The "loaded gun"

Continuing along the lines of pricing, value engineering, and contracting, the "loaded gun" refers to the ballpark estimates many clients fish for during the very early stages of dialogue while exploring their options on their desired projects. I really do engage in these dialogues almost every day of the week and have performed repair/remodeling ranging from a leaky gutter repair to a full blown tear down with formal architecture and engineering oversight, and there are as many clients with varying degrees of need and sophistication. The "loaded gun", so to speak, comes into play mainly in projects ranging in price from $20K to $200K because once you crest the $200K price range, there are normally much more detailed designs and deliberate financial planning in these larger projects, for many reasons that I will explain and explore below. 

 Site team's human relationships

Site team's human relationships

As a disclaimer, Our preferred process is called "Design-Build" on most projects requiring pricing because of the effort that it demands of us for a thorough due diligence for providing our clients with solid data, and to protect our current production from the more curious. Statistics also indicate that when asked to provide a ballpark figure, almost 90% of the leads, not clients, take immediate, alternative actions which typically don't involve our services. According to my industry experts, this is a universal phenomena that volumes of sales courses and textbooks have been created. This is why I totally try to avoid throwing out a ballpark figure, regardless of whether I have a good one, because it is a "loaded gun."

Ok, why the "loaded gun" theory? Many of the $20K-$200K projects are either DIY projects where the owner is trying to handle a project without a design professional, an attempt is made to build off of an incomplete set of plans, or a design professional has drawn schematics without a prior, conscientious discussion on owner financials. Buyer beware on financials! This is a blanket statement; however, contractors and architects should not be placed into a position to act as pseudo-financial advisors, without a candid disclaimer to the affect. While we have a certain degree of intuition and historical data, we should be kept on task for design, labor, and logistics. Our greatest sweet spot is establishing a mutually reliant relationship, digesting the scope of work, creating an estimate with some teeth to it, and sitting down at the table to hammer out pre-construction details, and then get our game on. To better explain the "loaded gun," is that if big bold numbers are thrown out before any meaningful dialogue is made to understand budgets, needs, desires, work ethic, professional services, warranty care, etc., and an opportunity to attain a degree of trust from the owner, statistics are that your "ball park" figure will be shopped with a hand full of contractors, or you have just freaked the lead out before a true vision of a great project has been solidified between one another.  This may be the sport of the bargain hunter; however, a really good contractor will have too much skin in the game to interact in too many of these encounters.

 Architect Sissy Austin with owner's working through a myriad of design details.

Architect Sissy Austin with owner's working through a myriad of design details.

We prefer to "unload and make safe" while developing nurturing relations for any size of project, because we care about our client's long term needs and hope to be called back for repeat business, after all, this is a good business plan for small companies operating in a restricted geographical market. This requires a conscientious effort to define the scope of work, define roles and responsibilities, clarify expectations, and the commitment to produce an intelligible construction contract that fits within realistic financial expectations for the goods and services sought. We are working with a few very, very good clients now with the above process, and recently spent a few hours with one of our best client's dad looking at a large time is of the essence project, which epitomized the "cut to the chase" pricing exercise. The general situation was that my client's dad had to cut to the chase for timing issues, and had enough previous construction dealings and real estate savvy to deduce a pretty hard line budget for the work that he knew that he wanted and how much he wanted to spend on it. The deal was for us to only spend enough due diligence as needed to produce a conservative cost of construction (not a ball park figure), and once our numbers were about 30% above what he wanted to invest in the project, he promptly severed our relationship and sent us a check for our time. This was hardball, no doubt, and we rarely run into very many leads that have such a strong grasp of their desired project and financials and that's why we strongly encourage a non-adversarial engagement, working towards the end-goal of a well thought out and planned scope of work, high quality materials and workmanship, and the desire to do more business together down the road. We can always be out-gunned and out-priced; however, our service excellence, loyalty, and authenticity are seldom surpassed. 

Please give us a call, or shoot us an email if you have any questions on an upcoming project, need to brush some dust off of a pending project, or are bogged down in an existing one. We would love to help!

Steve Ray