Q: How do you keep the customer from micromanaging the project?
—James Zettl, Zettl Construction, Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
A: Homeowners tend to micromanage when their trust level is not as high as it should be. To combat that you need to set expectations and use clear communication right from the beginning of the job. Let the client know specifically who's in charge of what on site and help them really understand what goes into material ordering, scheduling, organizing subs, and what your quality-control checkpoints are.
Hold weekly meetings in which you discuss everyone's job description so the client feels comfortable. In particular, the client needs to understand the project manager's job — that he or she makes sure materials are ordered on time, that the schedule is adhered to, and that subs are carefully managed.
As part of the project, the homeowner also has a job description and needs to be educated as to its parameters. It's important that the client communicate his or her happiness or dissatisfaction with the quality and progress of the project directly and immediately to the project manager. It's not the homeowner's job to worry about mistakes but to communicate these concerns to the project manager.
The project manager, in turn, must consistently prove to the homeowner that he or she is diligent and methodical in quality-control inspections and high-level management practices so that the owner can relax.
When all else does not seem to work, spend more time on a repeated basis with the homeowner walking around the jobsite just listening to his or her concerns. In short, if you actively educate clients so that their trust level goes up, their tendency to micromanage will go down.
— Devon Hartman is co-owner of HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, in Claremont, Calif.