Let me state right up front so it’s very clear - if you want a smooth fitout, you need to request and demand one key person point of contact. This also has some responsibilities on your part. You need to be disciplined enough to ensure that you advise that one key person of all your decisions throughout the project, rather than saying this or that to the various trades that come through.
Why It's Necessary
Let me paint a picture - actually this was kind of the problem… the painter.
I recently completed a small job outside of Sydney, Australia where we were supposed to paint a feature wall. We had marked it on the plan, however once the walls were built, it was obvious that the position was just not right. I contacted the client to discuss the options and because she could not visualise the premises it was decided that we would not proceed with the feature wall but would paint it later. Straightforward thus far.
Indeed, this is how one key point of contact works - an issue arises; contact made, decision made, project moves forward – simple.
Not quite. About a month later the client has moved in and now wants the feature wall painted. Yes the one behind reception that was the obvious choice a month ago. So the client once again follows the one key person rule and contacts me – perfect this is how it should work.
Sounds good so far
We agree to paint the selected wall in the colour and paint we had left on-site. I organise a different painter because the original painter is too busy to paint the wall. Pretty simple request – we do this every day. Because the site was three hours from Sydney I did not have a supervisor go to the site and check the work - instead I worked on the ‘no news is good news’ principal and assumed it was all good.
Two weeks later I get a call from a very upset client - why had we painted the long wall and not the reception wall? My initial reaction was confusion. What the… ? No way! Sure enough, we had painted the wrong wall. Why? Because the one point of contact rule had been broken. Actually not just broken, smashed into a thousand pieces.
The painter had arrived on-site and was preparing to paint the wall but was cut off by the receptionist with new instructions to paint the long wall. Key point of contact rule – broken. The painter should not have taken instructions from the receptionist, no matter how convincing she was.
The painter should have contacted his boss to get a definite instruction – if there was any doubt the painter’s boss should have called me. The receptionist also broke the rule. She should have called head office to ask my client if it was okay to paint the long wall and not make a decision on the spot, just because she thought it would look better. The receptionist was very convincing and had told the painter that it was cleared by head office and it was okay to proceed.
I must say it had been a while since this has happened on one of my projects, but it still happened. Not only must you make sure your one point of contact knows the rule, you must ensure that your sub-trades and employees on both sides also know.
So the painter was at fault because he should have stuck to the instructions, and the receptionist had told a white lie because she did not have head office’s approval to change the wall. Result: we had to return to site and paint the reception wall the correct colour and then repaint the long wall back to its original colour.
Why did the wall get changed? The receptionist did not want to unload files in front of the reception wall. Amazing right? But I can’t tell you how many times people will put words into your mouth and change the progress of a job. We used to have a common saying in my office, ‘George said… ‘
Whenever there was an issue on-site, quite often the client or the subcontractor would use the old, ‘George said’ line and because I was the boss, well, it must be true. Problem was, sometimes George hadn’t actually said anything. As my business grew larger and responsibility for running projects was passed onto key project managers I had to make it perfectly clear to all that the project manager was the one key point of contact… not me. I also had to be very careful in my conversations with clients and subcontractors that I did not say something that might come back as a ‘George said’ which would lead to something not being done properly or completed on time.
Clear communications are key to smooth building
Find out who your key point of contact is with your builder and always make your requests to that person.