Most claims against an architect or engineer will all have a common thread—irate clients. Under most circumstances, clients make up the vast majority of the claims set up against the design professionals, and almost always, the anger’s underlying cause involved unmet expectations.
For the majority of cases, the client has every right to feel upset because of a general contracting firm that made negligent errors that resulted in unexpected and extensive costs and project flaws. Angry clients have a right to recover hidden losses. This is why having professional liability insurance becomes important.
Overly Demanding Clients
You do have cases where a client expects perfection from the design team and minor delays or a design change can be taken as signs of incompetence. In many cases, these are the clients who will file a claim at the first sight of problems or make unreasonable demands on a designer. For these cases, the best route involves amiable cooperation over antagonistic confrontation. When you manage the client’s expectations in advance, you can avoid excessive confrontation or claims and outrageous demands. Educating a client about what to expect and the standard design firms must reach can reduce explosive upsets to a minor inconvenience. Clients will then see the delay as more of a necessary evil in the building and designing process.
The more sophisticated clients will often understand the woes of a commercial general contractor, and they will work with them to remedy the arising obstacles. Nevertheless, when you take on a client for a major project, you want to acquaint them with the process and the design and construction before you start. An important concept to explain is, “standard of care” related to design professionals.
What is Standard of Care?
For a good business relationship, clients must understand everything you are required to do. You want to render your design services that show them as competent to people under the same discipline. The concept of “Standard of Care,” goes back to English Common Law doctrine. This concept says the public can expect services of a reasonable and normal fashion. They will be offered in a careful and prudent manner, and tested through the actions of your peers. As the great artist Dali Salvador once said, “Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” as long as you act with expert skill and the utmost care, this is what counts.
Should a general contracting firm accept projects outside their realm of expertise, they will still have an obligation to perform according to the standards of those experienced in the chosen industry. In addition, general contracting means you must assign tasks to experienced and competent staff. Many cases will involve continuing education and training the essential areas of knowledge and technology to maintain the standards of care.
Language Matters More Than You Think
Some clients will try to raise the standard of care through contract language, which requires you to perform above and beyond the usual norm. It might demand, for example, to “the highest standard of practice,” or the language might say, “in a non-negligent manner.” When you agree to this language, it can be legally binding as a guarantee or a warranty when it comes to insurance and statutes of limitation. Agreement to such language dramatically increases your risk, and worse, your professional liability insurance may not cover the added exposure because you accepted terms on a voluntary or contractual assumption.
Many times, professional liability insurance does not cover exaggerated terms where you have overstated the abilities of your firm. Overblown statements inside a contract will be seen as a warranty or a performance requirement much higher than to those of your peers. Should you see a client draft a contract with these clauses that raise the standard of care to a higher degree, deleting the language to return it back to the original becomes essential.
The Goal of Every Contractor
All contractors should set a goal for building their projects on time and within the allotted budget. If they want to remain both productive and effective, they will have to understand how the construction process works. Not only does this include project understanding, it involves how you schedule and manage your project. As the general contractor, you are responsible for the management and the overseeing of all the activities on a construction project. You supervise the parties to make sure everything continues as planned.
The Four Steps of Successful Construction Project Management
You have four vital steps involved in the management of a construction project. Every party must have a plan, and they will need to develop their project schedule and monitor the schedule to ensure the deadline remains tight. Every step requires commitment and detailed care from each team member in the process.
Step 1: You establish your project plan. This lets you manage the construction project to execute your work, and the planning should be thought of as a complex general contracting puzzle. Take into consideration the cost and the time because this leads to understanding the total cost of the project.
Step 2: Create a schedule around the project plan to ensure the critical tasks are completed. The project schedule divides the project based on the activities, and it lets other parties know what needs to be performed and when.
Step 3: You monitor the progress and the schedule to guarantee everything continues to go as planned.
Step 4: Involves managing your change events, which will inevitably occur. You have to manage the schedule and the accounts that involve changes. During this stage, work gets broken down into refined stages to reach the quintessential factors.
For a commercial general contractor, understanding expectations and managing projects may not be easy, but through monitoring, planning and scheduling, the work activities are completed and the project continues to progress. As the contractor, it is your job and your right to stay informed about the construction progress. When you keep everyone in line, you inevitably raise the standard of quality and keep the project on track.