Communication is an important part of any business. For remodelers, communication helps to determine what homeowners expect, informs subcontractors what to do and ensures suppliers have the necessary materials available.
Communication has been an invaluable tool in streamlining business for Double Check Builders Inc., Ronkonkoma, N.Y. “People wonder how I get so much done because I spend so much time communicating,” explains David Walker, project manager for Double Check Builders. “The reality is effective communication avoids problems.”
The most important communication is with the client, according to Walker. The key is to understand what clients want and what they expect. If a homeowner’s expectations are unreasonable, then a remodeler must tell the client why an idea won’t work. In the end, it’s all about making the customer happy because they’ll be referring the company to friends and neighbors.
Walker constantly tells clients what to expect. They know when to expect a plumber or roofer at their home. “The minute you don’t have something ready or a client calls to ask what’s next, you lose your edge and it becomes more difficult to run the project,” Walker says.
It’s also important to have open lines of communication with subcontractors. Walker makes sure to let a subcontractor know a week or two in advance of when the crew will be expected on the job.
When communicating with subcontractors, Walker finds in-person discussions the best. He discusses what he expects the product to look like in the end and addresses any custom circumstances in the job before work begins. “Most of these guys are hands-on types that really benefit from being shown things on the job,” Walker adds. “This way, the work will be more efficient and effective.”
When Walker talks with clients at the beginning of a project, he finds out how they prefer to communicate. Each client is different, so Walker offers them the options of email, in-person or phone communication. “If I prefer emails and phone calls, but they want to see me, I have to go there and be in front of them,” Walker explains. “You have to adjust and communicate in a way the client is comfortable with. It’s just going to make the project easier.”
To track communication, Walker keeps a hard-copy file for each job. Whether he discusses things through email, phone or in-person, he makes notes about what is discussed and any decisions that were made. These notes are attached to the appropriate stage of the project for later reference.
Remodelers need to communicate with suppliers, as well. Walker works with a few suppliers, and when specific products are addressed in the plans, it’s important for him to know where he can procure the correct supplies. Keeping in regular contact with the suppliers accomplishes this and helps Walker stay abreast of current pricing.
Additionally, talking to suppliers regularly keeps Walker on top of the latest technologies and products. “I have a plumbing supplier call me every couple of months whenever there are new products,” Walker says. “I want to talk to him because I don’t want to go into a home and have clients inform me about new products. It makes me look out-of-the-loop and unprofessional.”
A remodeler must be relentless in communicating with everyone involved in a project. “If it’s difficult to get a hold of a homeowner, you might have to show up on the job later in the evening or before work in the morning to communicate,” Walker explains. “Obviously that’s not convenient, but you can’t proceed unless you’ve addressed certain things.”
Walker says a remodeler should have a strategy to know what everyone expects before implementing the structural path of a project. “I would say diligence and relentlessness are the keys because it is so important to get answers and address issues from all parties concerned on a project.”