“We want to do some of the work ourselves.” Many of us have had a potential client say that. Should you let a client work on the job they’ve hired you and your company to build?
There are several reasons that clients tell you they want to do some of their own work. Almost all boil down to money. They are willing to trade their time to do the work to reduce the big bucks you’ll charge them. Or perhaps they’ve been watching TV and someone built their own room addition or remodeled their kitchen in a day. It looked so easy, obviously anyone can do it. Your client is thinking, “Why not me?”
Some contractors will say, “It’s their job, I can’t stop them from working on it!” There probably is some truth in that. Others will say, “Not in this life, buddy. Been there, done that, have too many t-shirts.”
What do you do when you get this request from a potential client?
A client may have the skills to do a certain part of the job. Perhaps they are a licensed electrician and want to do all the standard and low voltage wiring for their new room addition. They understand blueprints, sticking to a job schedule, keeping the job clean and have all of their own tools. You start the job and when it is their turn they slide right in and do a good job, stay on schedule and keep the job clean. Everything is done the way you would like it done, and the end result is a happy client.
This can happen. If your communication is good right up front and they understand what you expect, it can be a good experience for all concerned.
There could be other issues that are not readily apparent. Maybe the guy told his wife that he can install windows as well as you can, and now his ego is on the line. With careful questioning you can find out just how much he does know. If he has more ego than sense, you might make him a real hero by passing along some simple suggestions on how he can do the work to your standard. So it’s possible that this could turn out okay.
But it can go the other way. Letting your clients work on your projects could be asking for delays, damaged or lost tools, disappearing materials and a meaningless job schedule. A major risk is the potential lawsuit when the client runs the saw through their hand. It will be your fault because you failed to provide proper training and supervision. Or if the client drops a beam on their foot. It will be your fault because you didn’t train them on the proper way to lift and handle heavy materials.
I can hear the attorney for the plaintiff now. “No one in their right mind would supply dangerous equipment for use by an untrained individual.”
Let’s say your client decides they want you to build the basic structure for the new deck, but they want to install the joists, decking, steps and hand railings. They install the decking with the supports at 48″ on centers, or they cut the horses with several different rises. The inspector red tags the job. Whose fault do you think it will be? This very scenario happened last year to a contractor we know and their client refused to pay the final payments on the job. Why? It was the contractor’s negligence and lack of training of the homeowner that caused the problem.
Let me pass along the best advice I can give based on my experience. It is the wise and prudent contractor who tells their potential client, “You can do all the work on your job you wish either before we get here or after we leave. My (pick one: insurance, schedule, attitude, accountant, attorney, wife, corporation) does not allow me to do jobs where clients will be working the job. We will be glad to build your job for you, but not as a joint venture.”