Contractors Screen Their Clients, Too

From on May 19, 2009 in Tools and Tips

clienthandshake.jpg

Finding the right match and filtering through the “bad apples.” Is this the homeowner’s job, or the contractor’s? Actually, it’s both, even though contractors get the bad rap most of the time. But a positive relationship has to work both ways. And believe it or not, contractors are screening you, too, even, and perhaps especially, in this economy, where every job counts.

I spoke with Bob Banaugh, Owner of Fischer Banaugh, to get the scoop from the contractor’s perspective. Bob likes to have a good gut feeling about his clients and pays attention to the little things during their initial meeting. He keeps in mind the following questions:

  • Are the clients on time for the meeting?
  • Do they treat me politely and respectfully?
  • Do they listen to me and not constantly interrupt?
  • Do I feel comfortable after the meeting, especially enough to feel that I could talk with them reasonably and realistically enough to deal with the problems and difficult situations that I know may arise?

The answers to these questions help indicate the way a client will treat the relationship in the future. “Neither of us is going to be happy if we do not feel good and comfortable with each other before the job starts,” Bob says. “We like to feel comfortable and appreciated with our work situation. We do watch out for potential personality conflicts. We want our clients to feel good about us being in their home and trust us. Every job involves an element of trust and we try to see that it works both ways.

While a big part of Fischer Banaugh’s decision to select a job comes from the initial client meeting, other factors come into play, like the scope of work and whether or not it is a project that the company would enjoy doing, given other choices available.

“Given our abilities and strengths,” Bob says. “We want to do a high quality job and still make money. Given the current economy, this is a different work climate than we have faced before. We do expect to have to make adjustments in how we do business. We all have bills to pay.”

Honesty and professionalism are important elements throughout the process, even if the contractor must ultimately turn down the job. “We try to be as honest and straightforward as we can. Sometimes we will tell them right after the initial meeting. Sometimes we ask to get back to them so we can discuss it before we decide. It depends on what we feel will be the best way to handle it.”

At that point, Fischer Banaugh may refer the homeowners to other contractors, discussing reasons for the denial in the most diplomatic way possible. The results of this conversation can be unpredictable.

“Interestingly, sometimes we have taken the job after having told the client that maybe we are not right for them. The discussion becomes real honest and the tone of the meeting changes when you turn down a job and the client wonders why. This is not a strategy, but it can happen.”

Bob Banaugh believes that being selective in the work he chooses has contributed to the company’s success. “Everyone needs to make their job selection based upon what is best for them. We have found that selecting the right jobs makes our quality of life a lot better. Selecting the right job allows us to enjoy our work more and earns us a positive referral from our client. We are not stuck doing a job that we wished we would not have taken. We then have the opportunity to go after the right job for us. Being happy in your work, getting positive referrals and peace of mind, that can only help lead to a more successful business.