One thing about aging in place projects, as opposed to working on a jobsite or in a commercial setting, is that the work is being done in the client’s home in full view of the client. The work is being completed as they watch. They may not be present overseeing the work the entire time, but they are in the home and they are free to come into the project area at any time. Certainly, at night they can inspect and comment on the work that was done that day.
Anyone familiar with sports knows the general advantage the home team gets by playing on their court or field in familiar surroundings and to their fans. It’s similar here. The client has the homefield advantage, and we are the visiting team.
This means that we should expect the client to be extremely familiar with their space and to question anything we are doing that is changing it – even if we already have discussed it in advance. We need to factor in the time that the client is going to be present as an observer and to ask questions about the work being done or why something isn’t being done that they expected.
No time for less than a 100% effort
All of us have moments – or days – when we feel less than 100%. However, the mark of a true professional is being able to give the client a 100%, all-out performance at all times. Our distractions or personal issues are irrelevant to serving their needs. They are counting on us to deliver what they have asked us to do and what they are expecting.
There could be times when we might wonder what difference it really makes if something less than a top-notch effort is required or necessary. After all, will the client (even though they may be watching) really know that something we normally do is skipped – just this once? Will they really know or notice if less expensive building products are substituted for more expensive ones to save money on the job?
On just getting by
What if, in the interest of getting the job done quicker, full attention is not given to some finishes or trim detail? Maybe the client won’t notice. If they do, oh well, it can be addressed later – or explained away. So much for potential positive word-of-mouth referrals!
What about something that maybe is installed or finished a little sloppily because it will never show anyway when the job is completed?
Many times it is true that we can “get by” with less than an all-out effort. Maybe it’s “as good as” or “better than” the competition does. Maybe the client will never know, but we will know. After a while, who knows, doing things “almost perfect” or “almost right” may get to a habit rather than always striving to do things correctly. It’s certainly easy to rationalize less than a great effort.
Instilling and maintaining a great work ethic
Having an outstanding and quite positive work ethic means that we won’t ever need to feel apologetic about letting something slip or be looking over our shoulder or waiting for the other shoe to drop, so-to-speak, because chances were taken and corners were shaved just a little. We’ll know – and those associated with us, including strategic partners and our client – that we stand for doing things right.
Consider some of the many details involved in doing an aging in place remodeling or renovation project where there is an opportunity to perform well – on the outside by grading a site (without breaking utility or sprinkler lines, burying large amounts of debris, or damaging existing sidewalks or planting areas), digging a pool (in the proper place and then finishing it correctly), or pouring the slab or basement (with attention to avoiding or preventing all but the acceptable, inevitable hairline settlement cracks).
Inside, there is framing (with walls straight, plumb and square), installing the flooring (with invisible seams and trimmed edges that look as if the flooring was installed before anything else was done), laying shingles (with square, even edges), setting windows and doors (that are plumb and properly trimmed), painting (with full coverage and no drips or overspray or indentations or telltale edges along drywalls seams), and trimming (with nails set and patched, no cracks or voids, no nail pops, clean mitered corners, and caulked seams and edges).
Without having a strong work ethic, things can get sloppy quickly.
Reputations are built over time but are destroyed quickly
So, the next time anyone on our team is tempted to cut corners – “just this once” – remember that many people are depending on us to do a professional job – our fellow team members, and especially the client who is making a major emotional and financial commitment to have us make the crucial modifications to their home to enhance their quality of life. Eventually, anyone they share their experience with will reflect on us also.
While it may be true that “no one will notice” or that it is “good enough to get by” in a general sense, we will notice and that’s what matters.
It takes weeks and weeks – even years – of successful performance to gain a good reputation. It doesn’t take all that long to spoil it.
Make the commitment to do all we can to give an all-out performance at all times – and to accept no less from anyone assisting us. The client will see our work product for a long time.