When open and honest communication happens between the builder and owner it helps projects run smoothly, on time, achieve great outcomes and creates beautiful well built homes. And yet, when it’s not done well, it is the thing that can really throw project off its tracks and cause headaches and potentially fractured relationships between the builder and owner. Did you know that communication, and its failure, is at the root of most disputes in residential building?
After our years of building family homes we have learnt that communication is crucial and getting it right involves being honest, organised, have set processes in place and being clear to everyone involved in the project.
I am going to make a large generalisation here….. most men are horrible at communication….. If you are male and a great communicator then good on you but for most part (my experience anyway) men are useless at communicating and 98% of registered builders are in fact men….. Therefore, we may have a problem. Luckily for our registered builder Lonnie and our clients I came along in the nick of time! Communication is my thing. I thrive on it. I’m a ‘people’ person. I enjoy having processes and structure in place and I struggle to understand people that don’t know how to communicate effectively.
How many times have you rung a trade that you know nothing about and they bombard you with words that you don’t understand? When I first started working in construction I was surrounded by this ‘trade’ jargon that I just didn’t understand and I felt stupid so I just sat in the background and never asked questions.
This is exactly what is wrong with the construction industry. People sign contracts, plans and reports that they don’t understand and they are too embarrassed to speak up. I am currently watching my little brother go through it. He is getting a volume builder to build their new home and I am shocked at this company’s lack of communication and service skills. However, my brother doesn’t question it and just signs paperwork he doesn’t comprehend.
In this blog, I’m going to take you through “6 Step Communication Tools” for your project, and how to use them successfully to get great results, and save yourself headaches along the way.
Step 1- Select a team to work on your project that are good communicators from the very beginning.
Did they get back to you via email or phone within a days of your initial enquiry? Did they follow up with questions or book you in for an initial consultation from the beginning? These first few steps are an excellent indicator if the architect/design or construction company have their shit together. If they don’t, run a mile and find someone that does. Look for like-minded individuals and companies who see eye-to-eye with you, and particularly understand your vision for your home.
Step 2- Understand the language you need to speak in.
Make ‘Google’ your best friend. Find out “What is a floor joist”, “What is a Dilapidation report”, “What is a truss”. When you’re in design meetings ask your architect or builder to clarify something you don’t understand. As Lonnie always says “There are no stupid questions in building”.
Reading and comprehending architectural plans can be very overwhelming in the beginning. There are notes and lines everywhere on the plans and then just to complicate things some notes have big red clouds around them! What does it all mean? Take your time to read them thoroughly. After a while it does start to make sense but if you don’t know what something is drawn on a plan, simply speak up.
Step 3- When seeking quotes or estimates from builders, put your information in writing.
List the scope of works in detail, using supporting information such as architectural drawings, pictures, specification lists etc. The more information you give your builder, the more accurate the quote will be. When you contact us for the first time we ask you to complete a questionnaire. This questionnaire will help us gain an understanding of your home life, your project, your possible fears and what you are looking for in your dream builder. Ensure you receive quotes and estimates in writing and give go-aheads for quotes in writing also. For more information on what to look for in an excellent quote go to my blog https://www.logc.com.au/post/what-to-expect-from-a-builders-quote
Step 4- Contracts.
By law, a builder must use a major domestic building contract for any work worth more than $10,000. There are various standard contracts for building work but we use Master Builders Victoria Contracts. They are approximately 60 – 80pages long. Again, it’s important that you understand the various processes that can occur during a home build or renovation, and their implications contractually so read them numerous times to take it all in. If this is something you’re not good at, get a lawyer or friend to take you through it.
Step 5- Managing and monitoring work
When you find that builder that has their shit together they will have processes in place of how they manage and monitor work on site. We use a software system called Buildertrend. This program is a scheduling tool where everyone on the team can see the progress on site. You can look up and see what is happening on site everyday and when decisions you need to make and by when. It has been a game changer is our business and something the clients love. We have regular site meetings with clients to discuss any issues and then I follow these meetings up with emails confirming the items discussed and key decisions made during the meetings. Keep records of all correspondence, as well as phone and verbal conversations. I find that simply writing it up as a note, and then emailing it to yourself and the other parties involved, is a great way to keep a record of it.
Step 6- If you’re not happy with something speak up straight away
I have a very keen eye for spotting when someone isn’t happy. It’s in their body language, the lack of eye contact and the shortness of their sentences. Again, men are not so great at picking these subtle hints up (I’m generalising again aren’t I). If someone isn’t happy I don’t ignore it or just continue as normal I simply ask them “Are you honestly happy?”.
If you are not happy please speak up early. Being honest and up front is an extremely crucial tool to communication when building or renovating. It doesn’t have to be nasty or harsh, ensure it is fair and clear. Where you believe work has not been carried out or completed to a required standard, communicate with fairness. It may have been a complete oversight by the person involved, and they’ll be more than happy to rectify it straight away.
To wrap up……
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
When undertaking your project, make sure you don’t leave anyone under any illusion as to whether communication has taken place! Exercise your “6 Step Communication Tools” every step of the way. Ultimately, this will help you deliver your project exactly as you envisage it.