Remodelers can't fix everything

Remodelers fix things. It’s what they’re good at; it’s what drives them; and it’s how they support their families. Too often, however, remodelers believe they can fix everything, including people. But, people are people, not things, and as any psychiatrist will attest, fixing people can be difficult or nearly impossible.

Despite this knowledge, pressure to keep a remodeling company going can cause remodelers to ignore red flags that typically keep them away from problem clients. Remodelers often accept red-flag jobs on the premise they can fix, or change, the difficult clients, knowing deep down these jobs will end badly for themselves.

A client can tell you she has poor traffic flow in her house and you might say, “No problem.” A client might have an outdated kitchen design; “That’s easy to fix,” you think. Not enough space for your clients’ children to hang out and play? “I can fix that,” you claim, and you’d be right, because you’ve already solved all these problems so many times in your career.

But, what if an architect isn’t seeing things your way? “I can change him,” you believe. A sub is being uncooperative? “I can get him to work with me,” you say. Difficult clients? “I can fix them,” you think, but this time you’d be wrong, and deep down you’d know it.

So many times, I’ve heard remodelers tell me their relationships with trade partners and clients are like mini-marriages, or that some days they feel their job is to be a marriage counselor rather than a remodeler. The marriage analogy is a popular one, and it is appropriate in most cases. Logically, then, it’s important to remember that marriages are difficult to manage, and many marriages fail. And why do they fail? Too often, the answer is, “He/she tried to change me.”

Learn from the failures of others, as well as yours, and don’t try to do what you know can’t be done.

Remodeler and kitchen and bath design expert Jeffrey Holloway, CKD, CBD, CGR, explored this marriage analogy in a presentation he gave last month at the NARI Bucks-Mont Remodeling Business Conference in Jamison, Pa., an event I was lucky enough to attend and speak at as well. Holloway’s presentation, “Strategic Alliances: Collaborating For Success,” provided strategies to promote goodwill and profitability among professionals and clients.

Take Holloway’s advice and accept your partners for who they are, and learn to work effectively with them rather than trying to change or fix them. They’re not made of sticks and bricks, and you can’t remodel them, so don’t try.

When a blip appears on your bad-client radar, which has been fine-tuned throughout many years of interviewing potential clients, and the red flags go up, heed those warnings. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can make them see the value in doing business with you because you know they probably won’t. The better option is to thank them for their time and part ways.