In my work with contractors I offer advice based on my own experiences as a remodeler and what I have gathered from working with clients for many years. Some of the clients I work with prepare notes about what we discussed during the call. If the client does this, I ask him or her to send the notes to me so I can review and comment on the content, refining the client’s understanding of what we discussed. Here are some points that were made in a consulting call that took place last month:

Ask your remodeling project client why he wants to have you do the job.

Often when you are told that someone wants you to be their contractor, you are so happy to hear those words that you don’t ask what it is about you and your company that made the positive difference in their decision-making. If you don’t ask “Why me?” you will not find out what is important to the client. Not knowing that can make it so you do a good job but you miss the mark in terms of truly satisfying the client.

After hearing what’s important to the client, set clear expectations with them that you and your company can exceed. As the saying goes, “under-promise and over-deliver” — not the other way around.

This all seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to do it!

Take a walk with the clients through their home.

A remodeler should be doing this as a matter of routine. Without doing so you run the risk of making suggestions for improvements based on incomplete information.

Walking the home with the clients will help you learn a lot of things such as:

What the client likes and does not like about the house

How the couple (it typically is a couple) interact and relate to one another.

By learning these things, you are better equipped to decide if this project and what you do is a fit. If the clients don’t get along, trust me, it won’t get better. Isn’t it good to find that out early in the interactions so you don’t waste a lot of time?

The more you subcontract the better it will go.

My client has the opportunity to build a new home. He has remodeling experience but not new-home experience. In that case it makes tremendous sense for him to find and rigorously qualify a team of good trade contractors who are team players and can help him avoid a lot of unpleasant learning experiences.

If he does not do this, he will be super-frustrated and lose money trying to do a new home with a team of trade contractors and in-house employees that is geared toward doing remodeling — work that is very different than building new homes.

As an aside, as my remodeling company matured we did less and less with our in-house employees. Ultimately they did project management, light rough framing, finish carpentry, and miscellaneous cleanup. By building a team of reliable trade contractors, we were able to get fixed prices for most of the project.

Consider these suggestions. Sometimes simply changing one or two things that you do can make a big difference to the success of your business. You are worth it!

—Paul Winans, a veteran remodeler, now works as a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage, and as a consultant to remodeling business owners.