Managing the wealthy client

Remodelers must require the abilities of a multitasking master, because not only must they juggle multiple projects, they must also juggle multiple subcontractors, their schedules and the problems created when they don’t work out as planned. Add to this mix clients with deep pockets and equally deep-rooted tendencies to change their minds, and the list of remodelers experienced and patient enough to manage them becomes a short one for sure.

A remodeler recently invited me to visit the jobsite of his whole-house remodel project, which has had its share of setbacks and headaches. Many of the headaches, including a five-week work stoppage, have resulted from the decisions made by those employed by the local historic preservation department. Many of the other setbacks have come from decisions made by the clients, who fall into the “money is no object” category.

During my site visit, the remodeler explained that the client is spending $20,000 to gain 6 in. of height in a room that’s already 9-ft. 6-in. high, an effort that accounts for a small portion of the quarter-million dollars in change orders processed to date. Another effort is moving pipes and electric in a laundry room wall to make room for medicine cabinets the clients decided they wanted in the adjacent room that shares the wall. And, with a little more than three months before the scheduled completion date, there’s time for even more costly changes.

The project deadline is in August so the family can move in before the first day of the new school year. As such, the clock is ticking as loudly as the hammers driving nails into the framing that has been reframed several times already. Faced with such circumstances, I was impressed with the seemingly unflappable confidence with which the remodeler shared his stories. This is an experienced remodeler who has seen it all and who believes this is not a project for rookies or those not fully committed to the remodeling profession.

In late April when I visited the jobsite, the remodeler had reached the point when each new change order would affect the completion date. It was time to tell the clients — who have the financial means to get practically everything in life they desire — that they might not get what they want in their own home. This is not a job I’d like to have. Will the clients tolerate anything less than what they want? Will a delayed move-in date be possible? Will they throw a fit? I don’t want to be in the room when these questions are answered, but, they must be asked, and it’s the remodeler’s job to ask them.

Safely navigating a situation like this requires construction and financial management skills and, most importantly, interpersonal relations skills. I’ve always believed remodelers could benefit from completing psychology of sales classes, as well as interpersonal relations and conflict resolution courses. Not currently required anywhere that I’m aware of, it amazes me how many remodelers succeed without this education when faced with such delicate circumstances, and the potentially destructive effects of unsatisfied clients who share their disappointment with anyone who will listen.

Much respect for the remodelers we proudly serve in Qualified Remodeler’s audience.