Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Power of Listening

In any relationship communication is key. When it comes to communicating with your contractor, it is very important to convey all your priorities, concerns, and preferences in the first stages of the relationship. Make sure you ask questions. Ask again if you don’t understand. And—this is the most important part—make sure your contractor is listening.

A good contractor is like a good clergyman. If he knows your specific concerns and hopes, he will spend more time and effort to make sure he doesn’t drop the ball on things that are most important to you. When I talk to my clients I try to understand the underlying reasons for their priorities. This can only come with true listening.

When you talk with your contractors, notice whether they take the time to explain everything. Did they explain it a second or third time around if needed? In a follow-up conversation, did they address your concerns or did you have to constantly remind them? Are they making sure your project is truly on budget, even if it costs them the job? Are they explaining all the variables, as well as the benefits, or just telling you what you want to hear?

Better communication brings knowledge for both sides. It is then easier to plan a strategy (even a backup plan) that will lead to a satisfactory execution.

Good contractors understand all the variables within the bigger picture, including ever-changing regulations, underlying politics of engineers, architects, or building & safety issues. I have had clients get upset because I did not agree to what they assumed was a reasonable budget or schedule. Many times this has led to me turning away projects that were based on unreasonable expectations.

When I truly listen to my clients I can see the bigger picture. For example, one client asked me to build a guesthouse in her back yard. She had a beautiful garden and, from our talks, I realized that the garden was very important to her. I knew that no matter how nice of a guesthouse I built, if it ruined her plants she would be left with a bad memory of whole experience. Protecting her garden required some careful planning and extra attention during construction. Some plants we could not save, but I was careful to communicate everything to her to make sure her expectations were realistic. Eventually we managed to save most of the garden and she was very happy.

By listening to my clients from the beginning, I make sure they are delighted with all aspects the final product. To see more, visit my project gallery .

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