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Old 03-28-2016, 11:40 PM   #1
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Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Was wondering how some of you felt about your lead-man/foreman talking about the work with customers.
I have mixed feelings about this.
Many times, I cannot be on the job because I am doing other things, and because my foreman is there, the customer will ask him questions I feel that I am better prepared to answer.
We've never had a major, "why did you say that?" moment, but I would still feel better if a great majority of the questions were channeled to me. Then again, I feel that by saying this to my lead guy, he might be offended that I don't have the confidence that he can be tactful enough.
Opinions?
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Old 03-28-2016, 11:45 PM   #2
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


HUGE, and I repeat HUGE no-no.

They can innocently make you look like a liar. Not only that, they will promise things you strongly disapprove. I could go on all night about this. It is a keep em at the shop to sweep from now on offense.

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Old 03-28-2016, 11:47 PM   #3
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


I could not imagine having a Foreman that couldn't speak with clients.

Why else would you have the guy there?

In my younger days as a Foreman it was expected that I would converse with clients.
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Old 03-28-2016, 11:48 PM   #4
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Just reread your post and missed a line.

To keep from offending the guy, I just tell them that we can't tell them two different things after I have already discussed things. They always understand. Just make sure they know that it's not because you think they're an idiot. If that were the case, they wouldn't be working for you.
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Old 03-28-2016, 11:50 PM   #5
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Quote:
Originally Posted by griz View Post
I could not imagine having a Foreman that couldn't speak with clients.

Why else would you have the guy there?

In my younger days as a Foreman it was expected that I would converse with clients.
I understand this as well, and I was always allowed to converse, but I've had guys get me into huge pickles. I suppose it would all depend on if the guy would actually know which questions to answer and which ones to pass on.
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:05 AM   #6
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Quote:
Originally Posted by illbuildit.dd View Post
I understand this as well, and I was always allowed to converse, but I've had guys get me into huge pickles. I suppose it would all depend on if the guy would actually know which questions to answer and which ones to pass on.
Yes, very true.

It can also depend on how much info is given to the foreman and what expectations you set for him when he was given the responsibility.

Likely foreman roles vary greatly from GC to GC.

As a beginning foreman on small jobs all I got was a set of plans with the expectation that I could build the job.

As I advanced to larger complex jobs I was given all the GC's financial info on the job.

That way I knew what money was due when & why.

Just about the same thing as being a Superintendent.

My Foreman days were YEARS ago and it is obvious that the trust and faith given me is not the same now days.

Change may not always be for the better....
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:13 AM   #7
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Quote:
Originally Posted by dj90423 View Post
Then again, I feel that by saying this to my lead guy, he might be offended that I don't have the confidence that he can be tactful enough. Opinions?
Offended? Whose name is on the truck, business cards, and letterhead?

It's not about being tactful. It's about the business relationship that you have with the customer. The foreman has no idea what kind of deal you had to strike with the customer in order to get the deal done so the foreman's ideas are irrelevant.

Inform your foreman that any questions, comments, suggestions, or opinions coming from the client has to go through you. The foreman is only there to do the assigned work and/or to make sure it gets done. You don't pay him to think on your behalf or to be helpful.

Also advise him that the customer is not his "friend". Customers will stab your guys in the back while playing you against them. In order to get what they want, they'll tell lies to both you and your foreman thus sticking him in the middle and forcing you to fire him.

Don't allow your customer to get your foreman fired.
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:21 AM   #8
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Quote:
Originally Posted by tedanderson View Post
Offended? Whose name is on the truck, business cards, and letterhead?

It's not about being tactful. It's about the business relationship that you have with the customer. The foreman has no idea what kind of deal you had to strike with the customer in order to get the deal done so the foreman's ideas are irrelevant.

Inform your foreman that any questions, comments, suggestions, or opinions coming from the client has to go through you. The foreman is only there to do the assigned work and/or to make sure it gets done. You don't pay him to think on your behalf or to be helpful.

Also advise him that the customer is not his "friend". Customers will stab your guys in the back while playing you against them. In order to get what they want, they'll tell lies to both you and your foreman thus sticking him in the middle and forcing you to fire him.

Don't allow your customer to get your foreman fired.
I guess we are from different worlds.

If I couldn't trust my Foreman to speak with clients he would have never been given the position.
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:28 AM   #9
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Being a foreman myself and at one time ran my own gig, I know my boundaries. For example I never promise anything unless me and the boss have talked about that specific task that day or the day prior. If I know we are to do something but don't have a definite time as to when, I will tell the H.O. that we are going to do that but they need to talk to the boss about when.

If I have any doubt or feel I have an incomplete answer to anything, the standard answer is "You'll need to talk to the boss".
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:38 AM   #10
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Heck many of times I will be told to talk to the customer about what they want here any there. Colors of paint, heights of things, etc. I think it all depends on how well you know your foreman. It's your money out there so letting them know what is expected of them (the foreman) is best practice.
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:38 AM   #11
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


This is tough a foreman is not a superintendent. My understanding is a foreman is in charge of a group of workers, a super is in charge of the job.

something that hits home here is "circle of competency" If the home owner brings up something within your foreman's circle, you are wise to let him discuss issues. What is even better is to incourage him/them to get on the phone together and go over what was discussed with you (in the name of making everyone on the same sheet of music). The fact that you already made these people your goto guys means they are useful to you. Also this approach saves face with everyone and makes your client feel like your crews care about them and their issues, (soft skills cannot be overestimated). Finally if your client brings up something that is outside his circle that is relevant to the job, he can pass it to you right then.

The keys to pass on to your foreman are, circle of competence, and keep everyone on the same sheet
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Old 03-29-2016, 06:56 AM   #12
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


I always spoke to my builders clients as a superintendent. I also became pretty good friends with most of them. I guess its a matter of being in the inner circle or not. Why on earth some of you hire a lead and rep. and keep them out of the loop is beyond me.
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Old 03-29-2016, 06:57 AM   #13
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Rather than have your foreman guess what you like/don't like, tell him. Give him the freedom to make certain types of decisions but let him know when to call or defer you.

And btw, don't have him call you to discuss the matter in front of the homeowner or even in the building when the homeowner is there. Use" the cone of silence" or the truck.
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Old 03-29-2016, 07:21 AM   #14
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


Am thankful for all the replies, and understand the conflicting opinions as I have had them all. Just trying to decide on the best policy to adopt for my business, and all involved.
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Old 03-29-2016, 07:36 AM   #15
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


I will never tell the foreman not to be pleasant and talk with a customer however there are boundries.When it comes to the SOW ,materials or money he needs to direct them to me.If I'm not on the site then get your phone out.
I believe we have to stay on the same page.I've had issues in the past where these rules were not followed and it always cost me money.
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Old 03-29-2016, 07:47 AM   #16
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


I only spoke to the good looking ones, but honestly I don't see how a foreman can not have some communication with clients. Unless you tell him to say "No speak English".
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Old 03-29-2016, 07:50 AM   #17
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


I guess what makes me bitter on the subject was years ago when I had a guy promise a client to fix something a certain way after I already had a plan which was the most feasible way to do it. All of a sudden they were expecting one thing and getting another. As I am much older now I've learned to deal with this problem.

I think the biggest help in this situation is to have weekly meetings and be sure to discuss with them what you do or do not want them to talk about. Occasionally bringing it up will keep it fresh in their mind. They WILL forget.
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Old 03-29-2016, 10:47 AM   #18
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


IMHO, I don't understand having a foreman that can't answer any questions... part of trusting his expertise includes customer interaction...

A foreman should have enough info to run the job and field questions from a customer (how can you run a job without it), but when it comes to pricing, changes to the job, or things that are not in the SOW, it should be referred to you... if the foreman wasn't involved in the discussion of something about the job, he'd be responding to something he doesn't have relevant knowledge about...

While it's impossible to avoid all mistakes, most guys who've achieved the level of foreman, have bell ringer ability...

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Old 03-29-2016, 11:11 AM   #19
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


The only reason there are discrepancies in opinion is because of the different individuals we are able to find and put in place.
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:06 PM   #20
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Re: Foreman Talking To Clients/customers


I believe some of it may also be due to us working in different parts of the country, where one state (California) may be more regulated, and strict in enforcing certain things. Possibly, working in a state that is pretty tough regarding the enforcement of codes, a contractor has more to be concerned about regarding what is said. Not implying I'm shady, just that sometimes it is necessary to keep things under my hat a little longer, as opposed to a contractor who is working in a slightly less - strict state.

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