Pathway Design + Construction

by Emily Blackburn

Paul Kocharhook

Seattle, WA
GQ All-time Recommend Rate: 94%
GQ 2020 Recommend Rate: 100%
Number of Jobs in 2020: 8
Type of Firm: Design/Build
CEO: Paul Kocharhook

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?

Communication! We really try to communicate with our clients on issues the industry is running into. This starts at our lead intake and continues throughout the entirety they are in our system. The more they are informed the less opportunity there is for them create their own story of what is happening. Once we sign a construction contract we are looking to purchase as much product as we can, so long as there is a place to store it. This has helped us keep material pricing in budget and keep projects more on schedule. This has also helped with the delays in manufacturing and shipping, although not alleviated it altogether. There have been several instances where temporary product was installed until the actual product ordered became available.

In the current market it is almost impossible to solve all the material supply problems. It is important that the business stays protected, so we have worked with our lawyer to make changes to our contract that protect us more against any escalations in job costs. In doing this we have also had open discussion with our clients to make sure they are not maxing out their budget at contract signing and to be prepared to have cost increases passed along as the job progresses.

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 been very open with new client inquiries about timelines and ongoing cost increases. We have starting setting parameters on project size, meaning if a clients budget is too small we refer them to a handyman who can handle their size project more easily. We are happy to work with clients that are a good fit for us if they are willing to be patient on start times. In many cases we have mentioned they should inquire with other companies to see if they would be available sooner and if they find everyone else to just as busy we are happy to meet with them. For the most part though, we want a contractual obligation from the client usually in the form of a Letter of Intent and/or Design Agreement. I will say that the word is out and most inquiries we have been receiving over the last many months are educated cost escalations and overall busyness of the construction industry.

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?

There are several adjustments we have made over the past year. The first and probably the most impactful for us was to start looking to trade partners to help with carpentry work we normally would have done in house. They now help us with framing and setting doors, millwork and cabinets. In most cases these projects were already under contract when we started making these changes, what we found was that the trade partners were able complete the work for the numbers we had budgeted and in most cases on a faster timeline.

This has helped free our employees to do some of the day to day work that otherwise might have been pushed aside because we are so busy, thus keeping the projects running as smooth as possible in these times. The second adjustment we made was relying more on delivery services, such as DispatchIt. In cases where our suppliers are not able to make timely deliveries or they don’t deliver at all, this has helped keep bodies on the jobsite. The third change we have made was to what we previously viewed as the optimal new hire carpenter candidate. The last few hires we have been lucky enough to make were looking only for part time work, we have accepted this as reality and are working schedules to accommodate some less than full time employment. They each have been tremendous assets to our company and fit well with our culture.

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