The economy seems to be rebounding, but though more work may be coming in, the jobs are still small. In this market, you may be tempted to fast-track jobs, rushing them into production and making decisions as the job progresses. This could include waiting until the project is under way to ask clients to choose appliances or the location of a closet wall. It may initially seem like a good idea, but as the job moves through production, it could turn out to be a bad one. Here's why.

  • Costs more. The lack of planning creates mistakes, inaccuracies, and delays that cost money both in increased field hours and in administrative hours to write up the countless change orders.
  • Causes change-order mayhem. Clients who pay for changes through a change order process will feel cheated. And if your company ends up paying for the changes, there will be significant loss of profit. Either way, the contractor loses.
  • Takes longer. One remodeler thought fast-tracking was a great way to get clients to sign a contract and get started. In reality, the project won’t be completed faster. It just shifts decision-making from sales to production, where the ideas will take longer to iron out.
  • Creates frustration. Most craftsmen take pride in their work. The fast-track process creates uncertainty and shifts focus from building the project to planning the project. In the worst case, a craftsman is building something he will have to undo and redo. Even if he’s paid for his hours, the work is frustrating.

As jobs pick up, don’t take a shortcut to production. Put in the work it takes to plan a project. Ask clients to make decisions up front, create and keep to a schedule, and you will reap the benefits of happy clients and employees.
—Tim Faller is president of Field Training Services and author of The Lead Carpenter Handbook.