What is a Construction Scope of Work and Why Do You Need One?

Because It’s Critical to Clear Communication, Whether You’re the Contractor or the Customer.

Last week Gene explained to John what project information needed to be gathered…

  • Project info (customer name, mailing address, project address if different than mailing, phone number, email address, project overview, budget, project deadline, any other relevant information that you need)
  • Measurements and dimensions, existing and new
  • Building materials, existing and new
  • Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction
  • Customer’s design ideas and finishes

Overlooking or forgetting something is a sure way to lose money when doing a construction project.

This week they’re going to take the information gathered and turn it in to a scope of work. This will be the foundational form of communication between everyone involved in the process, i.e., customer, contractor, sub-contractors, employees, etc.

As they get started this week’s meeting Gene asks John if he had an opportunity to use the Bid Sheet this past week and if so, how it worked.

“Yes.” said John. “It was a little awkward in the beginning. By the time I was finished gathering the project information I was glad I had it, because there were a couple of things that it reminded me to do.”

Gene replied, “That’s great. Do you have any questions?” Not yet.” said John. Gene smiled, “You will before we’re done.”

Okay. Did you bring it with you? Asked Gene. “I did.” said John, “I’ve got it on my laptop.” Gene told him to open it up and follow along. “Today we’re going to work on the most important part of communication between contractor and customer.

The Scope of Work

What is a Scope of Work?

A Scope of Work clearly defines and explains the work to be done. It should describe what is included in each specific task in terminology that both the customer and the contractor understand. A scope of work describes the work to be done on a project, who is responsible for completing the work, how the work must be performed (techniques used), and what materials will be used. It helps in the smooth operation of a project, minimizing situations leading to disputes. It is the first step to building a mutually beneficial relationship between a contractor and customer.

Communication with the customer needs be simple and direct while explaining clearly and thoroughly.

After having gathered the information needed for the project using the Bid Sheet, write out in a few sentences, or less, of what each specific task is going to consist of. Explaining what you’re going to do in a way that a person with little or no construction knowledge can understand. Include as much detail and specifics as is needed to be clear on what is or is not included as a part of the project.

Once this process has been finished for each task included in the project, you have a Scope of Work ready to be transferred to a blank Proposal template.

Here’s an example of a Scope of Work using the information from the Bid Sheet we worked on last week.”

As they’re wrapping up this week’s training Gene tells John. “Next week we’ll get into the pricing of a project.”

The real value of this Proposal System is in the pricing.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

A Good Construction Proposal Starts by Asking the Right Questions

A Good Construction Proposal Starts by Asking the Right Questions

This Proposal System Helps You to Not Overlook Things You Need to Know

Another week has gone by and John’s looking forward to today’s meeting. As they wrapped up last week’s meeting, Gene indicated that they will “actually” learn the first step in the proposal system today.

As John goes into XYZ Construction Company’s conference room Gene is sitting at his computer with a Power Point on the big TV ready to go. “Good afternoon Gene, are you ready to get started learning the first step for doing better proposals?”

“I’ve been looking forward to it all week long.” says John.

“Okay. There’s oriental takeout there on the counter. Fill a plate and let’s get started.”

As they fill their plates, Gene asks John,

“When you begin talking with a new customer, what’s the first thing you ask?”

John ponders the question as he sets down. “I ask them about their construction project. What is the work they want done? For example, are they wanting to add on a room addition or remodel the kitchen or do they want to replace the windows? You know…

“WHAT is it they want done.”

“This is the typical question asked by most contractors. Without a doubt it’s a question that has to be asked. But, there’s another question that helps you serve your customer better and achieve their construction dream.

The most important question is WHY.

Why does the customer want to do this project? Do they need more space, does something need repaired or replaced, are they looking to make an area more usable, or is it just because they want to? Learning their why early helps determine a clear direction of ’the what’.

As the construction professional, it’s your job to guide the customer through this process. Most customers have very little if any experience doing construction projects. Often, they get ideas from DIY programs on TV or the internet, other people’s projects, etc. and they just want one of “those”, whatever that is.

Every project is as different as the customer. Without blueprints, specs or seeing the existing location the chances of giving the customer the project they want, is almost impossible. Unless they have a full set of blueprints and specifications to bid from, you need to gather the information for the specific project.”

The customer will have a vague image in their mind of what they want. It’s the contractor’s responsibility to guide them to the realization of that dream.

Information that needs to be gathered:

  • Project info (customer name, mailing address, project address if different than mailing, phone number, email address, project overview, budget, project deadline, any other relevant information that you need)
  • Measurements and dimensions, existing and new
  • Building materials, existing and new
  • Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction
  • Customer’s design ideas and finishes

The important thing is to not overlook something.

“Use whatever way works best for you to gather the information. If you prefer to write on paper, print out a copy of the Bid Sheet template, it has a list of the different construction tasks that might be needed. Use the space next to each task for writing down a brief description, dimensions, specific notes, drawings, etc.

A pre-determined list minimizes the possibility of forgetting something.

If you prefer using an electronic device (tablet, smart phone or laptop) enter the information in the appropriate space on the Bid Sheet template.With most of the electronic devices now, you can either type, write or draw right on the device. Using the electronic form streamlines the process and reduces the chance of something getting overlooked. Be sure to keep a copy of the template for the project you are working on; this will leave a blank template for the next time.

Forgetting to include something in the proposal is a sure way to lose money.

There are over one hundred items listed on the Bid Sheet and it still doesn’t cover every possibility. Construction projects vary a lot. Even small projects can include a lot of different pieces. If you leave one of the pieces out, someone’s going to be disappointed.

If you start with a list, you’re less likely to overlook things.

Here’s an example of finding out the WHY:

When meeting with customer Jane Smith she explained that she wanted to add a laundry/sewing room to her house but didn’t know where to start or what it should include. We asked her WHY. We found that she loved to sew and did a lot of it. Currently she used the table in the main floor dining room for measuring and cutting and did the sewing on a machine in the basement. In addition to this her washer and dryer were in two separate closets in the master bathroom. Both situations were inconvenient for her.

Finding out her why helped us to present solutions for building her dream.

Here’s an example of the information gathered on the Bid Sheet:”

“If you’re serious about doing better proposals and haven’t bought your Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system yet, I would suggest that you get that done. Then you could use the Bid Sheet this week when you meet with someone wanting a proposal. Bring it with you and we’ll go through it and answer your questions.

Next week we’ll take the information from the Bid Sheet and prepare a Scope of Work for Jane Smith’s project.”

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

We’ve Discussed the Why, Now Let’s Work on the How

It’s Saturday and today will be John’s third meeting with Gene. Even though there’s been no change in John’s overwhelming workload, today is the first time he’s not considered canceling. He knows the value of this information and is looking forward to opportunity to learn more.

It’s John’s turn to provide lunch and Gene’s in for a treat…John’s bringing chili-cheeseburgers and fries from the Burger Station. On the way to Gene’s office, the smell of those burgers is more than John can bear and he has a few fries on the drive.

As soon as John steps in the office door, Gene yells out from the conference room, “You brought Burger Station”. Over the years when John was working for Gene, the two of them frequented this fine establishment often.

As John gets lunch out, Gene says, “We have a lot to cover today, so we better get started. As we go through this today, consider the similarities of building a proposal with building a construction project. Now let’s review…

First, we started with WHY.

Why do you do what you do? Why do should you do proposals? Both of the questions are similar to the question that should be asked of a customer when they’re considering a construction project. Why do you want to do this project?

Second, we discussed that communication is the contractor’s responsibility.

We are the professionals in the arrangement. We shouldn’t expect the customer to know everything about construction. This is why they are looking to hire someone to do their project. It’s up to us as contractors to communicate clearly.

Third, we discussed bid mistakes.  

The ones that are commonly made and are costly. Being aware of these mistakes helps you know what to avoid and increases the opportunity for happy customers. Not to mention it gives you a big advantage over your competition.  

In our meeting two weeks ago (link to 1st meeting post) I gave you the bid proposal overview to take and review. Today we’re going to go through it. I know it seems like were still not doing proposals. Think about it like a construction project…

The designing and planning take as long as the construction.

Let’s start by looking at the documents included in the system and a brief definition of each.”

Bid sheet – A Word document with the various construction categories and individual tasks listed with space for filling in the scope of the work to be done, dimensions, materials, locations, etc., for each category as needed for clear communication.

Worksheet – An Excel spreadsheet with all the construction categories and individual tasks listed with overhead and profit markup formulas.

Proposal – A word document with space to fill in pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, what will or will not be supplied by the contractor, the scope of work, the proposed price for each specific element, a total project price, payment arrangements and project duration.

Data Base – An Excel spreadsheet with prices for material and labor for a wide variety of specific construction tasks. This information will be used to fill out a blank worksheet template by copying and pasting.

After reviewing and discussing these documents and definitions they looked at the the process of doing a proposal.

STEP 1 – Gathering Information

Gathering the right information correctly and effectively is critical to preparing an accurate and thorough proposal. Once you’ve been contacted by a potential customer start by scheduling a meeting to discuss their project and find out what they hope to accomplish. At this initial meeting gather –

            Measurements and dimensions, existing and new

            Building materials, existing and new

            Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction

            Customer’s design ideas and finishes

The information gathered at this meeting can be recorded in whatever way works best for you. The important thing in this step is to gather any and all information needed to prepare an accurate proposal. It can be handwritten on a printed out Bid Sheet template, or it can be entered directly to a Bid Sheet using a tablet, smart phone or laptop. Using the Bid Sheet minimizes overlooking things because the different areas of a construction project are already listed.

STEP 2 – Preparing the Scope of Work

After the preliminary information has been gathered it’s time to clarify the scope of the project by writing out the description of each specific task in terminology that both the customer and the contractor understand. It needs to include enough specifics to be thorough without being too technical. It doesn’t help communication if the terminology is confusing to the customer. This written description on the Bid Sheet will be transferred to the Proposal and serve as a written scope of work to be performed and materials to be provided.

STEP 3 – Pricing the Project

Next is putting prices to the project. This process involves two different Excel spreadsheets, the Worksheet and Data Base. Based on the descriptions written on the Bid Sheet, content from the Data Base will be copied and pasted into the correlating cells on the Worksheet. After the pertinent information from the Data Base has been placed on the Worksheet it’s time to fill in the quantities.

STEP 4 – Quantities

On the Worksheet you will fill in the quantity needed to do the work on that line item. This may be lineal feet, square feet, square yards, cubic feet, cubic yards, numbers of pieces, etc. Once this is completed you will now have prices for each of the different tasks listed on the Proposal.

STEP 5 – Preparing the Proposal

Now you have everything you need to complete the Proposal. You will take the descriptions from the Bid Sheet and the prices from the Worksheet and put them both on the Proposal. After filling out the customer’s information at the top of the page, the scope of work, the price for each task, the total project price, how payments are to be made and the duration of time to do the project, the Proposal is ready to present to the customer.

As they wrapped up the meeting, Gene looked at John and asked him what he thought so far. John said, “I had no idea there was this much to doing proposals.

Gene said, “I know. That’s why most contractors either guess at their bids or just give estimates…and we’ve all seen how that well that works out.

Next week we’ll dig deeper into GATHERING INFORMATION.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

How to Price a Construction Project So That it’s a Win-Win

It Will Require a Change of Mind

When pricing a construction project, the terms most commonly used are – estimate, time and material, cost plus. These processes can work when pricing a construction project but are vague about what the final price is going to be. They are more contractor focused.

An estimate is just that…an estimate. It is an approximate calculation of the value for time needed and material to be used. I don’t think you would by a truck based on an estimate. You would want to know what you were paying and what you were getting.

Time and material, is what it says. It is a price based on the time spent and the material used with a markup added. This process also leaves the final price to be paid by the customer as an unknown until the end.

Cost plus is similar to time and material in that it is a percentage added to the actual cost for the contractor for doing the work.

As common as these ways of pricing construction projects are, too often they leave the customer feeling cheated. They thought they were getting their project done for ‘this price’ and it ended up costing more.

It’s a problem when the final price ends up being more than the customer expected.

I don’t think construction contractors intentionally go out and get projects at a low price and then do more work using more expensive materials with their end goal to be a jacked-up price. Quite often customers add things through out the process, unaware of the affect these changes are having to the price of the project.

There is a better way of giving customers a price for their project than guesstimating, but it’s going to require a paradigm shift.

A paradigm is a pattern, a model, a 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 7 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?

What if you had a way to give your customers a clear description of the work you were going to do and an accurate price for doing that work while still making a profit? This would be a win for them and a win for you. It might require a change in your way of thinking. It might take a paradigm shift of your own.

There is such a system. It’s called a proposal. A proposal will give your customers an understanding of what their project includes, how it’s going to be done and what it’s going to cost. It gives them the peace of mind they deserve. They are the ones writing the check after all.

A proposal done right is your secret weapon.

Providing proposals to your customers will separate you from the competition. It will increase the number of profitable projects and happy customers.

You might wonder what it takes to do a proposal. You can learn more about proposals in these previous posts.

            The Bulk of the Communication Responsibility Lies on the Contractor

            How to Build a Better Proposal

            An Overview of the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal

            How to Make Sure You Don’t Overlook Something

            How to Prepare A Construction Scope of Work

            How to Price a Construction Project Proposal

            How to Put the Pieces of the Construction Proposal Together

            The Conclusion of the Construction Proposal is the Contract

Get your own Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal.

What Happens When There’s a Change to a Construction Dream?

It Just Gets Better If It’s Done Right

It had been four weeks since Jane had been at Lucy’s for book club. Lucy had said she would have Jane over to discuss her construction project in a few weeks when it was finished. “It’s been a month…that’s more than a few weeks.”, thought Jane

Jane was convinced that Lucy’s project had gone bad like Connie’s.

The next book club meeting was scheduled for later this week. If she hadn’t heard from Lucy before then, she would talk to her at the meeting.

Jane was hosting book club and as she was finishing the preparations the doorbell rang, thirty minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start. When she answered the door, it was Lucy.

Jane prepared to hear about Lucy’s nightmare.

“Sorry I’m early”, Lucy said, “but I wanted to talk with you about my construction project before the rest of the group gets here. I know I told you the project was scheduled to be done before now and that’s part of what I wanted to talk with you about.”

“Let me help you finish getting ready and I’ll bring you up to date on the project.” As the ladies worked to get ready, Lucy began.

“I hadn’t called yet because I wanted the project finished before we talked and they’re not done yet.”

“I knew that your project had been going too well.”, said Jane. “What happened?”

“Nothing bad,” said Lucy. “A few days after you were there, we had an idea to turn the existing small bedroom that was next to the new Master Bedroom into a walk-in closet. So consequently, the project took a little longer.”

“That sounds like handing the contractor a blank check.”, said Jane.

Lucy smiled at Jane, “Not at all. We got a proposed change order from the contractor before any additional work was done. It was similar to the original proposal for the project. It gave us a description of what the additional work consisted of, how much additional time it would take and what the price for the work would be.”

“The contractor made guy’s doing the work aware of the changes and they didn’t miss a beat. If they stay on schedule, like they have so far, they should be finished with everything, week after next.”

After a short pause with a glint in her eye, Lucy said,

“I’m so excited, this project is turning out better than I could have imagined.”

“I can’t wait to see your new bedroom and closet, said Jane, and find out more about XYZ Construction Co.”

“As soon as they’re finished, I’ll have you over and walk you through the whole amazing experience from beginning to end.”, said Lucy.

Your Business Doesn’t Have to be a Scary Movie

How to Avoid Business Disaster

Have you ever noticed how in horror movie’s people make the worst possible decisions? The Geico commercial where the young people decide to hide behind the chainsaws (while funny in the commercial) is way too real for most construction companies. In the commercial they choose to ignore the one running car that would help them avoid the catastrophe that is otherwise inevitable.

Why do so many businesses hide behind the chainsaws?

In most cases it’s written in the script. This is the way it’s always been done. Like in the movies, this will end in disaster. It’s time to rewrite your script.

In construction one of the root causes for disaster is not having a safe and secure method for doing proposals. A silver bullet is used for stopping a werewolf, witch, vampire or other monster. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal is just such a bullet.

Here are 7 common mistakes that cost contractors a fortune…but don’t have to.

  1. Your customer lacks clarity – Crystal clear communication is critical to your success. A clear scope of work avoids confusion between you and your customers.

2. Production crews lack clarity – Like the customer, the people working on the project need to know what’s expected. If the wrong things, too much or too little is done it results in losing money and/or unhappy customers.

3. Unclear production budget – If subs/employees don’t know what the budget is, how can you expect them to not overspend. This is a sure way to lose money.

4. Unsatisfied customers – Your customers have hired you to provide a completed construction project. If everyone isn’t clear about the expectations the customer is not going to be satisfied in the end.

5. Taking on unprofitable projects – Guessing at what your labor and material cost are going to be is a huge risk. Having a system that uses, cubic feet, square feet, lineal feet, etc. removes the guess work. Not to mention having predetermined overhead and profit margins.

6. Trying to do everything – In small companies your focus is on the physical construction. This doesn’t leave much time for doing bids. This proposal system allows you to delegate work to others. It’s less expensive to hire administrative people than construction personnel.

7. You don’t have a system that is customizable or scales – Most construction projects consist of a variety of different areas of construction, not to mention different markets and geographic locations. Add to that markups and profits that can be adjusted. You need to have a system that can be made to fit your specific needs.

Small and medium sized construction companies too often follow the same script that everyone else is. They hide behind the chainsaws, even though they know this is a bad idea.

Don’t hide behind the chainsaws!

Rewrite your script so that there’s a silver bullet to stop the proposal monster. At the very least…get in the running car.

How Important Are the Words We Use to the Clarity of Our Message?

I Would Really Like an Answer to This Question!

I’ve written about the importance of providing clear communication with customers through construction proposals in previous posts. Here are a few of them:

            The Bulk of the Communication Responsibility Lies on the Contractor

            How to Build a Better Proposal

            An Overview of the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal

            How to Make Sure You Don’t Overlook Something

            How to Prepare a Scope of Work for a Construction Project

            How to Price a Construction Project Proposal

            How to Put the Pieces of the Construction Proposal Together

We’re currently working on a free downloadable document to help construction contractors avoid common mistakes made when giving customers a price for doing a construction project. I’ve employed the help of some professional digital markers to help me with this. The question that I have has to do with the words used.

I have a first draft written by one of them based on some of my previous writing. At first read I loved it. Then I began to wonder if it was too much for contractors. Will they understand it? As we have continued to work through the digital marketing process it was discussed with others. In every instance there were suggested changes.

Now I’m more confused than ever.

I know that I tend to make things more difficult than they need to be so…I thought I would put a couple of side by side excerpts from the draft and some of the suggestions and let you tell me which you think is clearer and more understandable from a contractor’s perspective…or if I’m once again making this too complicated.


Excerpt 1A:

The 7 Mistakes Contractors Make That Cost Them a Fortune — and How to Avoid Them.

While a lot of construction businesses are really great at providing good services, they get hamstrung by the business side of things.

If you’re like most small to medium sized construction companies, you learned a specific craft that you like doing – and at some point, you decided to start your own business.

If you’re like me, you probably got into this because you’re good at building things…not because you felt like you needed to be an expert in business. In fact, I believe as a contractor you shouldn’t need to get a masters in business to do good work – or have a thriving business that you love.


Excerpt 1B:

The 7 Mistakes Most Contractors Make When Doing Construction Proposals — and How to Avoid Them.

While a lot of construction companies are great at “constructing”, they’re overwhelmed by the business side of things.

If you’re like most small to medium sized construction companies, you learned a construction trade that you like doing – and at some point, decided to start your own business.

If you’re like me, you probably got into this because you like building things…not necessarily to run a business. In fact, I believe as a contractor you shouldn’t need a master’s degree in business to be successful.

Excerpt 2A:

#1: Your customers lack clarity

Confusion is your number one enemy. Crystal clear communication with your customers is critical to your success. And that might sound like a no brainer, or that it’s easier said than done…but this is the biggest failing point in most construction businesses.


Excerpt 2B:

#1: Your customers lack clarity

Confusion is your number one enemy. Crystal clear communication with your customers is critical to your success. That might sound like a no brainer…but this is the point at which most construction businesses fail.

I realize that not all of you who will read this are contractors. That’s okay, I would still appreciate your input in the comments below. If you know some contractors, please forward this to them so that they can give me their perspective.

Any and all feedback will be helpful!

Thanks!

It’s Important to Have the Right Tool for the Job

And There’s More to the Right Tool Than Meets the Eye

For those of you that remember the TV sitcom “Home Improvement” you’ll remember Tim ‘the Tool Man’s’ attempts to give everything from cars to household appliances “more power” and the infamous ‘grunts’ that accompanied this.

There’s something primal in finding a new tool and learning to use it.

You’ve heard it said that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”, which I agree works pretty well. However, I would argue that an even better way is…give him a new power tool.

There is a tool out there for every job and often times more than one. As cool as tools are, they’re worthless if you don’t have them, don’t know how to use them and then actually do so.

The biggest “tool” problem is…the lack of “business system tools”.

Most “construction guys” would prefer to use a circular saw or screw gun rather than a computer. Paperwork usually isn’t what they think of when considering tools.

One of the most important tools in the “construction tool” arsenal is paperwork. Profitability and the success of the company hinges on the accuracy and knowledge of income and expenses. It requires having the right tools, knowing how to use them and then actually doing so. 

One such tool is the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system. Early on I had no system for doing proposals and like most contractors I guessed. That’s when I decided that I had had enough and developed a system that took the guess work out of proposals. I’ve been using and refining this Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal for more than 25 years. You can use this same tool by purchasing the downloadable system (complete with templates, instructions, and examples). This way you can stop rolling the dice with your profits and take control of your money and your business.

In talking with construction companies about the bidding process they all see the benefits of having a system but can’t see the value for the price. These same people wouldn’t think twice about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy cordless tool kits or pneumatic nail guns and compressors, not to mention the price of skid loaders.

The real question is value…not price.

When considering tools, you should consider the return on your investment. Those power tools that you purchase are going to wear out over time and need to be replaced. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal won’t. You can purchase the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal for less than the price of a good quality cordless tool kit and the return on that investment is priceless.

Having the right tools, knowing how to use them, and then actually doing so can be the difference of having a successful company or giving up and going out of business.

You’ve never been afraid to get a new power tool and learn how to use it.

Don’t be afraid to get a new “proposal power tool” and learn to use it either.

How to Make a Construction Proposal Better

The First Thing is to Figure Out What You’re Doing Wrong

As a building contractor that has been involved in construction for over forty years a common topic of conversation, as you might have guessed is…construction. When talking with people who had construction projects done (not my customers) one of the more common remarks is “That was the worst experience of my life.” This is not the way a construction experience should be.

The experience of building a dream project should be one of the best!

When digging into their feelings deeper the problems almost always came down to these issues.

  • Misunderstandings due to poor or no communication
  • Blindsided by cost overruns or hidden costs
  • The completed project wasn’t what they wanted or expected
  • Didn’t understand construction terminology
  • Poor quality workmanship and materials
  • Cluttered and unorganized job site
  • Left hanging part way through an unfinished project
  • Lack of scheduling or poor time management

As a construction professional you should read these posts to give you the customer’s perspective:

            How to Prevent Your Construction Projects from Falling Apart

            There’s a High Cost to No Communication

            What Should be Included in a Contractor’s Communication

            Lack of Quality, Honesty and Integrity

As building contractors we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to prevent these situations from happening.

As a contractor you might say, “But customers are so hard to deal with. They expect so much and want it done cheap. They’re so demanding.” My response to you is, “Then why are you in this business?” You’re the professional. You choose this.

If you don’t love what you’re doing, then you haven’t found your vocation.

This is not to say that there won’t be difficulties in construction sometimes, but my experiences have been completely different. It comes down to a few simple things that when done well make the experience pleasurable for both the customer and the contractor.

The majority of the problems between construction companies and customers come down to poor communication. These issues can be minimized with thorough and accurate proposals. When I started in business, I had no idea how to do proposals, so I did like most…I guessed.

Doing accurate proposals that communicate clearly, doesn’t have to be a roll of the dice.

So, if you’re pricing construction projects like I did when I began. Maybe you could use some help and I would love to help you with this. So that I can know where you could use help the most, I need answers to some questions.

As a building contractor –

  • Have you ever had issues with customer’s, if so what were they?
  • Did these issues involve poor communication?
  • Do you currently do proposals, estimates, time and material or just guess?
  • What is your biggest issue when pricing construction projects?
  • How do you determine the cost of labor and material?
  • How do you determine overhead and profit?
  • How do you communicate the work to be done with sub-contractors and/or employees?
  • What would make your process better?

Here’s a link to these questions if you would go there and answer these questions it will be helpful to us so that we can help you. Or you can answer them in the comments below.

Let us help you to communicate clearer, be more profitable and reduce your stress with a Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal.

It’s Time for the First Meeting

And John’s Not Sure He Can Squeeze It In

It’s Friday and John’s in his normal state of overwhelm. He’s supposed to be meeting with Gene tomorrow afternoon to go over the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system and he doesn’t know how he can fit it in.

There are still so many things that need to be done.

“Maybe we can reschedule,” thinks John, I’ll just give Gene a call and see about moving the meeting back a week. “Okay, that’s enough.” John says to himself. “The whole purpose for this meeting is to change things, so that I don’t have to feel this overwhelmed.”

I’m tired of always feeling out of control.

John pulls up in front of the XYZ Construction Company office and admires the building. As he gets the pizza out of the truck and goes up to the front door he thinks, “I sure hope I can have a place like this someday.” As he walks through the door Gene greets him with a solid handshake and a grin as he says, “I wasn’t sure that you would make it.”

“I wasn’t sure either.”, John says with a smile. “I came really close to calling yesterday, to see about rescheduling. “I’m glad you didn’t.”, replies Gene. “You’ve taken the hardest in a series of hard steps.”

“The first step is the hardest. It requires a change of thinking and direction.”

“Bring the pizza and let’s go into the conference room.” As they make their way into the spacious comfortable room John thinks back on when they used to have their weekly production meetings in this very room. Looking back, he realizes how much he had taken what Gene has accomplished for granted.

Gene hands John a plate and they both get some pizza. “There’s water and soda in the fridge like always.”, says Gene, “Help yourself.” As they set down and start eating Gene asks John, “Why did you go into construction and start your own company?”

“Why do you do what you do?”

John sat there for a while chewing his pizza at the same time chewing on this question. “Why was he doing this?” He had asked this question a lot, but it was usually a question of frustration, not really looking for an answer.

After what seemed like an eternity, John answered, “I really don’t know. I suppose that seeing what you had accomplished, I wanted the same thing.”

“That’s the same answer I would have given when I started XYZ Construction.”, agrees Gene. “It wasn’t until I realized that to have a successful and profitable business, one that I was running rather than it running me, I needed to make some changes. One of those was to answer this question.”

“The WHY is more important than the HOW. Maybe your why is to make a lot of money, the enjoyment of building, the control that comes with owning your own company, something completely different or a combination of things.”

“Do you love what you do? In your current situation, do you even like it?”

Now John has another unanswered question to ponder. “Does he like what he does. Life sure was easier when he worked for Gene. What is it that prompted him to go into business?”

Gene interrupted John’s thinking, “John you probably won’t get the full answer to these questions today and we’ve already been discussing this for a couple of hours. I would suggest that you take some time to think about these and dig down deep to find the answers.”

“The answer to these questions are the foundation you will build your business on.”

“Before we run out of time today, let’s move on to the topic you came for, Building a Better Proposal. Just like the why question for your business, you should answer the why question about proposals.”

“Why do we need to do proposals?

“John, there is a huge gap between the construction industry and customers. The biggest portion of this gap is poor communication. Even when attempting to communicate clearly it can go badly. Let me give you an example.”

“Several years ago, when 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 agreement. He asked if this was a problem. He was told 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?”.”

“The response ‘in reality’ was, “It’s no problem to dig the additional 100’, but it will cost you more.” Neither party intended nor expected this to be a problem. It was a simple matter of misunderstanding…a lack of communication.”

The bulk of the communication responsibility is the contractor’s, we are the professionals after all.

“As we wrap up today John, I would recommend that we schedule some time weekly to work through the proposal system. I know that you don’t feel like you can spare the time, but I would point out that if you want things to be different it is going to require you to do some things different.”

John thought about this for a few minutes, “I get excited about the possibilities for my future every time we talk about this. Let’s do it. How does next Saturday, same time and same place work for you?

“If I don’t commit to doing something different, nothing will change.”

Gene got a big smile and remembered when he had made this same decision. He was encouraged about John’s future and excited to be a part of it. “Remember when you called me a few weeks back and how frustrated you were? And then in the next call we discussed the possibilities for your future? Think on these things and your why as you study the pages from today. When we get together next week, I want to hear about your why and we’ll go deeper into the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system.

“As you go through them write down any questions you have, and we’ll discuss them next week.”

(or send them to me in the comments below)