Keepers of the building light
You don’t want to chase business, but you want the phone to ring. And if you do the right thing by your clients, they will always look to you for wise advice about all of their future building problems. Jerry Tyrrell encourages builders to be ‘keepers’ of advice to protect their clients from the problems and mistakes that so many of them can make.
Building contractors have a very special place in most clients’ hearts. You have created, altered or renovated the home they live in. Your advice is trusted and respected.
Marketing experts will tell you to ‘nurture existing clients first’ – so why don’t we build a more powerful base from your years of effort and goodwill?
Builders can be ‘keepers’ of so many good things. We need to be alert every moment when we’re building. But what about the value-add we offer clients after handover?
From practical tips, referrals or just making sure clients don’t make the usual silly mistakes, the areas of advice that you can help with usually fall into four groups:
– Timber pests
We contractors should all know about the new Work, Health and Safety laws. But no one is telling owners what they MUST know. This advice is valuable and will prevent accidents, harm and save money.
You may not be a trained designer or architect, but you have the skill to coordinate or recommend good designs to your client. The number one regret I witness in most buildings is the client saying they ‘should have’ made better use of a view, or sunlight, or breezes, or ‘should have’ made space for two beds instead of one, or the correct washing machine size etc.
I’m not a great fan of always thinking about maintenance. But a smart spender needs a clear head and knowledge of when the work must be done or when expensive replacement or repairs will be needed.
These ‘elephants in the room’ are not nearly as serious as pest control companies want you to believe. But if your client builds with susceptible materials or builds high-risk timber structures, they will have a nightmare of costly damage during ownership and eventually face criticism when he or she sells.
|Slips and trips||Mainly slippery tiles/stone, half steps, uneven paving and unexpected lips in concrete joints.|
|Balustrades||Below 1m high, climbable or gaps exceed 125mm. Upper floor window sills should not be less than 1m without openable space in the window being limited to max 125mm gap.|
|Pool fences, especially gates||Latches do not function, hinges do not self-close or the fence may be bridged by planting or even the dog kennel.|
|Asbestos risk||No Asbestos Register means your client faces a major claim if the contractor works unknowingly on materials containing asbestos.|
|Electrical hazards||Residual current devices or tagging of any maintenance/workplace equipment.|
|Smoke alarms||Tell your client there needs to be 240V linked photoelectric detectors in EVERY bedroom beside the hallway.|
|Glass safety||All older glass in doors and low level windows may not be toughened or safety glass.|
|Masterplanning||Get the best advice about aspect, connections, stair location and widths of rooms, especially halls and stairs and any complex design issue.|
|Little projects||Even the smallest projects need careful planning – it is so easy to get window sill heights and door locations wrong.|
|Drawings||Most of the problems clients face when building come from errors and omissions in the plans – refer your client to a good designer or architect.|
|Interior advice||Yep, interior designers can make a big difference to entry, cabinet, ceiling and lighting choices.|
|Colours||If your client can’t afford a designer, they can at least get advice for all exterior colours – and so should you.|
|Energy savings||You can advise contractors to insulate the building or install solar photovoltaic systems.|
|When to repaint||Often owners paint too soon or too late. Or they choose silly finishes like lime wash and face nightmares if the coating is not properly applied. Or they cut corners on quality (e.g. parapet elastomeric coatings etc).|
|Safe roof/building access||Your client has a duty now to make sure every area that needs maintenance is safely accessible – mainly roof fall arrest systems and anchors in those hard-to-get-to-places on the facade.|
|Names of all appropriate tradespeople||Why not give your clients the details of all the ‘star’ tradespeople in your team? Be specific. Make sure you include their specialist skills e.g. roofing specialist, problem solving carpenter, deck expert etc.|
|Advice when anything can’t be easily fixed||So often owners make a small problem worse by not getting advice if something is complex or recurs, such as a basement leak or chronic termite infestation.|
|Timber pests||The detail|
|How to avoid unnecessary chemical application||You can help your client avoid wasting money on unnecessary poisons around their home.|
|How to fix the reasons why you are getting termite or rot problems||In most cases your client needs to upgrade the timber which is rotting or remove the timber built into the ground, which is causing the termite entry into their building.|
|Tips to limit risk of future damage||You can tell them about treated timber, not to build up the gardens over the slab edges, and why stopping leaking pipes will limit risk of rot and termites.|
I like helping people. I like puzzles. I think being seen as competent and knowledgeable is pretty cool. Also, I have made a lot more money from sharing my ideas and giving free advice than being unhelpful and selfish. The problem solving and troubleshooting role we can offer all of our clients will keep us in their hearts and minds and will help us increase our knowledge and maintain our relevance.
Our role as ‘keepers of the building light’ for our clients should be a key objective in 2013 and beyond.