Communication is key to the success of any construction project. Even minor miscommunications between general contractors and their clients can lead to major headaches, delays, added costs, and bad feelings that can make a good working relationship quickly go south. Follow these tips for clear and easy communication so misunderstandings don’t derail your next construction job.
Written by Elizabeth Brownfield
Create a Crystal-Clear Contract
You already know that a GC’s best tool for keeping everyone on the same page throughout a project is a solid contract. In addition to all the basics that you want to include like the timeline and payment schedule, spend the extra time to really drill down on the details in the scope of work as well. Keeping allowances to a minimum will also help keep the project and budget in check from the start.
Agree on a Method of Communication
Before you kick off construction, make sure to establish with your client how you’ll communicate throughout the project. You don’t want to end up leaving a voicemail about an urgent issue when it turns out they never check for messages, or constantly be sending emails when it turns out they only respond to texts.
Designate Primary Contacts
No contractor wants to play referee to quarreling spouses who can’t agree, or pick whose decision to run with when each half of a couple gives them conflicting information. Avoid being put in an awkward position by asking couples from the get-go who your primary contact will be for the duration of the project.
Likewise, be sure to tell your clients if they should reach out to you directly with questions and to get progress updates, or if there’s a site supervisor or project manager they should check in with instead.
Schedule Regular Check-Ins
Carve out time for regular status updates with your clients. Whether you prefer quick daily check-ins or longer weekly meetings, consistent communication will keep the project humming along no matter what the size. And bonus: scheduling regular meetings means greater efficiency since you’ll spend less time answering one-off questions from homeowners.
Avoid Contractor Speak
Keep in mind that your client may not be up on construction lingo. So while you know what an egress is and what CAD stands for, talk on the homeowner’s level whenever possible, or take a minute to explain the terminology so it’s easier to talk shop with them down the line.
Put Changes in Writing
In a dream world, every new home build or remodel would stay true to its original plans. But we all know how often changes occur during the course of a project, oftentimes creating construction delays, scope creeps, and budget overruns. When these project pivots happen, make sure to put the revised plans in writing with an official change order. Make sure too that the homeowner understands how the new plan with affect their timeline and budget.
Ever get the feeling that a client with a modest budget for remodeling their ranch house is expecting it to be transformed into the Taj Mahal when the project’s complete? Help manage their expectations by letting them know the limitations of their budget. And let them know if you see particular aspects of the project where the client’s plan to skimp on materials is likely to lead to their dissatisfaction.
Be a Proactive Troubleshooter
No GC wants to make the call telling a homeowner there’s a problem that’s going to push back the timeline and inflate the budget, but we all know how often these hiccups happen. Don’t delay the inevitable: as soon as you’ve got a grasp on the problem, get in touch with your client to fill them in on the issue, let them know their options, and make a game plan. Your prompt and proactive communication will show the client that you can manage the problem and keep their project on track.