By Jim Cory. David Wysong, president of Trac Remodeling, Spring, Texas, says the biggest reason clients become unhappy in the course of a project is preventable: They think nothing's going on.

"The job moves forward, right up through trim," Wysong says. "You pour concrete, the roof goes on, the cabinets go up. Then it slows down. Or seems to. Even though a lot's happening, clients are not seeing big changes."

So Wysong and others in company management created a checklist. After trim carpenters leave, the lead carpenter, project manager, and someone from the office walk through the project, noting everything that still needs to be accomplished. That information is entered in the company computer, and a list is generated on ACT! software. It's a simple printed form that details all the specific steps and tasks involved in completing the project. Leads and project managers periodically update it. Clients get a copy.

"Let's say an electrical plug isn't straight and needs to be adjusted," Wysong says. "The client points it out and the project manager promises he'll get it taken care of. Nothing happens and the client just festers. It's something the electrician's supposed to do, and we won't bother with it 'til he comes back. The checklist helps the client understand the timeline we work with."

The field staff likes the system because it makes it easy for them to keep track of what comes next. Clients like it because they're able to measure progress. "It's a tool to manage the project as much as the client," Wysong says.