Well, I've learned, you know, long ago that it's always the builder's fault.
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Welcome to a special edition of the builder nuggets podcast recorded live from the show floor of the 2022 international builders show in Orlando, Florida. We've released several of these booth interviews earlier this season. We have a few more to share. In this episode, I talked with friend and colleague David loop Berger. David's an industry icon. He shares his passion for construction through business, coaching and consulting. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with David.
(01:29): So here we are with David loop burger, we were just contemplating what we should talk about and maybe not a hot topic, so to speak, but, uh, the straight up fact is sometimes shit does hit the fan. When issues arise is understanding how to respond to emotional homeowners and oftentimes a builder myself included when somebody attacks your work, you feel like they're attacking you and anybody in this industry, you know, you put your heart and soul into it, but we also can't mandate what homeowners go through, especially when they're in their home. And we're interrupting. We're disturbing every single routine that they follow every single routine. So you see the emotional rollercoaster, you know, people go up and down and everybody's done a project, all the ups and downs and our job is to guide them through it. And then what happens when, uh, the client gets upset and they suddenly show up and say, you screwed up, you did this. You, they wanna blame somebody for their discomfort. Well, I've learned, you know, long ago that it's always the builder's fault.
(02:42): I don't think what it is. It is always gonna be the builder's fault. But I think also we have to realize we we've taken some of that responsibility when you become a builder general contractor. That's exactly what you stepped into. Yes, you are. You are good. The finger is going to get pointed to you. Yeah. And we have, I think, as, as builders or modelers, we have to start to just put that aside to realize we know it's not our fault, but it it's up to us. We have the responsibility to, to deal with it, to fix it, to stay ahead of it, whatever it is. So, I mean, I think, uh, how you react is probably the most important thing. It's 100%, because if I become angry and respond with anger, I could have an argument. All right. And then that validates somebody saying, you screwed up. Now you're trying to defend screwing up. So what I wanna recommend is a different way to respond. All right. It takes time. It's a behavioral change actually. And so what I learned is when someone's upset and there's almost a parenting aspect of this, when someone's upset your job as a contractor is to say what happened and then to listen as hard as that is, it's to listen. It's not to defend. It's not to object. Listen. And what my experience actually has been is if you let people vent or say what they have to say, and you don't defend, you don't obstruct. You don't argue honestly, in 10 to 12 minutes, they run out of, they run out of energy because there's no resistance. Yeah. People have said what they need to say, Let 'em go let, 'em get it out.
(04:26): Let 'em go again. I can't say it enough. Don't defend. Don't argue. Listen, cuz now you could even pull out a pad and paper and now they know you're listening. And at the end, cuz they will run outta steam because you're not objecting to what they're saying. At that point, you look at them and just say, you're right. I can see why you're upset. Next line. We take full responsibility. We're in your house. We're here to manage your project. Third thing to say, what do we do to make this? Right? My experience has been that in the, in even my own business, homeowners will feel like it's gonna be a battle, which is this went wrong. I'm gonna have to fight for this. What happens? And when the builder says you're right, shouldn't have taken place. I take responsibility. What can we do to make this right? The dynamic shifts right then and there, cause suddenly you're a proactive builder remodeler saying, what can I do? What can I do? What is it? Yeah. You know? And I think it's one of the things too is because we're, we're very passionate about what we do. We're passionate people in, in general, uh, as builders or modelers tradespeople. And it's easy to say it. I find myself when I say it to some of my team members and, and then quickly realize I have to kind of help 'em think through that a little bit. But you know, you tell 'em to, you know, don't take it personal and don't take it home with you. That's really hard as a builder, very or remodeler Harry look, the, the work is an expression of who we are. Yeah.
(05:58): And if somebody attacks who you are, how do you respond? And um, I'd mentioned to you, I'd worked with the psychiatrist once and his line is always stuck with me. He said in those emotional situations, who's the adult in the room. And all I'm doing is phrasing like that because you know, gonna people are gonna get emotional, but a good parent. And there's another link there you listen, you let people say what they have to say. And then you say, what can I do to make this right? And suddenly there's no, there's no combat. Yeah. And they're gonna tell you what you can do. And you may or may not be able to respond in every element, but there's a neat, uh, remodeling magazine survey eight or 10 years ago. And they rated people's happiness or satisfaction with their contractor. And ironically, they said those clients that had an issue that was resolved consistently ranked their contractor higher than those that had no issues at all. And so another way to look at this is, uh, an issue that comes up really is an opportunity to bond with your clients, bond with your clients. Yeah. And, And, and you don't get this all the time. Yeah. But you know, when somebody steps in, when you need help and says, let's make this right. Yeah. Suddenly you're not alone. You're bonding. That's the trust that will carry you through the rest of the project.
(07:23): Yeah. And you know, we talked about it earlier, but I think that's the other thing that you have to realize, even, even when you have the most well-oiled machine systems, processes, detailed pre-construction process design stuff is still gonna go sideways. It's gonna go off the rails. There are things in, this is a difficult business. When it comes to building a home, remodeling a home, especially in remodeling, you know, there there's things that are gonna, you just weren't prepared for it. It's back to how do you react to that? Yes. And to your point, the quicker, the better, you know, take the deep breath, figure out what the situation is. Admit something went wrong. We own it. This is the solution you just said, the more quickly you can respond, cuz oftentimes contractors, I don't want to deal with a difficult issue. What I got from that remodeling magazine article was that upset is an opportunity to bond and connect with your clients because they expect you to withdraw, not address the issue. And what happens when you step up and say, I take full responsibility. Yeah. Shouldn't have happened. Let's address this. What do I do? What can I do to make this right? You can see how that changes the emotional dynamic. It shifts right there.
(08:40): Wanna level up, connect with us to share your stories, ideas, challenges, and successes. The builder nuggets community is built on your experiences. It takes less than a minute to connect with email@example.com, Facebook or Instagram, want access to the resources that can take you and your team to the next level. One call could change everything. Oh, absolutely. And then I, you know, I also look at it as empathy is a tough thing for both sides to do. I mean, you have to put yourself into that homeowner's shoes and, and, and kind of see it through their lens a little bit. And I mean, I would, I would hope that the homeowners would do that as well, but it's, that's, it's not really their job. No. Uh, but it is our job. You have to put, you know, look at it through the lens of the homeowner and the fact that, and I tell my team this a lot too. I'm like, you have to, you have to understand this is it's their home. Whether it's a new home, that's being built, you're remodeling a home, probably the most important largest asset in their life.
(09:34): It is their, you know, it's, it's their daily routine. And on top of that, not just, is it being disrupted, they have life going on too. Yeah. You know, and, and maybe, maybe there is an issue with the budget. Maybe one person was, you know, the wife might have been okay, the husband wasn't okay. Whatever the case, you know, they're dealing with problems in daily life. They're, you know, the kid, one of the kids messed up in school. There's every day they have things going on on top of this project that they're doing. So you have to be able to back off just a little bit, If they're living in the home during the project. Yeah. We will disrupt every routine in the house, everything. Yeah. And I've asked contractors, you know, who's thinking about doing a project, you know, half the room may raise their hand in some kind of presentation. Then I'll ask them, do you look forward? Can you wait, can you not wait to get started me shake their head? They know what's involved. They know, imagine for a client who hasn't done this before. It's our job to prepare 'em for that. Yeah, Absolutely.
(10:35): It's not gonna be easy is it is disruptive. It'll be unkempt. If you're working in the winter, the house wouldn't be cold. If you're working in the summer, the house gonna be hot it's dust. You've got strangers going through your house on a daily basis. That's not easy. I don't look forward to it. No, we're trying to do a kitchen remodel. It's not fun. It's not fun. No. I have some things going on myself right now. Yeah. Some floors being redone and all that is it just throws your entire life as into chaos, no matter how much you prepare for it. And it, it raises the stress level for everybody. So yes. So we've talked about things going sideways and how to, how to deal with it. Some of you know, some tips for dealing with it quickly, um, proactively, but what I guess I look at what are some of the things we could be doing to maybe have those conversations with the client in the beginning to, to let them know that things, Hey, as much work as we're putting into this, you need to be prepared that things could still go up. What do those conversations look like?
(11:30): I, I am a true believer, not only in the preconstruction meeting, but I've literally put together what I call project ground rules. And it addresses what I've done is put it into like a two page sheet. And it addresses all those things that I know might have an issue. For example, start time. When do we come to their house? When do we leave? What cleanup takes place at the end of every day? What does it look like? We can broom clean. We can stack materials. That's not dusting and washing things down. So let's create a realistic expectation around cleaning. Where do we put the dumpster? If we're working behind the house, will landscaping be affected? Should landscaping be moved? If there are kids, where are kids during the hours of construction? Because it can be unsafe where our pets, sometime in the, the presentations, I've said who's had a dog or cat get out of the house during your job that you had to chase. Yeah. Track down and find and half their hands go up. And so can we proactively begin to say, let's set up some ground rules. Yeah. And then within that, I have a, a weekly or biweekly progress meeting. And I set up at a specific time, the homeowners know every week or biweekly as the case may be right. We will meet a, to set time to talk about their job. What happened last week? Questions, concerns what's happening next week. What do we plan to get done? Uh, how are the orders coming? And all I'm doing is managing that experience proactively. They know they have my full attention and we move from my favorite tagline, which is I don't sell a project. I sell an experience.
(13:15): That's exactly right. Yeah. Yeah. And I, you know, I've been in this business long enough now and you never really hear somebody complain that someone's overcommunicating. Good Lord. No. So yeah. Don't, don't be afraid to go the extra mile and, and, you know, Exceed people's Expectations, exceeds people's expectations. Yeah. You're a hero, you know, it's a difficult conversation when something goes sideways, but I think you've gotta have those difficult conversations. Even in the beginning, don't paint it all to be this rosy picture and, and oversell yourself because you know, you're gonna be, it is gonna be an uphill battle for that. Have the difficult conversations right out of the gate, but might also be an indicator that the two of you are not compatible. Yes. Maybe the client and the builder and, and, and, and that can be a good thing. Oh, , it's um, sometimes on the programs, you know, people are all watching these home improvement shows. And my favorite three questions are, if you watch a home improvement show, most people have. When was the last time you saw 'em get a building permit, Dwayne, number two. When was the last time you saw them meet an inspector? Number three. When was the last time you saw them deal with materials that either didn't arrive or arrived damaged? Yeah. And I spoke with the producer and I said, you're leaving this out. Honestly, the answer was, that's not entertaining. It's not entertaining. These are entertainment shows. We are trying to engage people to see what's possible. We don't want to show things that go wrong. Guess what? There is no project that runs perfectly. No, it, it Definitely doesn't period. So less set expectations right in the beginning. Yeah. And guide people through it.
(14:46): I think those are some of the biggest takeaways per you have those conversations prepare as much as you can in advance for this stuff, but also prepare that things will still go sideways. You just, you're gonna be in a much better position to deal with it, react for it. And as you said, in some cases you can turn a negative into one of the biggest positives you have. You can create a raving fan, someone that's gonna talk about you and your business for a long time. So, and that's just it, when you step into that void, you take responsibility. I'd almost guarantee you, one of the homeowners, husband, wife, whatever will say to a friend, we're working with a terrific person, all right. Something came up, they handle it. They just, they take care of it. They responded, they understood. And now you're tagging into the, the emotional pulse. And how do we track and manage the emotional P the emotional pulse of a homeowner during a project that is upsetting in financially, physically, emotionally, how do we guide them through this? We talk about it a lot. It's putting yourself in that trusted advisor role. If you can earn that, that type of trust from your client to where they look to you for, for the answers for guidance, you're gonna be in a much better situation, should, should a problem arise. Cuz then you know, they'll be a little more likely to respond, uh, positively to your suggestions yeah. Than, um, if you have not positioned yourself that way. Yeah. So it's really important partnership partnership. That's what it is. Well, David, it's been some, some good stuff. I think some really good tips for folks. Uh, what else are you, uh, planning here for the week? I mean, what have you seen so far? Is it exciting to be back here at IBS?
(16:20): It's huge. Can we just start there? Yeah. It's huge seeing people I haven't seen for a while. Yeah. In the associations that I get to see seeing some neat products, for sure. This is the place where they roll 'em out the new products and then tomorrow get to do two programs, one on, uh, creating clients for life and then following, uh, a 30 minute Q and a on creating clients for life. So I just get to what we're saying. It's just talking with builders. What are you doing? What's working. Can we improve what's Yeah. And I'm excited to be here as well. And I don't think, you know, our whole platform is about collaboration and I don't think you can. It's it's certainly on display here everywhere you look. Yeah. People are, you know, they're guards down, they're talking, they're collaborating, sharing ideas. So it's a lot of fun to be here. Thanks, David. Appreciate it, man. Thank you. It's a pleasure.
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