Bo Steed
Steed Remodeling
Kansas City, Mo.
Big50 1991

We ask, “What would you like us to do?” We put the ball in the clients' court for how to repair or fix something.

We don't have a particular page in our handbook that says how to interact with a client when you get to a job. It's covered in the employee's job description, which includes what they're supposed to wear, how their truck should look, and punctuality. If an employee is walking up to a house and the newspaper is there, he or she is supposed to pick it up and bring it up to the door.

In our weekly meetings and in talking with the office or field employees, we are always educating them on how to interact, and if we see where something went awry, we will examine it and say, “Hey, this is what we need to do.”

David Heaney
Rockland Architects & Builders
Newport, Del.
Big50 2005

We have an outline that we follow for consultations as well as construction meetings, but because each client is unique, we cannot offer an exact script to follow in each case.

With regard to having rules or guidelines on what can be discussed with clients, I feel that it would be too cumbersome to identify all the possibilities that could arise. Instead, I rely on my staff to follow our core values and make judgment calls as to what is the appropriate thing to say.

Kevin Ahern
Litchfield Builders
Hamden, Conn.
Big50 2001

We have some basic guidelines for things that would come up day to day like scheduling and change orders.

Then there are some non-written rules that our company stands by, such as the fact that our workers don't do work on the side for clients or have any monetary interaction with clients.

I separate the money side from the operations side, so it's not discussed on the job site. It is basically an office function and not a field function. Not even the lead carpenter makes money transactions or change orders.

Somebody who couldn't treat a client correctly probably wouldn't be working for me, regardless of talent.

Larry Tait
Moorestown, N.J.
Big50 1994

We basically have a code of ethics that is commonly known among the employees at our company.

We hire high-quality people, and we try to treat every customer with the respect they deserve. It's known by every employee that our clients are our bread and butter, and everyone has to treat them with great respect. It's built into the culture.

We don't have a lot of turnover among employees. The average tenure is 15 years, and they know what they should be doing.

Ben White
Benvenuti & Stein
Evanston, Ill.
Big50 1990

We have an employee handbook, and it is a general booklet meant to guide, but it isn't specific. As you can imagine, the more specific a rule becomes, the more carefully it needs be considered. These days that often means attorney's fees.

We have also found that a regularly scheduled weekly meeting formalizes the interaction and reduces the need for a client to hover. That has been the biggest issue we have faced; lost productivity. Balancing that interference with the need to allow a client to “participate” is a management decision made on a case-by-case basis.

Lori Bentley
Bentley Design and Remodeling
Hanford, Calif.
Big50 2002

The lead carpenter on a job is the on-site manager. Regarding day-to-day operations, the customer talks directly to the on-site manager, not to other carpenters or subs. This procedure is discussed in the preconstruction meeting with the customer.

Our second point of contact is our project administrator in the office. If a customer has an issue, they will e-mail the project administrator. That person is responsible for seeing the project through from first call until completion of the job. This helps maintain consistency. The project administrator will process change orders, get them priced out, and send them to the field for completion.