I Wanted to Laugh!
A brand new year. We've got some new stuff and, of course, the same old stuff as well. And, yes, the old stuff did make me want to laugh! You'll get a kick out of this, so listen up, team!
First, a happy New Year to all of you dedicated readers of "Full Contact Project Management." Your loyalty and encouragement help me keep focused on being a good project manager. And working in the trenches, I always seem to have new and valuable stuff to pass along to you. May this be a breakout year for all of us, as we set goals and achieve personal bests for our careers and companies, while we continue to apply the principles that we share and learn here.
New stuff: I'll be speaking at the Coatings Pro 2007 conference on Jan. 15 in Orlando. It should be a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to meeting lots of new people. Visit my website for more details.
So what did I think was so funny? Okay, time to tell you what happened.
Recently, I was at a client's field office, and we were discussing an issue that had come up. Basically, it dealt with whether any of the work we were doing had caused some damage to the property next door. (One of the problems with being a contractor is that we often are the initial suspects when a property owner is looking for someone on which to hang a damage claim. Know what I mean?) In an effort to not become longwinded on the topic, I'll just ask you to take my word for it that we didn't cause the damage.
The way this all started is that the general contractor (GC) notified us by phone of a potential problem. We considered what was said, and sent a letter back in response. What kind of a letter did we send? We sent a "Winning Letter," which is discussed in detail in "Get Paid for a Change!" (You can also find out more about writing an effective letter by going to the website, www.fullcontactPM.com, for some free help. See the Playbook info at the end of this article.)
Now our letter was straight forward, only one page in length, and it laid out our case. The letter went out immediately after we received the phone call. We kept the letter focused and never accepted any responsibility. With this scenario, your client will learn that you are familiar with the issue, you are checking into it, and you'll get back to them at a later date.
Remember, once you have investigated the entire situation, you can always agree later that it is your company that is at fault and accept responsibility at that time — and good contractors always accept responsibility for their mistakes. However, even if your business is not at fault, you can virtually never take back an admission of responsibility once you have offered it. That's why it's best to just take the issue under advisement until you can research it and find out the truth.
"But Coach, get to the funny part!" you say.
Okay, here it is: My client said that he was going to be sending us a letter, but that he didn't want it to hurt our relationship. He wanted us to remember that the project had been good so far, and he didn't want to sour it, but that the letter stated that he would look to us and the other contractors to resolve the matter and to hold him harmless. We were not to take offense because of the letter — it was "just business." (Ever heard that one before?) And besides, the contract required that he do it that way.
Now while you try and figure out why I find this to be so hilarious, let me give you some hints. How many times have you heard from a client that he or she didn't want to get involved in some kind of a "letter-writing campaign?" Of course, this is almost always after your client receives your letter, but not after your client sends you their letter!
See, that's what I think is outrageously funny, and it did make me want to laugh. I get objections all the time from GCs, construction managers (CMs) and owners who are not used to having a well-informed and communicative contractor working for them. They are used to calling the shots. They are much more comfortable with telling you what to do, and do not really like it when you set them straight, and remind them what their contract documents say about resolving such a situation.
Know what else? You'll find that many CMs and GCs actually will give up before you do. I just went through this with another CM; after a few letters back and forth, the CM gave up. Pretty handy if you ever have to go through a claim or to court!
Coach Gary's Rule: Always be persistent; always try and get in the last word; always do it with respect; always be willing to win; and always smile big while you're doing it!
It can be a happy new year, team!
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.
Copyright © 2007, Gary Micheloni and Full Contact