At some point in time, every community will need to hire an outside contractor to perform some essential, and usually expensive, project. Even the smallest project will cost several thousand dollars, and the big ones can run into the millions. If you’re a board member, you don’t really want to mess up one of these projects, do you?
While many, hopefully most, projects go well, there are too many horror stories of those that fail. There is no guarantee of the future, but there are some good practices which the community industry recommends that will improve your odds dramatically of having a positive outcome.
Space doesn’t permit a detail review of all the things you should do, but a visit to the Community Associations Institute (CAI) website is a must. The national website is www.caionline.org, and the local chapter is www.cai-padelval.org. Both are loaded with valuable advice and resources. You should become a member—but that’s a story for another day.
Here’s one lesson I learned the hard way (the best way!) from decades of consulting work in corporate America. Meet and talk to your consultant/contractor—the person who is actually going to do the work—before you sign any legal contracts, and make absolutely certain that both of you have identical expectations of what the final results of the project will be. Mitch Frumpkin the President of CAI and founder of Kipcon has a cool blog on this Kipcon Webinar
“Communication breakdowns” happen especially when people assume that the other party is thinking the same way they are. They probably aren’t. Don’t wait until your project is advanced, and thousands of dollars are spent to discover that your contractor is doing something you didn’t expect. The fatal mistake is usually relying on paperwork to substitute for face-to-face communication. Requests for Proposals (RFPs), proposals, marketing brochures, websites, even contracts can miss vital information which might unhinge your project from what you expected.
Meet and talk. Ask questions. Get comfortable with the actual person. Tell the contractor exactly why you hired them. You want a specific result. Spell it out. Don’t assume anything. Tell them why you want it that way and not some other way. Ask them if that’s what they intend to do. Ask what they need from you to insure that result. Make sure you both agree on what keystone events will trigger progress inspections to catch problems while they are still correctable. Become a working partner with your consultant, and do whatever it takes to achieve the result you want.
Do this and your project will end with a parade down Main Street and not a date in front of a judge.