The following stories are true and happened recently. Names were changed to protect identities.
“Moe, the customer called last night and she asked if you would make sure you lock all the doors to her house at the end of the day,” the design/build company owner says.
“OK boss, I am on it,” Moe says.
The customer came home only to find the door was unlocked. Locking a door is an easy task, and the customer’s expectations were not lofty or unreasonable. But Moe dropped the ball and ruined the chances of any potential referrals that might have been generated for future work.
“Larry, Hurricane Bob is on the way. Make sure the third floor dormer cheek walls are tarped off and the house does not leak,” the design/build company owner says.
“OK boss,” Larry says.
Not only did Hurricane Bob nail the third floor but it also drenched the second and first floors, which were recently renovated by the company. Instead of the construction crew working on the third floor, the homeowner now has the crew working on all three floors. The scope of work has increased and the profit on the project has magically vanished along with any potential referral that might have been generated for future work.
“Curley, the homeowner has a house cat. Make sure the cat is not allowed outside for any reason. Do you understand?” the design/build company owner asks.
“OK boss,” Curly says.
Curly went one-step further and told the customer he just saw a red-tailed hawk perched in the tree in the backyard dining on fresh rabbit. Within the hour the cat got out and the hawk’s buddies began circling the house. The homeowner was beside herself and Curly spent the next three days looking for the cat. Looking for a cat for three days guarantees the project will not produce a profit or a referral.
We all make mistakes and nobody is perfect, including you. These stories are too typical in our industry. But, seldom do you hear about them. On the one hand, asking a contractor to babysit a cat as part of their work is really not in the job description. Maybe he does not like cats or is allergic to cat fur. It certainly was not a priority for the craftsman while he was rebuilding someone’s house. Probably, the cat should have been crated or taken to another location during construction. But, the bigger issue was about managing the task and the job.
The jobsite is like an open factory for the entire world to see. Homeowners are now armed with smartphones with digital cameras that can capture high-definition images that can be shared with building departments, OSHA officials, other governing agencies and Uncle Bob in Wichita. It is extremely important to communicate with your building crew that people are tracking their behavior, craftsmanship and attitudes. Now more than ever, your crew must perform to higher professional standards to ensure long-term business in a recovering market.
Like a well-balanced team, you need to have a game plan or a plan B when something goes awry. In Moe’s case there should have been someone to back up Moe or checking the checker. A few extra minutes could save a whole bunch of headache.
In Larry’s case the bomb was forecasted weeks in advance. When weather becomes extreme, the building team needs to take extreme measures to keep the home dry. Communicate with the homeowner during the weather event, drive by to inspect the conditions and most importantly use proper materials and methods to battle Mother Nature.
Curly’s tongue was the most dangerous weapon used in the Curly’s case. We all do it from time to time; open mouth, insert foot. Curly did not mean to cause the homeowner panic but the word flew out and so did the cat. Less is more in this case.
You probably have one or two classic Moe, Larry or Curly stories. Send me your best story and it may make it in my next column. Make sure you change the names to protect the not so innocent. Keep your story under four hundred words and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.