John Humphries

Most of our clients don’t start out a renovation project with any kind of plan. They may have a general sense of what they would like to end up with, but rarely do they have specific details on hand when they’re shopping around for contractors. In my career as a deck and porch building specialist, I hear the same things repeatedly, such as “I want to redo my deck,” or “We want to rebuild our deck and add a screened area.” These vague, open-ended concepts are not very useful starting points for coming up with a plan, but I don’t blame prospective clients for being unprepared; in our market, it is commonplace to start with a contractor instead of a design professional.

My first job as the contractor is to move the clients past their vague concepts through the design process and into an executable contract. My contracting firm is small, consisting of a full-time office/business manager, a project manager keeping the wheels on the bus every day, and me. We don’t have a dedicated design staff to work through all the decision forks to nail down details in order to create a scope of work and a budget, which on a big project, can take weeks or months and become a significant cost factor. Like the majority of residential contractors, I have to work through the design while keeping up with all the other daily requirements of running the business. To do this, I’ve come up with a system that helps streamline the process.

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