No matter how many times I have gone to meet a customer for the first time I am almost always flushed with the same thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Its an exciting time for me and a bit nerve racking as I know it is for the customer.
As I was approaching a home the other day to take a look at a project I thought to myself what a crazy experience this is. It has become such second nature to me, I don't give it to much thought, but frankly it takes a lot of courage to walk up to a complete stranger's home and talk to them about a home improvement project. The flip side is true as well. I understand and appreciate the courage and trust it takes from a customer perspective to invite a perfect stranger in to their home. Your home is your domain and I don't take for granted it is your sanctuary.
I love being greeted by the family dog(s). The little dogs are the one you have to keep your eye on as they can come out of nowhere, just to let you know who is boss.
I can learn a lot about a person when they answer the door just as the homeowner can assess me upon opening the door. None of us have ever really been taught how to work through an interviewing process with a potential contractor. This is your home, and whomever you decide to do the work on it you want to believe you are making a sound decision. For myself I do my best to identify the situation and take in as many cues as possible to better understand the situation. Quickly trying to learn about your project, your expectations, your desires and needs is a lot to decipher is 15, 30, or 60 minutes. Excitement is something I always feel mixed in with a healthy dose of nervousness. I can only equate it to a first date. There is a lot of smiling, we are both on our best behavior, politely trying our best to communicate clearly, but there are always a few things that get missed or forgotten.
In order to prepare for our first meeting, I have compiled five things that need to be covered. Having an understanding of these items before hand lays the foundation for a great first meeting and sets everyone up for success in the renovation.
1) Need: What exactly is it that I can help you with today? I realize you may think, well I called you here about my kitchen being remodeled, what more do you need to know. Quite a bit actually. What about your space doesn't work now? In your biggest dreams, what would your new kitchen look like? Does the layout flow for your needs? Are you just gathering ideas and looking for suggestions from a professional or are you serious about doing the renovation? Its important to understand that everyone's time is valuable.
2) Budget: How long have you been thinking about this project? Did you watch HGTV last night and are just curious how much it will cost, or have you been saving for years and finally ready to transform your home? Importantly - do you have a realistic understanding of what this renovation will cost? Unfortunately, many times customers do not have a realistic understanding of what a renovation should cost. While HGTV shows us some amazing transformations, they tend to be less than realistic when it comes to cost, time, etc.
3) Time frame: When are you wanting to make this happen? Is this a now project or a project you want to do 6-12 months from now? We have to allocate resources, schedules, materials, etc., so this is a vitally important question.
4) Perspective: Have you ever done a project like this before? Understanding and appreciating that you will be living in a construction zone for potentially several weeks is important to understand. There are multiple moving parts and sometimes things are out of our control - like waiting on countertops, etc. Understanding approximately how long the project will take, and having a good perspective helps to mitigate the stress of having construction work done to their home.
For first time renovators, I know its time to slow down and literally lay out step by step how the project will proceed. Painting a picture for them to prepare for what lies ahead. This is a great time to talk about any special wants or needs. Do I need to take extra steps to contain dust because of allergies? Would it be best if we start early/late so when children arrive home from school the house is ready for them? Each project is unique and if I understand your perspective then I can work with you to mitigate disruptions to your daily life within reason.
5) Expectations: What can we do to help make this a great experience for you? This goes beyond just completing the project. What are your expectations of the contractor? What form of communication works best for you? How involved do you want to be in the project?
I highly recommend you hire a contractor who is asking some or all of these questions. We can learn so much about one another and it establishes clear lines of communication. Relationships can go poorly if both parties have different expectations and assume the other party knows what each other is thinking. I spend a lot of time explaining what is going to happen, what is going on, and where we are headed. We pride ourselves in trying to always best serve our customers by communicating through ever step of the process.
I look forward to knocking on your door next time you are considering a project.