6 Ways to Handle Unreliable Tradespeople During Projects
Design and renovation pros on Houzz share how they resolve issues and keep projects on track
In this situation, it can be difficult to decide how to move forwards. Here, 10 designers and builders on Houzz in the USA share what they do when another pro threatens the integrity of their project.
When a fellow home pro has been unreliable more than once, a first step is to talk to them about it. Addressing the problem in a calm and professional manner can help keep the discussion productive and constructive.
“I always go into conversations taking emotions off the table,” says Kirby Foster Hurd, founder and principal designer of Kirby Home Designs. “Bring the facts forward, not how you feel about the situation.”
Kirby believes it’s best to be straightforward when problems arise with other pros. At the same time, it can help to be understanding and give them some grace. “Ensure the person on the other end understands the problem clearly and give them a fair chance to reflect and respond,” she says.
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Sometimes, you may not be able to take action or make decisions regarding the project or team. The responsibility of managing an unruly professional might fall on your supervisor, a colleague or your client. When in doubt, the contract can offer guidance on how these scenarios should be handled.
Sean Tomlinson, owner of Tomlinson Designs, says their contracts are usually with homeowners – not other design or construction pros – so only the homeowner can decide how pros are managed on the project.
Typically, Sean’s team likes to stick around during the building phase to help clients navigate awkward situations with questionable pros. “If it gets really bad, then it’s a decision for the homeowner to end the contract with them or not,” he says. “We keep detailed records of this process for reference later if needed.”
Projects can run more efficiently when stakeholders focus on problem-solving. “Discussing paths for solutions before jumping to conclusions is critical, even if at the end of the fix [it] means the pro won’t be involved on that project any longer,” says Phil Shearon, president and principal designer of Shearon Design Collective. “We know [there are] some things you just can’t come back from, but we always work together with them to, at a minimum, remedy the issue at hand first.”
Robin McHaney, owner of and designer at Simply Elegant Interiors, agrees. She says it’s best to try to resolve the issue at hand before doing anything else.
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If another professional makes a serious blunder, one option is to make it right for the client’s sake. “If something occurs, I reach out to the reliable company or individual to take care of what must be done to correct a problem,” says interior designer Sandy Schargel. “There have been times when I had to take financial responsibility to keep my clients happy.”
However, Anna Shiwlall, owner of 27 Diamonds Interior Design, believes in holding pros accountable when they make mistakes. And if they don’t make it right, she will file an official complaint to help resolve the matter.
Jason Faulkinberry, owner of Faulkinberry Enterprises, will immediately terminate a relationship with an unreliable or untrustworthy professional and remove them from any active projects they’re working on.
“All the builders I work with would release anyone unethical, dishonest or unprofessional,” says Kai Geschke, president of Geschke Group Architecture. “Unfortunately, that happens all the time.”
If you choose to go down this route, it might be best to then turn your attention to getting the project back on track. “[I] find an immediate replacement and start looking for two to three companies to ensure job completion,” says Teresa Watkins, owner of Sustainable Horticultural Environments. “[And I] never use the unprofessional company again.”
If a home pro leaves a bad impression on you or your client, it might be time to reconsider your business relationship with them. It may not be worth risking your professional reputation any further.
“Having an untrustworthy professional representing [our company] is unacceptable,” says Anthony Collins, owner of and certified builder at Northlight Custom Builders. “We will make things right with our customers and will likely not work with that supplier or sub-contractor again.”
How do you deal with unreliable pros? Tell us in the Comments.