In a previous blog I wrote about how to deal with a client’s hard stop regarding budget when the best solution might cost more. A reader asked the following:
“[Does] anyone have to deal with clients that become frustrated with you, the general contractor, when they exceed their allowances or ‘hard-stop’? How do you handle it?”
What a frustrating situation that is! Similar to being a parent sometimes, right? Now you have to take away what the person wants, because they don’t want to behave responsibly.
How to make this less likely to happen?
Predict the Future
It is inevitable that a client will want more than they originally thought they would. Tell them that before you get started! The talk might sound like this:
“We are getting started on a process that will change the way you look at the world around you. Yes, I know you are solid on what you want to have done. But here is what will happen.
“When you visit the homes of your friends you will look at them differently. Light fixtures, faucets, toilets, tile, paint colors—you will be amazed by what you never saw before.
“The same thing will happen when you travel. Some clients have taken photos of hotel bathrooms to show me what they now want!
“Usually what will attract you are items that will push the total cost beyond your budget. How should we deal with that?”
A Possible Solution
Here’s how I would continue the talk:
“Because you have us working with you as a design/build remodeler, we are responsible for delivering to you a plan and scope of work that fits your budget.
“So when you bring up to us something, whether it is a fitting, a finish or an expansion to the scope of the project, here is what I will ask you: ‘Tell me what about the item excites you. Why would it make the finished project better?’
“Then I will ask you: ‘Have you some idea of how much your budget needs to increase to include this item? Let’s agree upon an amount now, before we proceed any further.’
“If we agree upon the needed increase in the budget, then I will write a note laying out that we did so and our new budget will be the point of reference for success going forward.
What do you think about what I am suggesting?”
The point is to nip the problem in the bud. Anticipate it and address the inevitable with mini-sales. Each time an item comes up that will blow the budget, address the want and then the additional cost.
What I am suggesting is not foolproof, by any means. However, by laying out what you know from your experience you increase the client’s confidence in you and your team.
If that does not happen then free up their future quickly, as the entire experience of working with them will not be worth it in the long run. Don’t find this out the hard way, like I had to.