On Setting Expectations

by | Jul 27, 2012 | Levco Builders Process | 0 comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Setting the High Mark

Remodeling is a complicated and difficult profession to master. Like me, most owners are very involved in our daily businesses. in an effort to stay ahead of the game, I regularly step back and give my processes a tune up especially when remodeling becomes painful.  I liken it to taking a nitroglycerine tablet or spray (in the face of chest pain), it is both therapeutic and diagnostic.

As a remodeling business owner and established practitioner, I need to be working on the present and the future of my business. Occasionally I get very involved with some minutia of project and I lose track of the big picture. In my 7 years now, I have had many successes and the occasional impressive failures. Time and time, again I get a gut check when some unexpected twist pops up, or I let someone down.

This is why there are so many variables in selecting the remodeler for your project. To me, the early phases of remodeling are about setting expectations and selling them. There is no glory in setting unrealistic expectations of price or time for doing the work. Nothing good comes from either.

The goal in my mind is to provide the client with a great project, realistic expectations, and a good value, and make some money for our time, hard work, and expertise.


Although these are simple and noble goals, there are so many tight turns and slippery slopes to navigate. Once a project is in process it is easy to get derailed. The bigger the project, the higher the risk.
Here are the results of my recent tinkering.

Ways I manage expectations:

  • I have broken the Design Phase into 2 parts
    • Schematic Design
    • Design Development
  • I have a great set of plans created with elevations, and an electrical plan created to make sure we stay on the same page.
  • I create a  very detailed room by room, wall by wall Description of Work DOW.
  • I regularly adjust the “Opinion of Probable Cost” with changes of scope, and selections of materials
  • I have bids on everything over $300
  • I have the experience to know how long it takes to do different phases of construction.
  • I know what it cost to run my company.

Ways I mitigate risk:

  • I have each subcontractor walk through prior to doing the work and providing a bid.
  • I have the project manager understand the project by heart.
  • I have a schedule all the way to the end before we start.
  • I have a group of employees and subcontractors that believe in me and the company.
  • I have an excellent communication platform that is second to none.
  • We use checklists to verify that we are sticking with the plan.

The Pit

Skipping these safety precautions, is like driving recklessly without a seat belt. In other words, we are putting a lot of folks at risk. An example of this is in the movie Money Pit, when the contractor is asked how long it is going to take, the stereotypical response is, “2 weeks.” I ask my staff rhetorically, “In whose best interest is it to spout unrealistic expectations?”

Sure, we bend the rules at Levco when something happens that is out of the ordinary. Each time we improve the process of remodeling with us. The next time an unusual situation crops up (and they always do) we will be better prepared to react.

Each time I sign a Design or Remodeling Agreement I take a moment to pause and confirm in my mind that what I say is what I can produce. Promising to do something in a given time for a stated price is a huge responsibility that I do not take lightly. After all I am being trusted to tear apart a home and put it back together for real money.

Here is the math

Our formula for success:

  1. Clear communications + Plans + Specifications + Bid = Realistic expectations.
  2. Realistic expectations + Engaged, knowledgeable project manager + Great subcontractors= Great Project
  3. Great Project + Happy Clients = More referrals.

Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, email me directly or visit our contact page.

Disclaimer: Some of these images came from the WEB. If they are yours, and you object to them being used, please claim them and I will gladly remove and replace them at once.

Disclaimer: Some of these images came from the WEB. If they are yours, and you object to them being used, please claim them and I will gladly remove and replace them at once.

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