Client and Contractor Relationships……the good, the bad, and the ugly

11 Ways to Build and Maintain Strong Client Relationships - MBO Partners

Sometimes a partnership between a contractor and a client is excellent from day one. The price was right for all concerned, the scope of the works required was correctly estimated and each person involved had a desire and the skills for everything to work from the start. It can happen, but rather more often this is not the case, it then becomes the way people go about fixing things when they have gone wrong which sorts the good, the bad and the ugly.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, how experienced you are, how “different” your project is, or what version of the project management process or software you use. At every project’s core is the trio of time, money, and scope. These are the factors you juggle every day to keep your Project plan on track.

Achieving the right balance of quality, time and cost for your project is key to the success of your project. The balance between these three factors will vary according to the particular requirements of your project, and their impact on each other will be just as unique to your project’s circumstances.

You may have won the tender however when signing on the dotted line, both parties need to feel the deal is worthwhile. If a contractor feels like they’ve been pushed too far to give you a bargain, you might just get bargain work in return.

In some sectors, such as housing, construction simply does not matter, because there is such limited understanding of how value can be created through the construction process.

Client duties apply to any business that seeks or accepts the services Professionals and Contractors. This definition is very wide and may include companies with limited cash flow and very sensitive to terms or risk of Client change.

For some Clients, however, no matter how cheap you are, the price of doing business with you will simply be too high. It always amazes me when people who are in business to make money can’t grasp the concept that you’re in business to do the same.

Contractors need a wide range of skills to perform their duties. Their individuals or staff as a Team need to manage project costs, budgets and interpret contracts. They must be good leaders, be able to draft and manage programmes, delays and crises involving subcontractors and other staff. Contractors need also a strong business background and technical knowledge of all aspects of construction. Finally, contractors require good customer service skills and the ability to convey messages in a clear manner, not a lot to ask then from the over worked Contractor…… What about asking for help outside the business if you’re lacking in any of these departments and before its too late. Perhaps the biggest failure in construction generally is inability to communicate and in this case ask for help. Similarly clients need the same skills, as well as an ability to deal with all stakeholders. Imagine that person or team that has all these attributes, clone them, sell them and retire……

Most relationships will go south very quickly if you are not open and honest about change. To start, you must be realistic about setting a clear understanding of the cost of change required to execute the delivery programme. Throughout the course of the programme, you must have regular dialogue about change regardless of responsibility. If you don’t address the client until you have an issue (i.e., operating over budget and without instruction or agreement), you will not only have an unhappy client, you may also find yourself carrying the downside.

Encouraging and improving collaborative working in the UK construction industry has been a recurring theme for over 10 years. While there have been improvements in this time and while the benefit of collaboration is now widely acknowledged in the industry, few projects are actually adopting collaborative working methods.

In design and build contracts, perhaps the greatest deficiency is in the contract documentation, particularly the Employer’s requirements. This inadequacy inevitably leads to claims by the contractor for additional costs, which, if not resolved, can lead in turn to costly disputes

Businessman and client discussing contract during meeting in office - Stock  Photo - Dissolve

A combination of environmental and behavioural factors can lead to construction disputes. Projects are usually long-term transactions with high uncertainty and complexity, and it is impossible to resolve every detail and foresee every contingency at the outset, yet contractors do not declare or are not allowed to have contingency?. As a result, situations often arise that are not clearly addressed by the contract, to which neither party at the sharp end are versed. The basic factors that drive the development of construction disputes are uncertainty, contractual problems, and behaviour.

Amongst other things, the main reasons for the breakdown of trust between main contractors and clients on traditional construction procurement are the issues of delayed payments, variations, their exclusion from decision-making processes and the inclusion of harsh contract terms in contract agreements by Clients. Of course no one is forced to sign a contract but then most contractors still operate on the basis of “live horse get grass….” Perhaps the most controversial debate is that which centres on the managerial competence of clients and contractors alike. These, as well as client’s tendencies to transfer enormous project risks to contractors, make a truly relational relationship under traditional construction procurement a pipe dream.

The most important part of successfully completing a project is communication between the client and contractor. By keeping in constant contact, you can better understand each other wishes and deliver your obligations accordingly.

About the Author

You may also like these