By Renée Biery

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Add-on’s, renovations, and new construction homes can seem intimidating to take on. How do you even get started? How do you find and manage contractors? What surprises should you anticipate coming up? How long do these things take?

In this podcast, you will learn all that and so much more!








None of our projects run the way we think they will when we first meet the client, understand the scope of work, and get underway.

Today, I want to share with you a project I’ve been working on that had so many teachable moments that I think you will find valuable. 

This project I’m sharing with you today reaffirmed the value of my referral network.

I received a project form submission that’s found on my website from two men, both of whom had been referred to me by former clients of mine whom they worked with.

I then went through my process, like I tell each of you to do. Never automatically consider projects as green lights just because they worked with one of your previous clients. The reason I say this is because one of the projects wasn’t a good fit for me. The scope of work was too small. It was just, frankly, something that I didn’t need to take on. I rebuilt my business model where I only take on large renovations and/or new builds and far fewer projects each year. 

The second submission was really interesting. It was a couple who wanted to downsize from a large home because their children were grown and flown. Additionally, this was a short-term downsize because they planned on fully retiring and moving out of state. At the time, they told me it would be in about 5 years. 

They purchased a ranch home built in the mid-60s that had recently undergone some renovations, but it still needed some additional renovations to make it the home that they were looking for, even for this short period of time.

So I did my homework and talked with these clients. They said they needed additional work at another property that they had, and if everything worked out, they’d like my help with their future project when they moved out of state. They were an incredibly lovely couple, and I could tell this was a good fit—not only for the project but also for the clients themselves. 

I really only want to work with people I enjoy being around. I mean, don’t we all? Never be afraid to define your scope of work, and to define your business model and then stick with it. I also know it’s not fair or reasonable to myself or my current clients if I take on too much work. 

So this reaffirmed that my client-based referral system is good. 

That is something that will sustain my firm for as long as I want to be working. This goes for not just client referrals but all the industry partners. Whether it’s your flooring guys, contractors, painters, or architects, you want them all to be referring you as often as possible to give you the opportunity to turn down projects that aren’t a good fit because your pipeline is full. 

That lesson reaffirmed that keeping in touch with clients and finishing a project on a high so that clients are happy to refer my service is incredible and one I want for each of you. 

But then this project took a turn…..

Because shit happens.

This home was a far cry from what they were used to. They came from a gorgeous three-story home built in the early 2000s, and this was a hillside ranch built in the mid-60s. 

Then I realized that the wife had never seen the inside of the house—she had only seen the photos online. And when I say, “She wasn’t quite sold,” I am being kind.

Now, I needed to lean heavily on my people skills to try to get my client more excited about her new home. The husband understood the goal that this was temporary. He saw that there were abilities to fix certain areas and was well versed in home building. 

We talked about all sorts of things, including adding a new primary suit, entrance, and mudroom, a new three-car garage, and the works. We started sketching it all up, but it kept dragging on and on. Over the next couple of weeks, we just couldn’t nail down a scope of work. 

Then I got the email that I think in my gut I knew was coming…..

“Hey, Renee, this just isn’t going to work for us. We decided we’re going to stay where we are and flip this house.” 

But that was a hell of a pivot. We went from doing a 6-figure addition and renovation to flipping it. And, oh, by the way, let’s do it quickly. 

But there were things that just simply needed to be addressed. We had to develop a whole new scope of work, an estimated budget to do the work and then quickly implement it. 

So, I leaned on my ability to pivot.

The ability to pivot and the skill set to do it seamlessly is an incredible skill that you should perfect. Not only to bring more success to your projects but, frankly, to save your sanity. 

Then, we quickly had to build a team, and we all rallied together under this new scope of work. 

So, fast-forward, and we started the work. This was a complete 180 from where we were heading originally. 

The husband had a painter and electrician he wanted to hire. I thought, great, I’ve found some of my best subs this way! So he said he’d manage the painter. They just needed paint colors and things like that. So, I met with my client and the painter, went over everything, and we developed a schedule. But what that meant was that I said things out loud, and the painter nodded and smiled and then did what he wanted. 

Okay, that does happen.

He doesn’t work for me, and I’m not managing him. My client has all the faith in the world in this guy. So again, I had the choice of being frustrated or understanding that he’s not going anywhere. I need to get to know him and find out what makes him tick. 

What I found out was that he’s just very protective of his client. We were the new guys. He was just making sure that we were legit and not taking advantage of anything. Once I understood that perspective, we got along so much better. Is the relationship perfect? No, but we are getting along. 

However, he does seem to always ‘have a guy’ for everything on the project, and that part is starting to wear thin. I won’t discuss this with my client because we have learned to work around this, and that is the teachable moment. 

This has again affirmed my need to be good at conflict resolution. 

Trust me, this painter takes digs at my work. And there is always a way of making a point without being confrontational. I would encourage you to take that stance. Team cohesion is important. Handling some of these little nit-picky annoyances within the team will ultimately serve you so much better. Frankly, the client doesn’t want to know about it. 

Then the realtors come.

And all their opinions came too.

As you hear in today’s episode, I like to design for a specific client rather than creating a neutral space for just anyone. My advice is to be really careful when you’re designing to be specific to the person who is paying you for the work. You can never know what the next homeowner will want out of your client’s property. 

The last thing I learned was to work with people I enjoy.

In this episode, I share about the electrician that my client insisted on using. After listening, you’ll understand more how important partnerships are in our success. It takes dozens of people bringing their highest level of work to their project to make me look good. I can’t do all of the work that they do for my client. We work together as a team. 

But this project also reminded me how truly important it is to work with clients that I enjoy. Good things happen when you work with clients you enjoy. 

A few weeks ago, I got an email from them. They said that now that we know we’re staying in our home, we want to do the projects we always talked about. We want to gut the primary suite, bathroom, closet, and bedroom area. We want to add a beautiful sunroom. With that, we want to create a better, more functional staircase access to the space in the large garage to build out a man cave. 

And just like that, a midsize project that was going to take me just under a year pivoted to a small down and dirty project that will be over in a couple of months and turned into, a significantly larger project with significantly higher finishes that will occupy far more time in my schedule. This is with clients I truly enjoy working with, and I now look forward to working with them for much longer. 

I’m hoping that hearing about this crazy ass project with all of these roller coaster ups and downs, twists and turns, even when those projects happen, very good things can come out of them. And it’s not always obvious on day 1. But what is obvious from the get-go is how you perceive your working relationship will be with the clients. Your gut is always right. 

So, as always, I’d love to hear from you with any questions or any experiences you’d like to share! Email me at or send me a DM on social media.

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