Last time, we dived into what should NOT happen when the client is ready to sign off on your contract. Do you bring out your contract and get the business closed? NO. From now on, before the contract, you will also get them to sign and initial your “Rules of the Road.”
When I first wrote this article, I asked readers to come up with what they would include in their one-page “Rules of the Road.” These are a few of the many brilliant responses.
Give tough love
#1 I understand that my decisions affect the estimated cost for construction. I expect “tough love” discussions with my architect about the estimated cost for construction, and agree to either modify my budget or modify my design goals if we exceed my budget.
#2 I understand design takes time. I want my design consultants to complete their work following the sequence of steps that ensures the best designed and best coordinated set of construction documents. I understand that rushing may cause delays as work done out of sequence will need to be addressed later and other decisions may need to be re-done.
#3 I understand that completing a drawing is not as easy as pushing a button, and I agree to allow my Design Team adequate time to complete their work.
Explain client responsibility
The client shall, prior to the commencement of any design work, fill out a complete architectural brief. If at any time the client delays or stalls (or places the project on hold) the project for more then one week, there will be a $500 restart fee added to their account.
— Christopher L Colby, AIA, LEED AP
Spell out payment process
I find that, with most of my clients, they do not pay on time. It can take up to two months or more. As we all know, cash flow is king. My suggestion is to include on the tick box list, that a discount offered only comes into effect, if payment is effected within, say, 14 days from invoice issued. The benefits swing both ways. The client gets a discount and you get cash flow and you save all the time on phone calls, emotional stress, uncertainty, etc.
— Mark Gouws
Discard any future ‘cheapening efforts'
One of the paragraphs talks about how, during the bidding process, that contractors will hack and tear at the architecture and details, trying to cheapen it, motivated by the client’s desire to save money, while not understanding the negative impact of his or her actions. And what the agreement indicates is that the architect will not be required to modify his or her design or specifications or details, simply because some contractor says he can cheapen the project by eliminating good things from the job.
You’d be surprised at how demanding some clients can become, when fixated on cost reduction, without realizing that such changes will make their home weaker in a storm or earthquake, less durable or more likely to leak. But the architect is expected to agree to such cheapening efforts. I don’t think so. One of my clauses makes this demand unenforceable and strictly forbidden. And that’s just one. Hope you are doing well, my friend.
— Rand Soellner
#1 I REALIZE it is not a perfect world.
#2 I EXPECT to pay for commensurate value that you deliver.
— Steve Nickel
#1 The Client cannot sue you. It’s not permitted in our agreement, which is a legal provision. The worst that can happen is binding arbitration, and only that, after sincere efforts (at least 3) to discuss any issues and resolve them, and then, only after a 3rd party architect provides a written affidavit documenting any wrongdoing of the architect, per the Architectural Practice Act in that state’s jurisdiction. (Which isn’t likely to happen; In other words, the ArCH agreement pretty much bulletproofs your practice and lets you focus on doing a great job.)
#2 There is a 12-month term after you perform your last service in which the client can decide to take any actions against you (such as arbitration) and that is a legal provision as well (so you don’t have any ticking bombs out there, waiting to explode decades after you have finished a project). These are just a few of the goodies that protect your practice and define the responsibilities of your client and the architect, so that there are no misunderstandings later.
— Rand Soellner
Define relationship and roles
#1 This project is a collaboration between the client and designer and both parties will complete assigned tasks to their best effort by the dates assigned. (If a client has ownership and is actively engaged, I find they are not only more pleasant to work with but also are willing to trust professional judgment more than if kept in the dark or constantly told, “Don't worry, I'm an expert,” which is probably the scariest sentence someone can ever mutter to you.)
#2 All important communication is to be done face-to-face or by phone call, if pressing.
#3 When an issue arises, timely notification will be made to parties involved or affected, 48 hours before a project meeting minimum if possible (I find this allows meetings that could get bogged down in talking about problems to revolve more around solutions so, instead of finger-pointing, which is poisonous, the project team can operate more as a — well — team).
P.S. Those of us whose immense brain power has weakened the follicle base may make any comments about hairstyles we want. God knows they were probably directed at us during a “mullet phase” of earlier years.
— Dru McKeown
Want to read more of our Big Idea Letters?
Join our AM Labs newsletter community and subscribe here: https://architectmarketingresources.com/am-labs-free-gift