“We give you folks a lot of good work and my experience with you has totally sucked.”

Remodeling is an emotional experience. Our clients invest hard-earned dollars in exchange for living through a construction zone and all the noise, strangers, and dust that comes with that. We have invested heavily in providing the best experience we possibly can ... but it’s still a construction zone.

The quote above was part of an e-mail I sent to one of our plumbers during the heat of a renovation--a renovation on my own home. This time, my family was the client. This time, it was our oasis getting invaded.

I’m in this business because I love old homes and because I’m addicted to remodeling. In the past I did a lot of the work myself, but it’s been an eye-opener to go through the same experience as our clients. Use the same processes, have others do the work, use your subcontractors, and see how you and your wife/family/significant other feels about the experience. I guarantee you will go through some emotional moments and I guarantee your business will be the better for it.

Here are some specific lessons learned:

  1. Put yourself through the full client experience. Don’t just have carpenters work on your home “when they are free” and try to avoid doing too much of the work yourself. Instead, follow your normal processes from project start to finish. Taking shortcuts will make your experience even more challenging and means that you can’t truly experience what your clients go through.
  2. Expect your emphasis on customer service to triple after the experience. So many in our industry focus on getting the work done right. But the unspoken qualifier is "make sure it’s done right by the end; the process of getting there is secondary." When you are the homeowner and experience a plumber coming back six times to finish his work, it’s maddening. When you rearrange your schedule and then folks don’t show, it’s maddening. When you get curt rather than thoughtful e-mail responses, it’s maddening. As a client it’s as much about “how” it gets done as it is about getting it done right. That’s not new news, but when you are the client and it’s your home this takes on a new meaning.
  3. The level of respect for your team and for the “magic” you create for clients will fuel you for years to come. What we do is amazing: We take client’s dreams and wishes and turn them into reality. Every time clients open the cabinet door, they’ll think of the carpenter who helped them along the way. Every time a visitor compliments the space, they’ll think of the designer. We should experience and enjoy the magic we bring to our clients.

Remodeling your own home can be stressful. That stress is magnified exponentially when you run the business. You want everything to be perfect and you are sensitive about taking too many resources from the business. But remodeling your own home is the best thing you can do for your business.