Mixing It Up We prefer that if clients want to use their own subcontractors, they work with our normal trade partners (because our familiarity will help the job run smoothly), but many homeowners have done small improvements in the past and want to use the same company. Or we might be contracted to build an addition, but the client has already hired somebody to re-side the existing structure.

Budget is often a reason homeowners want to use their own subs. If it's going to make the project more affordable for them, then it's fine with me. I'd much rather take our regular gross profit percentage on a smaller amount than get nothing because the client decides they can't afford the project. Insisting that they work solely with our company does nothing to further our goals, or theirs.

All Clear The important thing is to communicate clearly with clients. We make sure they understand from the beginning that they are in charge of scheduling, communication, and payments, and that the work won't carry our warranty.

We also explain to them the importance of keeping to the schedule. If the project veers off schedule because the homeowner is holding it up, then our employees and trades will move to the next project, and I don't know when they'll be back. We include a clause for this in our contract — often that alone is enough to make them think twice.

Shawn Nelson
New Spaces
Burnsville, Minn., and Chaska, Minn.
Big50 1998

Total Control A major reason why my company became design/build was so that I could control who I worked with. The relationship between a remodeler and his trade contractors is complex, and relying on someone I don't know and can't vouch for isn't a risk I'm willing to take. Too many things can go wrong; the schedule could get thrown off, the work could be so poor that my guys have to come and fix it, etc.

And if things do go awry, the homeowner isn't always going to remember that it was their trade contractor — not mine —who was responsible. I may not be liable for any extra charges, but the clients will be left with a bad taste in their mouths that they will associate with my company.

Everyman Expertise In this day and age — with remodeling all over TV — everyone thinks they know something about the building industry. Either that, or they know someone who does. So the issue of the client handling certain parts of the project themselves comes up far more often than it used to. I've had to come up with gentle ways to tell them that it's not in their best interest.

One analogy I use comes from the field of medicine. If they were getting their appendix removed, would they ask for someone other than the doctor who performed the operation to do the stitches (or even sew themselves up)? Of course not. Well, remodeling is a highly technical art, and it shouldn't be any different.

Garett Radke
Radke Construction
DeWitt, Mich.
Big50 1989