Trade Communication: It’s not about you, it’s about them
The No. 1 thing to remember when you communicate to the trades: It’s not about you, it’s about THEM.
So, as the maestro of your design vision, you will have to bend and adjust your communication to work best for whomever you’re talking with whether it’s the contractor or the window treatment workroom.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of a successful project. It’s the secret sauce that helps you get a project done on time, on budget and that results in a finished project that makes your clients happy. While there are a lot of factors that determine a successful project, if you don’t have effective communication there’s ZERO chance of success. Yep, nada. Zilch. No question about it.
Although my goal is to try to always be as efficient and effective as I can be when I communicate, that doesn’t mean I rely on the latest and greatest apps when I communicate with the trades. That’s just not what is comfortable or effective with the trades I work with.
What is effective? Being concise, yet as detailed as possible. I also keep it to the most basic forms of communication.
Communication is teamwork
No matter how good we are, there’s not one of us who can complete a project alone. Just as interior design is a collaboration of many experts, so is communication. It’s not one-sided at all, and while we’re certainly not all communication experts, as the interior designer you must take the communication lead. It is important to know how to work well with others as part of a team. Delegating tasks and communicating effectively with another is part of the deal.
Communication is only effective if it happens
So, as basic as this might sound, the first step in effective communication—you must communicate! It will never be effective if it’s never done. As we juggle multiple projects, priorities and personalities, communication can often fall by the wayside. We always have good intentions, but we’re only human after all.
Nothing wreaks more havoc on a job site than NOT following through!
So, how do I make sure that I don’t miss an important update to my design project team? I calendar my communication responsibilities in my phone and Asana.
When I schedule tasks and checkpoints in, my projects move and flow in near-perfect rhythm. I waltz through my days because I can act promptly and proactively. I prioritize my tasks. When there is a curveball, I manage my time as effectively as possible because I have my tasks and communication responsibilities all documented so I can see what I need to do and how I need to adjust. Nothing gets missed.
Consistent project communication
When I communicate with my design project team, I don’t leave anything to chance. They come to rely on when and how they will hear from me. I try to be consistent in my communication method (communicating with them in the way that’s best for them) and timing. The only way I ensure I’m hitting those communication checkpoints is to schedule them into my calendar.
So, when my window treatment fabricator and installer need one walkthrough and a very detailed PowerPoint plus a phone call or two to discuss the details and answer questions, I schedule those tasks and appointments in my calendar.
But my contractor likes (and needs) several calls each week, emails, images and monthly or bi-monthly walkthroughs. More talk and showing, less writing. What do I do? I schedule that in my calendar.
Write down the action and outcomes of your conversations
I find that even when some people get the first part of communication down—they actually do it and communicate in a way that’s best for their trade partners—they forget a very essential step. They don’t write anything down. No matter what, you MUST document the action and outcomes of your conversations. Every single one.
Again, we’re human. We’re busy. And we certainly tax our brains with too much input. So, it’s nearly impossible to keep everything straight without writing things down. A critical part of communication is to document what was discussed, who is responsible for what and what the next steps are.
Have you ever checked back in on a project, and your trade partner looked at you and said, “I thought you were calling to check on that?”
To avoid this frustrating and project-delaying situation, I use the ROI Team Meeting Notes which you can download for FREE! Once I fill it out, I email it to everyone so we can all see what we agreed to and who will be doing what.
Take the lead and make sure that your trade communication is on track. Communicate to your trade partners in the method that works for them, be consistent and dependable with your updates (schedule your communication tasks into your calendar) and write down the action that is agreed upon with each touchpoint.
Consistent communication + happy trade partners = successful project. Have a fantastic week!