Better Communication Often Leads to a Shift in Our Thinking

It’s Really Not That Hard…It Just Requires a Change of Perspective

I’ve written about communication more times than probably any other topic. This is because I think it is as big or bigger than any other issue out there.

Miscommunication or no communication is due mostly to the fact that we get stuck in our own heads. It only makes sense that we would view things from our own perspective. Add to this that we’re all so busy that we rarely slow down long enough to listen and think.

Just a few weeks ago I wrote about how tricky communication can be (link to 9/27 post) and how a word like wonky can have multiple meanings. If I hadn’t asked some questions and done some research, I would never have realized there were other meanings beyond my own perspective.

I needed a paradigm shift.

A paradigm is a pattern, a model, or representation of the mental image you have in your mind. I first became aware of the term “paradigm shift” through a story in Steven Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

“I was on a subway in a very large metropolitan city. It was Sunday morning, quiet, sedate. When a bunch of young kids came running into the subway car and their father followed. He sat near me and the kids went crazy on that subway, running up and down, turning people’s papers aside, just raucous and rude. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I can’t believe this, their father does nothing!’

After a few minutes…, ‘Sir, do you think you could control your children a little? They are very upsetting to people.’

‘Oh yeah.’ He lifted his head as if to come to an awareness of what was happening. ‘Yeah, I don’t know. I just guess I should. We just left the hospital. Their mother died just about an hour ago and I guess they don’t know how to take it and frankly I don’t either.’”

Can you say paradigm shift?

In Acts 10:9-15, Peter was up on a roof at noon praying and was getting very hungry. While the food was being prepared, he fell asleep and had a vision. He saw heaven open, and something came down like a huge sheet held up by its four corners. In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. A voice said to him, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.” But Peter said, “Lord, I can’t do that! I’ve never eaten anything that is unclean and not fit to eat. The voice spoke to him again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don’t say it isn’t fit to eat.”

Peter had to shift his thinking from what he had been taught and what he had always believed to be right. He pushed back and God told him three times. It’s more important to listen to what God tells us than what man tells us.

Peter just had a paradigm shift.

We need to be careful to not get too stuck in our own heads and be open to what God is telling us. At the same time, we need to be careful not to take everything we’re told by people at face value. We need to weigh it against what God says.

Like Peter, we need to be willing to shift our thinking if it’s from God. Acts 10:34-48

Clear Communication Can be a Tricky Thing to Get Right

There’s a Reason We Have Two Ears and One Mouth

Too often we think we know what some is saying without bothering to even listen. Good communication takes twice as much listening. This is why we have two ears and only one mouth.

We’ve seen a lot of miscommunication in Luke and Acts over the past several weeks as we’ve been going through these books. This was a problem between the Jewish leaders and Jesus then, and this is still a problem for many church leaders today.

A good example of how miscommunication can cause problems happened in Sunday School this past week. We were talking about the new book The Great Dechurching. Bradley Gamber has started reading it, and he described it as “wonky”.

I asked him what he meant by “wonky”. His definition of wonky is something that has a lot of detail and statistics.

I told him that’s not what wonky means to me. It means that something is out of whack, leaning, or crooked.

This led to quite the discussion about the word “wonky”, and we discovered that there were a variety of thoughts on this. I’m glad that I asked the question because otherwise I would have assumed that Bradley didn’t like the book, but this isn’t what he was saying.

What’s even more interesting is that after doing some research…both definitions are correct.

Wonky according to the Cambridge Dictionary means “knowing or showing that you know a lot of details about something, especially politics or science”. This sounds like the way Bradley was using the word.

Wonky also is defined as “askew, cockeyed, lopsided, rickety, shaky or wobbly”.

It’s no wonder that there’s such a problem with communication.

This brings me back to the Scripture in Acts 5-7 and Pastor Lisa’s message this week. The focus was on Stephen and his arrest and stoning. This story is full of miscommunication.

As followers of Jesus were gaining more and more popularity among the people, the Sadducees were becoming jealous and had some of them arrested. Then after the apostles were released by an angel, they went back to the temple and were teaching. Then the apostles were called before the council and again told to stop speaking about Jesus. (Acts 5:17-28)

Stephen was a man of great faith and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was one of the men chosen by the apostles to help spread God’s message to many more people. (Act 6:1-7)

Then Stephen is arrested because there were men who started arguing with him and accusing him of saying terrible things against Moses and God. These lies turned more church leaders against Stephen. Stephen begins to give the church leaders a history lesson about Abraham, his descendants, Joesph, and Moses bringing the slaves out of Egypt. (Acts 7:1-47)

The church leaders didn’t like what Stephen was saying so they covered their ears and started shouting.

Doesn’t this sound like a child who’s not getting their way.

The members of the church council get so mad that they attack him, drag him out of the city, and stone him to death. In order to throw the stones, the men that brought the charges give their coats to Saul to take care of. (Acts 7:54-58)

Check back next week to see what becomes of Saul, the coat keeper.

As Stephen is dying, he calls out to Jesus to welcome him home and asks Him to not blame the men throwing the stones because they don’t know what they’re doing. (Act 7:59-60)

There was no question what Stephen was saying as he spoke to the leaders of the church. He didn’t mince words, he said what he believed. This took boldness and courage in his willingness to stay true to what he believed.

We need to be willing to speak what we believe in love. We need to open our ears and listen. We need to discuss and learn.

Stephen was clear on what he believed and was willing to die for it.

A faith worth living for, is a faith worth dying for.

Are you clear about what you believe and is it a faith worth dying for?

On a side note – My amazing personal assistant, Dori, recently shared a link with me of Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary speaking at a recent chapel at Cedarville University. In addition to the great message presented by Dr. Mohler, I was impressed with the number of students and their focused intensity.

Maybe there is hope for the future of our country and our world.

Poor Communication is the Number One Reason for Disagreements, Part 2

Written Communication is Really the Only Way to Avoid This Problem

I have written multiple times about communication and the problems that come from the lack of communication. Most of the time this has been focused on communication between construction contractors and customers. This is certainly a problem, but can also be a problem between general contractors and subs.

Whether it’s subcontractors or customers, the communication responsibility lies with the general contractor.

Verbal communication leaves too many things open to interpretation.

Several years ago, a partner and I were meeting with a customer early in the process of building a new home. The customer pointed out that the distance from the electric meter to the house was more than the 50’ allowance, as per the written proposal.

He asked if this was a problem. My partner told him that it wasn’t a problem. Guess what…

It was a problem.

The problem didn’t surface until later when the customer was billed for the additional 100’. After some “digging”, the communication breakdown was uncovered.

The customer asked, “if it was a problem”. What he really was asking was…”is it going to cost more?”. 

My partner’s response in reality was, “we can dig the additional 100’, but it will cost you three times as much as the 50’ allowance in the proposal”. But this isn’t what was said.

Neither of them intended nor expected this to be a problem. It was a simple matter of misunderstanding…a lack of communication.

Communication is, …the exchange of information and the expression of feelings that result in understanding.

Understanding is the tricky part.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of the importance of communication with subcontractors as well as customers. When I had a situation where I hired a sub to do a bathroom remodel that I had never used.

He came with a couple of positive recommendations.

After talking with him on the phone, I sent him a scope of work and before and after drawings. He gave me a verbal price range over the phone. The high end of his price was in line with my budget.

I asked him if he would get me something in writing.

We met at the job site later that week on Friday and physically looked at the project. It so happened that he had a crew that could start the following Monday and have the job done ahead of schedule. This was important because the bathroom that was getting remodeled was the only one they had. Again, I asked for something in writing. Again, he assured me that his price was still good.

He showed up on time and things progressed on schedule. They got the demo done quickly and got the customer a shower back within a few days. Things were going well.

There also was some moisture damage that was unknown when we started. This meant I needed to give the customer a change order for this additional work. I called the sub to get a price. He said the way things were going, it should still be close to the high-end price he had given me previously.

I prepared a change order for the customer based on the extra work and felt that should be sufficient to cover the subcontractor.

When it was all said and done the subcontractor’s bill was almost $4,000 more than he told me or what I had budgeted. On top of that he was unwilling to negotiate a settlement somewhere in the middle.

Surprise! I should have gotten something in writing.

Looking back, I should have pushed back more and gotten something in writing. But I was looking out for the customers and the subs availability. The speed with which they said they could do the work swayed me to move forward without anything written down.

I know that small and midsized contractors don’t like to spend the time and effort to do paperwork.

I understand, it takes time. The question we should ask is this…

Is it better to spend the time communicating before the project starts or wait until there’s a problem and everybody’s upset?

I understand that details and information take time, but I think it’s essential to good communication.

I knew better and can’t blame anyone but myself for being in this situation.

Even though I had the tools I needed to avoid this situation I didn’t use them. If you don’t open the toolbox and get the tools out, they can’t help you build your company.

Most construction contractors don’t have the tools they need for building a better business. That’s why we’re in the process of filling up a toolbox with tools to help you build the construction company of your dreams.

Whether it’s proposals, contracts, change orders, progress payments, or having money to pay your taxes, there’s a tool for it. We also plan to offer instructions, coaching, and consulting to help you learn to use these tools.

If you have questions and would like to find out if these tools would be a good fit for you, you can schedule a free consultation here.

Poor communication is the number one reason for disagreements. Avoid disagreements by taking the time to get the tools needed to avoid costly miscommunication.

The Time Spent on Clear Communication is Worth Every Second

So, if it’s Worth It…Why is it Not Done?

You probably guessed it already; this week’s topic is COMMUNICATION and the all-too-common lack of it. Because poor communication is such a big issue, I’ve written about it a lot.

In a production meeting with a customer yesterday I was once again reminded of the importance of clear communication and…the lack of it. The conversation revolved around how the subcontractors were doing.

The customers were very happy with their work and pleased with the effort to put plastic over door openings and to cover furniture in the work area. But she said, “We’ve never had an interior construction project done before.

I wish I had known how much dust was created, and I would have covered some additional things.”

Keep in mind that after forty plus years of doing construction, I knew that this was a very clean job site. The point is this…she didn’t know what to expect, and I should have let her know.

I should have communicated better.

Let’s look at reasons, results, and remedies for…

  • Misunderstandings due to poor or no communication
  • Being blindsided by cost overruns or hidden costs
  • Completed projects not being what you wanted or expected
  • Not understanding construction terminology

What is communication?

According to the Britannica Dictionary, communication is:

            “…the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else”

We all have our own perceptions and understanding of words, phrases, and gestures. I presume I know what you mean, and you do the same thing. This happens with spouses, family, close friends, and people we know well. If it happens in these relationships, it only makes sense that it will be more common with strangers.

Reasons people don’t communicate:

  • Takes time – People now expect things instantaneously. We have high speed internet at the tips of our fingers. Photos are developed the moment they’re taken and can be printed instantly via a wireless connection to a printer. We don’t have time to prepare or read through a multi-page document explaining a construction project.
  • Overwhelming – Reading through pages and pages of descriptions and explanations of construction legalese is a daunting task. As a customer, I probably won’t understand half of it. It’ll be easier to just go ahead and start. We’ll figure out the details as we go. I know what I want and I’m sure the contractor does too…NOT!
  • Lost skill – Communication is a two-way process. It requires both giving and receiving, speaking and hearing, writing and reading, expressing and understanding. If we don’t know how to use these skills, we can’t communicate effectively. Good communication requires more than emojis and hashtags.
  • Don’t like conflict – Most people don’t like conflict, but it can be positive. Conflict is always difficult but can lead to growth and change. It indicates commitment and can lead to better outcomes. It allows us to see the other side’s position. We should be willing to discuss disagreements without our feelings being hurt.

Results of poor communication:

  • Project wasn’t what you expected – You have a vision of how your finished project is going to look. You can see it in your mind. When you come home one evening, excited to see what has been done and then…it doesn’t look anything like the picture in your mind. What happened?
  • Cost overruns – You’ve saved and/or borrowed the money you think you’ll need to do the upcoming construction project. You get an estimate of what it’s going to cost. Sure, it’s more than you expected, but that’s alright; it will be worth it in the end, right. Then you get the final bill, and it’s a lot more than expected. Now what? Where are you going to find the additional money?
  • Time overruns – The contractor says, “Your project will be done in no time.” “This won’t take too long.” “We’ll be finished by the end of the month.” “This project will only take a few weeks.” This sounds great, but how long is too long, by the end of which month, how many weeks is a few? Trust me, your contractor’s definition of time idea is most likely different than yours.
  • Not knowing what’s going on – As you’re talking with your contractor, he’s telling you how this thingamajig is going to support that doohickey. We use the newest and best gadget to build our gizmos. All the while you are nodding your head as if you know exactly what he’s talking about. When, in reality, you have no clue. Wouldn’t it be worth it to ask some questions?

Poor communication can be solved with time and effort.

Trust me, clear communication is worth every second spent so just do it.

Updated post from 9/23/19

How Using the Payment Application Tool Communicates Clearly with Construction Customers

Learning About Business Tools Isn’t Necessarily Fun, but it is Necessary for Business Success

I know that the topic of the Payment Application over the past couple of weeks hasn’t been one of the most exciting topics. Learning about any tool, how it works, and how to use it isn’t one of those things that scores high on our “fun meter”.

This is true for most men. Just think about Christmas time and how most of us guys just want to dive in and put that new toy together without bothering with the instructions. We don’t need any stinking instructions!

This, “get ‘er done” attitude gets amped up even more for those of us in construction. Afterall…building things is what we do.

However, you know as well as I do that, more times than not, this doesn’t turn out so well.

That’s why years ago as I struggled trying to put my business together, I decided I needed to read the instructions. The problem was…I couldn’t find the tools or the instructions. So that’s why I decided to make my own Business BUILDing Tools, complete with instructions. 😊

One of those tools is the Payment Application.

Last week we went through the process of getting started with a blank Payment Application and getting it filled out so that it is ready for the customer’s first payment. Now let’s look at preparing the Payment Application for recurring progress payments.

Preparing for the next progress payment –

Step 1 – Updating the application information – In the application information box, change the application number to the next sequential number i.e., from 1 to 2. Change the date from the previous date to the date through which this application includes. This consists of the material provided or ordered and work done by this date.

Step 2 – Moving dollar amounts from work completed to previously billed – On the previous Payment Application you have dollar amounts in one or both columns D (materials presently stored or ordered) and E (work completed this period). The numbers in these columns need to be added together and added to the number, if any, already in column F (previously billed).

Step 3 – Clear dollar amounts from Work Completed columns – After completing the previous step you need to clear the dollar amounts from both columns D and E.

Step 4 – Confirm the dollar amounts – After clearing the dollar amounts from columns D and E you need to check the dollar amounts in columns F (previously billed) and G (total completed and stored to date). These numbers should be the same. Also compare these numbers to column G on the previous Payment Application to confirm that these numbers are correct.

Step 5 – Entering dollar amounts – Now you can start entering new dollar amounts for Material Presently Stored or Ordered (column D) and Work Completed this Period (column E). These numbers will be determined by the material provided and the work done since the last application.

Step 6 – Figure and enter sales tax – Depending on the jurisdiction and the state in which you are doing the work, determine what your tax rate is and whether it is on material only or both material and labor. We use a bookkeeping program on our computer to provide the sales tax based on the jurisdiction. Then, depending on whether it is material only or both material and labor, enter the sales tax amount(s) in the row marked Sales Tax and in the appropriate columns D, E, or both.

Now you have the next Payment Application ready to be given to the customer, in conjunction with the invoice.

Miscommunication happens too often when dollar amounts are left floating around in the customer’s head due to making multiple payments strung out over the duration a large project.

Most customers don’t bother to write invoice amounts down and/or keep a running total. They’re just writing checks periodically with at vague running balance and then are surprised that the final invoice is more than they expected.

The Payment Application lets the customer see –

  • What the original contract amount was
  • What is included in this current invoice
  • What they have paid for previously
  • The total of what they have paid for previously and the current invoice
  • The percentage of the job that they have been invoiced for at this point
  • The balance of what they have left to pay

They get this updated information with each invoice and can easily see where they started, where they are, and what is left to pay.

This is how the Payment Application provides clear communication for the construction customer.

Having this business tool and learning to use it will not only make your customers happy…it will also help you to BUILD a successful construction business.

How Our Payment Application Tool Works to Help Build a Better Business

This is One of the Most Important Tools in the Construction Business Toolbox

Last week we talked about how construction companies struggle with cash flow and how not knowing what to expect can be very damaging to the business.

Communication between construction companies and customers is one of the biggest problems in the construction industry. The Payment Application is a business tool used for tracking project progress payments. It’s a way to communicate the financial expectations to the customer…and it’s only fair to let them know what to expect, when they’re the ones writing the check.

Construction customers don’t like surprises.

Our Payment Application is an Excel spreadsheet that lets the customer see the numbers before the project starts, continuing all the way through to the end…and this prevents them from being surprised at the end of a project with a bigger than expected bill.

The Payment Application is a document used to show the customer the price of a construction project broken down by item. It tracks the breakdown of payments being made, what has been paid up to this point in the project and what remains to be paid. This document is given to the customer with each invoice so they can see what they are being billed for on the accompanying invoice.

Starting with a blank payment application –

Step 1 – Filling out the project information – This process includes filling out the project information box with the customer’s name, the project name, and the project address. Next fill out the application information box with the application number, application date, project number, and the date the contract was signed. With each new payment application, the application number and date will be revised.

Step 2 – Filling out the scope of work information and value – This information will come from the signed proposal and will be entered in the first three columns on the left side of the spreadsheet. Using the proposal, take the number of the first item and enter it into the first cell on the column titled Item #. Next, write a brief description of the work described on the proposal in the column titled Description of Work. Finally take the dollar amount for this item on the proposal and enter it in the third column titled Scheduled Value. Once this is done you will repeat these three steps, one row at a time, as you go down the spreadsheet until you have all the information from the proposal entered on the payment application.

Step 3 – Confirm the dollar amounts – After all the values are entered, the total at the bottom of the Schedule Value column should match the total price of project on the proposal. If it doesn’t review the numbers in the Scheduled Value column until you find the mistake and correct it.

Now you are ready to use the Payment Application to accompany invoices. This will let the customer see what they are paying for. Seeing a large dollar amount broken down into smaller ones helps the customer understand what it is they are paying for.

It is a good idea to invoice for a percentage of a project prior to starting. This shows the customer’s commitment to the project and helps cover the contractor’s expenses on the project if something were to happen that puts the project on hold or stops it all together.

Entering the payment prior to starting in the application –

Step 1 – Determine the dollar amount for each item – Based on the predetermined percentage of the project prior to starting you will need to get the percentage of material and labor for each item. This information will come from the Worksheet used in the bidding process.

Step 2 – Enter the dollar amounts – The 4th and 5th columns of the Payment Application is where this information will go. These columns are the Work Completed columns. The 4th is material ordered, stored or used. The 5th is work done. Starting with the first row you will go down the sheet entering the percentage amounts in the corresponding column.

Step 3 – Confirm the dollar amounts – This step is the same as step 3 in the initial filling out of the form. It is to confirm that the dollar amount of the two columns added together matches the dollar amount given to the customer as the payment prior to starting.

Step 4 – Confirming percentage – Column H is a formula that is automatically calculated and shows the percentage this payment is of the total amount for each item. Once again you want to confirm this percentage matches the information given to the customer in the proposal.

We’re going to stop here today.

Next week we’ll get the Payment Application ready for the next progress payment.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it appears on the surface, and the benefits of communicating clearly with a Payment Application are well worth it.

The Payment Application is one of the best communication tools in the Business BUILDing Toolbox.

There’s a Good Reason We’ve Been Give Two Ears and One Mouth

It’s Because Good Communication Takes Twice as Much Listening as Talking

Miscommunication happens too often but doesn’t have to if we weren’t so quick to jump to conclusions.

Our Pastor told a story about visiting a lady in the hospital who had had a stroke and was unable to speak. She kept pointing at something, but he was having trouble understanding. She was getting frustrated and kept pointing. He kept turning around and going to different things trying to figure out what she was pointing at.

This went on for a while until he realized that she was pointing at him…his zipper was down.

Then they both had a good laugh.

Even in the middle of this difficult situation they were able to share a good laugh.

There are more than 7000 different languages around the world. The one word that is most universally understood among all of those different languages is the word “huh?”.

This is what Pastor Lee kept asking the lady in the hospital.

Not asking enough questions and listening, really listening, to the answers is where communication begins to break down. We presume we know what the other person is going to say before they even open their mouth.

I believe this is why God gave us two ears and one mouth. We need to listen twice as much as we talk if we’re going to understand others.

In Acts 2:1-21, Jesus’ followers were all together when a noise like a mighty wind came from heaven. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking in whatever language the Spirt led them.

There were many different people from different countries in Jerusalem at that time. When they heard this commotion, a crowd began to gather, and they were surprised because they were all hearing everything in their own language.

Communication can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be if we are just willing to listen.

The Holy Spirit can help us communicate better, but we must be open and accept the help. The Holy Spirit will help us to see clearer, understand better, and give us ideas for sharing God’s love (Acts 2:17).

13-year-old Abraham Olagbegi needed a bone marrow transplant due to a rare blood disorder. He decided to use the Make-A Wish gift he received to help others rather than getting a gaming console or taking a trip somewhere. He wanted to use it to help feed the homeless.

Abraham’s Table planned to provide meals once a month for a year to homeless people in Jackson, Mississippi. Abraham’s mom always says, “It’s a blessing to be a blessing.” This was a big undertaking for a 13-year-old but, the Holy Spirit gives us thoughts and ideas that God wants us to do. It’s up to us to do it.

When you come up against a big mountain, you need to remember you have a big God.

Listen to the Holy Spirit. Listen to others. Ask questions. Communicate clearly through your words and your actions.

What’s Needed for a Good Construction Contractor is Simple

I Said It Was Simple…I Didn’t Say it Was Easy

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about the difficulty in finding good, qualified construction contractors and how this problem is amplified after a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flooding, etc.

Finding a good construction contractor is a huge problem and has been around for a long time. I’ve thought about this off and on for years and recently has been one of those “on times”.

Why is this a problem and what do we do about it?

As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve concluded, that even though it’s a big problem, the solution is simple…but hard.

The key to this solution is…

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Granted, different people have different ways they want to be treated, because each of us is different. Add to that, the long-term acceptance of “this is just the way it is” and it becomes more difficult than ever to solve the problem.

To clarify how we should treat others, we should use God as a measuring stick. Do your work with all your heart, as if you are working for God, not for men. Colossians 3:23

Working as if for God is the opposite of how the world operates.

As I was speaking with a customer just last night, they were telling me how they had been trying to find someone to do their project for years.

They had contacted several contractors who said they would come by and look at the project and never did.

They met with some who did show up only to never be heard from again.

With one contractor they got as far as getting a price but then they could never get him to come do the work.

Equally as bad is when a contractor does agree to do the work, but the customer never knows if or when they’re going to show up and then the  job drags out and out and out.

This is an unacceptable way to treat God or anyone else.

The first and most important thing a good construction contractor needs is…COMMUNICATION.

Communication is more than just talking. It includes:

  • Listening to find out what the customer wants.  
  • Clearly explaining the work to be done, what it’s going to cost and when it will be done.
  • Transparency and honesty. Letting the customer know what to expect and when.
  • Willingness to be vulnerable. If you can’t be there when you said you would…let them know.

I plan to unpack what’s needed from a good construction contractor more over the next few weeks.

Poor Communication is the Number One Reason for Disagreements

Avoid Disagreements by Going the Extra Mile to Achieve Clarity

As I stepped out of my comfort zone this week and prepared the proposal for VB Homes’ “construction proposal system”, I was reminded of the importance of communication.

As I worked on this proposal, I considered reasons for them needing this system and it reminded me of the importance of good communication. The consequences of poor communication are huge.

An excerpt of a previous post from August 2016

Over the last few days, I was reminded of how important good communication is.

Two separate instances have come to my attention confirming this.

One situation is of a customer who had been given a price for a project and then after the project was started (concrete was poured) found out the price for the project was more than they were told. This caused some real problems for both sides.

The second was someone who had a project done with no written agreement. Once the project was almost completed there were some quality issues. This left both the customer and the contractor in a place where they felt cheated. The contractor billed for work done but wasn’t getting paid. The customer felt that the work was below standard and couldn’t get the contractor to come back and fix it.

As is usually the case there were extenuating circumstances in both situations and both sides had legitimate viewpoints.

Both projects would have had less problems had there been clearer communication from the beginning.

It has been my experience that there are differing opinions on how much detail should be included in the communication between customer and contractor. The bottom line is that it needs to be enough so that all parties involved know what to expect.

Rarely have I known small to midsized contractors to spend the time and effort to include very many details.

I understand, it takes time. The question we should ask is this…

Is it better to spend the time communicating before the project starts or wait until there’s a problem and everybody’s upset?

On the other side there is the possibility of too much information and the customer being confused and feeling lost (I know, it’s hard to believe that I just wrote that).

Often large commercial contracting firms and architects do this. I recently was aware of a commercial project that the communication was overly complicated. There were forty-one pages of drawings and a spec book over 1” thick and it wasn’t that big of a project.

With all that information the customer was overwhelmed and unclear about the project. Don’t get me wrong I like details and information. I think it is essential to good communication. The problem is that if it’s too complicated the customer still is uniformed and lost. This is still poor communication.

Ultimately proposals should be about helping customers know what to expect and get their dream project done.

I have lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard customers say that a building project was the worst experience they ever had. How sad is this?

They were excited and looking forward to having some new project done and then they are left with feelings of regret. I think there’s a balance between the two extremes.

This is where the real challenge is, finding the sweet spot for all involved.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to good communication, but the first thing is, ask questions and listen to the answers. As a contractor, don’t go into a project with your preconceived ideas of what the customer wants.

Find out what THEY want and HELP THEM BUILD IT.

Hopefully the proposal sent to VB Homes was clear and understandable and gives them a clear picture of what to expect.

Things Will Go Much Smoother When the Contractor Knows How to Speak Customer

The Importance of Learning a Foreign Language When Doing a Construction Project

It’s difficult to understand someone speaking a language you don’t know or understand. Imagine being in a country that speaks a different language and trying to explain something.

This is the same thing that happens with construction customers and contractors.

The contractor says something that the customer doesn’t understand. The customer doesn’t want to appear like they don’t understand so they just nod and go on. This is contractor language…

Most customers don’t speak contractor.

This disconnect can lead to misunderstandings. Misunderstandings can lead to hurt feelings and frustration. The hurt feelings lead to disagreements and impasses.

This is the biggest problem in the construction industry.

I’ve written about the importance of good communication multiple times. On more than one occasion I’ve been asked by customers to help them understand “contractor” they found themselves at an impasse with their contractor.

Every contractor, at some time, has had an unhappy customer. This is almost always due to poor communication and/or a lack of understanding. It may have been some small misunderstanding or might have been major enough to result in being fired or going to court.

Several years ago, a partner and I were meeting with a customer early in the process of building a new home. The customer pointed out that the distance from the electric meter to the house was more than the 50’ allowance, as per the written proposal.

He asked if this was a problem. My partner told him no, it wasn’t a problem. Guess what…

It was a problem.

The problem didn’t surface until later when the customer was billed for the additional 100’. After some research, the communication breakdown was uncovered.

The customer asked, “if it was a problem”. What he really was asking was…”is it going to cost more?”.  

My partner’s response in reality was, “it’s not a problem to dig the additional 100’, but it will cost you more”. This isn’t what was said.

Neither intended nor expected this to be a problem. It was a simple matter of misunderstanding…

A contractor not speaking customer and a customer not speaking contractor.

That was a small thing that was clarified and resolved.

Sometimes they turn into big legal battles than can result in catastrophic outcomes.

Once again, I’ve been called in as a translator. This time it’s by a person having a construction project done by a contractor who doesn’t speak “customer”. This situation is going to be expensive for all parties and involves attorneys.

Situations like this break my heart. I understand why they happen…but they don’t need to. As the professionals in these situations the communication responsibility is the contractors.

Contractors need to learn to speak customer.

This is the reason I developed my proposal system. It’s a way for contractors to speak customer.

If you know someone in the construction industry that would benefit from learning to speak “customer” share this link to the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal with them.