February 7, 2024

Architect Referral Gone Awry

Truth be told, most of my work does not require the needs of an architect. If an architect is needed, it is generally high-level design, and then we finalize the details in-house or use an interior designer to do so. I am not building homes, so most of the time I need permit sets for the type of work that we do. If I need structurals, I enlist the help of an engineer. I fully welcome the use of an architect, and it is a great route for most jobs, but oftentimes with the scale of the work that I do, it is not necessary. That being said, I have a working relationship with a handful of architects, but I understand that I am not their bread and butter contractor.

I recently ran into a situation where a customer wanted to do some larger renovations to their old home. Based on the scope of the work and the long-term plan and phasing of the project, it made the most sense to me to hire an architect for the project. I have done a handful of projects for the customers, and they have been very happy with everything. The projects consisted of high-end interior renovations, but certainly not minor. I also have another project on the radar with them for this Spring. I have referred a landscape designer to help with the exterior layouts as well. The idea was to formulate a plan for the entire home, so as not to be doing things two and three times. These customers are very involved, and they need help with the decision-making process, so bringing in outside professional help was the move to make. This way I was not consumed by the design.

Spring is rapidly approaching, and I had a follow-up call with the customer to see where everything stands with the project. While on this call discussing a portion of the project that we have scheduled, the customer told me that they have wrapped up another portion of the project, and that the architect has them all setup with a contractor to do the work. This came as a surprise to me and a bit of a disappointment. Not that I need the work and not that I own the customers, but I feel as though this should not have been done behind my back. The architect should not be referring the customer to different contractors without me knowing. Now, I have not dug into this situation any deeper than this recent phone call, so I have to do my homework, but why did this happen?

Did the customer express discontent with me during a previous renovation? Was it a budget concern? Did the architect not realize that I performed this type of work? Did they feel as though there was a better fit for the project? Was the schedule a concern? I would be speculating if I made any guesses, but I do want to get to the bottom of this. In my opinion if I have worked in this home, and I referred an architect to the customer, that job should be mine to refuse or at least the conversation should be had with me. The architect can correspond with me or the customer, but something needs to communicate the plan with me. I am also partially at fault here. I did not follow up as diligently as I should have on my end. I have been slammed with life and work, I did not have anything regarding this job on my radar until Spring, so I felt I had some time to do so.

In recent years I have learned that it is important for me to not react to these situations without collecting my thoughts. I have to look at this from various perspectives aside from mine. Why did this happen? What could I have done to prevent this? Did I properly educate everyone as to how I wanted this process to unfold? What can I change moving forward? I need to understand why this happened, and how to prevent it in the future. I need to get some answers from the architect and from the customer, but before I reach out, I need to have a better understanding of what is going on with the situation, and what I want to get out of that conversation. 

Do I want this job? Do I want to work with this architect in the future? Do I want to do the project that we are currently in the middle of planning? I will be honest, this frustrated me and threw me for a bit of a loop, but I want to carefully determine the course of action moving forward. All of this could be a simple misunderstanding, but I need to determine that before making a decision. The first step for me is to reach out to the customer again to gauge why I was not included in the conversations regarding this portion of the project. From there, I can begin to determine how to proceed. Time to get some answers! In the meantime, I realize that I need to be more diligent about following up with customers and architects. I must not be so complacent when passing on a lead even when it is for a return customer. I must ask all of the proper questions and remain engaged in the conversation if I want to be a part of the projects. As with everything, there is accountability on everyone’s behalf including my own. I will circle back on this when I get to the bottom of it!

And if you enjoyed reading this blog, be sure to check out Tyler's thoughts on vetting potential clients or check out his simple gantt chart for scheduling.