Let's Be Friends We have developed more than client/provider relationships with many of the people we've worked with.

Taking clients to dinner toward the end of a project is a nice way to say thank you, get to hear how they feel about the work, and learn more about each other. This might be the only social thing we do with them, and this certainly doesn't make us “friends,” but it does create a more intimate relationship.

Yet we have other clients with whom we've become very close. With one set of clients, we have a tradition of going to a concert and dinner at the winter solstice and taking a three-night vacation to an out-of-state Shakespeare festival. Another couple, who had been living together for a long time, decided to marry after we added a second floor to their house, and we were invited to the wedding reception at their home. Recently, we took a couple to dinner and had such a good time that we were at the restaurant for almost three hours. Their project wasn't mentioned until we were hugging goodbye at our cars and they said, “Oh, by the way, the work's going great!”

Getting to know our clients better, as real people and not as “The Smith's kitchen remodel” has been wonderful and fun. We hear about their travel adventures, job challenges, and interesting pasts. They get to relate to us as people, not just a company. And from a business perspective, we recognize that perhaps they choose to continue working with us because we've hit it off. People who hold similar values can work more easily together and can resolve project challenges in a positive way.

Nina Winans, CR
Winans Construction
Oakland, Calif.
Big50 1992

No Social Calls Nothing can ruin a long-term friendship like a remodeling project gone bad, and few things can sabotage a remodeling project more than allowing your client to become your friend during the project. We've all heard of or experienced these “friendly” situations:

“As your friend, I expect to receive a higher level of service than your average client off the street.”

“Because I'm your friend, you won't mind if I make some minor changes to our plans or give directions to the tradesmen on the jobsite. After all, you're busy, and I don't want to bother you with these minor details.”

“I'm assuming you adjust your pricing posture when working with friends. Isn't that why I'm hiring my friend — to get a better deal than I might get from a stranger?”

“Even though I know there isn't much profit built into your price, you won't mind if I hold on to your payment a bit longer than your clients who are paying full price? After all, we're friends!”

Remodeling is a wonderful business and can often lead to an intimate business relationship with a client. There is no better way to get to know a person than to be in his or her home on a daily basis for several weeks or months. If you are doing things right, the relationship will be long-term and result in additional projects for this client, as well as referrals to friends and relatives.

That long-term relationship should be your goal on every project. Use your business to build more business. Build your friendships through social settings where you will have more fun if you leave business out of it.

Robert Prindiville
Design Group Three
Whitefish Bay, Wis.
Big50 1999