Job Site Etiquette

How your employees and subcontractors behave on a job site can be a deal-breaker or maker for future business. Jud: First of all I want to start out by asking: Where does job site etiquette start, in your opinions? Tom, go ahead. Tom: Job site etiquette starts with me! In how our values and culture trickle down to our employees.

September 30, 2007

Jud Motsenbocker
Contributing Editor

How your employees and subcontractors behave on a job site can be a deal-breaker or maker for future business.

Jud: First of all I want to start out by asking: Where does job site etiquette start, in your opinions? Tom, go ahead.

Tom: Job site etiquette starts with me! In how our values and culture trickle down to our employees.

Jud: That's really were I want to go. It really starts at the top. Steve, do you agree with that?

Steve: I agree with that. To add to what Tom said, I think job site etiquette also begins with the sales process. There are things that can be said with the salesperson in someone's home, initially, to help set the expectations for what that etiquette can or can't be with any company.

Jud: And probably what it should be. Would that be a good comment, Steve?

Steve: Yes. I think the salesman's got to say we're going to clean up or whatever it might be.

Jud: That's the idea guys, OK? Do we have a set of rules that are written, published, etc., Steve?

Steve: There is a short list of rules. We have a small business; it's easy for us to add to that. I try to visit my job sites at least every day, if not talk to someone on that job, to make sure that we are following our rules for job site etiquette and to make very clear what the expectations are for each project. With that, if I need to, I can add a daily meeting that could be 5-10 minutes just to make sure we're following good job site etiquette procedures with our crew.

Jud: Tom?

Tom: We have a short list also.

Because it's pretty unpredictable what can happen from job to job. Certain things like don't smoke at the home, don't swear, don't have radios playing loudly. It really comes back to a good set of values and culture that people really buy into and believe in that will guide decisions to etiquette.

Jud: Tom, continue on with your list. You mentioned smoking and radios. What else can you think of right off the top that might be on your list?

Tom: No foul language. No arguing among ourselves within earshot of the client. Show up on time. Don't be late. Things like that automatically come to mind.

Jud: Maybe even based around something more common like good customer service if nothing else?

Tom: Absolutely.

Jud: Steve, what about your list and what you might have.

Steve Klitsch, Owner
Creative Concepts Remodeling

Steve: We have a list. I've got it with me here. We're covering everything from trash and debris and even placement of the job site signs. That could be a daily maintenance thing. We'll put a job site sign out there, but then once in a while it gets moved because the homeowner's cutting his grass or the yard crew is cutting the grass. They pick it up and then it's not placed correctly, or looks skewed. That's a statement or could be an indictment against our company if it's not set the right way. That's a daily routine to check that. We go over with the client about what we call a "material staging area;" sometimes it could be their garage, basement, an empty room or a corner of the property. All of that is discussed ahead of time. Also the deliveries. Can we bring a truck onto the property? Some of these trucks bring concrete, for example. Very heavy. Is the driveway going to withstand that? There are some variables there where we can protect the property if we're doing something of that sort. The bathroom. As basic as that is, do we have permission to use the bathroom, or do we need to bring in a portable toilet? There are details that have to be gone over with the client in that regard. Children and pets. Some people leave for work; we're in the house working and cats are roaming all over the place, and it can be a nuisance and safety hazard. When we're working with miter saws, I've learned from a veterinarian that caged birds go out of control because of the sound of the miter saws. It's the high-pitched sound of the saws, even though we're wearing eye and ear protection, the pets were going crazy, and we had to move them to another part of the house. That was on-the-job training! Now we're aware of that. And when people have pets, we say, "Look folks, here's the situation with the saws. Veterinarians tell us these things; this is what we know. Can you put your pets in another part of the house or locate them differently so we can perform our work in this area?"

Also with security. Once we've been invited to someone's home, we're responsible when they go for the security of that property. We've got to have the door locked or windows sealed up when we're done at the end of the day. We had a scam here in our area a couple years ago where a crew was driving around with a big empty truck and a clipboard. They would walk in and say "We're from the upholstery shop. We're here to pick up the sofa and chair." The contractor didn't know any different, so off they went with furniture! The homeowner comes home and says, "Where's my furniture?" "Well, the upholstery crew picked it up." "We didn't hire any upholstery company!" We make sure with the homeowner, as another part of our policies, to tell us who's coming in and out. Do you have a maid service coming? Do you have a pet sitter? Who's coming in and out while we're working? We need to know that so we can take responsibility for the security of the home. Of course safety is a big issue. We have a first aid kit on site. We need to make sure not only that the crews are safe working with eye and ear protection, gloves, etc. The homeowner must be aware that they don't need to be snooping around and looking at our stuff. If we're given permission to store tools on their property, can we secure those behind a locked door? We'll make sure air hoses are disconnected and nail guns are put away. Kids are curious! If you've been in the business more than 10 years, you've probably had some kid go through your tool box looking at your "cool" stuff. Those are some of the things on our list that we make them aware of. We also introduce ourselves to the neighbors. The neighbors, I think, are part of the remodeling process. I think it's fair to let them know, through our job site etiquette, who's going to be working, what kind of vehicles they'll see in the driveway, so they're not calling the police because someone on our staff might have an unmarked pickup truck. They go back and forth one morning — carrying some things in, carrying some things out.

Jud: In talking with the neighbors, that wouldn't include marketing in any way, would it?

Steve: Of course it does! I personally do it. I own the business, and I also get involved in the field sometimes as a carpenter, laborer or whatever it may be. I introduce myself to the neighbors. I ring the bell, say "Hi, folks!" and hand them my business card. "My name's Steve. I own this remodeling business. We're going to be working for your neighbor across the street. We're going to start in about 3 weeks. I just wanted to let you know you'll see some of our vehicles around. As careful and clean as we can be, sometimes trash blows across the street. If there's any concern you have at all about anything we're doing, please call me directly and I'll take care of it, whatever it might be." I've gotten new business because of that.

Jud: Tom, tell me how you handle cell phones on the job site.

Tom: We have no rules for cell phones on the job site other than the necessity of doing the job. Our guys all carry PDAs. The carpenters don't, though we don't have a lot of carpenters. For our project managers, it's their link to the world. Our values — you don't answer the phone when you're at a meeting with a client. You shut it off.

Jud: Steve? How do you handle the cell phones?

Steve: If the client's not around, I feel comfortable with my crew having cell phones. We have a gentlemen's agreement on a handshake that they may need to receive personal calls during the day. All my crews are married and have children, so once in a while they need to communicate to their families for one reason or another. I think that's fine. It keeps them in touch with their families. In the old days, we had pagers and then had to go somewhere to get a phone. Before the pagers, it was, "Excuse me Mr. Homeowner, can I use your phone? I've got to call home." And sometimes that was an embarrassment and inconvenience. We're not abusing the phone system. However, like Tom was alluding to, if you're in a client meeting, I leave my cell phone in my car; it's not even on my person at that point. I don't want anything buzzing, vibrating, toning to let them know I've got incoming business. I want to give the client my undivided attention at that moment because we have a scheduled meeting. My crews will do the same thing. My work crews — regular guys, take their cell phones with them to the job, but they usually set them aside on a work table and don't carry them on their person. We've banged them, nicked them, covered them with joint compound; they've been painted over, been dropped in wet concrete. It's safer if we keep them on a work table. They check them periodically as they come by to get tools and materials.

Jud: It's an interesting scenario, because it certainly is the new modern technology. I taught a class yesterday and my comment to them was, "We still built houses and remodeled before we had cell phones!" We've talked about the etiquette and about items in the etiquette and things we want our employees to do. Where does this go with the subcontractors? How do they fit into this? Tom?

Tom Mitchell, Owner
Mitchell Construction Group

Tom: That's a good point. I think this ties in, too; it kind of cuts both ways. You're sitting there talking, and they'll get a call from their boss. On more than one occasion, I've felt like telling someone to throw their phone away. We don't necessarily have a rule for that. I'm not as big into rules as I am into personal recognizance.

Jud: Tom, with all of the things that you have, for instance, you don't want them to smoke on the job site. How do you relay that to your trade contractors?

Tom: We have meetings with them on a regular basis. That's done verbally and then in a letter. We'll have a meeting with the owner of the company to discuss it.

Jud: Steve, how about you?

Steve: We do a similar thing like Tom. I visit my subcontractor's office from time to time. I make sure that he is clued in on our etiquette and what our expectations are with our clients. I have to have them buy into our rules for it to work. For example, the plumbing firm I use has eight plumbers on staff, which is convenient for me. If we have any kind of emergency, we call them and we can get a plumber out the same day. That's the kind of rapport we have with them. We had a situation where they sent a plumber out and the guy was a two-pack-a-day smoker. We're in a bathroom doing a $30,000 remodeling job — to give you some idea of the details of what we're doing here — that's a good size bathroom for us. Every 10 minutes the man's outside with a cigarette. I called the plumbing contractor and said he's a nice guy, doing good work, but we're losing time here! We have what we call a "new homebuilder plumber." He can smoke on the job site because it's a new home. But don't send him back to my projects because we're in someone's home and I'm paying this man to smoke cigarettes every 10 minutes. He understood that, and I haven't seen that man on my jobs since then. That's what you've got to do, step up and say it doesn't fit what we're doing with our work process. So, our heating and air conditioning sub, our electricians, roofer, all of them, understand that. It's an education process and constantly reminding them of our process and what our clients are like, their personalities, so we can make sure we get a good match for the expectations of the project.

Another important thing with job site etiquette is when the subcontractors are there, and there are days when we have a sub on our job and our field people — our employees — are not there actually representing us. That client that is ours would go to that subcontractor — let's say it's an electrician — and say, "Oh, I see you're hooking up for the addition, that's great! By the way, we have some lighting in the basement that needs attention. Can you look at that?" My subcontractors know that, when they're on my job, that is my client. I've done the marketing, I've earned that right to own that client. They, in turn, will say to the client, "Yes, we'll be happy to look at that situation. We need to get Steve involved, because this is his project." People will do that some-times to test the integrity of your staff. My employees have been asked to do a side job on the weekend. They know, "You've got to go through Steve. This is Steve's job, and he'll price it up for you, and we can do this extra thing, but it's going to go through Steve. Please call him."

Jud: Tom, how do you handle that?

Tom: Well, if I jump to the end of that, I'd say that I would go right to the client and let them know that under no circumstances should they solicit people within the company to do work. It's basically a lack of integrity. I wouldn't say that to them, but that's what I would be thinking. I would have set that up in the beginning of the meeting, that we're working for clients who have similar values and are looking for a company like ours for a specific reason. It's a one stop shop and they shouldn't be going behind anyone's back. I think when people do that, they know when they're doing that. We respect the people we work with. We respect the people we work for. And, they respect us or we don't work for them.

Jud: Tom, do you have a written subcontractor agreement with all of your subs?

Tom: We absolutely do. Although we have a written agreement, we don't enforce it with punishment; we use love, for lack of a better term. We have a three-strike rule where they'll learn quick that if they screw up three times, that particular guy, like Steve said, can't come to the job. On the other hand, when we find a guy we really like, we reward his good behavior with praise and small rewards to build incentive. Now, when those guys come into a job, they ask to work for us, they want to work for us. They realize that we expect more, but there's a reward for that.

Jud: Steve, do you have a written agreement with your subcontractors?

Steve: I do not, to give you an honest answer. As I said before, I'm visiting with these people in their office or I'm seeing them on a regular basis, that is the proprietor or owner of that subcontracting business. We've had relationships for years now. We understand what the expectations are. Nothing's perfect; there are some concerns and issues that come up, constantly reminding plumbers and electricians that they need to clean up their stuff. We have trash cans or dumpsters on site. They are responsible for their work site debris. We charge them in that process so they do that. My electrician once teased me a couple years ago. He said I was the only contractor that asked them to clean up. But that's our process, that's what we do and the homeowners expect it. 

the discussion continues...

Jud: Steve, do you talk to the subcontractor owner, the employees or both?

Steve: I do both, especially when they're on my job site. I like to be there the day that plumber, electrician or HVAC guy is going to start. They're going to be there for several days, chances are, with our kind of projects. I give them a little five minute infomercial or history of the client and what their expectations are. They also get a copy of the entire statement of work with that job. They know that the ceramic tile is going to look a certain way because the valve for the shower has to be located in a certain position. There shouldn't be any questions or any vague areas, because they have the entire statement of work. All my subcontractors for every project get that entire statement of work so they can see the scope of things and know who the players involved are, so we're not tripping over each other. Or, we can make room for something else as we're doing our rough in as well as our finish up.

Jud: Tom, how about you? Do you talk to both the trade contractor owner and the tradesmen?

Tom: Sure. I have a lunch this week with one of the plumbers and the owner. There will be negotiations there. I don't get out to all of our jobs very often. I get out there once a week, or every other week. Whenever I see them, I'm friendly with them, and I'll always let them know if I think they're doing a good job.

Jud: Realistically Tom, you don't have on the job site what I'm going to call a "list of rules" written and posted at your communication center, is that correct?

Tom: A list of rules on the job? Absolutely not.

Jud: Steve, how about you?

Steve: We don't have a "list of rules," but we post the statement of work on a job site. It might be attached to the building permit. It sometimes defines the cleanup procedures we have. I have a very detailed proposal. My clients have commented many times about the detail that's in there. You can paint a picture based upon what I've described with the words in that. That includes some of our job site etiquette; language in the proposal regarding cleanup, material storage, tool storage and that sort of thing.

Jud: Even in the proposal, then.

Steve: Yes.

Jud: OK.

Tom: I also think that we hope to be dealing with professional adults. The expectation is that they show up prepared. The expectations are set up ahead of time. We shouldn't have to be babysitting them on the job. Frankly, if they're violating a rule that's not in writing they shouldn't be working there.

Jud: Tom, who enforces this code of ethics or job site etiquette that you have there?

Tom: We have a project manager on every job. In some cases, it's the lead carpenter. Actually, everyone in the company has that responsibility that they are their brother's keeper, so to speak. Everyone is responsible for that. Ultimately, on a specific job it would be the project manager.

Jud: Steve, who enforces yours?

Steve: That would be me, because I am my own project manager. I am the sales person. The advantage I have because I wear those two hats is that I know what has been told to the homeowner from the start of the sales process all the way to the finished product that we deliver. I transfer that to the fellows and a lot of times that is in writing; it's part of our proposal and part of the statement of work that they get.

Jud: Steve, Tom made a comment a few minutes ago about a "three strikes and you're out," which is kind of his rule. Do you have some kind of rule that I'm going to call the consequences for not following what they're supposed to do?

Steve: We do. I have back-charged the plumber on several occasions. You might say, "three strikes and you're out." I've known him for over 20 years. He's referred me business and I've referred him business; we have that kind of relationship. We understand that we're all humans and we make mistakes. Nobody's perfect. He's lived with the fact that I have back-charged him, because he's understood some plumbing leaks we've had to patch and repaint some things at my expense. But, we still have a good rapport, because we understand each other. We try as best we can to control everything down the chain of command line from the hierarchy of the owner down to the laborer at the other end. We're in a tough industry. Communication is one of the biggest things that can either make a profit for us or put us out of business. Job site etiquette is part of that communication process. Yes, I kind of follow the "three strikes and you're out" rule, but I've also bent a little bit. It's cost the plumber some money over time, but we still have a good relationship and I can still rely on him. Ninety-nine out of 100 times, things are going well for us.

Jud: Tom, when you go onto a job site, you're looking for these things we've talked about as far as job site etiquette is concerned, but do you also do what I'm going to call a quality check on that project as you go through it as it's being built?

Tom: Well, that's me, that's my personality. That's a natural thing. If I want to capture the principal of it, it's not for that reason that I visit the site. I don't want to hide from someone if I don't feel like the quality is there. I don't want them working for me if I can't depend on the quality.

Jud: Steve, how about you?

Steve: I'm the quality control engineer. I try to also pass that on to my field crew as well and make them responsible for that quality in what they're producing. I've had some people take things apart and redo it. We have to in order to make things right. Sometimes it's on-the-job training, sometimes it's something I've assigned to someone who maybe wasn't capable of it, and I was trying to see if he could get to that point, and it doesn't work. The other issue we have is that sometimes the personality of our client does not gel with the personality of our field people. Even though I may have developed an excellent relationship from the get-go with the client, there may be a personality conflict. No matter what that staff person does, if he was Michelangelo and that client doesn't like Michelangelo, that job is not going to be good enough for that client. You've got to be looking for ways to work around that. It may be that that person is not assigned to that homeowner any more; you pull him off that job and put someone else in there to make it work and to make the job pass the inspection of the homeowner.

Jud: Realistically, on occasion you have to change that lead carpenter, don't you?

Steve: You do. It happens; it's happened to me before, and it's going to happen to me again. I can't predict when. Somewhere along the line, that's the way it is.

Jud: We just misread people, don't we?

Steve: We do. It's just a personality thing.

Jud: Tom, how about company uniforms? Do you require them?

Tom: We have them. We have shirts and we explain to clients that if they show up with a green shirt with the big M on it, they work for us! Our subs will ask for them. We specifically may give out a T-shirt to someone who we like, but they're asked not to wear it on our job so that the client isn't going to them for that reason. That's for a safety issue for the client, a visibility thing. It's much more about the client than it is about marketing.

Jud: Steve, do you have uniforms?

Steve: Yes, sir. I believe in a fully clad staff. That means that regardless of how hot or cold things are, everyone wears a shirt and workpants all the time. We don't believe in the tan-line scenario that some people think is necessary. We like a clean and neat work shirt. I provide a T-shirt with pocket for all my guys, which has our company name and phone number on it. I also encourage them to wear work pants, which are not ragged or torn and shredded. That's a safety issue. Sometimes those holes in the knees can get snagged on a tool, and you've got a problem.

Jud: Steve, do you allow short pants?

Steve: Yes, we do. Sometimes our painting staff will wear short pants for outside in the summer. We've worn shorts to hang drywall in some of our work because it is warm during the summer. But if we're using tools or cutting things or working outside building a deck, things of that sort, long pants. I encourage that. Shoes, too. You've got to have certain footwear that is approved by OSHA. We're a little involved with OSHA here, and workmen's compensation in the Maryland laws require appropriate footwear depending on the task.

Jud: Tom, how about short pants?

Tom: During the summer, I don't mind if some of the guys in the field are wearing shorts.

Jud: We had that go through our company about two years ago because nobody was allowed to wear short pants. It was simply a matter of drawing up a dress code for those short pants and all the details that went into that. It's really worked out very well.

Tom: How many guys are in your company, Jud?

Jud: Nineteen.

Tom: In the field or total?

Jud: That's total. And we have 12 out in the field. It really hasn't created a problem like I thought it was going to but realistically it hasn't. How do you keep the mess cleaned up and keep the homeowner happy when you're doing this? Tom?

Tom: Everyone is responsible for cleaning up after themselves — whether it's the plumber, electrician, framer or Sheetrocker — our guys enforce that. No one is above picking up a broom and a trash barrel and making sure the job is clean on a daily basis. When it comes to dust, we have to work harder at that with some clients than others. We had a client last year that got sick, and we put in a whole-house air scrubber. It depends on the job but for the most part, daily cleanup by everybody, and ultimately the project manager is responsible to make sure it's cleaned on a daily basis.

Jud: Steve, how do you handle that?

Steve: Clean-up is critical. They say in real-estate the three most important words are location, location and location. In our business, I think it's cleanup, cleanup and cleanup. I found this out because I asked a client of mine after I hadn't seen her for about a year. We went back to do some warranty work with some caulk that had shrunk. I asked, "What do you remember most about the job that we did for you a year ago?" She said, "The dust!" It occurred to me at that point that we've got to do better. She couldn't remember the first name of the lead carpenter who had been there for four weeks building the thing. That concerned me. Everyone, subcontractors, even my delivery people who sometimes deliver materials wrapped in those big plastic bales, or they cut the packing ribbons with metal straps on the side and leave those laying around. We have an understanding that if you've touched it, you're going to remove it, get it off the site and put it in the dumpster if that's the case. We all buy into it. Because we do the small projects, we've got several shop vacs here in our inventory that we keep on the job site. We're in someone's home and when I sell the project, I tell the homeowner they're entitled to come home every day and still use their house. Again, we're doing smaller projects than some of the others. Because we're doing smaller projects, I think that homeowner's entitled to come in and still use most of the house, with the exception of the room we might be remodeling. That means the shop vac [and] drop cloths on the floor from the door where we come in to the work area. We roll those up each night and put them down the next day. Every week I get them laundered, washed, dried and they're fresh and clean on Monday when we start again.

Jud: Do either one of you build homes?

Tom: Yes, we do.

Jud: With that, Tom, is your job site etiquette the same for building the home as it is for a remodel project?

Tom: Yes, it is. I can't stand a dirty job site. I think it's a safety hazard. I think it's counter-productive.

Jud: I think we'll find that you're the exception to a lot of the home builders, because you're also in the remodeling business. I believe the way you do, though. Steve, how about you? Do you build any houses?

Steve: We're building one now, but it's more of a remodeling project. I bought the house, we tore most of it down and we're rebuilding it and are going to resell it. Yes it would qualify as a new house. Like Tom, I think image is everything. If my job site sign is out there with a real-estate "for sale" sign, the last thing I want is for someone to come around looking at a new home that they could purchase and then trip over something or step on a nail because we didn't provide the appropriate clean up.

Jud: Job site etiquette, as we've encompassed it today, certainly would also have to do with the definite image of that company, wouldn't it?

Steve: It does. Whether you're a remodeler or a custom home builder, I think you have to have certain job site etiquette policies in place. Image is everything. Some of the strongest leads we get in this business are from referrals. You cannot do enough cleanup in job site organization to make that as presentable as possible.

Jud: I want to bring back something Steve said just a few minutes ago, to reemphasize it a bit from the standpoint that you said when we are invited into someone's home. I like that from the standpoint that first of all we're invited there, we're not there because we shoved ourselves in, but we've been invited. Also, your last word, "It's their home," it's not a house. I think that makes a big difference. If you stop and think about job site etiquette, the whole picture that we've just talked about certainly makes a difference. Any comments, Tom or Steve?

Tom: Yes, I think it's a privilege to be allowed to work in peoples' homes. We never quite know; everyone has different things that are important to them. When you're working there, the tendency is to "claim you space." You start to feel comfortable like it's your bathroom that you're working in. The reality is that we show up when they're having their coffee, and when we're leaving, they're coming home. It's important to constantly be reminded that it's not our space but theirs, and we need to respect how they live in it and how they want it treated, not necessarily how we think it should be treated.

Jud: Good point. Steve, anything to add to that?

Steve: I try to instill upon my people and anyone else in the industry that you have to treat their home like it's your home. There are many of us around the country. When they get the sale made, the deal is closed and there's ink on the contract, and they say, "By the way, here's our spare house key." Do you know what kind of value that brings to that salesman? The house key. Come and go as you need to but please don't work past 8. We've got small children and we want to put them to bed. Those are things that we hear. It's their largest investment in their financial history as a homeowner. and they're giving us the key after they've only known us for three or four hours and a couple of meetings. What an impact we have. We, as business owners that have to transfer that to all the people who come into that home and say, "He's giving me the key to this half-million dollar property, a $700,000 house and they're going to spend more with us in the next four weeks. We've got to come in here with the white glove treatment.

Jud: Good point. Gentlemen, I want to ask one other question. What is the worst complaint you have ever had either with a sub or with one of your employees? With that complaint, how did you deal with it? Tom?

Tom: If I think too much about it it'll take me too long. The most recent one was with a guy who had a tendency to talk too much. I think he envisioned a closer relationship with a client than he really had, and told her that he didn't really like her paint colors. Somehow, we also had some sconces that were going directly to a mirror in a fairly elaborate master vanity. The homeowner had spent a lot of time setting the height of the sconce with our project manager and the electrician. Then this particular guy walks through afterwards unbeknownst to anyone. The homeowner had marked on the wall where she wanted the height of the sconce set. This guy had come in before the mirror guys came in and lowered the sconce. He later said to the homeowner, unbeknownst to the rest of us, that, "Oh, I moved it for you because I knew you'd regret it." That's probably the worst that I can think of.

Jud: That had to be a nightmare on wheels when somebody talks too much. Was there anything in particular that you did to handle that?

Tom: We are trying to work out how we can encourage our clients. We have weekly meetings. We encourage and ask open-ended questions. She didn't want to hurt his feelings. She was afraid he'd lose his job so she didn't want to say anything. She didn't tell us until after we had fired him, which was just a couple weeks after that for similar reasons. The clients sometimes don't want to be the bad guy. We've been working on an initiative to create raving fans. We'll rate our clients' satisfaction weekly at a 7, 8, 9 or 10. We'll go back and ask, what could we do better? We're also teaching the guys on a regular basis what is and is not appropriate.

Jud: Steve? What's the worst complaint you can think of, and how did you handle it?

Steve: My worst complaint? We've had a couple of them over the last decade. It's been about cleanup. It's been about too much dust somewhere. Dust travels across the house. How you can work in the bathroom in the master bedroom, second floor on the east side, and dust got on the shelves in the family room on the lower level on the west side? We still can't figure it out. But it happened. So, dust control is our biggest thing. The reason we got the complaints was maybe because I as project manager didn't transfer that responsibility to that technician or worker at that time about cleanliness or putting up a plastic screen or other dust control items we had. When you look at these things overall, job site etiquette is a sub-chapter of something we might want to refer to as "the business of being in memory management business." You want your clients to have a good memory of the experience so they can tell other people about it. When people remember some of these things about too much dust or the situation that Tom talked about, that's sometimes an indictment against our firm. We all know that bad press gets 10 times the notice that good press does. People like to whine and complain about the bad things. If we think in terms of being in the memory management business, how can we make this a pleasurable experience for the client, so that they remember all the good things and not remember about the delay because someone called in sick or there was too much dust from sand and drywall and those kinds of things. We try to focus on the memory management business so the clients have a positive memory when we're all finished and we get that last check from them.

Jud: I would think from that comment that you don't go walk through the house or project when it's completed and do a punch list. You do a presentation instead. Would that be a fair statement?

Steve: We don't have a punch list. Sometimes our clients give us a little cocktail napkin, six-item list. I'll take it from them and thank them for the list, but my list is much longer. Some of the items you have here are on my list, we'll be glad to take care of these things. At that point, when you have a punch list, you're out of control of that job. The homeowner is then in control. They're telling you what they want; it's not your project anymore.

Jud: Tom, any further comments?

Tom: No. That was a good point!


Tom Mitchell, Owner

Mitchell Construction Group

Medfield, Mass.-based Mitchell Construction Group is a 20-year-old design/build firm. The company focuses on medium to large jobs. Its 16 employees, seven of whom are in the field, concentrate on customer satisfaction and high-quality workmanship. They expect to do between 15 and 20 jobs this year.

Steve Klitsch, Owner

Creative Concepts Remodeling

Creative Concepts is a design/build firm that has been in business for 25 years. The firm, located outside Washington, D.C., in Germantown, Md., focuses on smaller projects such as kitchens and baths, and it also provides handyman services. With four key players, the firm will do about 90 projects this year. Their CAPS certification helps them work with senior citizens and special needs individuals by offering universal design.

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