Amy Rees Anderson

A little effort up front would save a whole lot of work on the back end!

Today both my husband and I spent hours and hours and hours trying to reconcile our construction draw from our contractor.  Mind you this is about the fourth day in a row that we have spent hours and hours and hours trying to reconcile this draw and let me just say that it is about the least fun thing we have ever done.  We are dealing with total disorganization of bids, invoices, past paid amounts, and remaining owed amounts.  And this same frustration has existed with every draw over the entire homebuilding process.  We spend literally days trying to reconcile the information we are provided.  Finally tonight I couldn’t keep it in anymore. “Why don’t you guys just track this organized up front??!” The question simply had to be asked.  We have gone through this frustration every time and its always the same thing, we are dealing with paper bids and emailed bids and text messages that contained the upfront bids and now we are dealing with paper invoices that come in that have no way to tie them back to the initial bid other than to dig through the texts and emails and documents that has come in piecemeal to us.  If the contractor would have created a simple spreadsheet up front that had an initial column that listed each actual bid we accepted, then had another column for the invoices that came in each draw with the remaining balance due in the next column, it would literally keep track of what was bid, what was billed to date and what was still owed….SO SIMPLE to have done upfront and it would have saved so much time every month of having to dig through stacks and stacks to try and tie an invoice to a bid and then match it to what was already paid.

That simple spreadsheet up front would have saved so much frustration and so many billing mistakes and an amazing amount of time over the last year and it would have done an amazing job of building trust in the accuracy of the draws.

My experience today made me want to share advice with every business person out there:  Always remember that every time a mistake is found it leads to the question, “was it an honest mistake or is someone trying to cheat us”.  And the sad part is that even if it was an honest mistake it forever leaves that question of doubt in your mind and month after month when the same problem keeps occurring the doubts grow bigger and bigger. When you are trying to run any business it is simply not worth the damage it can create in your customer relations to give reason for the client to doubt – you cannot afford to be disorganized with the information you provide to your client.  So my advice is to take the time upfront to create an organized accounting tracking for customers.  You don’t have to do some fancy accounting system, although if you have one then even better, but at a minimum you really need to provide spreadsheets that track the financial expectation up front, then the amounts billed and the amounts remaining.  Never surprise your customer with charges they didn’t understand or expect, again this will always put your credibility in doubt, and that isn’t worth it.  Always spell things out in a simple to understand way that keeps everyone on the same page.  Maybe some people believe that they can make more money by keeping it sloppy and maybe sneaking a few extra charges into a bill, but will those few extra dollars really be worth the damage it will do to your business reputation or your integrity?  HECK NO!  The dollar value of keeping your integrity is priceless…and the value of having a reputation of being trustworthy is worth gold when it comes to landing new sales that come from having a stellar reputation of honesty…GOLD!  Nothing will be more valuable to your business than that.

So yeah.  That is my nugget to share for today: Do that small amount of work up front to organize things right.  Keep it open and honest with your customer every step of the way.  Never surprise them with unexpected charges. Do everything you can to bill them accurately so you don’t ever give reason for them to question your integrity. When you make a mistake in how you bill them own it, fix it, and then make sure you take precautions so you don’t repeat that same mistake again.  Then smile knowing that all of that will lead to a future of great success 🙂



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