CONTRACT TO COMPLETION
The phase from retainer to contract will also require you to manage expectations. Most clients, when picking out products and materials, will tend to upgrade from what they had originally described to you as you developed your ballpark. As this inevitable “scope creep” occurs, you must make sure the client is aware of where the bottom line is coming to so as not to induce sticker shock when it’s time to sign the contract.
When you sign a contract with a client, try to make sure you leave as few “to be determineds” and allowances as possible. These tend to be put off and can turn into back orders and delays as you try to wind up a project. Each of these also represents a potential cost increase at a time when no client wants to hear about extra costs.
Before you start the project, it’s important that your client feels you have a plan for their project. Providing them with a timeline for the work to be done lets them know you have such a plan. This plan should also include a provision for regularly scheduled progress meetings with the client at the job site to go over any questions or concerns. These meetings should be scheduled at critical times during the project, such as when framing is completed, after all plumbing and wiring is completed and before drywall is installed. The strategy is to be able to make any changes necessary at the minimum cost and time loss possible.
How a project finishes has perhaps the greatest impact on a client’s impression of your firm. Make sure you push hard on those last few details, prepare a punch list when you are close to the end and make sure all of the items get cleared as quickly as possible. This will have the added benefit of keeping the punch list from becoming a never-ending punch list.
Once your firm has completed the project, make sure you stay in touch with the client. A scheduled follow-up call a month or two after you are done will let them know that you still care. Nurturing the future referral may be the most important task to be performed on any project.