There is no greater peril to a green builder/remodeler (or any builder/remodeler, for that matter) than a client who insists on having you do something outside your comfort zone. Clients ask us to do some crazy and some not-so-crazy things for any number of reasons, but trust me: As often as not, these requests are trains at the end of the tunnel, not light!
Usually, these requests are just that—a request. The client saw something on TV or the Internet, and believes it makes sense for his home. He may just like the way it looks, he may believe in the advertised performance aspects of the item in question, or perhaps he had it in his last home or knows someone else who tried it and swears by it.
But other times these requests are more than requests. Occasionally, the client will be adamant and insist the idea in question is a deal-breaker. That is, you do what he requests or the project is canceled and he will find someone else to do the work. Other times, his desires may be wrapped in a little subterfuge. You may also be cajoled by friendly persuasion. Or worse yet, the client may go around your back and try to wheel and deal directly with the architect, trade partner, or your superintendent to get his way.
Regardless of the client’s motives or methodology, you have the responsibility to draw the line in the sand and protect yourself, your company, your family, and ultimately your client from making a decision you cannot stand behind. The key is not letting it become a zero-sum game. If you capitulate and design, buy, build, craft, install, finish, or try warranting something you haven’t done your homework on, it will come back to haunt you.
This is not to say our company has not received some great ideas over the years from clients who have helped us push beyond our capabilities and work outside our comfort zone. We have before, and hopefully will get the opportunity again with each new client. The difference maker is we do our research and follow our gut instincts ahead of time. Key word here is “we.” That’s right, when asked to do something outside our processes or standard specs, we get others involved to help do the research and make the right choice. Those team members that help ensure the correct decision is made include some combination of architect, supplier, installer, superintendent, or anybody else who can help us troubleshoot the potential pitfalls.
No Lone Ranger is making the call himself in these situations. A team decision helps prevent us from doing something we do not believe is right for the client, his home, and our companies. That’s my 8th Commandment for you: Never let the client dictate the scope of work outside your comfort zone.