• On July 24, 2012 ·

Build me a box-

Recently I was having lunch with a trusted adviser of mine, and he asked me a very simple question.  He said, “If I asked you to build me a box and gave you 20 minutes to do so, what would be your process?”  Well of course, I went into great detail about the materials needed, the tools needed and of course the step-by-step process to produce for the task in such a short time frame.  Remember that we were having lunch at the time, so my mind was on food…and he asked me what kind of box I had built him.  Of course I said, “A box for us to use as a picnic table and enjoy our lunch.”  To my dismay and his delight, he smiled and said, “That’s great, but I wanted a jewelry box for my wife!”

Wow!  Lesson learned, and on such a precise scale.  Sometimes we are very good at giving advice, and very poor at following our own leads.  I spend a great deal of time teaching others the importance of communication in our building industry, and that is why I believe that the “Design-Build” model for our company is so powerful.  How often have we all heard stories of people who asked for grandiose renovations, received a great price and then found out the “box” they had in mind was not the “box” that was built.  The stories that are shared with us that include: “If I had only known” or “Next time I’m doing it the right way” are endless, and that is what this idea of a one-stop design-build firm is such a passionate topic for us.

I was presenting this concept to a woman recently who relayed a very hard story for me to hear, especially because she was so saddened that she was unaware of this when she was going through her project.  She had completed a set of plans with an architect, and as advised through the mass media and current culture, she received 3 bids for the project.  Choosing the “wise” route, she selected the contractor whose bid was in the middle.  That made perfect sense to all parties, until they realized that tradesman were not being paid, liens were being placed on her new custom home and to top it off, the bid for flooring on a 5000 sq ft home was $6,000.  This allowed a whopping 83¢ per sq ft for flooring (no wonder he had a reasonable price).  Long story short, this poor woman had to invest hundreds of thousands of additional dollars into the construction of her home, pay the extra liens, settle for scopes of work that were not what she thought were contracted, and finally, the project was so delayed that the bank called in the bank note and she lost the home all together.

When I presented the concept of a design-build solution from the beginning, she was furious that no one had presented her with such an option when she was going through all of this, and said she would have happily paid for a design-build contract to avoid the heartache and loss of her home.  Of course there is nothing that we can do today to take her back to that place, but we can rest assured that the path we have chosen is a path that leads to greater accountability and success for all parties involved.

And that leads me back to our box—in hindsight, to the “build me a box” question, the correct answer would have been…”Let’s spend the first 19 minutes talking about the kind of box you would like.”  The shape, the color, the wood selection, the size, the budget, the timelines would all be discussed and fine-tuned as a team, to accomplish a common goal, and then the final question that would set the stage for the entire relationship, coming in the 19th and last minute… “now that we have a complete road map and agreement on where we are going together, may I please have another 20 minutes to actually build you the box?”

Shawn Bakker
Bakker Construction