We all like to browse cutting edge technology and the latest and coolest design offerings, but that is what showrooms are for! Truthfully if you can see one or two prior completed jobs when you are considering hiring a contractor, see something that was designed and built a few years ago. This will give you a window into a few important things
- How long the Contractor has really been in business*
When you meet that client, it’s important to ask the right questions
- Was your Project completed on time and in budget?
- Were there many changes after the project began-surprises and extra work
- Were you permitted as the homeowner to supply any of your own material, tile flooring etc? Or did everything need to be purchased through the contractor?
- Did the contractor charge a premium?
- Was the job well supervised?
- Was the work continuous within reason (stopping for inspections)?
- Were there any issues after the job was completed, how were they handled
- Does the client feel like they got good value, and what they expected?
- Was the name of the Business hired 5 years ago the same as the contractor is using today?*
*again, changing a business name is a tactic used by a few contractors out there to hide from bad reviews, lawsuits, and dissatisfied customers. Do your homework and don’t fall for this.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t hire a new business or a young contractor. Quite the contrary, it just does pay to do your homework to find out where they got their start, and if they are young, have they worked for someone in the past? Ask to speak to that contractor.
Some contracts have 50 clauses on the back, if they do, take the time to read each one. If you think you need a lawyer to review the contract, then get one or move on to another contractor. It's possible the contractor you're dealing with has been on the receiving end of a lawsuit. This may or may not have been warranted or unwarranted. Your contract should be in easy to read language. Make sure that you are protected and negotiate changes you want up front.
I grew up in the construction business, third generation after both of my grandfathers’ and my own dad. Many of the people who worked for my father went on to have their own businesses. They stayed in touch with us as a family, and when the work was getting beyond my father he took pride in handing the jobs down to his past employees, with confidence they would do a great job.
If someone hasn’t come up the ranks working on the job-sites, as an apprentice, then journeyman, then master craftsman they are more of a “marketing expert/business person”, their perspective on the business may be very different than someone who learned the business from the foundation up.
Finally always check the name of the business with the Better Business Bureau. Accreditation with this organization shows a willingness by the contractor to be openly scrutinized. This practice protects the consumer and the Contractor, and if the business you are looking into has nothing to hide, they will want to share their excellent rating.
Author’s note: Working for one of the top kitchen design showrooms in the country is an honor and a pleasure. I have shared with my employers at MCK+B what I have learned through my personal experiences in this business, and they know that while they chose me as the right person for the showroom, I chose them based on their impeccable reputation. I am never too busy to offer advice, or give the name of independent referrals within the industry. Follow me on Twitter for industry updates!