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A recent note:Job Delays

“How do I explain to people that they are repeatedly preventing the job from being completed? Some people hired me to work with them to remodel a mobile home. I gutted the place and they took some of the specialty jobs on themselves and bartered (traded work) with a plumber and electrician to do plumbing and electrical upgrades. This dragged the job out for several months and after holding their hand for 7 months I told them that I have to quit because they are keeping me from completing the job. This whole thing cost me an enormous amount of my time and loss of income. Nobody, even my wife, seems to understand this.”

Part of our response:

“The answer is to avoid projects like this. If you decide to work with them, you have to write a contract that specifies dates they have to be completed with their part of the project, with penalties if they don’t meet those dates. It’s a learning process, and you learned a tough one here. I hope you were paid for the work you did complete.”

Let me expand on this just a bit. If you are going to take on jobs where the client wants to do any of the work, and I do mean any of the work, you must have language in your contract that tells them loud and clear when their portion of the work must be complete. That doesn’t mean when it needs to be started or in progress, it means COMPLETE and to your construction standards.

If their work is not done by the stated completion date, you will bring in your specialty contractors or employees to do the work, and the customer will pay your cost plus your markup. You can list your actual markup, or just choose an arbitrary number, but I’d add a markup of at least 1.5 to the cost.

Let them know you won’t accept any excuses: their work gets done on time or you will step in and get it done to keep the job on schedule.

Now that also applies whether the client wants to do the work themselves, or is bringing in their own family member, friend, or subcontractor to do the work. It doesn’t matter who will be doing that work; they have to meet the deadline or you’ll step in and charge them for it.

Another alternative is to write a contract for the work you’ll do up to what they’ll do. Write a contract for all demolition and framing. You perform your part of the job and get paid in full. Then they do the electrical and plumbing, or whatever they plan to do themselves, and when they are ready they can call you to finish it. If you’re available, do the job. If you aren’t, they’ll have to find another contractor to finish the job. It’s messy, but it’s better than getting strung out for weeks and months with an unfinished project and uncollected funds.

Remember, the reason they are doing the work themselves, or bringing in a friend to do it for them, is to save money. It’s fine to save money, but don’t let their savings cost you time, money, and frustration. That’s not how it works.

This also applies to any materials they may want to supply for their job. They might want to supply their own materials is to save money, but it can cause problems if it’s not handled correctly. We talked about that here.

Make sure you give them a time schedule for when the materials will be on the job site. This means clear language in your contract that specifically states that the materials will be on site and ready for install at least three working days prior to when you need them. You also must state that if the materials are wrong, broken, or unusable for whatever reason, and you have to make a trip to the supply house to return them or get the appropriate materials to keep the job on schedule, the customer will pay for the material, your travel time and your mileage, plus your markup on those costs. Make it clear that you won’t wait until they have time to replace those materials. You could sit and wait for days. The materials are on site and ready to go, or you’ll get them yourself and the client will pay all costs plus markup.

We hear about both of these issues often. If you want to lose money on a job, agree to let your client do part of the job or provide their own materials without setting clear boundaries. Or you can take our advice; there’s no sense in both of us losing money to learn this lesson.

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