Turning Away Work

January 12, 2012
Mount Vernon, WA
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I turned down a job yesterday. The potential client was explaining his project and as soon as he mentioned the name of the architect, I stopped him. "Sorry, Frank," I said, "I will not work with that architect. I've worked with him on several jobs in the past and each time it was an unpleasant, money-losing experience. The man has no sense of "team." Problems are never his fault, and if you're handy when one arises, he'll throw you under the bus. I would love to work on your project, but unless you find another architect you'll have to look elsewhere for a structural engineer. I'm really sorry."

It's a sad day when a consultant turns down work, especially in this economy. But some of us would rather flip burgers than work with certain people. Lesson: make sure you're not one of those people. And if you think you might be, talk openly and earnestly with those you might have alienated, then mend your ways and your fences. The architect I referenced above would never, ever do that. It's just never his fault.

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    Warrenover 8 years ago

    I agree that some people may be impossible to work with. I would not have gone into all of the dirty details when discussing it with a potential customer though. A simple refusal citing vague reasons would be a better way to handle that.

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    Diablo Viewover 8 years ago

    Not only did you trash talk another business, then you blog about how you trashed talked another business. PATHETIC

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    Tim Garrison PEover 8 years ago

    Hi Diablo View,

    You'll note that I did not mention the Architect's name or even his town. In fact when I write criticism pieces, to ensure anonymity I frequently don't even use the correct gender.

    Here's how I feel about trash talk. If I'm the guy who causes others to write about how crappy I am, I deserve to be trash talked. If I'm considering hiring someone, I'd like to know from others who've worked with him / her their experience. If you call that trash talk, fine. I think most other businesspersons interested in staying in business feel similarly.

    For certain, the potential client I sent to my competition appreciated my candid opinion.

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    skyhookover 8 years ago

    Sounds like some of the same Archis I took under my wing. Gave them jobs, helped them in a bad economy, sure enough, got the same backstabbing results. Architects, hock toohey, don't need them. Design, Build and a good Structural Engineer is the way to go.

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    [email protected]over 8 years ago

    I've worked with A LOT of Architects and "Building Designers" and can honestly say that you have every right to voice your opinion of someone that not only affects your bottom line BUT can negatively affect the job. More and more I am getting calls to "fix" another contractor or builders work and some of the time it was stemmed from a poor or ill-informed design that a GC did not want to stand up to and say..."That's not right".
    I do love using a local architect in town that when I do say no to one of our designers, I do reference the local architect and follow that up with why they are superior.

  • No-avatar-62
    Hardly Workingover 8 years ago

    I know what you mean. When I opened the doors to the Blueprint Company on Riverside I found out which Architect's had their S together and those that didn't. Glad you have high standards

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    SSCover 8 years ago

    Tim, If I was the customer I would be glad I knew.

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    Tim Garrison PEover 8 years ago

    What's kind of funny about all this is that I started junior college to become an architect. I earned an associate degree in it, then could not get accepted to the 4-yr schools to which I applied. So, at the advice of an engineering prof, changed my major to engineering. Boy am I glad I did that. It turns out that I love engineering, but feel nearly the opposite about architecture. It's a tough, tough field that requires working with clients who are many times unworkable. And, when things go haywire, the architect is nearly always in the middle of it whether it's their fault or not.

    There are a few excellent architects whom I enjoy working with. They are the ones I recommend at every opportunity.

    Thank you all for your input on this topic. I appreciate hearing your two cents.

  • No-avatar-62
    xenonelectricover 8 years ago

    I belive it's up to us to police our industry. The bad apples make it harder for the rest of us to make a living. So Bravo to you sir.

  • No-avatar-62
    bob_cntrctrover 8 years ago

    You're right to refuse to work with people you find it too hard to work with, and letting the client know up front is the right thing to do too.

    In future you might want to recall a little thing called slander, however. If the statements you made to the client cannot be proven in court, you slandered the architect to the client, and if word of it gets back to him, he'd have legal grounds to sue.  And good grounds too - you impugned his professional reputation.

    "I've been unhappy working with him in the past." would suffice.

    Discretion is the better part of valour.

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    skyhookover 8 years ago

    There are Jr. archies called designers out there, they are worse. They have stars in their eyes and can sell designs to HOs that make my head spin. When the calcs come back, the HO wants to know why it costs so much. 8'x8' skylight on a flat roof, curved walls hanging above the Living room, cut up floor plan downstairs, all built into a neat little 6,000 sq.ft. package.

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    wallmaxxover 8 years ago

    Many architects are "conceptual" in nature. That's a cool skill that I lack. When I used to be a framer, I would always take the architects plans and redraw them using the dimensions of the actual materials that were spec'd. In almost every case this would expose errors or at the least, issues that I would need rectified.

    Typically, I would show the builder what I would find, and he'd ask me to just do it how ever I thought was best. Of course, this required his John Hancock on my working drawings whenever this COA was chosen.

    Engineers have their own quirks sometimes, as well.

    I framed a home 2 years ago that was spec'd to have piers dug to bedrock (since it was on a hill on the shore of a lake) The guys came to drill to the depth of bedrock so that the GC would be able to calc concrete and no bedrock was found.

    The PE then designed a monolithic block of concede to "create" bedrock.

    117 yards of crete later...............the foundation and block were in place.

    Then about a month later, he makes an off-handed comment that he hoped that the weight of the concrete didn't start to shift and slide the entire home toward the lake. %^$#$##$%!!!

    (yes he really said that) That "decision" he made with his red stamp added over $100K to the price of the home...............he was replaced by a great PE who helped out with some other mods that the HOs requested.

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    Tim Garrison PEover 8 years ago

    Hi Wallmaxx,

    I love your story about the engineer and bedrock. Your point is spot on that engineers as well as architects are not created equally. Find a few who suit you and stick with them.

    I've written about the need for up front geotechnical engineering several times, for example:


    and your story is more evidence of the same.

  • Thumb_6042ef2d
    KennMacMoraghover 8 years ago

    He should be grateful you brought that to his attention. But did you refer him to a different architect?

  • Thumb_tim_hard_hat_5-23-12_webAuthor
    Tim Garrison PEover 8 years ago

    Hi Kenn,

    I did not refer him to a different architect because he was too deeply invested in the other one. To start over would probably have been more expensive than sticking it out. But maybe not. We all know that bad design has ripple effects throughout the project and sometimes it's better to eat the cost and start over.

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