NYC Renovation Chronicles

Cooling your heels one meeting too many

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The Situation:

My client arrives for our site meeting bright-eyed, ready to roll, and clutching a bulleted to-do list. For the second time, the contractor rushes in 25 minutes late, a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, having leapt from his truck while barking instructions to his assistant to find coffee and parking. He apologizes, asks for a pen. My client quietly rolls her eyes.

Five minutes later, the contractor owns the meeting, walking us through intricate issues involving risers and beams. The owner is impressed and takes his advice about a problematic valve. Yet she can't help but wonder, "Does this guy, who is literally ripping my apartment apart by the seams, really have his act together?"

How to deal:

• Everyone has a bad morning sometimes. Habitual tardiness is the issue here.

• Understand there may be a culture clash between you and your contractor. As hard as this is for business professionals to understand, deadlines and appointments may be treated more loosely by tradespeople.

• Set expectations right from the start. Confirm all appointments two days prior AND the night before. Reinforce your need to start on time because YOU are expected at YOUR office.

• Use a carrot-and-stick approach: Schedule meetings to coincide with payday. Something about picking up a check inspires punctuality.

• You live in Manhattan, your contractor gets up at 5am to commute from the outer boroughs, give him 10 minutes. After that, call and tell him you will leave if he's not there soon.

• If he's been late three meetings in a row, do what I do with my constantly-running-late friends: Lie about the appointment time!

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