Many design/build projects take months, sometimes years, to complete. While spending time with clients in their homes, remodeling employees often develop a close relationship with the homeowners. That relationship can sometimes interfere with the successful completion of a project.
Several remodelers have addressed this issue by defining professional conduct for their employees. Rick Hjelm, president of Phase II in Lakewood, Wash., noticed several incidents where employees had difficulty saying no to clients. In one instance, a carpenter sided with the client on an issue, which pitted Hjelm against the homeowner. Hjelm says it's important to bond with clients but still maintain authority. "It's a fine line that you cannot cross," he says. He asked employees to avoid after hours participation with clients, such as drinking or attending sporting events or concerts. He also asked his employees to formally address clients.
"Developing an amiable or even a lifelong friendship with a client is one of the rewards of the business we are in," says architect Kai Tong of Hopkins & Porter, Bethesda, Md. "However, we strongly feel this must take second place to the primary objective of providing a professional service to that client and navigating the project to a mutually beneficial conclusion." He says it is important for companies to have clear and consistent guidelines. "Clients have a sixth sense when it comes to detecting internal dissent," he says. Tong says if an employee sides with the client, it can diminish the remodeler's credibility with that client.