This last year brought about many valuable lessons. Some new lessons, some old lessons, and some repeat lessons. The lesson that stuck with me the most, was just how important it is for me to own my projects completely. From top to bottom, I want to own all facets of my jobs. For me it is a cleaner interaction and the buck has nowhere to go. I have found that as you relinquish ownership, it makes accountability difficult, because you expect others to have the same mentality as you. Some do and some do not, but that is not necessarily the point here. Every person is different, every company is different, everyone has different expectations and priorities. If I want to ensure my customers get the project that I promised them from the onslaught, I want to be in charge of everything from design through completion. This does not mean that I have to be the one doing the design, doing the work, or even overseeing the work, but I want to hold the contract.
Any work that is under my contract means that I am absolutely in charge of every aspect of that task. I call the shots, I decide how to manage the customers, I am responsible for issues and shortcomings. For example, if I own the electrical contract and I hire an electrical sub, I am responsible for how that work is completed. I am responsible for managing that sub, the product, and the financials of that task. If the electrical work is faulty, it is on me to address it, fix it, pay for it, or manage my subcontractor to correct the issues. The same thing goes for supplying fixtures and materials. If someone else purchases the fixtures and they arrive damaged or there are short quantities and the electrician has to make a second trip back, who is responsible for that? If I purchased them, and I messed up, that is on me. If the customer provided them, then that complicates things. If a designer supplied them, do they pay for the additional labor? Why should my electrician eat that cost? Why should I eat that cost? Yes, these relationships are give and take, but I would rather be the one who is responsible and accountable.
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There were a handful of cabinetry issues on our latest project. We did not design, supply, or approve of the cabinetry. We were brought onto this job by the designers after all of these things had been completed. There are a handful of issues that took much longer than they should have due to design issues, quality issues, and layout issues. I spent days of time trying to fix these issues, but I did not sell or supply the cabinets. Also, my business structure basically requires my customers to reimburse me for my time. So if they already paid for the cabinets, should they be paying for me to fix issues that were completely avoidable? Should I eat those costs and that time? Do I have to install cabinets in a manner that I have trouble standing behind? In my opinion the party who sold the cabinets should be the one accountable for paying for the fixes. If I designed or sold the cabinets, I would have to do this as well. This makes for a very difficult conversation, and typically an unhealthy relationship between the contractor and the designer. Who do you stand behind? Do you protect the customer, yourself, or your relationship with the designer? I would simply rather not have to answer this question.
I have no issue with hiring a kitchen designer, but I want that to be under my umbrella. I want to be able to comb through the design, approve the shop drawings, and own any and all of the issues that may arise. At that point I can determine what the correct course of action to take to fix potential issues. If it is my omission, then I am responsible. If it is the cabinet maker’s error, then it is up to me to determine how to move forward. I do not have to feel badly for charging a designer for my time, charging a customer for time they should not have to pay for, or worrying about navigating the entire situation. I owned the cabinet shop drawings, I owned securing the cabinets, and I owned the installation, so all responsibility is on my shoulders.
From a carpentry and remodeling standpoint, we ran into some major issues on this last project. When we screwed up, we bit the bullet and made it right. There was no gray area. The accountability was on me, which at times is painful, but it makes for the best user experience. My customers hired me to execute a project to my spec, and if that costs me money, then so be it. Those painful lessons are up to me to fix and learn from moving forward. I made a promise to my customers, we signed a contract, and everyone understands specifically what I own with regard to the scope of the project and the spec. I do not want to take on projects where I have to worry how others will own their mistakes. Again, everyone is different, and I want to ensure there is zero gray area.
Moving forward I am going to stick to my guns and demand that I own all aspects of my projects. I want to reiterate that this does not mean that I have to do everything myself, but I want to own and hold the contract for all of the work. If there is an issue with design, and I hired the designers, then that is my issue. If I own the shop drawing approvals, and there are fitment issues, then that is my problem. If I own supplying all of the fixtures and two sconces arrive damaged and I did not inventory that when they arrived, then I own the cost of getting the electrician back to the job when the replacements arrive. I have no one to blame or get mad at but myself. For me, this is the ownership, accountability, and responsibility that I need. I do not intend to point fingers, complain, or harp on others, but I know that if I screw up, I am going to fix it, and that is reassuring for me and my business. I want the buck to stop with me! This is why I find ownership so important. Yes, it is about control, but it is also about accountability. I want to be accountable and to not feel as though I have to dance around solving problems.