Whether you want to admit it or not, we all have our quirks. When it comes to relationships, we’re blind to our partner’s issues during the early blissful stage. But when the hormones settle down and reality settles in, that’s when the blinders come off. You start noticing annoying things like how your boyfriend constantly leaves the toilet seat up and the cap off the toothpaste tube, or how your girlfriend feels the need to constantly reorganize your stuff and can’t go ten minutes without being on the phone.
Of course if you want the relationship to last, you learn to work around these things. Eventually these “issues”, some anyway, can become endearing traits. But they can also become deal breakers.
Professional service providers also have to learn to navigate the obstacles or quirks that come with their clients. Many times it takes a while to figure out what a client’s issues are.
In this third installment of the Clients from Hell blog series, I’m going to go over some of the issues unique to four client types common to the architectural, engineering and construction industries. These four potentially challenging client types are:
- Single-Family Residential
- Commercial Developers
- Private Institutions
- Public Entities
Part of avoiding problems with clients is being aware of potentially hazardous situations. If you see trouble coming, you can prepare for it.
Single Family Residential
The potential problem with single family residential clients is that they don’t have a good understanding of the design/construction process and have unrealistic expectations. When these expectations aren’t met, they feel frustrated and betrayed.
Additionally, residential clients, especially the wealthy, can expect VIP treatment.
Developers are the bogeymen of architects’ nightmares. These clients send a chill up the spine of architects because they make a sport of getting something for nothing. They also have unrealistic expectations of architects. If you don’t meet them, good luck getting paid. These include:
- Expecting you to start work before signing a contract.
- Providing Additional Services without authorization.
- Expecting perfection.
If you push back and demand pay for work provided, prepare for a game of Claims and Litigation. Developers are masters of this game and win it because they thrive on confrontation.
The second potential client from hell is the private institution. These can include organizations such as hospitals, university and megacorps.
These organizations have many groups with differing agendas which results in a nightmarish decision-making process. Somehow you must reconcile the conflicting goals and complete the project–within budget.
Additionally, administrators and legal departments in these organizations, who don’t understand construction, can be inflexible regarding contracts and insist on onerous terms. On the upside, they pay promptly.
As with any private institution, you must navigate a labyrinth of red tape with public entities. Additionally, they have strict procedures which are mandated by law and only a few people with approval authority on projects. Other potential headaches:
- Payments can be a problem. The worse the economy, the longer they hold on to their money.
- A disconnect between officials who manage project funds and those who administer the project.
- Your contacts are mid-level workers who request Additional Services they don’t have authority to approve or pay for.
Getting Stuck with a Bad Client
Sometimes you wind up in a relationship with someone whose quirks are too much to handle. For example, your boyfriend is too clingy or has a wandering eye, or your girlfriend could give nuns lessons on making someone feel guilty or perhaps is Queen of the land of Passive Aggressiva.
The question becomes how do you handle this bad situation? Business owners are also faced with this question when client relationships go bad.
Unfortunately, when dealing with ‘Clients from Hell’, business owners sometimes take actions that only make matters worse. In the next part of this series, I’ll go over what not to do when bad clients have pushed you to the brink.