I’m told that in corporate offices, everything is written down. Notes are taken at meetings, dozens of people are cc’d on every email, and memos go out to recap decisions made. It is a paper trail or CYA (cover you’re a**). Nobody wants to be the one accused of making an unauthorized decision or of taking the wrong action. So everything is put in writing and distributed to the world, so they can’t get in trouble with their bosses.
While I’m not advocating that level of paranoia in our businesses, we have to be sure to document everything. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I’ve seen way too many contractors and other trades rely on their memories during a walkthrough and either they make a mistake in the final execution, or the client insists that they didn’t approve the design change or alternation that the contractor made. Without written notes from the meeting or revised plans from the architect, all the contractor has to rely on is his word against the client’s, and guess who’s going to win that one every time?
My best advice is to make sure you take accurate notes and write everything down. Here is a list of the five most beneficial practices I have incorporated into our day-to-day operations.
1) Follow Calls with Emails
Every phone call with a client is followed up with an email detailing decisions or changes discussed during the call. It can be a quick bullet-pointed list; it just needs to capture the decision made
2) Take Meeting Notes
All site meetings should be followed up with meeting notes, listing who attended, what decisions were made, what changes will be incorporated and who has “action items” (things individuals need to follow-up on)
3) Don’t Text with Clients
When your phone gets replaced, you lose all of your texts. Texts aren’t easily searchable to find the point in the discussion you are looking for. Whenever a client texts anyone in our company, they reply back via email with the client’s text pasted into the body of the email and are inform them that our company policy is to keep the conversation on email, not text.
4) Keep the General Contractor, Architect, and Designer in the Loop
Did the client decide to add speakers to the master bathroom? Make sure you cc all three partners in your confirmation reply to the client so they know what is going on. You don’t want to leave them in the dark. If the speaker wire gets damaged or sheet-rocked over, they can say they didn’t know it was supposed to be there, since they were never told, and it wasn’t reflected in the architects plans
5) Keep Proposals Up to Date
Every time something is added or removed from a project, issue a revised proposal. I have some proposals that are on Version 100 because so many small changes are made. This way the client is never surprised by a change in the price of the project. Also, find out who is in charge of the budget from the contractor’s side and keep them in the loop. It could the GC, the architect, the designer or a combination
I know it sounds a little paranoid to always be covering yourself like this, but all it takes is one situation where you don’t have the written proof of a decision, and it can cost you thousands of dollars. Trust is a huge part of what we do. Our clients trust us to provide them with the best home entertainment and automation experience for their budget. But we also need to protect ourselves from human nature—people forget. Our ancestors invented the written word more than 5,000 years ago to keep a record of what happened in their lives, so use it to keep a record of what happens in your business and make your life a little easier.