Swinerton In the News

Swinerton Builders Colorado: August 01, 2014

Moving Beyond Client Service

How do contractors stand out in a robust marketplace full of top caliber competitors that exist in Colorado? Swinerton’s own Aaron Townsend, shares his point of view in a summer Colorado Real Estate Journal issue.

In today’s economic climate of increasing opportunities to build the next skyline-changing project, how do contractors stand out in a robust marketplace full of top caliber competitors that exist in Colorado? Some shine with their approach to client service. To do so, first-class client service must go beyond listening, managing expectations, solving problems and understanding our clients’ businesses.

During the recent economic downturn, a client selected Swinerton for a project that turned into something truly special for our firm. Today, that client is a friend; he’s one of several clients and just as special now as he was three years ago. My goal is to keep him happy. I fret over the quality of services Swinerton provides to new clients, but those existing clients who we’ve come to know as friends are truly special. So how do we keep our clients truly happy so they turn into friends?

While listening is the foundation of all communications, it’s critical to respond with a plan that relates to what is heard and understood. We all come to meetings with our own agendas and points to make. But to turn a client into a friend, we have to respond to what is said by our clients and act with integrity.

Along with two-way communication comes managing our clients’ expectations.  This can be a bit challenging at times when budgets don’t align with vision. So those of us who are wired for this business try to do all we can to meet our clients’ goals and keep the project on track to remain client centric.

A client recently shared with me that he sees his firm as a “boutique developer,” even though he is doing $300 million in construction projects per year. While that hardly seems boutique, his explanation made sense. During the best of times, which the market is enjoying currently, contractors scramble to meet client obligations, but during down times, the industry jostles to meet pro formas. In analyzing both economic situations, firms need to view clients as partners and friends, not commodities to chase.

My grandpa used to say that you need to make hay while the sun is shining. By my unscientific account, the sun is shining on Denver and the hay is growing high with opportunities. I remember the elation and relief of winning work in the Great Recession. Keeping my coworkers and friends employed is a sobering honor. It was easy to proclaim that I would never again complain about being busy. Now as the pendulum swings to more opportunities, I find it easy to not complain, but concern myself with the subtle risk of losing the elation of earning our clients’ trust, business and friendship. Sometimes we have to say no to those shiny opportunities that would distract our attention from keeping current clients happy.

When contractors view their clients as friends, solving problems turns into fun. When it is unclear what to do initially, expert contractors study the situation and figure it out. If the issue can’t be solved, we look for other solutions to fix the issues.  While the term “collaboration” is thrown around quite a bit in the real estate industry, when contractors solve owners’ problems by evaluating every possible situation through judicious study, true client service is experienced.

An architect friend of mine considers himself a practitioner and his clients his patients with the thought of what’s best for the patient is the course of action. This simple parallel is admirable. Obtaining an in-depth understanding of our clients’ goals fosters client service. Whether clients are in the business of developing offices or apartments as their livelihood, or if they are an entity that creates a place of employment to further their passions, understanding our clients’ ambitions results in genuine client relationships.

Is this as easy as it sounds? I and my co-workers care about our clients and take projects seriously. What will go a long way to demonstrate authentic client service: saying “thank you” to our clients and friends. The moment of an exchange of trust and appreciation that comes with giving thanks reminds those of us in this industry of just how value these relationships – and friendships - are.

-By Aaron Townsend, Chief Estimator (for the Summer Issue of the Colorado Real Estate Journal)

For more information on our Colorado office, visit their blog: http://www.swinerton.com/blog/colorado