Five habits of successful clients

clientsAs a head contractor, I love working with clients who are always on top of things, who know what they want and how to communicate their requirements and constraints in a clear, well thought out and timely manner. On the other hand, there are the clients who are their own worst enemies. They want a successful project, but they’re lacking some of the organisation they need to keep things moving forward smoothly.

Here are five habits of our most successful clients:

1.) They aren’t embarrassed about the things they don’t know.
Even people who work in the construction industry sometimes don’t have in-depth knowledge of every area of design and construction. People who don’t have industry knowledge need to spend even more time listening and learning. Consultants, builders and local authorities have a lot of important things to teach and to contribute. Their knowledge is valuable and based on a great deal of experience. The best clients are flexible, ask a lot of questions and never have that “its my way or the highway” attitude. They build strong partnerships and they’re always aware that they hired the team for their expertise.

2.) They trust the project team
Experienced clients know that they need to trust their project team so that the chief team members can make good decisions when acting as client representatives. Some clients keep their cards so close the chest that it’s impossible to properly prepare for the risks inherent in the project and it’s difficult to act competently on their behalf. When I am representing a client, I need to understand their reasoning and motives in order to make sound decisions. If there are factors that could affect the project before completion then I need to know about that, too.

3.) They manage their expectations
Good clients have an awareness of risk and understand the design, approval and construction process. Difficult clients lack understanding or have unrealistic expectations, and they may not even realise it. That’s why it’s so important to to start out with a schedule that includes important milestones and progress updates and to run it past the team. Is the schedule reasonable and are all the important events and decision points included? Where might complications occur, and what will happen if they do? Clients who plan ahead and seek feedback will not be thrown off by common problems and they will certainly become aware of ordinary steps in the process of planning and carrying out a building project.

4.) They assemble a good team
Our favourite clients are either experienced enough to have a competent project team already in place, or they ask our advice. Some clients bring pre-assembled teams with fundamental issues, including problems with competence or communication. They think they’ll be able to help someone out while saving money. In reality, this strategy often costs more in the long run. Clients who want to work with an inexperienced teams should be prepared to hire an experienced local  to check the work and give feedback. They may not end up with much in the way of net savings, but they are more likely to end up with a usable design.

5.) They know that construction is win-win, lose-lose game
The core reason that many clients end up having trouble is that they have a win-lose attitude. They think there must always be a winner and a loser, but in a building project, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not the designers against the contractor or the client vs. the project team. Nobody is trying to get the better of anyone. When a project is built on time and on budget and meets the requirements, everybody wins.

The kind of clients who help create successful builds understand their own needs, but they also have an ability to listen and incorporate expert advice into their plans. They start out with clear, realistic goals and a clear, realistic budget. They keep their contractors and consultants informed of any changes in circumstances. They know what to expect and how to handle difficulties because they’ve seek advise. They have high expectations of us and everyone else on their team, and they have equally high standards for themselves. They communicate well, they deliver what they promise and they know what they want.