Focus is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and as we look back on the growth of our business over time, it’s gratifying to see that we can attribute our success to client success—that by working proactively and in partnership with our customers throughout the course of a project, we can ensure they derive the highest value and most positive experience working with us.
It’s an approach that we take so seriously, we’ve recently appointed a team whose role is to be laser focused on the needs and expectations of our customers to the extent that we’ve earned their loyalty by way of their project’s success and repeat business.
As they settle into their new roles, we asked Project Executives Joe Vartanian and Kirk McLawhorn, along with Josh Stark, Executive Vice President of Construction, to talk about client success—what it means at Focus and how best to achieve it so that customers are happy not only with a project’s end result but also the experience of working with us.
Josh: To me, client success is repeat business. A client that wants to work with you again shows we’ve met their expectations on a previous project. And we take a number of important steps to ensure a client is successful. This starts with listening to how they define success—understanding what’s important to a client so that we can provide the best customer experience. Secondly, we have to give them creative and workable solutions. The construction process is ripe with many challenges, and having solutions to these challenges ensures the project runs smoothly. Finally, it’s important to treat a customer’s project as if it were your own—delivering a project has exceptional quality, the highest value, and stands the test of time.
Joe: Client success also starts with good, consistent communication. To be successful, we need to understand the priorities and goals of our clients on each project. It’s not just about schedule and budget.
Kirk: Also, if we want an owner to invite us to bid on their next project, we have to be prompt when it comes to following through on their needs or requests and managing their budget and forecast so that we can turn over a high-quality project on time.
Josh: Communication is key. Everyone on the team needs to understand their role, how what they do affects the team, and what it takes overall for a project to be successful. We conduct regular team meetings to discuss short- and long-term requirements so that we can plan accordingly and anticipate challenges before they become a problem. If something does become a problem, discussing the solution as a team allows a project to stay on track.
Joe: I speak with my team leaders daily, and I visit each site weekly to meet with the entire team. Most importantly, though, I listen. Team members will let you know what they’re struggling with or what obstacles are preventing them from completing their tasks. Supporting them by giving them the resources they need or simply showing compassion and understanding goes a long way. Our projects are long and can be draining, so I like to remind them about all the aspects of the project that have gone well and not just dwell on the issues at hand.
Kirk: I would just add that including the client in meetings and check-ins with the team is necessary to understanding the priorities and timeframe required to complete the task.
Josh: We host a series of kick-off meetings at the beginning of every project—one with the client during preconstruction, one with our staff after the contract is executed, plus preconstruction kick-offs with every subcontractor before they start work. These meetings allow us to set expectations from the very start. With the client and architect, it’s understanding their expectations. With the staff, it’s establishing roles and planning for the various interactions throughout the project. And with the subcontractors, it’s reviewing the drawings, contract and site to make clear what we need from them before work begins.
Joe: Good communication—and by that, I mean being clear about what’s expected of every individual on a project and what success looks like, as well as making sure people feel safe in bringing forth issues they see or anticipate so that we can nip them in the bud. I’m also a big believer in under-promising and over-delivering (realistically). Things never go perfectly, so it’s important to make sure to leave room for addressing those issues so that you can deliver on agreed-upon goals.
Kirk: Focus understands that project owners and design teams may look for opportunities to upgrade and enhance elements of the project. It’s essential for our team to create a timeline that allows for those options to be evaluated and for approvals to be provided adhering with the project schedule, and then communicating those timelines with the decisions makers. Communicating wins and misses is also important. We’re driving for a high-quality product, and there are going to be times when we need to come together to troubleshoot issues.
Josh: Building a relationship with our client is important. People want to work with people who meet their needs and with whom they feel they have a connection.
Joe: I agree. Connecting with clients on a personal level can go a long way. If they like you and the project has gone well, you’ve got a great shot at building on the relationship.
Kirk: Also, if a project is successful, subcontractors will want to work with us and with the client again. This leads to more competitive pricing on the next project, which becomes a win for the client. Repeat work builds a community of trust among all parties.
To learn more about our approach to ensuring success on behalf of our clients, or to discuss a project of your own, please reach out today.