I was raised in a very religious environment and got to hear more than my fair share of stories from the Bible. Without a doubt, one of my favorites was the story of the Tower of Babel. The Book of Genesis mentions the tower being built on the plain of Shinar, in or around Mesopotamia. The intent of the tower was to break the bonds of earth and allow the people of that region unfettered access to heaven. Evidently some believed salvation was more dependent on the ability to climb steps than it was to lead a virtuous life. When God got wind of this, He concluded that His entrance requirements were a bit higher, no pun intended. He decided to put an end to the building project: "Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." Boy did that ever do the trick … and still does. Finding a common language on today's work site can be a real challenge even when the language being spoken is common to everyone.
There is something about a construction site that brings out the best in miscommunications, misunderstandings and just chaos in general. Now bear in mind that this isn't happening at a time when we are "communications-challenged." Indeed, the vast majority of us walk around with the means to talk with just about anyone we want to regardless of where they are on this planet. When my wife was on a business trip to Japan, she talked daily with my two daughters and me. I enjoyed the photograph of the bamboo forest she toured … sent as she was touring it.
Some think the speed in which information is delivered is a game-changer and facilitates progress. Perhaps, but not always. Nothing is going to happen until a decision is made, and, if I've learned anything, it's that a wealth of information doesn't mean decisions are made any faster (and, for some, it can prolong the process). To that point, over the years I've learned some techniques that have served me well when working with homeowners to make good decisions. Here are some key ideas we should all embrace when working with wood flooring clients:
Write it down. Nothing speaks with authority like the written word. You don't have to worry about the volume or ask for something to be repeated.
Document any work order changes. Anything that changes the amount of time, money and scope of work from the original quote absolutely, positively has to be put down in black and white. No excuses accepted.
What do you not want to see? Hands down, this is the best question you can ask the homeowner. Find out what offends their eye, blows their budget or adds time to the project, and work from there.
Don't make assumptions. As a teacher once told me, "There's an 'ass' in every assumption. Don't let it be you." Do not make other people's decisions for them.
Trust but verify. More than once a contractor or decorator has told me to do something that turned out to be wrong when I asked for the owner to confirm it.
Finish strong. Complete your work in control of the event, not throwing stuff on the truck and fleeing other trades or moving vans. People need to know about drying times, curing times, protection and care and maintenance procedures. Don't tell them about the points; give it to them in writing.
I once gave a talk to a group of general contractors about the final phases of a building project and called it "Frantic Finishes." To a person, they all agreed the propensity for problems, stress and confrontations escalates when a project enters the finishing phase. All the work going on at that point will be the first thing homeowners see when they enter the house, and that first impression better meet their criteria or there'll be hell to pay. This is an opportunity for you and your company to brand your work, bring order and structure to the job site and generate good will and positive PR. To do that, you need to connect a lot of dots, and the best way to do that is fluid communications.
Under the very best of circumstances, a construction site is controlled chaos. If there's any breakdown in communications, it usually has a chain reaction or ripple effect. Other trades and workers that were on time and budget can be thrown off stride, and the band can march into a pile of musical instruments. That may not be a problem in some situations, but when budgets, time and tempers are in short supply, you can bring things to a grinding halt. Just read your Bible and find out.
Also by Michael Purser: