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pete scalia
12-18-2007, 10:18 PM
Do you take on a job before throwing in the towel?

We had a job this year that was a nightmare. Very large property It was 64 fixtures over $20,000.

The first 25 fixtures went in and the owner loved it (or so she said). We had a two day rain delay and when we got back she hated everything and decided to redeisgn not only what was already completed but the balance of the job as well. She decided she didn't like the fixture type so we changed them. Then she decided she didn't like the effect so we changed that from uplighting to downlighting and vice versa in some cases. Then she decided she didn't like the qty per tree and so we changed that. Meanwhile she was making these decisions on the fly without seeing the effect at night. She simply in her mind didn't like where the fixtures were positioned or how many there were per tree. Whenever I tried to argue my point I'd get a hand in front of my face saying she didn't want to hear it. She knew best. Wires got moved and removed. Connections got made and broken and remade again. It was a true nightmare and not a money maker in the end. When do you call it off if ever?

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
12-18-2007, 10:27 PM
Protect yourself with a proper contract.

..."This agreement does not cover any material, labour or other costs associated with any changes from the original plans as laid out in the attached specifications. Any alterations, substitutions or other changes to the original plans will come at an extra charge where necessary."...

Never walk away.

JoeyD
12-18-2007, 10:42 PM
Tell her you feel like you are ripping her off. That she doesnt need to pay your high prices, she can higher a handy man to wire it up since she knows so much about design, effect, and placement and save a ton of money. I tell them that it is my design and that if the doctor tells you you need heart surgery you dont ask him to just operate on your toe instead. You need to signature every job otherwise you cant do it. And after a $600k year who needs aggrevation around the holidays.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
12-18-2007, 10:53 PM
Joey, I wasn't aware that you are also an independant contractor and an entreprenuer. All along I figured you were just pulling a salary from 'the man'.

Your advice above would not sit very well in the real world. The last thing anyone of us independant small businesses needs is a disgruntled and pissed off client heading off to the country club for dinner with lots of their friends. Bad news travels fast.... Best to make every client a happy client. That is what pays off in the long run.

JoeyD
12-18-2007, 11:07 PM
Hey James,

I havent a clue of what I am saying, please instruct me on the real world..........lets start with VD methods.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
12-18-2007, 11:36 PM
Joey, you must know that you cannot walk around with your head in the clouds acting like some "light = art Master" when dealing with picky clients. Ultimately, our next jobs are only as secure as our last happy client.

pete scalia
12-18-2007, 11:41 PM
Joey, you must know that you cannot walk around with your head in the clouds acting like some "light = art Master" when dealing with picky clients. Ultimately, our next jobs are only as secure as our last happy client.

I disagree. I should have dropped that b%*ch like a bad habit. Who cares about her referrals if they are going to be like her anyway. In hindsight I should have walked before eating any more of her crap but I was whipped by the old mighty dollar. Rest assured had that been a 5K job I'd have thrown the towel in a NY minute.

JoeyD
12-18-2007, 11:44 PM
Ohhhhh man Pete, James probably just blew eggnog all over his keyboard reading your foul language. Some customers should be left for the other guys!!

extlights
12-19-2007, 12:19 AM
Unfortunately situations like this suck. People like this are never happy. You can bend over backwards and TRY and make them happy, however sometimes it'll never happen. So your choices are finish the job, make no money and get no referrals anyway, or tell her that you're not the company for her and use the time you would have spent at her home on a profitable job that will make someone happy.

Lite4
12-19-2007, 02:14 AM
Demo, Demo, Demo,- If you demo before and then get the approval on it then no problem. If they start asking for changes I am happy to oblige, I just pull out my change order book and add it on to the bill at the end. At 65.00 per hour plus material, I will move lights and wire around all season long until they are happy. I state this very clearly in my contract. Once they give me an approval on the demo and design with a signature; that is it. Any changes are extra. Trust me, when you start writing up change orders and have them sign them with an estimate prior to executing them, they will stop very, very quickly. People want you to do extra for nothing, once you give in to them once it is over. They will expect it from you. Always carry a change order book with you and have them sign it before you start the extra work. It will stop, trust me.

The Lighting Geek
12-19-2007, 03:14 AM
It really is a tough situation when it happens to you. Tim has some great points. I believe in working it out, documenting, and charging for the changes. I do believe the demo process helps because they agree to what they see not what we propose.

I just had a client just drive me nuts about details out of our scope of work. She was elderly and did not understand that her gardener was responsible. We kept on taking care of her until she was happy. The next day she sent me 6 leads on paper with names, addresses, and phone numbers. She raved about us to each prospect before we got to them. This time it worked out, sometimes I just go home and have glass of wine and a cigar, sometimes I beat the crap out of my heavy bag... LOL! But most of all we can't afford the negative press you get by not working it out.

John Zaprala
12-19-2007, 03:59 AM
There's always gonna be the customer's that CAN'T BE PLEASED! I'm repeating here, but in black & white should say something like we agree to provide materials and labor to perform the following:
1) Install X# of (Model/color of light) (size/wattage) (Brand name) fixtures as shown in design.
2) Install X# of (size/watt) transformers connected to fixture using (type wire/connectors)
you get the idea... these customers help us learn that you can't take these things for granted. I never like saying, "It's not in our contract..." so I don't instead if this lady started making changes on the fly. Respectfully say, "Mrs. Jones (or whatever), I'm sure you can understand that we have a schedule to keep and need to maintain a steady pace. I can assure you you will be pleased when the project is complete. We'll gladly make any changes you'd like once we're complete, but I really need to keep my guys moving to complete your project in a timely manner as promised."
Notice HOW you say it key, I'm sure you understand... meaning you're an idiot or highly unreasonable if you disagree. The other key point is having the above clause in your contract: Any changes, alterations, to this contract will be incur additional charges and be docuamented by a change order.
CHANGE ORDERSSSS! So, you keep her off you back until you finish, then when she wants to make changes say "I'd be happy to, I'll just write up a change order and we'll take care of that for ya" usually this where she'd be like, "What!? but you said you would make the changes?" I did, but I didn't say I was doing it for free. Not only that she signed a document showing she's aware of additional charges for anything outside the scope of the original contract. I always refer to a drawing, whether it's 6 lights or 100. Make it part of the contract by referring to it in your contract.

pete scalia
12-19-2007, 08:58 AM
Demo, Demo, Demo,- If you demo before and then get the approval on it then no problem. If they start asking for changes I am happy to oblige, I just pull out my change order book and add it on to the bill at the end. At 65.00 per hour plus material, I will move lights and wire around all season long until they are happy. I state this very clearly in my contract. Once they give me an approval on the demo and design with a signature; that is it. Any changes are extra. Trust me, when you start writing up change orders and have them sign them with an estimate prior to executing them, they will stop very, very quickly. People want you to do extra for nothing, once you give in to them once it is over. They will expect it from you. Always carry a change order book with you and have them sign it before you start the extra work. It will stop, trust me.

Demo would not have made a difference with this one. The first 25 lights were a demo. She said she loved it and then 2 days later changed her mind. With some people there is no reasoning.

JoeyD
12-19-2007, 09:23 AM
Demo, Demo, Demo,- If you demo before and then get the approval on it then no problem. If they start asking for changes I am happy to oblige, I just pull out my change order book and add it on to the bill at the end. At 65.00 per hour plus material, I will move lights and wire around all season long until they are happy. I state this very clearly in my contract. Once they give me an approval on the demo and design with a signature; that is it. Any changes are extra. Trust me, when you start writing up change orders and have them sign them with an estimate prior to executing them, they will stop very, very quickly. People want you to do extra for nothing, once you give in to them once it is over. They will expect it from you. Always carry a change order book with you and have them sign it before you start the extra work. It will stop, trust me.

Tim, your stealing my lines!! :clapping::drinkup:

Mike M
12-19-2007, 09:37 AM
Change Order book?? I want one, is there an offical-looking generic one at Staples with carbon copy? Or do you just use a blank tablet and make your own? If this is a form available I want it now and I want to go back in time for many landscaping jobs with PITA customers. Brilliant.

nate mullen
12-19-2007, 09:54 AM
Joey, I wasn't aware that you are also an independant contractor and an entreprenuer. All along I figured you were just pulling a salary from 'the man'.

Your advice above would not sit very well in the real world. The last thing anyone of us independant small businesses needs is a disgruntled and pissed off client heading off to the country club for dinner with lots of their friends. Bad news travels fast.... Best to make every client a happy client. That is what pays off in the long run.
Hey James,

I'm glad you bring up this type of a view point. It is one that I always disagree with, to become an artist weather it be in paint, sculpture, music, or in our case lighting you have to create your own style. Joey is right in a sense you must signature every single job, this is what seperates me from some some stupid homeowner who has never done a lighting job in their life. How dare the homeowner have me come out and waste my time by trying to tell me the professional how to do my job. I will tell her to her face "how many lighting jobs have you done?......Oh None?" At this point I leave or she shuts up. I have worked way to hard to build my reputation on great lighting jobs to have one homeowner ruin it for me. I do not need or want her money.

In response to your other point about bad news travels fast, the only thing she can say is that I walked off the job and did not take her money, how dare me. I only hurt her ego. James, just so you know I have done that many of times and just about all have had me back. At that point they know there is a seperation between highering me and highering a guy off the corner to slap in a malibu kit.

So Pete, this is a time in your carreer just like I remember my first time and it gave me the extra confidence, cockyness, reputation, and taught me how to better my pre qualifying techniques. (another subject I could write volumes on)

Not all people like the same music, art, or style so I always say find those who do like your music, art, or style and charge double!

To A Brighter Future,

Nate

steveparrott
12-19-2007, 11:53 AM
I call your attention to the article: http://trustedadvisor.com/articles/40

It makes the argument that there is no such thing as a difficult client, only relationships that don't work.

There are many reasons why relationships don't work. Sometimes we are so anxious (fearful) to make a sale that we abandon good judgement (promise too much, neglect writing a solid contract, agree to unreasonable demands, etc.) Building a relationship upon poor judgement is starting off on the wrong foot and opening the door to a poor relationship.

If we find ourselves in a bad relationship situation (like Pete's), the key is to focus on repairing the relationship - openly acknowledging that faulty judgement was used at the onset in writing the contract - failing to anticipate the clients need for such hands-on creative involvement (that's putting it in terms agreeable to the client).

A sit-down with the client would serve to re-affirm the contractors good intentions and commitment to doing the work. At the same time the relationship problem (remember, it's a problem for both the homeowner and the contractor) could be discussed and worked out. The solution might be abandon the project, but more likely, the homeowner would be willing to compromise either by agreeing to additional change fees or putting more trust in the contractors work.

JoeyD
12-19-2007, 12:30 PM
Both Steve and Nate have great advice hear.

Just remeber one thing if you try to repair the relationship make sure you do not destroy your reputation.

irrig8r
12-19-2007, 01:21 PM
Change Order book?? I want one, is there an offical-looking generic one at Staples with carbon copy? Or do you just use a blank tablet and make your own? If this is a form available I want it now and I want to go back in time for many landscaping jobs with PITA customers. Brilliant.

Any change order should refer back to the original contract, like "addendum to contract #01234, dated March 21, 2007", or whatever, and be signed by both parties with a copy for you and one for them. You might find something at an office supply store, but you also might want to create a template in MS Word, or whatever you use, to meet your specific needs...

Crossing all the T's and dotting the I's may seem like a hassle if you've never done it, but if you want something that will hold up in court should the need arise, attention to detail goes farther. Documenting changes with dated photos could also help.

Your state may have specific language regarding contracts. Keep up to date on them. Contracts here in California are required to have specific wording in them, including a whole page in bold type for the customer to use if they want out of the contract (inside of 3 business days).

I just found out last year about specific language changes and requirements for service and repair contracts...
Sometimes the unlicensed fly-by-nights have an easier time of it...

Lastly, pre-screening customers can be a hassle... but well worth it. When's the last time you asked a customer for references of other people they've had work for them?

Too much trouble? How about dropping subtle questions during an initial walk-thru... "Oh, your house looks nice in this color.. who did your painting?" or how about "Nice pruning job on those oak trees. I'm looking for someone to do that, would you recommend them?" And then call the painter or tree pruner and see what kind of client they are, if they pay on time, etc.

Do you search for anything about them online? I Googled one recently and found out he was not only the owner of a sports bar (that I knew about), but partner in another really upscale, white linen eatery too. Or another who I knew was an electrical engineer by training, who happens to run one of the big venture capital funds in town. In each of these cases I increased the scope of the project and they went for it.

irrig8r
12-19-2007, 01:47 PM
I call your attention to the article: http://trustedadvisor.com/articles/40

It makes the argument that there is no such thing as a difficult client, only relationships that don't work.


Thanks Steve, excellent article! I forwarded it to about 20 people. I also clicked on the link to raintoday.com, which looks like a valuable resource too.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
12-19-2007, 04:54 PM
I guess I just have different clients up here. Most changes that I get asked for are actually additions (whole other kettle of fish). I had one very very challenging client this past summer, but after a few trips back, and some aesthetic changes (intensity levels requiring re-lamping, and switching some downlighting to uplighting) he was very happy.

Did I sacrifice my vision, art or reputation by changing the system to suit the client's whims? Of course not. It took me a few trips and some hours, wire, connectors and some fixture change outs, and in the end the client got what he wanted. It is his 3 million dollar summer home after all! I would have been a fool to get all pig headed and full of myself and walk off the job... and I would not have collected on the 50% remaining. Now he is happy, I am paid and I have sold two more jobs on the same bay to his neigbours... why? Cause the came over to see and the client REFERRED ME. 90%+ of my new clients are referrals and I like that just fine, it is very cost effective marketing.

As for the 'cost' of these changes... get a good accountant to show you how you can move these items into your promotions budget. If the chages are really significant, then a change work order and a tight contract (which we have here) will protect you.

Have a great day.

eskerlite
12-19-2007, 07:31 PM
Well said Tim.
Sean C.:clapping:

pete scalia
12-19-2007, 08:29 PM
This lady did this with all trades working on her property. before I got to the site I was told They had a crane out at the site for 1 full week. Planting trees then digging them up and craning them into another hole then moving them again. A flagstone driveway was demoed one week. Over a weekend she changed her mind and told them to put the flagstone back like it was. I'm sure she paid for all this but those contracts were much larger then mine. She was very conservative with the lighting project and didn't want "too much light" so my contract was a measly 20K. Had I know before I got involved I'd never have done it.

John Zaprala
12-20-2007, 02:38 AM
Do you search for anything about them online? I Googled one recently and found out he was not only the owner of a sports bar (that I knew about), but partner in another really upscale, white linen eatery too. Or another who I knew was an electrical engineer by training, who happens to run one of the big venture capital funds in town. In each of these cases I increased the scope of the project and they went for it.

Are you kidding? Pre-screening is one thing... BACKGROUND CHECKS? Sounds like borderline creepy if you ask me. Who has time to google every lead?
I know this has been brought up many times, but padding the bill b/c someone lives in a nice house or owns a business doesn't sound like good advice to me. If you truly have great service, you would put options on every contract in an attempt to upsell (lighting, better/bigger materials) whether it's a $2K job or $200K job.

NightScenes
12-20-2007, 09:09 AM
Are you kidding? Pre-screening is one thing... BACKGROUND CHECKS? Sounds like borderline creepy if you ask me. Who has time to google every lead?
I know this has been brought up many times, but padding the bill b/c someone lives in a nice house or owns a business doesn't sound like good advice to me. If you truly have great service, you would put options on every contract in an attempt to upsell (lighting, better/bigger materials) whether it's a $2K job or $200K job.

John, I don't think that he meant to "pad" the bill but to "up-sell". There is a huge difference. I have googled prospective clients also because it's good to know as much about someone as you can. I'm not talking "background checks" but public knowledge information. Press releases, business news and such. If you have a client that just landed a big signing bonus and wants lighting, maybe that client would spring for Tiki torches instead of path lights. You know what I mean?

Pro-Scapes
12-20-2007, 09:20 AM
I agree a sit down and reproposal would be in order. If she loved the job the way you did it then changed her mind from uplighting to downlighting thats obviously not just moving some fixtures around or changing up some small things.

When she came to me asking me to downlight I would Say no problem give me a day to rewrite the proposal and furnish you with an estimate for thoes changes and we will get with it. In our experience some clients are just micromanagers. Their home is their sanctuary and the main status symbol of thier life. They are very picky about it and rightfully so. This is why they hired you the pro in the first place over joe "the 600w loop" malibu.

If what they are asking is not your style or not a safe effective way to do it inform them politely you will not be able to execute that flawed design and move on.

Gambino is up front about this before he even meets. Look at his terms. To meet not only do you have to pay him his consult fee but you need to look at the photos on his site and "want something similar" which means its his style... thats how he designs.

irrig8r
12-22-2007, 12:06 PM
John, I don't think that he meant to "pad" the bill but to "up-sell". There is a huge difference. I have googled prospective clients also because it's good to know as much about someone as you can. I'm not talking "background checks" but public knowledge information. Press releases, business news and such. If you have a client that just landed a big signing bonus and wants lighting, maybe that client would spring for Tiki torches instead of path lights. You know what I mean?

Thanks Paul. You got it. Propsects won't always indicate right off what they are willing to spend.

Knowing that they just might have more resources than met the eye emboldened me to expand my proposals. It wasn't about charging more for the same work, but adding work and adding value.

Sometimes a client isn't into "conspicuous consumption" but is still willing to spend more for durable fixtures (for instance.)