Doing the Walk-Through Before the…

Monday, May 8, 2017

Quite a few years ago, a friend of mine, who was a successful contractor, had a pretty good run of building high-end homes in Venice. It dawned on me after several successful years of building million-dollar-plus homes, that he seemingly had no complaints..."just happy customers." How could that be? So we were talking about his "success" one day and I asked him about this "happy and satisfied" customer thing that seemed to be there about 100% of the time. His answer was disarmingly simple. He said, "You know when you finish one of these big homes, then right at closing you do a walk-through with the customer. This is their chance to really pick the new house apart. But what if you are already prepared for whatever they point out to you? "

We all know what a new homeowner might find and demand needs fixing during that walk-through...the faucet that doesn't quite shut off...the over-lap of wall paint on some casing...and many other "little" things. So these walk-throughs can really turn into nightmares! And the innocent builder starts off thinking he'll have a page of "Clean Up" stuff—that instead turns into ten pages, and counting! Now the builder is almost thinking, “Maybe if I give this customer a big check they won't sue me!”...I'm exaggerating a bit, but it can almost be that bad.

So, my contractor/friend had a simple solution for this nightmare. At least a week before the infamous customer walk-through, with notepad in hand, he’d do this....He would go into the 99% finished house, all by himself, and play like he's the customer. And with a very critical eye, walk it to find all these things that the customer may see. (And a number of things they probably wouldn't catch.) His own list would wind up pretty extensive. So, fast forward to "The For-Real Walk-through"...He starts off explaining to the customer, "I do this for a living, and I know what to look for, so I've made my final "Punch List" up as if I'm you. I want you 100% happy.” Then he'd begin pointing out the paint smear, the leaky faucet, the key lock that didn’t quite lock right, etc. He made sure that they saw the problems, clearly. And this all important walk-through could take up to several hours. When completed, he'd tell them what he had already put in the works to correct it all...and even invite them to come back and do their own follow-up list. Of course they were so impressed and overwhelmed by his super attention to this process, that they happily accepted his walk-though presentation and corrective actions taken. And of course within the promised time, be it a week or whatever--all the "corrective" action was done. He might even initiate another walk-through to show them the corrective action had been taken!

So the take-away lesson of the day is this: How often do we have a project that is seemingly going along fine...maybe even a little too well…and we "assume" that it will finish up just fine? So we don't do a critical “walk-through” before the final walk-through...and somewhere down the road we wind up cleaning up a mess or correcting things that we could have easily caught near the conclusion. Maybe it's as simple as “Parking Your Ego at the Door,” and taking that all-important snapshot of the project/job as if you were the end user...Sometimes these simple solutions and protocol are hiding right there in plain view!!

My final comment. Learning this from my friend gave me another "Tool" or way to grade my own actions so I would have a final “Happy Ending”... Good luck and success in all your projects and endeavors.

Al E. Bavry, CEO, Kimal Lumber & Hardware 5/8/2017

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