The most important thing you will ever build – Relationships!
Pool Design article by Rick Chafey, SWD Master
Your success is directly related to the quality of the relationships you will build; not the just the culmination of your work product. Quality relationships, and how you nurture them, will have the greatest impact on your success in life and in business. In the world of large or complex construction projects, quality relationships could not be more important. It is impossible to complete a construction project successfully without making the relationship the most important priority, even well before the project begins. Independent of the level of quality provided in the end product and the service provided, the only way for a project to be successful is for the parties involved to have a good working relationship. My relationship with my family, friends and past clients, is our referral network. My relationship with my suppliers makes sure they are committed to working extra hard for us (maybe harder than they do for others). My relationship with my sub-contractors makes sure they meet their commitments, show up on time, and look out for our best interest. My relationship with my client makes sure that when the inevitable problems arise, we are able to work through it professionally.
The most important step to creating a good relationship is to choose wisely. Choosing the right subcontractors and suppliers is commonsense. What most builders/designers forget is they also need to choose the right clients. It is maybe the hardest thing in business to do ---- pass on a project. It might be the biggest, coolest, most elaborate project you have ever been asked to be a part of, but if the client is not a match, RUN. It is easier to say, than do, for sure. However, it is the key to success. We have all done it, I know I have met with a client on a great project and walked away feeling like there was something not right with the client/meeting. Even though it might be the perfect project for what we might do, or the nicest project we have ever been offered. You must first make sure you can work with the client. We have played out both scenarios, multiple times (slow learners I guess) and when we have gone against our gut feelings, we have failed. Not miserably mind you, we have gotten through it, but not unscathed. It builds character for sure, but it does not build a business, and it surely does not build the reputation you are seeking. Worst yet, it takes way more effort to manage the relationship than it should and now you have taken your eye off the ball.
Why is that relationship so important? One has to remember that in the world of construction, no matter how large or small a project is, it is a one-off custom creation. Although we might have used the same or similar materials and built projects of the same or similar scopes, we are creating that project on a new site. Access will be different, grades will be different, soils will be different, weather will be different, expectations will surely be different, and workers/trades might be different. Additionally this is not a point of sale transaction that consummates in mere minutes. It will last months to years depending on the project. If one does not make sure to focus on “building” the relationship side of the project first, you are destined to failure at some level. In construction, one thing is for sure, something will go wrong. Crews won’t show up, product deliveries will get delayed, a worker might get injured, it might start to rain and seem like it will never end. In order to be able to handle these hurdles, one better have a good working relationship with the client. When the relationship works, all the pitfalls and hurdles can be navigated.
Relationships require effort and rely on charisma and chemistry. Not everyone gets along, and not everyone can work together. For our company, we have a real advantage over many other organizations. We have co-ownership. My partner and I get along great, in my opinion, because we are polar opposites in many ways. We have the same goals and aspirations, but completely different tactics in obtaining those goals. We usually meet new clients together, and have a knack for knowing our role in the relationship immediately. Sometimes I am the driver, other times I just need to keep my mouth shut and follow his lead. More often than not, we divide and conquer because the couple has the same opposing dynamics. Once in a while though we determine that neither of us is a fit, and respectfully pass on the opportunity.
Communication is the single most important factor on any relationship. Even when the worst has happened, the first thing to do is reach out and inform. As before, I will compare to a marriage. Any marriage counselor will tell you that the reason most marriages fail is lack of communication. Guess what, same holds true here. When something goes wrong, jump out in front and keep the client informed. They will learn to trust you and know you are out in front of the problems. You never want to get the phone call from a client letting you know something has went wrong. As long as you let them know and offer solutions, you will be golden. If you have created a good relationship, you will be able to overcome all odds.
Make sure building and maintaining the relationship trumps building the pool or structure etc. The photos of your work might garner you some new projects if they get seen, but when your clients cannot stop boasting about how great it was to work with you, you will be able to name your price and take projects to the next level!!!!!
Rick Chafey, SWD Master
Red Rock Pools & Spas
P.O. Box 1270
Gilbert, AZ 85299
T (480) 539-0111
F (480) 632-7594