What the Very Smart Clients Want

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


Along with Rick Maggiacomo, I had lunch with one of our key clients last week. He was pissed. Somewhat happily I guess, he wasn’t pissed at EllisDon, he was pissed at the entire construction industry.

I will try and summarize an hour of his frustration into a few sentences. He said basically this: You builders come into meetings with the clients, with the design consultants, with the whole team, and you all have more knowledge about how to make my project successful than anyone else in the room, and what do you do? You sit there. You sit there, and wait for the client and the designers to make decisions. Then you say “OK, fine”, and you go away and price things out, and if it comes in over budget, and the project fails, it’s not your fault, because you were just carrying out instructions, pricing what you were given. Except, it is your fault: You had the opportunity to lead, you had all the knowledge, yet you just sat there.

We had a vigourous discussion, not just about our failings but about how change was needed at his level as well. I have no intention of sharing that discussion widely.

But I will say one thing: If somebody’s going to be upset in order to make a project successful, it doesn’t bother me if it’s the people at EllisDon. It doesn’t bother me if it’s the consultants. I don’t really care who we upset, as long as it’s not that fellow who was sitting across the table from me and Rick.

The process needs to change. Roles need to change. Change upsets people. That’s life. But the next time we meet that client for lunch, he’s paying, and Rick and I are going to savour it. Because we are going to earn it.