Setting Boundaries

August 25, 2012by David Lupberger0

Setting Boundaries

I regularly talk with remodelers who are working too hard. That’s no surprise. Most of us feel these long hours have created a good foundation for our business to grow on, and now, most remodelers are looking for ways to cut back on these long hours. Along this line, I want to share a formula for a way to eliminate most evening and weekend phone calls and meetings with homeowners you’re working with on their project.

Unless we tell homeowners differently, most of them think we are on call, just like their family physician. This might be okay if you were being compensated the same as a family doctor, but in most cases, we’re not getting paid when we take phone calls at night, or spend a couple of hours at the job site some Saturday. Most of us want to offer the best service possible, so we take these calls, and we meet with homeowners during hours outside of our regularly scheduled work hours. We can stop doing this if we set up the proper ground rules before the job starts.

When a job is getting ready to begin, emphasize that you are going to guide them through their project, one step at a time, and you will always be there when they need you. Make sure they have your pager, cell phone, and home phone number so that they always know they can reach you in an emergency. At this same time, create the “ground rules” for when it is appropriate to call you. I let homeowners know that I have a family, and when I go home at night, I like to spend that time with them. I don’t want to be interrupted at home unless there is an emergency. To maintain good communication with the homeowner once the project starts, I do 2 very specific things:

  1. I put an “on-site notebook” at the job. The on-site notebook is the place where homeowners can let me know what their concerns are on a daily basis. Placed on-site in a central location, it gives homeowners a place to write any comments or questions they have when we’re not there. Every day, when the project manager or lead carpenter arrives the job, they check the on-site notebook to see if there are any concerns or questions from the homeowner. We agree up front to respond to any comments or questions within 24 hours
  2. I set up a weekly homeowner meeting. Once a week, we agree to meet the homeowner on-site to review the progress on the job. This is regularly scheduled meeting, so the homeowner knows that every week we will be meeting them to review progress and go over any unanswered questions. Here is a big tip when you set up these weekly meetings: make these meeting in the morning, before work, not in evening after work. Before work, homeowners are very focused with what they want to review. They don’t have time to waste in the morning, so the meeting seldom goes over 30 minutes or so. If you meet with them in the evening, they are in no rush, and these meetings can be up to 2 hours long, because they will love to talk to you about their project. It might be a great project, but you don’t need to spend your evenings with them.Once we have reviewed the on-site notebook and the weekly homeowner meeting, I let the homeowner know that I don’t want them to call me at night unless there is an emergency. Then I define for them what an emergency is. An emergency is not them feeling uncomfortable about one of their product selections, or paint colors. An emergency usually involves fire, smoke, or water. If there is a true emergency at the project involving one of these, I want to know immediately. The other procedures we have put in place will handle their other concerns. We will deal with these concerns, but we will deal with them during the light of day, not at night when I’m home with my family.

    When I set up these “ground rules” before a job starts, and I tell homeowners how important my family time is, I have never had a homeowner object. When they have a family themselves, they are very understanding and supportive of my position. The most important point in all this is this: these “ground rules” must be agreed to before the project begins. If you begin a project with open access to you at all hours, and later in the job try to take that privilege away, some homeowners will become upset and not agree to your request. They will argue that this “open access” is what they paid for. Set your ground rules before the job begins. You’re not a family physician. You’re a remodeling professional.

by David Lupberger
303 442 3702