Five years ago, Scott Barr of Southwest Exteriors in San Antonio began holding a preconstruction conference prior to installing a siding job. Barr says he picked up the idea from a consulting/educational group he belonged to, Remodelers Advantage, most of whose members are full-service contractors. He's been doing it ever since.
In a preconstruction conference, all important parties involved in a construction contract sit down and iron out specifics, immediately prior to actual installation. Over the years the idea, a standard practice in commercial construction, migrated to home building, and from home building to full-service remodeling. At the moment, only a handful of specialty contractors do it.
On the Same Page At Southwest Exteriors, siding jobs are typically scheduled within three weeks of contract signing. So within a week of production, Southwest's sales representative, project coordinator, crew leader, and at least one of the homeowners sit down and run through a checklist that covers, among other things, products, staging, job start and finish, clean up, and the client's obligations, such as removing breakable items from interior walls.
Contractors who do it say just bringing sales, production, and the homeowner together for a conversation has great value. “It gets everybody on the same page about what's going to take place on the job,” says Matt Ostrowski, owner of Creative Enclosures/Four Seasons Sunrooms in Norwich, Conn. Creative Enclosures holds a preconstruction conference two or three days before building starts. Ideally, the lead carpenter, production manager, salesperson, and homeowner attend. A one-page form documents issues under discussion, such as use of the bathroom, when progress payments are due, staging, placement of the Dumpster, and other issues.
Value to Contractor Contractors whose jobs install in a day may question whether or not it's worth the time and trouble to organize a preconstruction meeting. For instance, Southwest Exteriors doesn't have a preconstruction meeting for its window installation jobs, which typically take a day or a day and a half to complete. But the value of the preconstruction conference is that “it tells the homeowner that the contractor's concerned with doing it right the first time,” says Victoria Downing, president of Remodelers Advantage.
“You nip misunderstandings in the bud,” she says. “Your satisfaction rate goes up, and you're not reworking jobs because the products were the wrong size, shape, or color.” That said, Downing points out that specialty contractors would want to streamline the process in the interests of efficiency. “It's different if you're doing several hundred jobs a year, versus 20 or 30.”
Barr measures the value of preconstruction meetings to his company by the level of referral business. “Our goal is to get 50% of our revenue from previous clients and referrals. Right now it's 31%, and it's grown every year. And the only way to get referrals from clients is to exceed their expectations.”