July 2012


I’ve always tried to follow a five word business philosophy, “Use common sense, no surprises”. Sounds simple doesn’t it? You know from running your own business that things look more complicated the deeper you get. The most important thing we must all remember is that it’s up to us to keep it simple. Spell it out now and the chances are you won’t be telling it in court later. One of the biggest areas of contention in the building business is still the contractual side of the business. Problems arise most frequently because things aren’t spelled out properly or to the understanding of both parties. Please remember the basics of missed communication:

· People tend to hear what they want to hear.

· Most people, though adult, still believe in miracles and think that by wishing hard enough, something will happen the way they’ve dreamed it.

· People are perversely willing to spend more time after the fact assigning blame than they are in planning beforehand to prevent a problem. Blaming others carries no responsibility, planning does.


The best business people I deal with are careful to make sure the details are understood and they follow- up to make sure. Here are some tips for making sure you get the correct points across:

· Write everything down, give a copy to your customer, and keep one yourself.

· Use drawings, photographs, etc., to better clarify what you mean.

· Time and date your notes.

· Have your customer initial or sign orders, change orders, etc.

· Get a deposit (people pay much better attention when their money is involved.)

· Summarize your meeting points in a fax or e-mail and send your customer meeting minutes so they have a second chance to hear the message.

· Be consistent in your follow up- it sets a tone and defines your relationship.

· Never assume the ball is in their court and wait until it comes back to you.

· Ask them to tell you what they heard you say.

All of the bullet points above are small parts of you setting the tone for your relationship with your customer. They are proactive, not reactive. They begin to define the way your relationship is likely to develop. People are constantly testing and evaluating each other at the beginning of a relationship. If you use organization and follow-up to present yourself to your customer, they have clear points with which they can begin to understand you. Please understand that the reason we have to practice these points is that they don’t always feel natural.

In practicing proactive communication, you are taking the lead and there’s always more of a feeling of risk in the lead than when you’re hanging back in second place. Remember, the best thing about being in the lead….. the view is much better!

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