Brown M&Ms

Remodeling consultant Leslie Shiner isn’t known for being a fan of the rock group Van Halen or its former lead singer, David Lee Roth, but her advice at a recent JLC Live seminar echoed a practice that Roth and the band became famous for in the 1980s involving brown M&Ms.

In those days, Van Halen’s concert contracts stipulated M&Ms were to be provided as backstage snacks, but that all brown M&Ms had to be removed. If they weren’t, the promoter wouldn’t get paid. To help make their point, band members trashed their dressing rooms when they saw the offending candy.

Today we know why: Van Halen was putting on an unprecedentedly huge road show, and thus promoters needed to be aware of the band’s lighting, sound, and electrical needs. Inserting a no-brown-M&Ms provision gave the band a quick indication of whether the promoter had read the contract.

You may lack the band’s 1980s hair, but you too can benefit when clients take time to read the contract, particularly the section on change orders. Shiner suggests you add a line in that section stipulating that you charge a $200 admin fee for every change order requested. It gives you an opportunity to discuss why change orders matter. Then, if you’d like, offer to waive that fee for the first few orders. This makes you look good—and the client never even knew your main objective.