Breaking bad habits

Writing about construction my entire career, I’ve learned plenty about contractors’ good and bad habits. As an editor who has never owned his own business, I rely on remodelers and contractors I meet to help me do a good job by sharing their stories, critical business issues and tips for running a successful business.

Hang around remodelers long enough and you’ll hear plenty of stories about projects that jumped the tracks, clients from hell and subs they’ll never work with again. Pay attention to these stories, and you will learn about the mistakes that caused the problems and how to avoid them in the future.

In the remaining space on this page, I list a few bad habits remodelers have shared with me that they’ve vowed to break. If these habits sound familiar, consider avoiding them like the many successful remodelers I’ve met have done.

Not charging for design

Time after time I meet remodelers who tell me they’ve started charging for design, and they’ll never look back. They all were scared at first by the thought of losing business to homeowners who are not willing to pay. However, the story is the same in each case; they will not do business with anyone that doesn’t value their time and expertise. All of these remodelers tell me the quality level of their clients has risen along with their revenue after making this change. If you’ve ever considered charging for design, there’s no better time than today to make it happen.

Not charging a deposit

Similar to charging for design is charging a deposit, or retainer, to prospects interested in working with a remodeler. Largely, it’s a show of good faith by homeowners, and lets remodelers know they won’t be wasting their time preparing drawings and estimates. A deposit can be as little as $250 or as much as $30,000 in the case of two remodelers who recently shared stories with me over dinner. In the same way a design fee weeds out the tire kickers, a deposit accomplishes the same goal. Give it a shot.

Letting clients choose subs

Every now and then I hear a story about clients who forced their preferred subcontractor onto a project, sometimes with devastating consequences. Most remodelers do not allow subs on the job if the remodeler didn’t do the hiring. Whether it’s a fireplace guy, a painter, an electrician or plumber, many remodelers have learned to recognize a red flag when clients express a desire to hire subs of their choosing, and the remodelers run away. To be fair, even trusted subs can act strangely or even treat their remodeler colleagues badly after decades-long relationships, as I learned recently. Recessions, subsequent labor shortages and being overworked can make people act weird.

publicizing a projectwithout approval

Most if not all remodelers take pictures and videos of their remodeling projects. Some pictures never go public, but many appear in marketing material and on websites. Before you post pictures and videos of your projects, ask clients to sign an agreement allowing you to do so. And, if they change their minds, ensure the agreement provides what you consider to be a reasonable amount of time to remove them.

Do you have other mistakes to avoid? Let your colleagues learn from them by sharing them in our LinkedIn group. QR

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