Does a job have a “life expectancy”? I believe it does and you should be aware of the warning signs.

A job’s “life expectancy” is when either the contractor or the client think the job should be done. It’s the point where the contractor and the client are tired of the job and tired of each other. How you handle a job when it goes beyond it’s “life expectancy” will determine whether or not this job will turn into a problem, costing you money, or stay profitable.

Your contracts need to specify how change work orders and your punch list are handled. If you’re smart, you’ll also include language on communication, especially e-mail and how it is to be used between you and the client. And, of course, have language that covers what will happen in the event of a disagreement or all-out dispute.

I think it’s also important to discuss with the client the possibility the job might reach it’s “life expectancy” before it’s finished. Make sure they understand the life cycle of the job and what can and probably will happen. Let them know that you’ll get tired of each other. Tell them the warning signs so they know exactly what to expect and when.

Now, will that get you through the job any easier? No, but at least you and your client will have talked about it and if necessary, you can remind them that you did tell them that near the end of a job, problems could occur just because the job has reached it’s life expectancy. You’ll both just have to soldier through it.

Think it through, incorporate it in your pre-contract signing meeting and you will find that the “end game” of your job can be much smoother and far less stressful.

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