We Are Now Building Some Offices In A Los Angeles Medical Clinic:

There are many lessons to learn in the building contracting business, even if you think that you have already learned all of them, there will always be a new one lurking around the corner.



This job is going well as planned, we are building some partition walls, installing hospital-style track for curtains, installing one door and one window.


It all seems simple and straight forward enough, so when we drew the work agreement and had the client sign it, we never thought that, some new stakeholders, would come to change the project mid way!


These new doctors, that happen to be as well decision-making partners, showed up out of nowhere and telling our guys to stop, asking them who authorized to start the work...

What seemed to be simple and approved on paper, had now to be put on hold with many layers of changes, proposed additions, what if’s, "who asked for it", "I don't want this way", I want it differently" and at that point I had to put my guys on hold to discuss the current state of affairs.


Pains me to be paying wages, workers compensation, and the cancellation of appointments that could have been very profitable to discuss changes made on the fight to a small contract…. but it became clear that we had to stop everything and review their requests…


So that is exactly what we did.


I cancelled all my appointments for the day and went back to the job site.


Why Contractors Do Not Call Back For Small Jobs:

Ask me why most of the building contractors turn down small work.


I tell you, because they come with these strings attached. On big jobs we can always send worker to do another task while we decide on snags. Small jobs, you pay your guys to stand there while you decide.


While 4 of my guys were snacking and talking in the parking lot, I was going over the changes that the new additional clients wanted implemented.


They decided that a portion of the work I had already done, was going to be done by somebody else instead! If I understood well, someone mumbled about someone else's cousin that would be doing the "T" bar ceiling install.

I pointed out that we were done with that, and undoing work on a drop "T" bar ceiling was out of the question. The group of doctors immediately came to their senses once I suggested that we should look at the documentation signed by, the first Doctor who represented himself as the decision-maker.


The first decision-making doctor, who signed the contract, agreed to keep the ceiling tiles as is and agreed to allow us to continue and install the hardware they were ordering - "even if [he] had to pay for it [himself]"


Although we reached an agreement, I still sensed that he was not totally happy, perhaps because someone's family member must have offered to do the work for less, so I offered to remove a $600 change order we made earlier to make up for the money he would have saved by doing that work with “somebody else”.


His mood instantly changed to the better and he accepted the offer, so we moved on with the project with minor changes to location of walls. Which was no big deal.


How To Prevent This Things From Happening?

Beside making the client happy and minimizing losses by getting the workers back producing, I started to think about ways to stop this from ever happening again.


The first lesson I learned since I started contracting is that we should get things on paper and well explained — in the most details as possible, then get a signature from the decision-maker. We did that, but still failed.


How do you know when one decision-maker (while the work is being done) turns out not to be the only one?


The answer is, you do not know even if you ask. I DID!


So, the lesson learned here is to have another paragraph on our work agreement, stipulating that only the signer has the right to contract and make decisions regarding the work that is being accepted (which we already have) but most importantly, any losses incurred during a stop order, being valid or not, should be treated as a loss to be paid by the client - based on the man-hours wasted.


This is going to be just another clause in a work agreement that I think is too long already — 6 pages!


Please tell me: When is the number of clauses in a contract all-inclusive enough?


It will never be. There will always be another situation, so we learn and we implement. - Sorry if our work agreement is too long. I am sure you don't want to take advantage of anyone either.


So a good work agreement covers for anything that should not have happened and its unfair to one side or the other. A good agreement is a matter of fairness, a matter of doing what is right.


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