Inground Pool Planning Meetings: The Key to a Successful Project
As I sat in the Las Vegas airport reflecting on the events of this year's International Pool and Spa Convention I recalled a conversation I had with a several owners of a Canadian pool company on the flight there. "Our biggest challenge occurs at the transition between the sales and construction process," they told me.
They explained that the sales process was normally a pleasant experience for the client and the when the project was completed the customer was typically not dissatisfied, but issues would consistently come up during construction that required last-minute adjustments and this was frustrating to the client, construction team, subcontractors, and everyone else involved.
I have found that this issue is not unique to Canadian pool companies, or for that matter any firm that attempts to sell and install anything. One of the most difficult challenges to overcome with any construction project is creating a system that allows for a smooth transition between the sale of the commodity and its construction. When this breakdown occurs on an inground pool project the problem manifests itself in several of the following ways:
From the client's perspective
- Last-minute surprise expenses like retaining walls, hauling dirt in/out, etc.
- Loss of confidence in the builder
- Unnecessary Delays
From the builder's perspective:
- Unforeseen material/labor cost
- Last minute layout changes
- Double work
- Last minute rush orders that result in extra shipping charges
- Strained relationship between construction and office staff
- Strained relationship with subcontractors
- Concessions to the client resulting from embarrassment
So I asked my friends on the airplane "Are you having a construction planning meeting with the client?"
"Well, kind of," they said, "one of the guys goes out to the job a week or so before we start." I immediately identified the problem and explained the system we employ at River Pools and Spas and how well it has worked for us.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of a thorough planning meeting between whoever is ultimately responsible for the construction of the project and the client. Sounds like common sense right? Well, we all know that common sense is not always common practice.
This is not a difficult thing to do! In fact it's a lot easier and less stressful than the alternative. When conducted properly, the construction planning meeting will eliminate most, if not all of the stressors mentioned above.
I understand that last minute changes occur on any project. They always do and this won't change regardless of how many meetings you have. But this isn't about change orders it's about preparation.
So whether you are a potential pool buyer or pool contractor here are several tips to ensure this critical planning meeting is effective:
Tips for scheduling the Planning Meeting:
- Have it as soon after the sale as possible
- Never rush the meeting. My average meetings last 2-3 hours
- Make sure there's good weather. Uncomfortable conditions will lead to a rushed meeting and/or lack of focus
- Make sure all decision makers are present
Ok, now we're there on site...builder and client. What do we need to discuss to ensure this project runs smoothly? Basically, we need to discuss two things. First we need to set expectations: what exactly is going to happen in your yard over the course of the project; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Second, we need to discuss what I call the nuts and bolts of the project; more of the technical/logistical side of things. Let's break each of these down into some specifics.
- The impact the project will have on the yard/landscaping
- Thorough discussion of the construction process including rough timelines
- Review payment process
- Review potential unforeseen expenses (groundwater, rock, etc.)
- Overview of materials used and pros and cons of each
- Communication process employed by builder
Nuts and Bolts
- Site access (how we're getting in/out)
- Dirt hauled away/staying, put where?
- Review pool and patio layout and paint on ground for final review
- Review location of slide, rails, ladders, etc
- Location of utilities, septic system, well, irrigation, etc.
- Discuss elevation of pool and patio
This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but it gives you a concept of what we do. At River Pools and Spas we have over 600 clients on our reference list. A lot of good things have to happen on a regular basis to consistently provide that level of top notch service. It takes the best people, systems, and frankly the best customers. But I'm here to tell you that without an effective construction planning meeting none of that would be possible. So builders, please consider doing this if you're not already; and potential pool customers, make sure your pool contractor does this. It will save you both a lot of stress, time, and possibly money.
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