A client and I started the design on a whole house cabinet job back in August of last year. We met in excess of 90 hours over the course of six months to discuss, design and draw the project out on CAD. Collected a nominal deposit of $2500 against a $30k job. Finalized the contract in early April, with work to begin in mid-April. Some of the work (trim) was to be done time and material. We started work at the appointed time, but there were owner-caused delays because owner-provided material was decided on and/or delivered. As in most jobs, the scope changed a couple of times too. Submitted 2 invoices for time, which was readily paid.
Owner starts jumping up and down that the project is taking too long. (Remember, I was only on the job for two weeks.) Owner takes off to Africa for two weeks and returns this past weekend. Because materials had not been chosen and/or details had not been decided on things like interior doors, faux transoms, etc. not much was done in the house, and thus zero time tickets were submitted while they were gone. Owner's husband shows up at shop today and says they can't afford to wait much longer to finish the project. (He said some other choice things too, which led me to believe that maybe his wife hadn't really leveled with him.) At any rate, he fires me off the job and doesn't want to take delivery of any other remaining work in progress.
We are meeting on Friday afternoon to settle up and he tells me to make sure that I bring my checkbook so he can put this affair behind him. So, here I am tallying everything up.
Have never been through this before, so I have a couple of questions. Let me preface this with the fact that I have a pretty good contract that among other things accounts for transfer of ownership of work in progress, etc. The one thing is doesn't account for, though, is design fees, since I normally just wrap that into my cabinet price.
Well, since I'm not doing the cabinets, I still think I should be paid for my time meeting with them since most of the time, those meetings entailed trips to suppliers and many hours drawing things on CAD and having them sit there and make changes as I drew.
How would you guys approach this? Would you say "bring your checkbook because you're gonna need it" to the customer, or would you roll over and take it?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor S:
It sounds like the problems were with the wife. Try to bring the husband onto your team to get the project finished. Sounds like good pay.
Tally all of your time and expenses and prepare a detailed invoice.
$ xx for travel time
Also, detail all of his wife's shenanigans and indicate how they adversely affected not only your ability to complete his project, but also any opportunity costs because you couldn't work on other projects. If you also show the amount of work that will have to be repeated by another shop - delaying the project further - you might be able to get the husband to be your ally in bringing project to completion.
Identify the costs that were included in completion of the overall project, and also a list of any decisions that need to be made to finish. Perhaps showing him the dollars to completion at this point will also convince him that he's better off staying with you at this point.
I always give a due date based on, let's say, 8 weeks from when I have all the info that the customer is responsible to get to me. (Appliance specs, colors, anything else that they want to control.) If they don't get the info I need, this will delay either the start date and/or the due date considerably. Most customers (even the ones with impressive college degrees) don't have a clue how to manage a project.
This is where my wife/office manager intervened. She very professionally told them to stick it in their ear. I hate walking away from a job this size, but even if we reached an agreement, my wife was correct in assuming that there would be future problems.
So, they agreed to pay my balance due, and I agreed to sign the lien release. I guess the lesson that I learned here and one that I want to share is that you should always stand your ground when you are right; make concessions because you want to, not because you have to; and document everything.
I actually made money on this incomplete project and I can still maintain my dignity and hold my head up, which is important to me. I guess that is why she's the boss and I'm the worker bee.
When I read your post, I realized that I knew very little about Nordstroms and their policies so I went to their website and read a little bit before opening my big mouth. What I learned is that they do have a very liberal, no-questions-asked return policy and that policy may influence some buyers to shop with them. However, I think that their return policy has little to do with their overall success. Instead, I would say that the major portion of their success comes from their ability to carry top of the line products and their management's ability to invest and reinvest their profits. That is what makes them successful, and unfortunately outside the realm of most if not all of the cabinetmakers that I know.
There once was a very prolific contractor, Sonny Lykos, who passed away recently. Mr. Lykos had a candor that could only be learned through extensive life experience. He once stated that most cabinetmakers (contractors) don't have the wherewithal to absorb do-overs. Those that do can only do so a few times before it significantly impacts their bottom line. Thus, for most contractors (cabinetmakers) their success will lie in their ability to recognize when a project is about to go upside down and to make immediate adjustments to correct the situation, which most of the time means cutting your losses as soon as possible. Am I right or wrong?
My experience has been that "the customer is always right" policy, even when the customer is wrong, is an invitation to disaster. People in general and clients most especially are frequently prone to treat you just as abusively as you allow them to. Allowing them is training them. Training them to be abusive or take advantage is detrimental to the industry and society as a whole.
Was the customer right? I don't think so. There is a fine line between providing good customer service and bending over. I for one won't do it. I try very hard to remain professional and conduct business in a business-like manner. It is difficult because as much time as you spend with a customer, it becomes real easy to let your guard down and develop friendships with them, which in turn will cloud your business judgment.