Success Working with Multiple Contractors on a Design Project

Too many cooks spoil the broth…boy have I tasted that soup in my career.

I happen to be working with a great client right now who has called into their renovation project (other than me), a builder to do the construction, a cabinet maker who is also a builder and a painter who also considers himself a builder. As I watched this one unfold and sat in on a meeting or two in which the cabinet maker clearly wanted to guide the design of the kitchen, or where the painter wanted to do some demolition and tile work and come to think of it the cabinet maker evidently told the client early on that he could have easily done the full renovation himself, all I could think was…here comes a train wreck.

Luckily, I’m not just a very good designer, I’m also very good business woman, project manager, diplomat and good will ambassador. And because I type fast (!) and believe in paper trails (!), lots of clear communication with all hands on deck has helped this project run more smoothly than I expected. The keys to multiple contractors on one job to insure success are the following.

  • Two heads are better than one when it comes to creative meetings, however there needs to be one over all design brain guiding the project in total. Once a plan is set, it needs to be set. Period.
  • Clarity is the key. I like to be very clear on who is doing what, what is expected, to include reasonable delivery dates so contractors don’t pile up like toppled dominoes.
  • I find it critically important to set and manage expectations,both on the builders/contractor end and the client end. Full disclosure and managed expectations make for happy design team members.
  • And finally, open dialogue is key whether about job site problems, frustrations or concerns. Communicate early and communicate often. I also believe that work well done should be acknowledged. I’m the first one to compliment a builder or contractor on good work. It makes me smile inside that even the biggest and burliest of them light up like a firefly when I compliment a beautifully installed cabinet or mitered edge.

Multiple talent and specialists are necessary on most any renovation. Important then to keep in mind the idea that there’s a time and place for democratic rule…and sometimes you just need a good CEO who can simply utter the words “because I said so.”

Or is that a dictator? Well – if the shoe fits…