Your carpenters are on site, ready to put up some pine trim. But the customer, red-faced, says he is certain that he requested stain-grade oak. Meanwhile, you are paying the carpenters an hourly wage for standing around. Now what? Change orders like this are distressing, but common. Can this sort of conflict be avoided?

This is just one example of a small detail that can become a big, ugly problem if all of your communication blueprints are not smoothly in place before you start a job. In the construction business, there are several vital principals you should practice that pave the way to positive results for both your company and your customer.

Document Communication

Two-way communication throughout the whole building process cannot be stressed enough. From your initial bid on, cover details. You know the questions to ask that your customer may not think to consider. After you learn what your customer's preferences are, take the time to write them down in detail so that the completed bid reflects a project that closely resembles the image in your customer's mind.

One of the most important aspects of construction communication comes in the form of change orders; every project has at least a few. For the protection and well-being of both you and your customer, every proposed change to the project should be agreed upon, detailed, price estimated, printed then signed by both parties immediately.

Although this is inconvenient, investing time to document that you and your customer are both on the same page will save you a great deal of headaches, and often money, in the long run. A convenient way to manage frequent change orders would be to purchase a laptop computer and portable, battery-operated mini-printer that can be stored in your truck when you are on site. Your customers will be impressed with your thoroughness.

Think Like Your Customer

Shipping errors, bad weather and sub-contractor schedule glitches happen. At times, owners may believe that everything is wrong with their project. Because the construction process is new to them, many may assume that others' projects always tick along smoothly.

If the owner and the contractor are both mutually respectful, troubles can be worked out successfully. Fill in your customer regularly; be up front when things go wrong. Customers are often not involved in the day-to-day workings and so, often feel they are in the dark. Be ready with solution options, too, when presenting problems; an owner may be grateful for your resourcefulness. And relax. Explain to the owner that glitches are always a part of the building process. But keep in mind that your calm, confident demeanor will tell your customer far more than your words.

Every wise contractor realizes the business name is on the line with each job; a bad experience with an owner can damage your reputation while a good experience will increase future business opportunities.

Enlist Quality Labor

When a contractor submits a bid on a construction project, it is implied that the contractor will furnish the tools, materials and labor documented in the bid and that the quality of the workmanship will be equal to or greater than current industry standards.

What isn't stated is that not everyone will go about meeting those standards the same way; a construction crew is made up of people with varying degrees of raw talent and developed skill. Skill level aside, not everyone will tackle a job the same way you do. Are you comfortable with a carpenter who uses an unusual, but suitable, framing technique?

Consider carefully who you ask to be a part of your company. How does each craftsman feel about workmanship? What can they bring to your team? An experienced subcontractor will have greater skill dealing with issues and decision making, whatever the weather. Newcomers to the construction business can be teachable and, let's face it, less expensive. Consider employing a healthy mix of both.


The owner wants the job done as quickly and as well as possible, under budget. You want to use the tools of your trade to create a building and a profit. Meet in the middle; step out of your contractor shoes now and then to see the project from your customer's perspective and communicate on that level. When you make your customer happy, you reap the rewards.

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