Trust Must Be Earned

I recently sold a car on Craigslist. Trust and used car sales are not typically things you expect to go together. With each inquiry I received on the car, I noticed the following statement from Craigslist, boldly at the top in all capital letters:


When it comes to buildings, people that build a lot of buildings know and value this.

Colleges, Hospitals, Municipalities and other clients with campuses of multiple buildings tend to know this. They have learned to value the service and accountability of a local firm. We have long-standing relationships with these types of repeat clients that span over several decades.

Once or twice a year I get a call from someone involved in a building project that has gone bad. They didn’t have a lot of experience, chose the wrong design professional, builder, or even both. They need help, hoping I can help them through a business divorce or at least offer counseling. Here are some of the reasons why people make the wrong choices:

1. The local architect told me it was going to cost more.

That local architect has to look you in the eye at Rotary Club after bid day! He knows you’re going to be much happier if the project comes in on budget. He knows a building can be $100/sq. ft. or $300/sq. ft. and he wants to tie it to your needs and expectations. He’s probably also coached you on comprehensive budgeting for the many development costs you may have outside of the building construction. Your expectations of quality and the bidding climate will dictate the cost. Remember, the architect projects the cost, he does not set it. Most importantly, the local architect works in your community and depends on earning your positive reference for future work. For him, there is no one done and off to the next city; he needs to set realistic, not idealistic, budgets.

2. He’s teamed with this builder and they have a unique process that makes it cost less.

No one has a magic wand, and be leery of anyone trying to sell you one. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The bricks and steel are not going to get cheaper because of this “special process.” Quite frankly, it is often the opposite. An outside builder, who is not competitive in the area, convinces someone he has a “unique process.” This process in fact removes some competitive pricing and he has additional costs due to the distance. These costs are not readily transparent to inexperienced owners.
Ask yourself these questions:

• If this contractor has such a “special process” why is he not regularly winning competitively bid work in the area?

• Doesn’t he have additional costs to adequately serve and manage a project from a distance?

3. The out of town guys’ fee is lower.

It may look that way on the front end, but will it be that way in the end? How much will he have for reimbursable expenses? Is he going to charge you for additional services? He’s told you how much it will cost, but what kind of service do you get for that fee? Will he be there during construction? How can he do it cheaper with all of his travel time and expense?

Experienced clients know the answers to these questions. You get what you pay for, and there is a difference between price and value. Be leery of someone trying to buy a job (because he probably has to).

4. He has a great marketing video and very good references.

Remember, he produced the video and selected the references. It’s easier to be selective on a few choice references, than to maintain a long-standing reputation in a small region.

5. He has specialized expertise in similar projects.

This may in fact be true. Sometimes I think there is a stigma that anyone from out of town with a briefcase must be an expert. The local guy can’t possibly know anything because we were in the fifth grade together. I’m not so arrogant as to claim prophet status, but I think someone said something similar 2,000 years ago (John 4:44).

The fact is, occasionally projects can benefit from focused expertise. Most architects know their limitations and will engage that type of expertise. In those cases, the architect knows the people in the industry who have a reputation for creative design, performance and service. In these cases, consider hiring the local architect and have him engage the “expert” as a consultant. You benefit by having local service and accountability, along with the unique expertise needed on your project.

Your local architect understands the importance of your organization or business in the community. He is likely as passionate about your success as you are.

CMBA celebrated our 100th year in business in 2012! We have many long-standing relationships with clients that span many decades; clients that have multiple buildings or campuses, and have learned from their experiences.

Don’t take it from me; I was selling a used car…take it from Craigslist: