Due diligence is important when you’re selecting a design professional or contractor. The question always comes back though, how do you know you know enough? It’s a complicated question, how to select someone who’s about to help you spend several hundred thousand dollars. Selecting a bad designer fit might seem like a smaller mistake in that they should only be a small portion of the total spent on construction. However, that overlooks the leverage that a designer’s decisions affect the project. Small decisions early on could have huge impacts on the costs or enjoyment of your future building. And selecting the wrong contractor can lead to nightmares of litigation or stalled or bankrupted projects. So as you start to look for the people who will help you, here are some helpful thoughts that can help you sleep at night.
Trust your Gut
Within reason, trusting your gut is actually a good idea, at least as an initial filter. For both designer and contractor, you want someone who is going to listen to you. You want someone you feel comfortable with. If you think this person is going to be trouble, odds are, that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is only the first filter, but anyone you don’t make you feel comfortable for any reason is probably not someone you want to entrust with your largest investment.
Do Your Research
In today’s connected environment, there is no excuse for not digging a little deeper into the public information out there. Think of it like you’re holding a job interview, your gut is the interview itself. But, before you commit to someone, do a little sleuthing. Most companies today have an on-line footprint. A lack of one can be very concerning, although does not have to be a disqualifier.
- Check out their website for examples of their work.
- Check out their social media presence for a sense of how they work, how they engage with their clients publicly, how they’re reviewed and how they respond to a poor review (they do happen, and sometimes the response to a bad review is more enlightening than the initial bad review)
- Ask for references if you want to talk to former clients. It’s doubtful they’ll provide anyone who doesn’t love them, but you can still learn a lot about someone.
- Check them out on business rating sites like Better Business Bureau or local referral pages.
- Ask other people about the company’s reputation. If you have an architect, ask about the potential contractor, or vice versa. As people in the field you may know socially what they know about someone. Reputations are usually earned, so by doing this due diligence, you can at least know what dangers you might be risking.
Check Out The Contract
Not every company will have all of these items, but most well established companies will have most of these. Remember, before you sign a contract, you have the most leverage. Your last step will be to review the contract. It might even be worth having a lawyer look over a contract on your behalf. What are the clauses about dispute resolution? How can you fire them or how can they quit? What rights and responsibilities are they asking for or delegating? These are important questions and your last chance to really understand what you’re signing on for.
I always tell clients that they need to do their due diligence during the hiring process. None of this is a guarantee. I like to equate it with stocks, past performance is no guarantee of future. However, a company with a solid on-line presence, good reputation, and references they can hand over is more like a blue chip than a penny stock. Sure, bad things can happen, but you’ve identified your risks as much as possible. Construction is stressful enough, anything that helps you sleep at night is going to be a positive for you.