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April 2016
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Technical Error, Omission - 23%
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Saying “NO” To Clients


Saying NO to Client’s is very difficult for many architect, engineer and environmental consulting (A/E/E) firms. A/E/E's are creative thinkers, problem solvers, paid to create solutions for Clients. Saying no goes against the very fiber that drew them to the profession. However, there are situations when saying no is the best course of action.


The following provides examples of when you should consider saying NO to Clients:


Asked to perform services not in your contract or scope of services.

Obviously tact is required - pointing out the discrepancy without suggesting that the Client doesn't understand the terms of the contract. Be prepared to change your position if the Client is willing to add the service to your scope of services - if it is in your area of professional knowledge at an acceptable fee.


Asked to perform a service you feel are unethical

As an A/E/E - a fundamental canon is holding the safety, health and welfare of the public paramount along with other ethical requirements and rules of practice. If you feel the Clients request are in conflict with those requirements, point this out, but avoid sounding judgmental. Clarify the ethical code you must comply with as a professional.


Not being paid enough for services requested by the Client.

Point out the market value of your services based on your knowledge and expertise. To often Clients try to drive down fees when they view A/E/E services only as a commodity. Refer to market figures in your region and the knowledge and value you bring to the project. It may make sense to negotiation a promise for more future work in exchange for a lower fee.


Asked to reduce services jeopardizing project quality.

Offer the client the opportunity to give their opinion but be prepared to provide your own views about the services you are offering, and by reducing services the impact on project quality. Try to remain objective and state your opinion in terms of the customer's interests in completing a quality project. Also, by reducing your services may increase your risk. Request a written release from all liability for the reduced services may change the Clients mind. 


Asked to do something not in the Client best interest. Client may not see the disadvantages you see in their decision based on an emotional attachment, schedule commitment, etc., on the project. Have a solid argument backing your views and be prepared to provide alternatives.


Not capable of doing what the Client is asking. Be honest. Before you approach the client, think of who else might be capable of handling this task, or come up with an alternative approach to the service the Client is looking for.


Benefits Of Saying No

There is the immediate benefit of turning down work because you won't be doing work you think shouldn't be done. There are secondary benefits of saying NO:

Gain Clients confidence.

Clients respect when they see an A/E/E is not a pushover. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they place a higher value on your opinion and on your work.

You are doing what you are paid to do.

Even when it's uncomfortable for the Client to hear, the Client wants your expert opinion - that's why you were hired, even if the Client forgot for a moment. Once they get over any initial shock of being turned down, most Clients appreciate the fact that you're applying your professional judgment.

Protect yourself and your firm. 

Always saying yes, taking on too much work, or taking on work outside your area of knowledge area only increases risk for you and your firm.

Let a Competitor Swallow the Polson Pill. 
The best course of action is saying no to an unreasonable Client; one that does not listen to your advice, puts constant pressures on services, fee and project schedule. Let a competitor accept that risk and swallow that poison pill that usually leads to a problematic, unprofitable project and future litigation.  

Number One Rule.

When you turn down work, always suggest a solution. Remember, you are a problem solver.


You are welcome to forward this newsletter to others who may be interested.

Thank you.

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SmartRisk is a leading risk and practice management consultancy for design and building professionals. Through firm specific risk assessments, training and consulting, services focus on improving overall performance, profitability and reducing insurance costs through tailored risk management solutions.

If you have any questions about our services, or would like dicusss how we could assist your efforts, please contact us.

Thank you,

Timothy J. Corbett, BSRM, MSM, LEED GA
Founder & President

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