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All Plans and Specifications Will Be For The Exclusive Use Of …

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Sep 03,2013 @ 06:00 AM

All Plans and Specifications Will Be For The Exclusive Use Of …

Contractor does plans for free


Do you give your plans and specifications away to prospects for free, or do you only leave plans and specifications with paying customers? 

Remember, people who want stuff for free hang around with other people who want stuff for free.  How you decide to answer this question will have a long term effect on your business and future referrals. 

If you choose to not leave your proposal with prospects unless they commit to your company, this policy should be discussed with your prospects during the initial sales call.  By doing so it will not become a surprise to them when you come back to present your proposal. 

You are presenting, not emailing proposals, right?


Sample text

Here is some sample language you can consider using inside the remodeling proposals you create for prospects.  This information is for your reference only.  Be sure you have it reviewed by your own legal council before using it.

This proposal and any related plans and specifications shall be for the exclusive use of; and will remain the property of “Construction Company” until a Construction Contract agreement for the proposed work is reached between both parties.  The acceptance of this agreement will require the owners’ signature(s) and payment in full of the specified deposit.   If this proposal is not accepted at the time of presentation, owner(s) are welcome to view all plans and specifications at the contractor’s office at a mutually agreeable time.


selling remodelingThis language is best used at the beginning of your proposal

Include your policy in beginning of your proposal so you can remind your prospect about your policy very early during the proposal presentation meeting.  If they have a problem with your policy you can discuss their concerns and both of you can decide whether it makes sense to continue and present/discuss the rest of the proposal. 



By not leaving your proposal behind you are protecting your business as well as your prospect

The information you include in your proposal comes from your many years of experience and education.  For this you deserve to be compensated.   Also, because you and your team have expereince working together, I would suggest your proposal probably contains a level of detail adequate for you and your team to build from.  But, your proposal may not have adequate detail for others to build from.  If you allow other contractors to work from your proposal they and the home owner may be making assumptions about what is or should be included to do the job correctly and to building code or safety requirements.  By allowing such things to happen you may be putting other contractors, the home owners and or the success of the project at risk. 


How much risk are you willing to accept to sell a deal?

Should you leaving plans and specifications behindI also suggest you consider the possible liability you take on by creating specifications and or project plans and leaving them with a prospect that does not do business with you. By doing so you may have put yourself into a position where the prospect or another contractor actually works from them.  If they have challenges when building the project and decide those challenges were caused by your plans and or specs, they may have legal rights to sue you.  Regardless of whether you feel you are innocent or guilty, you will need to cover your own legal expenses if you get to court and most likely will not be able to re-coup your legal costs even if you are found innocent.  If you are found guilty you may even be required to pay the legal expenses incurred by the person suing you.

If you decide to take this risk, I highly recommend you obtain Errors and Omissions Insurance Coverage or Professional Design Liability Coverage.


Some big picture thoughts for remodelers to chew on before they decide:

  • I suggest you are in the business of selling remodeling, not designs.  Can you earn a living selling designs?
  • Avoid being used as an unpaid consultant.  How does that feel when it happens?
  • Don’t let your proposals, specifications and plans facilitate the ability for some guy named “Bubba” to get the job rather than you.
  • Not every lead you get should or will be YOUR customer.
  • If you work for the wrong customers, they will be referring you to people just like them!



Topics: Contracts, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Legal Considerations, Prequalifying, Business Considerations, Plans and Specifications, Insurance Considerations

What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Dec 28,2012 @ 12:23 PM

Guest Blog: What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!

Reva Kussmaul, remodel coach

 Guest Blogger: Reva Kussmaul, owner of Remodel411.  Reva began her practice as a remodeling coach in 1998.  Reva believes that remodeling should be a 50/50 relationship and if it wasn’t cultivated as such - nightmares can occur.  According to Reva, those nightmares are typically caused by a gap in communication and it could come from either side.  For Reva it became quite obvious that someone who knew about and cared about both sides was a missing piece to the puzzle of remodeling nightmares.   So, she decided that both homeowners and contractors could use a coach when it came to their relationship - the remodeling relationship that is.  In this guest blog Reva talks about the difference between an designer and a decorator.  Check out her book: Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship


What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!

The risk of low price remodeling


I'm constantly running into consumers who, not only used the lowest priced proposal and bidder, they also want me to offer the lowest proposal to fix the work “done wrong” and yet provide the highest quality work.

I've looked at three "done wrong" electrical jobs in the past four months and one shower installed incorrectly as well. When I advise the homeowners about exactly what’s wrong and what it will take to fix it, they're blown away at my pricing.

I get very clear about what the costs are and why, even to the smallest details;  like "materials don't just appear - someone has to go to the store, wait in line, load the truck, use the gas to go to and from then get the materials to the job-site - all of which is part of the cost."  

If it’s too good to be true…

I understand home owners’  “wishin' and hopin” aspect of wanting the lowest price to work out; plus get high-quality work and having no change orders.   But much research has to be done by the contractor to know if such WILL be the case.  I always give my potential clients a possible change-order scenario regarding something that just isn't visible when going out to look at a project.  Plus, I usually have my sub go in the attic and under the house to check joists, plumbing, electrical to see just what might be change-order possibilities waiting to happen.

If he finds something questionable, the beauty of technology these days is - he takes a picture and shows it to the homeowner immediately, along with an explanation of the problem.

So, it's not accepting the lowest price that is the homeowner's challenge. It's "hoping" it will turn out the best and everything will work out as intended. Again, as I state all the time, it's a 50/50 relationship, not a one side is wrong all the time scenario. It's about clarity of communication on both sides. And, until both parties know and recognize this we'll keep hearing the stories and there will be a constant need of fixing the "jobs done wrong!"

Contractors must stop under-bidding. 

under bidding remodeling jobs


They should be honest about what things cost.  Being in business as a contractor is not a hobby, it's how we earn a living.   Homeowners must be willing to do the research it takes to find out why things cost what they do and stop wanting to get things "on-the-cheap".     I have found many homeowners who get it and, unfortunately, many who don't. Contractors can separate themselves and their businesses by helping them.

Solving this problem should also include a “how is your relationship with money” conversation; both about the giving and the receiving.  If either party is vague about their discussions about money think of it this way: 

“What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness!”

Welcome to Vagueness wr

Love this industry and I will continue to move toward win/win rather than making either side wrong!

Making everything that goes or has gone wrong one-sided is to live in the problem and not become part of the solution.  I've had “homeowners from hell" and, on bad days and during some tough years, I’ve probably been thought of as a “contractor from hell".  For many of us it’s simply being human and bringing our personal “stuff” into our work.  Happens in every area of life and, truly, that is where the work lies.

Remodeling customer from hellI know there may be some web sites out there focused on making the contractor wrong but please keep the above in mind.   It’s a relationship and absolutely not a one-sided affair.  It’s a 50/50 and must be treated as such.

Let’s get out of vagueness!

Happy Remodeling!


Topics: Differentiating your Business, Guest Blogs, Customer Relations, Plans and Specifications, Opinions from Design/Builders

How To Help Remodeling Prospects Make Buying Decisions

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Wed, Dec 19,2012 @ 06:00 AM

How To Help Your Remodeling Prospects Make Buying Decisions

Remodeling decisions



Consumers reading or watching the news are being fed information everyday about financial scandals, difficulty obtaining credit, increasing costs on just about everything, and the uncertainty of when things will improve.  Let’s face it, bad news sells better than good news, there is plenty of it and as a result consumers have a low confidence level. 

The consumer needs to have confidence

Before they will commit to buying remodeling, or anything for that matter, they need to have confidence in themselves, what they plan to buy, and, their salesperson.  Take the time in the sales process to understand their concerns so they gain the feeling that you know what they are up against.  Again, they want options, but just throwing options at them will increase their confusion and concerns about making a decision.  Work to gain their trust and confidence, not Remodeling sales cycleby what you say, but rather by the intuitive questions you ask. 

If you know and ask the right questions, questions that help them feel you must know what you’re talking about, and that get to the heart of the purpose for their project, as well as their concerns about it, they will come to see you as the trusted expert.  If you go about interacting with them in a sincere and purposeful way, they will come to trust you, your solution, your business, your purpose, and, ultimately their ability to make a good decision.

The consumer needs proof

A good conversational exchange may help swing a prospect over to your side, but I suggest they will need proof of your offer and claims so they can confirm any agreements and stay confident after closing the deal.  Proof can be accomplished in many ways.

Construction proposal


For example you could provide strong references that can back up from personal experience your abilities and promises as real.  Professionally prepared project specifications and agreements that detail the project as well as the customer’s purpose for doing the project will show you truly listened and captured important details.  A payment schedule in your remodeling proposal based on project milestones can help them feel confident they will receive and actually see value as they make progress payments.  Describe for them your process for producing their project.  Let them know about your preconstruction and precompletion meetings and why you do them.  Tie several benefits of these meetings to any concerns they may have expressed during your discussions. 


Some of you may already be doing these things. 

If you are, but your still not seeing results, rethink how and when you do them.   Make sure your solutions are presented in a way that your customers can see how they address their purpose and concerns.   Don’t assume anything anymore, except that you can’t make assumptions.  People remember 10% of what you say, but 90% of what they say. If a customer says they like your solution, ask them why and seek a detailed answer.  In doing so they will hear themselves justify their decisions and you get a chance to make sure they didn’t add something you couldn’t deliver on or miss something you may already be including.  

Looking for sales training and or a sales coach? 

Contact Shawn to find out how he helps remodelers and other construction related businesses all over the country achieve the business and personal results they desire.  If you’re not earning and keeping enough money for your retirement yet he can help you change things.


Topics: New Business Realities, Project Meetings, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Customer Relations, Plans and Specifications

Prospects Need A New Process For Coming To A Buying Decision

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Mon, Dec 17,2012 @ 06:00 AM

Remodeling Prospects Need A New Process For Coming To A Buying Decision

Make remodeling decisions




Consumers need a new process for coming to a decision.  This definitely includes consumers considering remodeling projects at their homes. They can no longer assume they will increase the value of their home just because they remodel.  Even low price might not be a compelling reason to buy.  They need new reasons to go forward, and it becomes the salesperson’s job to help them find those reasons. 

Every consumer must go through due diligence before making a buying decision and this is further complicated because each one will have a different path; one that is personal to them.  They are journeying into new areas and might not even know how or where to get started.  The new remodeling salesman must be a decision engineer, methodically guiding consumers through their specific emotional and intellectual considerations relative to making a confident buying decision. 

Notice I said guide them

Shortening the remodeling sales cycle


They must feel like the decision and the process they went through was their own and that they didn’t miss anything that should have been considered.   The old school approach of telling or convincing a prospect what to do will no longer work.  Once they come to realize a process for making their decision, the salesman must then become a trusted adviser, with the knowledge and ability to offer appropriate design, product and project delivery options. 


The consumer has come to expect options

LBM Sales Rep helps remodelerManufacturers can and should provided information and education relative to product options, differences and price points.  Retailers selling to remodelers should be getting this information from their distributor and manufacturer reps.  The entire supply chain should be sharing this information with contractors through trade shows, educational events and personal interaction.  

To improve sales and ultimately business results, I suggest remodelers find good retailers to do business with who will provide this information; then attend their offerings and study up.



Topics: New Business Realities, Sales, Project Meetings, Success Strategies, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Plans and Specifications

Designer or Decorator – Know and Manage the Difference

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jun 12,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Designer or Decorator – Know and Manage the Difference

Reva Kussmaul, remodel coach

 Guest Blogger: Reva Kussmaul, owner of Remodel411.  Reva began her practice as a remodeling coach in 1998.  Reva believes that remodeling should be a 50/50 relationship and if it wasn’t cultivated as such - nightmares can occur.  According to Reva, those nightmares are typically caused by a gap in communication and it could come from either side.  For Reva it became quite obvious that someone who knew about and cared about both sides was a missing piece to the puzzle of remodeling nightmares.   So, she decided that both homeowners and contractors could use a coach when it came to their relationship - the remodeling relationship that is.  In this guest blog Reva talks about the difference between an designer and a decorator.  Check out her book: Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship





Designer or decorator, whats the difference


Contractors & Homeowners:  There is a distinct difference between someone who chooses pretty things for the home (see the definition for decorator below) and someone who knows what choosing pretty as well as designing for the building/installation of pretty is (see definition of designer below).

Designer:  A person who plans the form, look, or workings of something before its being made or built; a creator, planner, inventor; maker, architect, builder.

Decorator:  A person who decorates, in particular a person whose job is to decorate the interior of someone's home, by choosing colors, carpets and furnishings.


Many decorators call themselves designers and they are far from it

I’ve worked with them, so I know.  Now, I’m not making them wrong for what they do, I’m saying how they define themselves is incorrect.

Perhaps it’s easier to sell one’s services if called a designer as opposed to a decorator - maybe more money can be charged?!  However, there is a very important difference.  When a decorator, who sometimes has no true knowledge about building, has a plan B with possible change orders for “unforeseens”, etc.; the project suffers UNLESS they have consulted with the contractor and are willing to refer to their expertise.  Then, we have what is called “a team” and an experience is created.

Design/Builders can offer the full service option

This is also part of the remodeling relationship I write about in Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship. My advice to homeowners - choose a design-build firm that is full-service and if you feel a need to have someone help you decorate with pretty, simply ask if their company is staffed for that service as well.  Save yourself time, money as well as emotional fall-out.  In the long run, this is what will create a great remodeling relationship.

difference between a decorator and a designerMy suggestion to design/build firms is to have a decorator either on staff or one you’ve built a good relationship with available to you, that is willing to work in conjunction with the designer and/or contractor as far as the pretty aspect of such things as tile lay-out, mirror and sconce placement goes.  This is where creating a team comes into play.  When all parties are able to communicate clearly with one another and work together everyone wins.  That’s the whole point - everyone does what they’re good at, has a good time and works together so more business is forth-coming.

It’s about clear communication and teamwork

A great team, which includes quality craftsmanship, is what creates a win/win experience for all involved. It’s not about anyone being right or wrong, it’s about creating an amazing experience.


Topics: Guest Blogs, Plans and Specifications, Opinions from Design/Builders, Definitions, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals

Should You Add Design/Build to Your Company Name?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, May 22,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Should You Add Design/Build to Your Company Name?

Choosing a name for your remodeling company or Design Build company


Naming or renaming your building or remodeling company is an important decision. Many business owners may not realize this significance or the long-term impacts this decision can have. Many things can and should be considered before committing to a business name, far more than can be covered in this blog post. The purpose of this blog post is to focus only on what architects and other design professionals may think about your business if you add the words Design/Build to the business name.

I suggest that you don’t look at this information as an architect-bashing session or as a complete guide for making your own decision. Concerns expressed here are based on real experiences shared by contractors. Use what is being shared as a start toward qualifying what you should consider. Then, Design/Build your business’ name.

Will architects be willing to work with you?

If they find the words “Design/Build” in your company name, many architects and design professional may be hesitant to work for you as your employee or as a sub contractor.  Depending on their belief system, education, or what I call their “reality”, there could be several obstacles to their willingness to work for or partner with you. Here are a few:

  • Maning a remodeling businessThey may be challenged if no longer the one in control of the design process, the construction methods and the client.
  • Removing the bidding process may send shivers down their spines.
  • Not putting their name, but rather your company’s name, on the plans may feel completely unacceptable.
  • Not being the guardian or protector for the homeowner and the homeowner’s money may feel completely unacceptable.


What architects think about remodelersWill they refer you to their own clients?

Assuming your business is still willing to bid, if they see the words “Design/Build”, will an architect or designer refer you to their clients? Other legitimate concerns could include:

  • Will you embarrass them if their plans are incomplete or not quite buildable? 
  • Will you start offering value-added construction options or product alternatives directly to the client without first consulting them?
  • Will they be afraid you will steal the design process away from them,
  • Will you expose mistakes in the plans or overlooked zoning issues due to your own acquired expertise?

Shawn McCadden opinions


Read more of Shawn's thoughts about adding Design/Build to your business name.

Topics: Sales Considerations, Business Considerations, Plans and Specifications, Working with Design Professionals

Design Options for Design/Builders: Partnering for Design

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Apr 05,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Design Options for Design/Builders: Partnering for Design

Finding an architect for design buildDesign/Build has caused a major role reversal.  In most Design/Build situations, the contractor is now choosing the designer, after the project or design retainer has been sold!   Finding a design professional who will work in this new role can be a challenge, but if the relationship is built for mutual benefit, all parties win, including the homeowner.

Typically, the hardest part about subbing is finding a good sub worth partnering with. High quality standards being a given, a good sub also complements your team and meets all the legal and insurance coverage requirements. The same will be true if you subcontract the design work for Design/Build projects. There are plenty of design professionals out there, but how many are working as subs, better yet work as project partners with general contractors?  

Agree to Agree

If you truly want to partner with a design professional on a subcontracted basis, start with the guidelines of the relationship. Contractors and design professionals can both have strong personalities and have been observed on occasion to let ego compromise the project or relationship. Working out what each expects of the other and how the relationship will work before partnering on a project will help avoid some of the disappointments typical to a blind date.

Topics to consider might include the ability to design within a budget, incorporating construction methods already familiar to the contractor’s team, who will pay to fix the plans if mistakes are discovered, and who will cover the errors and omissions insurance coverage in case of design failure.


Take Time to Establish and Evolve Your Design/Build Partnership

Design build lunch



Consider a lunch meeting together with your designer to discuss expectations and workout any kinks before meeting with any clients. Blind dates may be fine if you have no expectations for a long lasting relationship, but don’t lose a client by double dating with a stranger.

Fortunately, in a true Design/Build setting, the contractor and designer are together at every meeting with the client. This provides a great way for both to observe and monitor the dynamics of the meeting and the contractor/designer relationship. Be sure to include time (maybe another lunch meeting) for a debriefing discussion right after leaving the design meeting to work out any issues and or confirm what worked well.  Doing so can help both of you advance and improve your process and your working relationship.

Successful Design/Build doesn’t happen by accident!


Read this previous blog post about doing design in-house

download shawn's free sample design build retainer agreement

Be sure your business is ready when the market improves!  If you are looking for better results from your Design/Build business contact Shawn today.  



Topics: Design/Build Process, Plans and Specifications, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals

Design Options for Design/Builders: In-House Design

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Apr 03,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Design Options for Design/Builders: In-House Design

Design options for design build



Design/Build contractors have come to realize the need for and importance of design as it relates to getting and producing the construction of a project. Typically, there are two options for getting the design done; In-house or out-sourced.  This article will discuss in-house design.  In my next blog I will discuss partnering with others to get the design work done.


The Designer Must be Qualified To Do The Job

Choosing the right designer for design buildNot all contractors or homeowners have creative design skills, but most can tell a good design from a bad one.  A drive through your local area may provide a few good examples of projects where the contractor completed the design, but perhaps should have stuck just to the build part.  The project could have met the client’s needs for space or function, but the end result may have been a T-1-11 box added onto a Victorian gem.

The first consideration before offering in-house design services should be an assessment of the designer’s skills and qualifications.  Depending on the type of projects you do or the design expectations of your clients, do you have the experience and skills on staff to complete the required designs and drawings?  Also, consider the legal requirements for the design or designer in the market area you work to be sure your designer and or your business can even offer such services.


In-House Design Considerations

If you are currently doing your design work in-house, or plan to, consider the following before it’s too late:

  • Do you have the time in your schedule to add or keep up with the demand for design, particularly if your business or volume grows?
  • If you bring a designer on staff, will you have enough work to keep him/her busy and productive?  If not, what other skills do they have or what other skills does your business need that this person could bring with them?
  • Are you limiting your client’s projects and design desires to your in-house capabilities and experience?  Will that be a problem?
  • What will happen if you or your only designer is injured or otherwise unavailable to do the design work?
  • If you do not have a professional designation, what will you do if your prospect or client wants the prestige of a professional architect, or the project requires structural engineering? 
  • Even if you plan to do the design work in house, should you find an additional resource or two as back-up to get the design work you need done when you needed it?

If any of the above could affect you or your business in a negative way, partnering with others may be the answer.  Watch for my next blog for some insight on partnering with others to get the design done.

download shawn's free sample design build retainer agreement


Topics: Design/Build Process, Plans and Specifications, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals

With Design/Build, Who Owns The Plans?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Feb 26,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Who Owns the Plans?

Who owns the plansConsider the definition of Design/Build.  In a true Design/Build situation, the purpose of the plans is to facilitate construction.  Otherwise, there is no purpose for offering design unless you are offering design as a separate service. If that is the case, then it is not design/build.  In true design/build, because the purpose of creating the plans is so the Design/Builder can build from them, the client is not entitled to the plans unless they commit to construction with the Design/Builder.

The above may upset some.  Perhaps consider if you are a Design/Builder with a Design/Build Business, or you are a Remodeler who sometimes offers Design/Build as a service.


A Way of Doing Business

Brand Building for Design/BuildersIn most cases, doing the design before you get a commitment from your clients for the build puts you into a bidding situation, something most Design/Builders seek to avoid.  It’s also the reason many business owners give me for getting into true Design/Build to begin with; to get out of the “bidding game”.   These businesses become “Design/Build Businesses”.  They have chosen a niche to concentrate on and to build a brand around.  Deviating from the process weakens or changes the brand.


A Different Sales Style

If you are committed to the marriage of design and build as one process, typically the greatest challenge or change will be a new or different sales approach. Convincing the client to select your company, give up the three bid option, and pay for a design and plans they will not necessarily get to keep unless they go forward with your company, requires a mind set and sales skills most salespeople do not possess.  If you wouldn’t consider or commit to a Design/Build process for renovations at your home, you will probably have a hard time selling the concept to others.  Selling it requires believing in it.

Keep in mind that as a consideration for success within this definition of Design/Build, the process is for those clients who can make decisions and will stick to them.  They can’t change their minds during the process and seek bids using the Design/Builder’s plans.  Clarifying and sticking to this is the responsibility of the salesperson and should be clearly explain during the initial sales call as well as in your Design/Build Agreement.


Don’t get mad at me

Design Build or Design BidThe process described above is not for every contractor and it’s not for every client.  I am not suggesting using any other process is wrong; not at all.   It’s still a free country and you can do business any way you want, as long as you operate legally.  I am saying that if you separate the two processes don’t tell consumers that you are a “Design/Build Business”.  Maybe yours is a remodeling business that offers both design/build and the traditional design/bid process. That is a good business model, too.  Explain the difference and give your prospects the option to choose one or the other.



Want more on this topic?

Check out Shawn's article Titled "Who Owns The Plans?"

Check out this previous blog post regarding standardizing the definition of Design/Build


Topics: Sales Considerations, Plans and Specifications