Every company in commercial construction has different relationships to manage in order to do their job. Perhaps none is more important than establishing a relationship of trust with everyone they deal with, from clients/developers and their lenders, to professional partners like architects and engineers, to subcontractors in the field from the trenches on out.
As a trusted South Florida Contractor, we’ve been in business since 1980 and have learned a bit about successful business relationships over the years.
Building trust with clients
Clients may be individual companies looking to renovate or expand, from the proverbial mom-and-pops to the major chains. Or they may be real estate developers with a date-specific ROI in mind. Understanding their different motivations is important out of the gate. Critical decisions may be localized with the ‘one-off’ client or have a major impact on a multi-unit national’s need to maintain consistency and repeatability in their processes. The individual companies – whether a retailer, restaurant or professional practice – want to sell more clothing or sporting goods, serve more food or see more clients; a manufacturer may face critical production deadlines; and a real estate developer’s motivation relies upon team success much like the builder’s. A common thread is that we all are working to a tight timeline and budget, and have very specific expectations based on a development model. From the beginning, the oft clichéd “on time and on budget” continues to say it all, or does it? Whose time frame and whose budget is what’s at stake.
The focuses are different, but the underlying need for transparent dealings and delivery as promised is the same.
So it goes without saying that listening to the customer from the first meeting and understanding their goals is key. Sometimes, this can lead to an understanding that the project isn’t viable. Greg DeJohn, GSD Contracting’s President and CEO, relates just such a situation involving a non-profit theatre group:
“Despite successful fundraising and a well-articulated project plan, we felt that this group’s building would come up short no matter how much money was invested in improvements. At the risk of losing the business, we suggested that they approach developers to sell their land and building and start fresh in a different location. They took our advice and never looked back. Yes, we lost a project for ourselves, but we did the right thing for the non-profit and the community.”
A very transparent bidding process and fanatical project management are other ways to build trust with clients. But before we even get to the bidding stage, we choose our projects carefully. We know where we fit best; chasing every project up for bid isn’t our style. And once we sign a client, everything we do is focused on building trust toward a long-term relationship. That’s why so much of our company’s growth has come from repeat clients.
Building trust with professional partners
Dealing with architects, designers and engineers is a fact of life in commercial construction. Like in any profession, one encounters various personalities and working styles. Some architects are very hands-on while others deliver approved plans and step back. If you treat all professionals with respect and are able to work well with anyone, you’ll build exceptional rapport for your company.
Building trust with subcontractors in the field
Managing subcontractors is an all-important aspect of the construction business. You can do everything else right, but if your subcontractors don’t give their best, the project can come to a grinding halt. Building a reputation for treating the trades fairly involves clear communication on contracted services, being respectful of one another’s schedules and being diligent about billing and collections to avoid payment delays.
Greg DeJohn summed up GSD Contracting’s underlying philosophy best. “It may seem like just another cliché, but we operate by the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”