preliminary estimate. This estimate is a ‘reality check’ that comes very close to what we think the final, fixed-price contract will be. This process includes constant communication with the client about balancing their project goals with their actual budget.

2. Project start dates are forecast at the very start of the project. This allows for planning way in advance to coordinate material orders and delivery dates that coincide with start of construction.

3. We make the design and preliminary estimate phase as short as possible so that the client will move into the second phase, which is when material selections are made, and actual costs of those materials are gathered.

4. We communicate constantly and guide the client during the selection phase so that we can order materials before prices rise and schedule their delivery to coincide with the project’s timeline and start of construction.

5. The most critical factor in all of this is consistent, clear communication with the client, with and between our Design and Production teams, and with materials vendors and subcontractors.

2. A good remodeling or home improvement firm knows the limits of its capabilities to take on additional work. What do/would you communicate to clients when you cannot handle their job and must decline their inquiry?

We have had to put a temporary pause on in-person sales appointments because of increased demand, but that does not mean we turn away any incoming prospective Leads; we do not decline any incoming inquiries. Instead, we intake all Leads and establish communication immediately via a phone call.

We inform the Lead up front that we are experiencing a large number of inquiries and ask them if they would like to be put on our Call Back list. We assure them that a senior design team member will reach out to them, but it may be 4-6 weeks before that designer will be available for that call.

If the Lead is amenable, we schedule a date for that designer to call back and we confirm with the prospective Lead via email.

The vast majority of prospects who call in have been understanding and almost all agreed to be placed on the Call Back list. We also let them know that if the schedule loosens up before their scheduled call date, we will contact them sooner.

By calling them immediately and then confirming via email, we demonstrate the level of client service and communication they can expect when they do become our Client. This also establishes a certain trust factor – we’ll do what we say we’ll do. We let them know that while they are waiting for our call back, they can check in with us for a status update. We email the prospect every 2-3 weeks to let them know we haven’t forgotten them. The feedback we have received from this process is that prospects really appreciate the clear, up-front communication and are fine with being ‘on the list.’

3. During busy times like these, operational adjustments are needed in order to take on more work, often with the same level of staffing. What steps have you taken to ensure a quality experience despite the added workloads for your team?

Steps we have taken to ensure continued quality experiences for our clients despite a heavier than normal workload include:

· Introduced formal internal team critiques to collaborate on design development and ensure quality in our direction before committing too much time to the project

· Created more autonomy over certain procedures; allow for one member of the team to take ownership and accountability over the process step.

· Utilizing Zoom as a tool for scheduling client meetings: saves time and can fit more meetings into each work day

· Created a shared task list for the team to review and refine so that everyone is efficient in priorities for workflow

· Schedule thorough, meticulous Start-Up meetings for newly signed clients: not skipping steps and allowing all of the planning details to be worked out before we begin a project

· Upgraded digital project management software tools to improve efficiency and remove redundancy: digitalize as much workflow as possible

· All projects are now ‘red line’ reviewed before the drawings are published by the department head in order to ensure accuracy and completeness

· We utilize our digital calendars for our task lists: no more paper ‘to-do’ lists

· Have formal, weekly RFI meetings to provide clear direction and spotlight areas of concentrated focus to the team

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