Top 3 Ways to Build Better Relationships with Owners

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: the relationship between general contractors and project owners can be tricky to navigate! General contractors often feel that owners don’t understand them, whether that’s insisting on outdated traditions like hard bid models or not fully understanding why change orders take so much time to process. Meanwhile, owners frequently feel left in the dark. They’re relying on the general contractor to be the expert, but without concrete visuals and layman’s explanations, it can be difficult for them to stay on the same page as the contractor.

But that’s what we’re here for. At Beck Technology, we’re not just interested in developing cool construction estimating software—we also strive to be a preconstruction resource and a trailblazer when it comes to shaking things up in the industry. Through a combination of research and speaking with our clients, we’ve found three huge ways you can start building better relationships with project owners right now.

  • Use visuals as much as possible
  • Encourage openness to less ‘traditional’ methods by explaining the value add behind more innovative approaches
  • Make sure you’re having regular check-ins at all stages of the project

Use Visuals as Much as Possible

ipad showing pie chart and graph Data visualization dashboards are a game-changer when speaking with project owners.

One of the most impactful steps you can take to improve your relationship with your project owners is to provide data visualizations as much and as often as possible. Numbers can quickly become meaningless without context, especially to a person who isn’t living and breathing those numbers the way you and your team are. When you can actually show a project owner what will happen if this data point is changed, when you can show them granular breakdowns through cost, labor, and regional filters, you’ll find it so much easier to communicate with the owner.

The easiest way to achieve this, by far, is utilizing Microsoft’s PowerBI dashboards. These dashboards provide a powerful, customizable, and most importantly accessible experience for both the user and the viewer. Even better, you can limit the information that third parties see in your dashboards. That way, you can display multiple projects without compromising sensitive information.

Encourage Openness to Less ‘Traditional’ Methods by Explaining the Value add Behind More Innovative Approaches

When it comes to taking risks or just trying something new, project owners can understandably be hesitant. What might seem experimental at the moment can cost thousands as the project evolves. But sometimes, you already know that a more innovative choice will end up well; it’s the owner that you’ll need to convince.

In that situation, communication is critical. Part of good communication means meeting someone where they’re at. Take bidding, for example. Many project owners still believe that hard bid models get them the best deal because when contractors are on the same playing field, the only way to differentiate is to drop the price as low as possible. However, that’s not the full story: a lot of times, hard bids cost an owner much more than if they had gone with a negotiated bid model. By the time change orders come in, a hard bid project can go tens of thousands of dollars over budget.

two employees looking at a computer screen It's important to remember to frame new ideas in a way that shows the project owner how it will benefit them. (photo courtesy of heylagostechie)

A negotiated bid, however, will get the owner a better price overall. In a negotiated bid, deadlines aren’t as tight and the contractor has more control over who they choose to partner with on the project. Being able to select subcontractors that they know and trust, as well as having the time to create an estimate that will require the least amount of change orders, saves both the owner and the contractor time.

But although a negotiated bid might seem like the obvious choice to you, it may not be as clear to a project owner, especially if they’ve been used to following traditional methods. That’s why, just like with data visualization, it’s important to explain the pros and cons in terms of benefit and loss.

Make Sure You’re Having Regular Check-ins at all Stages of the Project

Last but certainly not least, it’s critical to maintain preconstruction meetings throughout the life of a project. While preconstruction meetings with the owner are obviously crucial at the beginning of the project, they’re just as essential at the middle and end of one, too. Both the preconstruction team and the owner will be able to see how data generated at the project’s start evolves and changes throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Being able to see how preconstruction data transforms accomplishes two significant tasks: the preconstruction team can confirm previous predictions and continue to make even better ones, and the project owner can better see the value that preconstruction brings to the table.


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