Contracting On Time and On Budget
When I became a contractor I would ask clients what they hated about dealing with contractors. It was very simple:

  • They don't return our calls at all or quickly.
  • They take the money and then go on to another job.
  • Work is done late.
  • Work comes in over-budget for one reason or other.

I analyzed the problem meticulously and responded:
  • The first problem was the design process. I would ask clients who hired me to install their designs how much they wanted to spend. They would tell me and I would explain that they could not even buy the materials for their design for this budget. Then the design had to be re-done because the designer did not ask them how much they wanted the installation budget to be. 
  • Next I would ask other questions, such as "how many cars do you want to comfortably park?" and "How many hours a week do you want to spend maintaining this?" and "Do you think you might be installing a hot tub. You can see my landscape questionnaire  here  for a list of many questions many designers don't ask. 
  • As a result of not asking these questions before the job began, they tended to get asked during or after bits of the project was done, resulting in change-orders that in turn led to delays. I realized that if I could ask every question in advance up front I could eliminate 90% of these change orders, cost-overruns and delays. I did this and it worked great.
  • Another problem was that most contractors ran multiple jobs at a time, which meant that the change orders and delays on one project would be multiplied by change orders on multiple jobs, pushing the schedule back significantly. So I decided to do only one job at a time: full attention until complete and not begin without a thorough design process.
  • As for cost-overruns. The more chaotic a project is, the easier it is to forget something. I simply took care, made a policy of flat bids for all work and gave myself a bit of slack for surprises. I never raise a price.
  • Finally, I know that crew get sick, cars break down, materials are delayed, subcontractors don't show up and weather turns foul. So I look at a job and think "That will take about a week." But I tell the client "I will have it done in three weeks." Then when it is done in two weeks I'm a week early without stressing about life's curve-balls.