Two Strategies for Managing Custom Install Change Orders
10/18/2012 9:01 AM
You’re doing a walk through for a newly built home. It’s a potentially big custom installation job, so the owner has you on a team with the project’s architect, a general contractor, and interior designer. Since it’s new construction, it’s like having a blank pallet where anything can be done.
As you walk through the home together, everyone’s mind is racing with visuals of what they are going to do (including yourself)…neglecting the fact that each person, with each expertise, is going to have completely different visuals that all have to work together.
The homeowners tell you that they want the whole shebang…speakers in every room, big movie room in the basement, an outside entertaining area…the works. It’s a home theater integrator’s dream. You build them a scope of work showing where you are going to put everything then you send it in. Later you hear back that all of the other hands in the pot have different ideas on how the project should be executed. The contractor wants to run his own wires, and the designer thinks the speakers you chose are too big for his space. Now what? How are you supposed to build this stellar movie room with teeny, tiny speakers?
Working on jobs where you aren’t the only contractor can be frustrating at best. It can be very difficult—especially after the work is in progress—to go back and revise certain things based on others’ feedback, especially when they are unfamiliar with the details behind your end of the installation.
You don’t want to keep charging the customer for the revisions, because they trust everyone as a team to get the job done and to do right by them. So how do you keep up with the many revisions without hurting the client or yourself as a business?
I have found two ways to combat the possibility of revisions. One is to try to stay a step ahead. Any new construction is going to undergo many change orders, so when I wire the home I try to run home runs to every speaker. That way, whatever speaker is decided on—or if the dynamics of the room change completely—all necessary wires are already run to each area.
There are, of course, going to be unforeseen changes that I am going to have to charge the customer for, so my second method is to keep the homeowner as knowledgeable as possible on everything going on and where the changes end up affecting the work and the price. I do this by supplying the client with a very meticulous scope of work with the cost for every little thing involved. When revisions are made, I revisit the initial scope of work, highlight the changes, and input the new revisions and what the cost would be.
It is so important to be thorough and clear with the client so that they understand each and every cent that they would be spending that is over the budget they agreed upon. They also need to understand why the revision is being made so that your integrity remains intact and they are left without questions.
You can make a lot of money from big jobs, but after all the ups and downs these projects put you through, you deserve every penny. We have to learn from every job, so that we not only wow our future customers but also create less work for ourselves the next time.