If I’m being honest, a LOT of what I learned about project management has been through trial and error. I made a lot of mistakes (as anyone does early on in their career!). But what is important is I learned from those mistakes. And now I’m here to teach YOU, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did when getting started.
Project Management 101 – Working With Contractors
When you’re working on a kitchen or bathroom design, you’re usually not the only one on the project. You’re most likely coordinating and executing with a group of contractors.
Part of making sure your jobs go smoothly is developing a good rapport with contractors. Find contractors you KNOW you get along well with, who do good work, and who are reliable. Find contractors and tradespeople who respect you for what you know and who trust in you.
Even if you hire trustworthy contractors, it’s important to protect yourself using a Kitchen & Bath design contract.
When you’re project managing a kitchen or bath design, you’re basically overseeing another group of people who, at the end of the day, you don’t have any control over. You can be a wonderful project manager, but there will always be situations where subcontractors do not cooperate. It’s important you make this clear in your contract.
If you’re going to be installing the kitchen, or installations in the bathroom, anything technical really, you have to make sure that you are held harmless from the actions by the subs and the contractors – and all the other work being performed by others.
There WILL be problems and things that come up, but if you have a good rapport with your contractors (see point above!) you can TALK to them about it. This is not about arguing or blaming people. This is about keeping everyone accountable and up to standard so you can deliver the best product possible for the client. If the contractor did something that is not up to par, it is your responsibility to discuss it with them and make sure it gets fixed.
Managing Client Expectations
Your client will be easier to manage if you just prepare them for the inevitable – something WILL go wrong!
You’re demo-ing, you’re remodeling, you’re ripping things apart, you’re changing the value of the home. Sometimes people make mistakes. People get sick. People have emergencies. THINGS HAPPEN!
Brace yourself for a problem to occur at SOME point during the design process. When a problem does come up, it’s your job to communicate it to the client and resolve it in a smooth fashion.
It can feel like a lot of pressure! But I try to remind my clients – these things that go wrong are not fatal. They’re not the end of the world. Everything is solvable!
As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to do everything within your power to make sure everything goes smoothly. When you’re acting as a PM you’re doing a lot of quality control, communication control, and overseeing other tradespeople
If you’re going to start doing this sort of work, you’ve got to make sure that you’re ready to deal with the brunt of the problems that are going to be put on your shoulders. Yes, you may sometimes have clients freak out and scream at you because they think things are taking too long (and in reality, things run over schedule 9 times out of 10!).
Some clients are able to deal with it and be flexible, and others are not. It can be a very emotional time – you are designing the most expensive rooms in the house, which add the MOST value to their home. It’s a very large investment for many people.
But no matter what happens, a good project manager can manage to control the situation by giving his or her clients peace of mind. You need to be confident in yourself, and display that confidence to your clients as well, so that no matter what issue arises, they know you have their back and that you will be there to come up with a solution. That is the secret to becoming a great K&B project manager!
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