Walking a Tightrope Between Clients and Subcontractors
One of the things that no one ever tells you when you become an interior designer is how often you’ll have to be a referee! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to blow a whistle and call TIME OUT on a project. And it’s particularly bad when you’re caught between your clients and the contractor or subcontractors. I know you’ve been there, too!
So how in the world are you supposed to be creative, run your business, AND walk that tightrope between the the client and everyone else on a job? I’ve got a few tips for you:
Who’s The Boss?
We all know the contractor thinks he’s the boss, and you know you WANT to be the boss, but the person who ultimately pays the piper IS the boss, and that’s your client.
Except that isn’t entirely true… You know and I know that the client can change her mind, forget what you agreed on, tell two people two different things, etc. etc. Hey, your client is only human!! And guess what? That’s not their job! You need to be the person who keeps the project organized and on track. Be the one who stays organized and on top of the project details and you will not only be the boss, you’ll be the HERO!
Communication Is the Key
The smartest way to do stay on top of things is to communicate with everyone, and often. You need to be sure that everyone involved in the project understands what is expected in each room and for each detail. I love to use project binders to keep everyone on the same page. Quick Reference Guides also help me to keep everything on track with both contractors and trades as well as clients!
Keeping everyone (especially the client) updated via email with bullet pointed helps keep everyone on the same page. The emails also allow me to manage the client’s expectations so they don’t think it only should take an hour or two for major tile installations, for example.
At the same time, I like to communicate A LOT with the contractor and any subs to be sure we’re on time and on budget. Nothing is worse than surprises that sneak into the project- and budget! Keep a record of all of your conversations and meetings, and follow up with an email every single time you’ve made an agreement. You’ll thank me later:)
It’s good to put consistent and concise emails and phone calls onto your calendar so you don’t forget. But avoid texting!! It’s better to have a record of what you’ve agreed to with anyone, and you can only have that through an email.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
The best thing you can do on ANY project is to be completely honest with your client – especially when it comes to the project timeline and budget. No one likes to deliver bad news, but the client deserves to know that something has gone wrong, even if it’s the contractor’s fault and he doesn’t want to ‘fess up! I have had this happen and it’s NO FUN, but the client deserves to know.
A big no, no in my book is to NEVER play the blame game. If you are responsible for something that’s gone wrong, be sure to own up. And if you didn’t make the mistake or cause the bump in the road, be sure you help make it right. I don’t mean you have to pay for someone else’s blunder, but you can help guide the client to a resolution with the contractor or sub.
To keep your team on the same page, download my Team Notes template. It will help you keep your balance on that tightrope!