Deciding who to work with is one of the most important things a business does. A good client makes you look forward to coming to work.  A challenging client makes you feel not so positive.

When a business is young it puts up virtually no barriers for potential clients. “Any business is good business” is the thinking.

As the business matures, getting beaten up by some clients in the process, a list of desirable characteristics for potential clients gets created but not often written down.

Kyle Lissack, owner of Pinemar, in Ardmore, Pa. works primarily with architects and often is bidding for projects. I suggested he develop a list of “gates” a potential project must pass through for it to be seriously considered by Pinemar. He sent me the following and I asked him if I could share it with others. With his approval, here it is:

Job Pursuit Go/No-Go Checklist 

Key Questions to Ask:

How to Respond:

1. Is the project by a design sponsor that we want to work with?

If no, STOP

2. Did the client come to us through the Network? Or: Were we referred by a current or past client to this project?

Not a critical decision factor, but it weighs heavily

3. Is it a competitive bid?

If Yes, are there more than two other bidders? If there were more than two, STOP

4. Have we met the client?

If no, STOP

5. Do we like the client?

If no, STOP

6. Do we feel like we are a good "fit" for the client?

If no, STOP

7. Has the client done a renovation before?

Not a critical decision factor, but it weighs heavily

8. Do we understand the client’s budget?

If no, meet with client to define before committing estimating resources

9. Is the project adequately funded?

If no, STOP

10. Is it possible to execute the plan for the client’s budget?

If no, STOP

11. Do we have resources to start the project within the client’s timeframe?

If no, discuss timeline with client

12. On small projects: Is there additional value beyond immediate revenue in this work?

Estimate opportunities for future construction, visibility, social value, and relationship building

 Where did Kyle get all his “gates” from? Past experiences, both positive and negative. Laying the findings out in a systematic way makes it less likely Pinemar will end up working with clients or architects who are not a good fit for the company.

What is your list? What barriers have you in place to protect you from those who are not a fit for the way your company creates success? Write them down and keep the list in front of you when you become engaged in the conversation with a potential client (or architect, designer or any project partner).

Doing so could save you, your employees, your trade contractors, and your vendors a lot of grief. After all, you have already paid a lot of tuition at the school of hard knocks to learn these lessons. Why repeat the courses?