It’s Hard to Remember That Not Everyone Gets It Like I Do

We Have to Look at it From Their Perspective

We are so close to who we are and what we know that when we’re communicating with others, we assume they understand. This is not the case. Most of the time when we’re talking about that thing we do…they’re overwhelmed.

We need to sperate ourselves from our calling if we’re going to communicate clearly.

We forget, or don’t even know, that what seems so basic and simple to us, isn’t to them. We’ve all been made with a specific unique gift, one that only we have. Sure, as many people as there are, there’s overlap. I’m not the only construction contractor in the whole world. I am however, the only one who does it the way that I do it.

This situation has become evident in several different situations recently.

Last week I wrote about my preparing to work with Bryan Switalski with Clarity Consulting. After our meeting I was feeling more overwhelmed than before. I was questioning if I had what it was going to take to do the digital marketing thing.

The next day was our weekly mastermind meeting. As I listened to the others in the group share their frustrations in connecting with the people who they knew would benefit from their knowledge or products. In my mind I was saying “Amen, preach it.”

Often before when listening to the group I would feel overwhelmed and inadequate. Listening to them I thought I was in way over my head. They would use terms that I didn’t know or understand. What struck me the most this day was how I realized that they’re struggling with the same struggles I am.

Then the light bulb came on. They, like me, were too close to their calling.

Their struggle, like mine, is the need to step back and look at this from the customer’s perspective. Over the years I’ve figured out how to do this with my construction customers without even knowing I was doing it.

This was confirmed the next day when I met with some potential customers for the third time. As we reviewed the floorplan of the remodeling project, they had questions. As we discussed the project more, I became aware of additional information that helped guide the direction of the project. Now we’re heading in the direction moving them toward their dream.

Too often contractors wouldn’t meet this many times or listen this much. Too often customers would just presume that the first plan was the only plan and this is as close to their dream as they’re going to get.

Now if I can learn to do this same thing with coaching and consulting customers.

After meeting with the construction customers, I began to think about my meeting with Bryan. As a customer I didn’t feel that I had given him enough information to do his job. I was feeling that “lost and overwhelmed customer feeling”. I sent him an email apologizing for my earlier rambling when we met.

Later that same day I received a response with a 10 minute recorded video explanation of the plan and how the parts will fit together, more details, a reiterated short list of what he needs from me and the reassurance that this project will be great when we’re done.

I’m sure Bryan was thinking, this is so simple and easy, but he never hinted to that. That’s what we professionals do when we’re working in our called vocation.

It’s hard to remember that they don’t get it like we do and to view the project from their perspective.

Now I need to separate myself from my calling and come up with a list of reasons that construction contractors need to make better proposals.

How to Create Realistic Expectations for Customers

Expectations Are My Responsibility, “The Buck Stops Here”

In March of this year I wrote about the home my architect niece is planning to build, using two grain bins. This project has been in the planning stage for several months and the dreaming/idea stage even longer. She and I discussed how we could both blog about this simultaneously from differing perspectives. This project is going be fun on a bunch of different levels.

Hannah posted her first blog at earlier this week. In that post she wrote about her reasons for delay in getting started writing.

As I read her post it got me to thinking about the reasons that things often don’t meet our expectations. I’m aware of several projects currently that customers are feeling this way. Some I’m involved in and some not. This sense of disappointment is way too normal, when it should be rare.

We need realistic expectations.


Why does this happen?There are several reasons for this issue and some simple solutions, that if done, would make expectations more realistic for everyone involved.

• Lack of or poor communication

I think this is the number one reason for unrealistic expectations. With most projects having so many moving pieces and different people involved it is next to impossible to set and maintain an accurate schedule. When things are proceeding slower than you would like if you were just updated it would help tremendously. This goes both directions – from the service providers and suppliers to the contractor and from the contractor to the customer. It is like waiting for your teenager to get home and they’re late. Your mind begins to go to all kinds of scenarios that rarely are even close to reality. Even though we know this, it doesn’t make us feel any better. Communication makes a huge difference.

Solution –
Be as realistic as possible at the start. Often, the customer expectations are unrealistic in the beginning. Many times, this is their first experience with this kind of project. It is the contractor’s responsibility to be as realistic as possible, even if we know the customer doesn’t want to hear it. When things aren’t meeting the expectations; make the call, go by the job, let all parties know what’s going on. I know that delivering unwanted news isn’t what you want to do. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.


There’s a lot of room for improving communication.

Here are some additional posts about this comunication – 

Can Communicating Too Much, Be Too Much?
The Importance of Good Communication
What We’ve Got Here, Is A Failure to Communicate


My expectations for this week’s post weren’t realistic. This is a case in point. I thought I could write this in a couple of hours this morning…didn’t happen. With the size of this issue and to cover it properly I kept writing and writing and writing. Finally, I decided it needs to be split into more than one post.

Next week I will post “How To Create Realistic Expectations for Customers – Part 2”

It will cover –

  • Everything taking longer than you think
  • Saying yes to too many things
  • Details are worth the wait


Who knows, by next week I might come up with more. If you think of any additional reasons, feel free to share them in the comments.


Getting an Estimate for a Construction Project Can Be a Big Mistake

It’s Like Guessing What a Bag of Groceries Costs Without Being Able to See in The Bag



One of the most frequent questions that I get asked by customers considering a construction project is…what’s it going to cost. Don’t get me wrong this is one of the most important pieces of information needed before moving forward with a project.

The problem with answering this question comes from the lack of information available in the early part of the process. Sure, there are some basic square footage prices that can be incorporated into giving a quick price, but I learned a long time ago that giving an ESTIMATE without having enough information is a recipe for disaster.

When my customers ask me this question, I tell them it is like looking across the room at a brown paper bag full of groceries and telling someone what it cost. Before I can answer that question, I need to know what’s in the bag. It makes a difference if it is paper towels or steaks, how many and how well they were packed.

The same is true for a construction project – what materials are going to be used, how much is going to be used and how well do you want it built? There is a wide variety of products out there and it is important that your contractor asks enough of the right questions to know what and how many ‘groceries are going in the bag’.

Rarely will I give an estimate. Sometimes, depending on the project, I will for a preliminary ballpark figure. It might save both parties the time and trouble of going forward if there isn’t enough of a budget. The level of accuracy with an estimate is minimal at best.

I encourage my customers to let me give them a proposal. Even if they pay for the proposal, it is much less than the cost of the project and a sound investment. When pricing a construction project, the dollars are significant enough that you should know what to expect before you get started and run out of money.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Luke 14:28-30, NLT

Doing an accurate and detailed proposal takes time and effort. Most contractors are more focused on getting to the money generating construction and neglect the proposal process. I’m convinced that the proposal is as important of an investment for the contractor as it is for the customer.

You can see an example of our proposals here –

The number of stories that I have heard of unhappy customers or contractors not getting paid for all the work they did is unnecessary. This problem can be enormously reduced by giving an accurate, agreed upon price in the beginning. That way when the project is finished everyone can be happy.

The Importance of Good Communication

It Should Be Focused On Helping the Customer Realize THEIR Dream



Over the last few days I have been reminded of how important good communication is. There are two separate instances that have come to my attention that confirm this. One situation is of an individual who had been given a price for a project and then after they were already started doing their part (pouring the concrete) found out the price for the building was more than expected. The second was someone who had a project done with no agreement in writing. Once the project was almost completed there were some quality issues. This left them (both the customer and the contractor) in a place where they felt cheated. The contractor billed for work done and wasn’t getting paid. The customer felt that the work is below standard and couldn’t get the contractor to come back and fix it. As is usually the case there are several extenuating circumstances in both of these situations and both sides had legitimate viewpoints. Both projects could have had less problems if there had been clearer communication in the beginning.

Read more

5 Ways Builders Should Treat Customers

It’s Not Just a Job…It’s Someone’s Dream 



Over the years as I have discussed building projects with people, a lot of people. There are those who have had the experience of building a new home, doing a remodel or even a small repair project. The number of times that I have heard them say, ‘it was the worst experience of my life’, breaks my heart. The experience of repairing, remodeling or building new should be counted among their best experiences, not their worst. In many cases they only get the opportunity to experience a project, especially a large one, once. This makes it even more critical that we do what we can to make this as enjoyable and painless as possible.

A building project is like having a child. For me the designing, developing and building something is an amazing experience. It is more than just the mechanical act of pouring some concrete, nailing two boards together, putting a window in a hole or slapping on some paint. The collaboration between the parties involved should be fun and exciting. A part of me is poured into each and every project. Once it is done, I step back and look at it. Something that wasn’t before and is now…it is a part of me and I am a part of it. I’m continually moved when I see projects that I was involved in over the years. Approaching construction in this perspective is key to the conception, gestation and birth of each new project.

The builder carries the majority of the responsibility. Those of us in the building industry go through the process over and over again. We can get used to the daily routine of construction. We forget that the customer doesn’t do this daily like we do. This is something that can be scary and overwhelming to the person wanting to have some repairs done, add on a room or build a new home. As builders we need to remember to approach each new customer with an open mind and a desire to help them build their dream.

Things that the builder should do:

  • Communicate – Let the customer know what to expect. Remember that they don’t do this day in and day out like you do.
  • Listen – This is the most important part of communicating. You need to hear what the customer is saying. This is more than just their words.
  • Be on time – Show up when you say you will. Respect their time.
  • Be responsive – Return communications in a reasonable amount of time. They just want to know that you hear them and care.
  • Be accountable – If you or someone on your team make a mistake, own up to it. Don’t blame someone else.

Remember the Golden Rule and treat your customer the way you would like to be treated, not the way you have been treated.