Last week I wrote a column about being personally proactive regarding the long-term safety and quality of materials used in home renovations. But only later did I realize that by encouraging direct involvement in your general contractor's choices of basic building material that I was, in part, setting the stage for a contentious contractor/consumer relationship. Everything that I wrote holds true, but it is also imperative to allow your contractors -- once vetted -- to perform according to their established high standards without questioning their every move.
I heard a story this past weekend about a couple who are building their dream retirement home in Florida. After firing two general contractors they've now hired a third and decided to rent an apartment on the same block to oversee completion of the construction. They visit the site every morning and afternoon and take great pride in micro-managing everyone's performance -- a clear example of over-the-top supplier performance management. Mind you, they have no previous experience with construction trades and their oversight is in addition to employing a well respected general contracting company.
The point behind sourcing, interviewing, checking multiple references, and insuring that a general contractor is expert and financially secure is to establish initial grounds for a trusting relationship. Working closely together on choosing material standards, trusted brands, EPA reports and the like is essential and reasonable. It is equally essential to allow the professionals you hire to do what they do best while understanding that all construction work is custom in nature. The upfront contract can allow for regular meetings, benchmarking progress and payment, auditing material costs and deliveries and receiving verbal and/or written updates as well as explanations for delays when they occur -- and they will. But the secret to obtaining a superior end product is to establish and maintain strong communication with a lead individual or team and not interfere and question the daily work-in-process with the laborers, trades and direct suppliers. Establishing, monitoring and trusting the process trumps micro-management every time. Just as it does when it comes to Spend Management for companies as well.