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.

Doing a Proposal for Doing a Proposal System is Out of My Comfort Zone

But “Comfort Zone” is Just an Excuse to Not Fulfill My Purpose

There have been a few times when I stepped outside my comfort zone and the results were not what I’d hoped for. On the other hand, there have been times when I stepped out and the results were better than expected.

So, if this is the case why is it that I push back at taking chances? The comfort zone is called that precisely because that’s what it is…comfort-able.

The problem is we won’t ever achieve our purpose in life if we stay comfortable.

Living the life God wants us to live requires getting uncomfortable once and while.

There are a lot of boundaries we put up to keep ourselves from going out into the big scary world of the unknown. It’s not that these walls are bad things. They may even be good things.

I know that, in an effort to be sure that I’m prepared before I go out there, I’ve done things like trainings, classes, courses, etc. You know, to be sure that I know what I’m doing. Ray Edwards refers to this as “educrastination”. These are not bad things; we just need to be careful to not let them trap us in our comfort zone.

There’re also tool barricades. I tell myself that this new tool, gadget, program, system or process, will make me better prepared to confront the big scary unknown outside of this place of comfort.

Here’s what I do know. If I don’t go out there and do that thing that I’m scared of, I’ll never accomplish the thing that God wants me to.

Okay, okay, I’ll do it.

I’ll start working on a proposal for making a proposal system for VB Homes.

Last week I wrote that I was rethinking how my proposal system could be more helpful to contractors. I know of a couple of local contractors who got my proposal system and then didn’t use it. Why not…

I developed a system that works so well at efficiently preparing consistently accurate proposals.

Why wouldn’t every contractor want to use it?

Back to last week’s post.

After being connected with Chris Ettel of VB Homes by a mutual friend. Chris and I met a few times discussing my proposal system and I began to see that there might be some things in my system that could be changed to work better in their business.

I realized…not every contractor is the same.

At our last meeting we discussed the possibility of me designing and developing a modified version of my system that would work for them and their specific needs. He was very receptive to this idea…

Now comes the big scary, outside of my comfort zone thing.

Just like when I started doing construction, I didn’t know how to do proposals, this is the same thing. I made it through that scary thing I can make it through this one.

Here I go stepping out of my comfort zone.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

As a Construction Company It’s Hard to Make a Profit

We Work Too Hard in the Construction Industry to be Giving Away Money

Just like there’s a proper way to do construction projects…the same is true for proposals.

You don’t shingle the roof before you pour the foundation or start hanging sheetrock on a wall that hasn’t been framed.

There’s a proper way to construct a building. Doing proposals is the same. Having a system for doing proposals makes this possible.

Pricing of any construction project uses the same information to arrive at a dollar amount…material and time needed to do the work. Where problems arise is in overlooking or forgetting something, guessing at how long it will take, or unclear communication.

The key to unlocking the profit vault is having a system that prevents overlooking, guessing and poor communication.

Proposals should be done, so that you –

  • Avoid miscommunication
  • Have happy satisfied customers
  • Have budgets for customers
  • Provide scope of work to production crews
  • Have budgets for production crews
  • Take responsibly as the professional
  • Have a more profitable business

This is accomplished through five simple steps. These five steps are –

1st – Gathering information – Gathering the right information correctly and effectively is critical to preparing an accurate and thorough proposal. The initial gathering should include:

  • 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 in this step is to gather any and all information needed to prepare an accurate proposal. Using the system’s Bid Sheet minimizes the chance of overlooking things because the different areas of a construction project are already listed out.

2nd – Preparing a scope of work – This is the process of taking the information that was gathered and describing 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. This written description will be transferred to the Proposal and serve as a written description of work to be performed and materials to be provided.

3rd – Pricing the project – This process is the copying and pasting of pertinent information from the Data Base to the appropriate cells of a blank Worksheet.

4th – Quantities – Fill in the quantities of the work on each line item included in the project. This may be lineal feet, square feet, square yards, cubic feet, cubic yards, numbers of pieces, etc. Now you have prices for each of the different tasks to be performed.

5th – Preparing the proposal – Now you have everything needed to complete the Proposal. Take the descriptions from the Bid Sheet and the prices from the Worksheet and put them together on the Proposal. After filling out some job specific details the proposal is ready for the customer.

Proposals done well, above everything else, is the one thing that will contribute to you having a profitable business!

The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system provides clear and accurate proposals…every time.

You can get the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal and have proposal system that will do all this and more. This system is currently at a reduced Holiday price of $497 plus it currently includes some bonus templates.

If you would like to learn more about how proposal mistakes cost construction companies a fortune, check out this free download.  

Can You Imagine What It Would be Like to Build a House Without Power Tools?

So, why is it That Most Construction Contractors Will Do Proposals Like That?

Think about building a house by sawing every board and sheet of plywood with a handsaw. Mixing the concrete all by hand. And driving every nail with a hammer.

This sounds like a long drawn out, difficult method for building.

This is how most construction contractors do proposals.

The same way they’ve been done for 100 years. It’s like building with hand tools but it doesn’t have to be like this.

There’s a power tool for doing proposals.

When doing proposals, the old “hand tool” way the contractor will do them the same way grandpa would have.

If they are a particular person, they will determine the size and quantities of the material needed. This will include –

  • The cubic yards of dirt that needs moved
  • Cubic yards of concrete
  • Boards needed for framing of floor, walls, roof
  • Siding, exterior trim, exterior paint
  • Shingles, roofing underlayment, flashings
  • Insulation for floor, walls, attic
  • Doors and windows
  • Base, casing, stairways, misc. trim
  • Cabinetry, countertops, closets
  • Interior paint, stain, clear finish, wallpaper
  • Carpet, vinyl, tile, etc.
  • Plumbing pipe, fixtures
  • Heater, AC condenser, ductwork, registers
  • Electrical wiring, fixtures, receptacles, switches, breaker panels
  • Porches, decks, railings

Once these things have been figured and counted, they will get prices for each of them to determine the cost. Then they will guess at how long it will take to do the work and put a price to it.

Less detailed contractors just guess at the whole thing.

Building a house takes a lot of pieces. The same number of pieces…regardless of how you figure the price.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a power tool that would allow you to consistently determine the price whether you are a detailed person or not?

The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal is a “power tool” for doing proposals.

This power tool provides:

  • A scope of work that communicates clearly with customers and production crews
  • A budget providing production crews with a clear understanding of time allowed and material costs
  • A system that allows for delegating portions or the complete proposal process

To get this “power tool” in more contractor’s business toolboxes, we’re offering a Holiday Special beginning Black Friday through the end of the year. This special includes a reduced price for the proposal system plus free bonus templates.

In addition to the reduced price for proposal system there’s going to be a contractor drawing for a…

DeWalt cordless tool kit

Check next week’s post (11/28/21) for details of how to get entered in the power tool drawing.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about how this power tool can help avoid the 7 common bid mistakes contractors make that cost them a fortune.

Click here.

The Why Question is the Most Important One That Gets Asked the Least

WHY is That… and What Do We Do About it?

As I’m working on the workshop for Building a Better Proposal system, I was contemplating WHY questions.

Why –

  • Should construction contractors do proposals?
  • Don’t they?
  • Does a customer want to do a construction project?
  • Do we do the same things over and over expecting different results?
  • Do people in horror movies repeat the same bad decisions?

Small children constantly ask the why question, over and over and over…? You know what I mean. This is how they learn. Why do we outgrow this sense of curiosity and stop asking the WHY questions?

The answer to all questions starts with WHY.

  • Why should construction contractors do proposals?

This question is the one that baffles me as much as any. How can contractors expect customers or production crews to know what work is going to be done and what it’s going to cost without some clear communication? I don’t think you would buy a truck without knowing what you were getting. I know I would be disappointed if I ordered a new $70,000 truck and when I got it, it was a 1999 ½ ton pickup missing a wheel and the driver’s door.

  • Why don’t contractors do proposals?

The most common answer to this question is that they simply don’t know how. This is something that just isn’t taught. Most contractors start out doing construction, not paperwork. They figure out some guesstimation process and then wonder why customers are upset when they get a bill that is higher than they expected for less work.

  • Why does this customer want to do this construction project?

This should be the primary question that a contractor gets the answer to. It is more important than what. The “what” answer has a “why” answer behind it. The why question doesn’t have to be asked directly, but regardless, needs to be answered. The why is the foundation for the customer’s dream. A foundation is critical to building construction projects and dreams.

  • Why do we do the same things over and over expecting different results?

We all do this to some degree. Why? Why do we continue to repeat things thinking it will be different this time? We shouldn’t do things just because… “we’ve always done it this way”. The more we walk back and forth in a rut the deeper it gets and the harder it is to get out. I heard it said once that a rut is just a grave with both ends kicked out. Stop walking and determine if this what you want and if it’s the best plan. If not do something different.

  • Why do people in horror movies repeat the same bad decisions?

This question is a fun example of the previous one. If you’ve ever watched any horror movie you’ve seen this. The teenagers are in a dark scary place and instead of getting out they continue to hide in a basement, an attic, a cemetery, etc. The GIECO “horror movie” commercial is a great example of this.

It’s up to us to decide, are we going to do something different or stay in the rut?

These are just a few questions about construction proposals and…horror movies. 😊 We should be asking the WHY question about everything. This is the most important question there is.

We have the choice. We can just keep doing things the same way…or we can stop and ask why. Why are we doing this? Whatever “this” is. Until we answer the why question all other questions are harder to answer.

Be like a child and ask, why…why…why…why… and never stop.

Dollars and Cents Are What Make a Construction Project Profitable…or NOT

Having a System for Proposals, Is Better Than Just Guessing

It’s week six of learning the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system. As time consuming as learning new things is…John is beginning to see the benefits this proposal system will provide.

Just like building a house using a system that repeats routine actions prevents time being spent rethinking and guessing at how to do things. This system will do the same thing when preparing proposals.

As they settle in and begin the meeting, Gene tells John, “Let’s take a quick look back at what we’ve covered so far. We started by asking ourselves some foundational questions. Next, we discussed the common mistakes contractors make when bidding. Then we went over the system and it’s parts. The last couple of weeks we’ve worked on gathering information and turning that info into a Scope of Work. Today we’re going to start working on…

Pricing the Project

In this step we will determine the price for the project. Communicating a clear description of the project took place in the Scope of Work which is important in avoiding misunderstandings. Accurate pricing is equally as important.

Poor communication will cause heartache, poor pricing will cost you money.

Open the Worksheet template. This blank Worksheet is where you will paste the information from the Data Base as it relates to each of the specific tasks of the project.

The Worksheet template has six different options for overhead and profit ranging from 20% overhead and 10% profit to 40% overhead and 20% profit. You can use whichever of the six options works best for you on the specific project you’re working on.

Typically, larger projects, i.e. new construction, large renovations, remodels or large additions will use smaller percentages, while small projects will use bigger ones. You can use whichever works best for you. These percentages can be adjusted after you have finished the pricing if you want them to be increased or decreased. These documents can be modified with custom percentages as well.

Open the Data Base and prepare to copy the appropriate content into the correlating cells of the Worksheet of the project you are working on. Use the previously written Scope of Work, to determine which of the categories, specific to the project need to be used from the Data Base and copied to the Worksheet.

If more than one item for a specific task is needed, for example shingles, synthetic underlayment and metal edging, flashings. These individual items will be entered separately then added together to create one price for roofing.

You can add as many additional rows as you need, just be careful to keep the formulas intact by filling the content of the existing row to the new ones.

How to determine which tasks should be inserted into the Worksheet

Most of the tasks on the Data Base have options; determining which to use, will depend on the specifics of the project. For example, how is the excavation, trenching and landscaping going to be done…with a skid loader, mini excavator or by hand?

Once it’s determined which methods, actions or materials are to be used for a specific project, copy the pertinent cells from the Data Base and paste them to the Worksheet.

After the pertinent information from the Data Base has been placed on the Worksheet it’s time to…

Enter the quantities of the work to be done.

Fill in the quantity needed to do the work for each item on the Worksheet. This may be lineal feet, square feet, square yards, cubic feet, cubic yards or numbers of pieces. Once this is completed for all the categories, you’ll have prices for each task of the Proposal.

This system offers a constant repeatable process for preparing accurate proposals and is the difference between making money or losing money on construction projects.”

Gene looks at John and asks, “Well, what do you think?”

“Well, I thought my head was spinning before today. Now I’m getting dizzy.”, replied John with a grin.

“I know it seems like a lot, but it really isn’t, once you get started using it.” Says Gene reassuringly. “Experiment with it this week. Call if you have any questions. Next week we’ll bring everything you’ve learned together into a proposal ready to be presented to the customer.”

Guessing is not a good way to build a profitable business.

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

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

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

This is the First Step in Building a Better Proposal

Even though John was still overwhelmed and his schedule was packed, he knew the only way to ever get control was to keep his upcoming appointment with Gene.

John had spent a lot of time this past week considering the questions Gene had asked at the first meeting.

Why do you do what you do?

Do you love what you do?

Why do we need to do proposals?

As John was driving to the office of XYZ Construction these questions were still banging around in his head with a wide variety of answers and no real clarity.

Going in John smelled something amazing. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. Gene was providing lunch this week and the smell made his hunger apparent.

In the conference room Gene was stirring some chili. “Lunch is ready. Grab a bowl and let’s get started.”

As they sat down Gene asked, “Did you come up with answers to the questions?”

John sat there for a minute and said, “I’ve come up with way too many answers. About the time I think I have it figured out; another answer shows up.”

Gene grinned, “That sounds about right.

The important thing is not having every answer to every question, but rather to continually be asking the questions and actively looking for the answers.

I still ask and answer questions every day.”

“A good way to find WHY answers is to figure out things that work and things that don’t. Let’s start with a WHAT question. Gene handed John some papers and said,

“What are the common bid mistakes made by contractors and how can you avoid them?”

#1 Your customers lack clarity – You remember the story I told you last week about that misunderstanding I had with a customer? This is a perfect example of how the lack of customer clarity is a problem. You need to provide a clear detailed description of the work and the materials that you are going to provide. A clear scope of work helps avoid customer confusion. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will provide you a system for giving clarity to your customer.

#2 Production crews lack clarity – The scope of work not only provides customers with clarity, but it also gives the production crews a clear understanding the work to be done. This prevents subcontractors/employees from doing more or less than the project includes. Too much work done means cost overruns. Too little and the customer is unhappy. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will give the production crews a clear description of the work to be done.

#3 No production budget – When the production crews don’t know what dollar amounts have been figured to do the project, they often spend more than expected. These cost overruns mean less profit.

If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

Let your production crews know how many pennies they have to spend. This will lead to more dollars of profit. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will provide you with budget numbers automatically.

#4 Unsatisfied customers – Discontented customers are the worst. Not only can they be a drain on company morale, they can become serious problems that can cost you money and hurt your reputation. They’re paying you to have their dream turned into reality. When they don’t have an accurate dollar amount before the work is done, they will not be happy when it’s finished and costs more than they expected. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal gives the customer a clear expectation of cost before the work starts so that when it’s done for that price, they will be happy.

#5 Unprofitable projects – One of the biggest problems in construction is Guesstimates. Guessing at the amount of time and material it’s going to take to do a project is a big risk. Different size projects require different overhead and profit margins. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal provides predetermined options of overhead and profit when preparing a proposal. Proposals done this way can increase the profitability of your projects.

#6 Trying to do everything yourself – Most small construction companies only have a few people working. The focus is on the physical construction and doesn’t leave time for doing accurate detailed proposals. Most contractors don’t like paperwork. This leads to hasty, inadequate and oversimplified proposals. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal is a system that allows you to focus on doing construction while office staff does paperwork.

#7 Your bidding system isn’t customizable – Most construction projects consist of a variety of different areas of construction. You need a system that can include all or one. Because markets and geographic locations are so different, you need a system that you can adjust to your specific requirements and rates wherever you are. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal allows you to be able to customize proposals in these ways and more.

Gene could see that John’s eyes were glazing over. “I know this was a lot to take in and doesn’t feel like we’re getting any closer to actually doing proposals, but I assure you…

Getting clear on these mistakes will give you a head start to providing better proposals.

And next week we’ll start working on the first step to Building a Better Proposal.

Previous post in this series:

What is Construction Clarity and How Do You Find It?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

What is it About Proposals That Construction Companies Don’t Like?

That’s Okay…I Think They Want to Know Too

Last week I wrote about making construction proposals better. I shared some of the problems caused when communication with customers isn’t clear. As a business owner you are the professional and it’s your responsibility to provide clear communication.

A professional is one who is engaged in or suitable for a specific profession; is engaged in a given activity as a source of livelihood or career; having or showing great skill, an expert.

If you’re in the business of construction and aren’t providing your customers with a clear description of the work you are going to do, including an accurate and set price, then you are operating as an amateur. Someone who engages in an occupation on an unpaid basis; someone who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.

A professional takes their occupation more seriously than an amateur.


If a construction company strives to be professional, why would they not provide their customers with a thorough and accurate proposal? I think there are four main reasons for this.

Don’t have enough time – It takes more time to prepare a detailed written proposal than scratching out a few numbers quickly. People in the construction industry are already so busy they struggle to keep up. Having limited time to get the physical work done, it’s hard to spend any preparing proposals. The problem is, without an accurate proposal that communicates clearly, the chances of losing money increases.

Spending the time in the beginning will pay dividends in the end.

Don’t like doing paperwork – I started doing construction because I loved to build, to see something that I built with my own hands. This is how most people in construction feel. They learned the trade and like it. The problem is that no one ever taught them business operations. Doing paperwork doesn’t feel like construction. They don’t get the same rewarding feeling as they do from building something.

Without accurate paperwork building becomes a hobby.

No one ever taught me – It’s hard to know how to do something if you’ve never been shown how. When you learned your trade, you didn’t start out knowing how. You learned it over time with someone showing you or through trial and error. Either way the learning process took time. The important thing to remember is, the more tips and tricks you were shown the quicker you learned. Aren’t you glad that someone taught you the trade?

It’s never to late to learn something new.

This is the way we’ve always done it – The older we get, the less we like change and contractors are among the worst. You’ve figured out something that works, or at least seems to, why change. Just because what you’re currently doing seems to work…it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better. If you hadn’t gone through the process of falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up, you would still be crawling.

Aren’t you glad you tried something different?

What if I told you –  

  • The time you spend doing proposals will provide you peace of mind and more consistent revenue.
  • You don’t have to do paperwork if you hate it.
  • I can teach you how to do proposals just like you learned your trade.
  • Change is the only way you will stop crawling.

Doing proposals before you’re ready feels like trying to run a marathon when all you know is how to crawl.

Communicating clearly through proposals is the act of a professional. If you want to learn how to do professional proposals, check out our Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal.

If you have other reasons that you or someone you know doesn’t do proposals, let us know in the comments below.

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.

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)