To paraphrase an old saying, "Clients: Can't live with 'em; can't live without 'em." The key to working with difficult clients is to understand the warning signs and quickly intervene. It may take a few weeks to identify these traits, but you'll save time if you ask the salespeople to share their thoughts before the job begins. For all difficult clients, the lead carpenter should enforce the contract and communicate. And don't be afraid to insist the boss become more involved with the really tough clients.

The Procrastinating Client. This client can't make up his mind but still insists that the job be completed on time. You must state and enforce any new deadlines due to change orders. Do not make casual statements to this client.

The Picky Client. This client needs to know that you care about what they care about. Conduct regular walk-throughs of the jobsite. Have your notepad in hand and write down their concerns. At the next walk-through, note how you dealt with their concerns.

The Inspector Client. This client leaves you a daily list of small items to let you know that they conduct board-by-board inspections every night. At the end of each day, make a careful inspection yourself. Never leave anything unfinished or hanging. Never cover anything up that is not right. Take pictures of the work in progress to be able to show what really happened. Meet with the client to reinforce your commitment to a quality project.

Tim Faller
Charles Steck Tim Faller

--Tim Faller, Field Training Services,