backyard fish pond planning meetings the key to a successful project
The Transfer of Trust
Often when a contractor comes to your home and gives a presentation about a backyard fish pond service/installation they are offering it elicits feelings of excitement and anticipation of what this water feature enhancement that is being added to your home will provide to you and your family. Beautiful pictures or videos of completed projects can have you dreaming of spending time out by the water, enjoying your new aquatic paradise. Typically, the sales process is a pleasant experience for the homeowner and when the water feature project is completed the customer is usually not disappointed, but issues would continually arise during construction that would require last minute adjustments and this can be frustrating for the homeowner, construction team, neighbors or any one else involved.
This issue is not unique to water feature 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 a Water Feature 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
From the Contractor’s Perspective:
-Unforeseen material/labor cost
-Last minute layout changes
-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
Typically, if I have a friend in the industry that is dealing with a scenario like mentioned above, I’ll ask
“Are you having a construction planning meeting with the client?”
“Well, kind of” they’ll say, “one of the guys goes out to the job the morning we start.”
I immediately identified the problem and explained the system we employ at Atlantis Water Gardens 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. Buried stumps, large rocks, utility lines and other underground obstacles inherently pop up when excavating and are not usually able to be anticipated beforehand (unless the homeowner has detailed knowledge of the site). These things always pop up 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 pond buyer or pond 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 1-2 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 insure 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
-The impact the project will have on any neighbors
-Thorough discussion of the construction process including rough timelines
-Review payment process
-Review potential unforeseen expenses (groundwater, rock, etc.)
-Overview of materials used
-Communication process employed by builder
Nuts and Bolts:
-Site access (how we’re getting in/out)
-Dirt hauled away/staying, put where?
-Where any trucks & equipment will be parked during construction
-Review water feature layout and paint on ground for final review
-Location of utilities, septic system, well, irrigation, etc.
-Determine who will be fixing any lawn/landscape/driveway areas upon project completion
-Discuss elevation of pond and patio (if applicable)
This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but it gives you a concept of what we do. At Atlantis Water Gardens we have 100’s of 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 water feature customers, make sure your water feature contractor does this. It will save you both a lot of stress, time, and possibly money.
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