Contributed by Michael Chambers
I recently had the opportunity to discuss specification marketing strategies with a former publisher of a national architecture magazine. I mentioned that a very powerful strategy was to ensure that the appropriate competitors are named in manufacturers guide specifications. A look of abject horror greeted that remark which, of course, caused me to launch into a primer on specification marketing to design professionals.
Additionally, there has been a significant discussion on 4Specs.com about what specifiers want in manufacturers guide specifications. Interestingly, naming appropriate competitors was mentioned numerous times.
Specification marketing is second only to continuing education presentations as the most effective branding and marketing tool for construction product manufacturers. A product representative must be a good educator and highly knowledgeable about specifications to be truly effective with design professionals.
While the industry understands competitive advantage in terms of faster, better, or cheaper, a product representative's competitive advantage lies in the following 3 critical elements:
It is critical for specifiers and designers to understand how not to use or apply a product or system. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive but it is not. Many, if not most, product failures begin with the designers and specifiers not understanding how to appropriately use and apply a product or system. More than anything else help specifiers avoid mistakes.
Every competent manufacturer and product representative intimately knows and understands who the competition is and how their products and systems stack up. Share that information with designers and specifiers and instantly you become the go-to expert and resource.
Sole source specifications are a powerful magnet for substitutions. Make certain that specifiers and designers clearly understand why you are suggesting competitive products and why you consider them equivalent. Remember, there is no such thing as “equal” products, just equivalent.
Offering specifiers a list of equivalent products allows product representatives to level the playing field and narrow the competitive arena. Be careful to ensure that appropriate competitors are named or your reputation may be damaged.
Solutions NOT Products
The final, and arguably, most important element of competitive advantage is the product representative=s relationship with designers and specifiers. Provide solutions not products. Sell yourself, your expertise, your industry knowledge not your products.
Whenever possible, request a copy of the specification and offer to review and comment on project specific information. Any specifier worth their salt will provide project specifications for review. This is a significant opportunity to expand relationship, build credibility, and find out what the specifiers knows about your product.
In the final analysis, what a manufacturer may reasonably expect from a specifier is a well-crafted specification that lists the appropriate competitors. Who better to help the specifier accomplish that task that a knowledgeable product representative?
Protect your competitive advantage by supporting specifiers in producing complete specifications that contain appropriate requirements and truly equivalent manufacturers and products.
(Editor's Note: Michael D. Chambers, FCSI, FAIA, CCS is Associate Vice President and Senior Project Specifier for HGA and is responsible for the specifications in the four California offices and is principal of MCA Specifications. Michael also sits on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council with Let's Fix Construction Co-Founders, Cherise Lakeside and Eric D. Lussier.
NEW FOR CONSTRUCT IN 2019!
The NEW Product Rep University Program has been designed to meet the needs of Manufacturer's Representatives of Architectural Building Products, as integral members of the project team. The program features a full day of education (6 sessions) to help you stay up to date on current trends in the industry, and refine your interactions and relationships with design professionals.
CONSTRUCT will be held October 9 - 11, 2019 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. Details and registration will be opening soon. Read more on CONSTRUCT here. )
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
I'm knee deep in a project right now that I'll call it what it really is: bailing the Owner out. Know what you get when you don't create bidding documents and rely solely on a low price? You get what you get. And if I say that phrase aloud in front of my 5 and 8-year-old, they add "and you don't pitch a fit".
Well, when one doesn't create an RFP, not to mention any sort of construction specification or drawing, how can one hold any level of expectation about their finished product? This Owner bought off a non-descriptive proposal and carried what matters most in the construction industry too much of the time: the lowest price.
I don't have the time, the space, nor the want, to fully go down the road of the low-bid scenario. I will call it as I see it as a subcontractor: it's the short end of the stick. And yet it is still the "solution" for the most popular project delivery method in the construction industry today: design-bid-build.
Let us Cliffs Notes design-bid-build within a tweet's 280-character limit:
Owner has vision. Owner works with architect on design for vision. Architect develops schematics. Fine tunes. Vision formalized. Architect develops formal drawings & specifications for GC. Duration? Years? GC gets days to decipher vision. End result? Be cheapest.
But that's simplifying things, you say. Sure, that may be. But in a nutshell, that's the process.
One of the frustrating things about working with designers and developing specifications is becoming the basis of design, or an approved equal, only to be just breaking the sweat of the marathon race. Once you're named in a spec, you now must win the spec. And how do you ultimately win the spec? Match it and be the cheapest and ultimately, hope. Hope? Sure. Hope your price lands in the lap of the estimator in time. Hope they have time to read it. Hope they pick up what you're putting down. Hope they want to work with you. Hope you meet their qualifications to work together. Hope you can meet your estimate and make goal profit margin. Hope it all goes to plan. Hope you get paid in full in a timely fashion.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
I’m going to say it again: If something is required by the Specifications, it’s required by the Contract.
A procedure or item specified in the Specifications is part of the Contract, just as much as if the procedure or item were specified in the Agreement. (The Agreement is what many people usually think of as the “Contract,” because it’s the particular document that gets signed by the Owner and the Contractor, and it has the Contract Sum indicated in it. But the Agreement is only ONE PART of the Contract.)
The Contract is made up of the Agreement, the Conditions of the Contract, the Drawings, the Specifications, etc. AIA Documents state this requirement most clearly; Owner-generated Agreements and Conditions of the Contract sometimes fall short of being explicit about this. (This is one of many good reasons to use AIA Documents instead of Owner-generated documents.)
This requirement is SO IMPORTANT that it makes up ARTICLE ONE of AIA Document A101-2017 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where the basis of payment is a Stipulated Sum), a very commonly used Agreement.
“The Contract Documents consist of this Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications, Addenda issued prior to execution of this Agreement, other documents listed in this Agreement and Modifications issued after execution of this Agreement, all of which form the Contract, and are as fully a part of the Contract as if attached to this Agreement or repeated herein.” – from Article 1 of AIA Document A101-2017
I don’t think I can say this any more clearly.
But somehow, there are a number of Contractors out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract, and there are even a few Architects out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract that they are supposed to be administering during construction. An Owner agrees to pay a Contractor a certain sum, the Contractor agrees to provide the Owner with certain things indicated by the Drawings and Specifications and other Contract Documents, and, in a separate Agreement, the Architect and the Owner agree that the Owner will pay the Architect a certain sum, and the Architect will administer the Contract between the Owner and the Contractor. We all have contractual obligations during construction, and we all need to understand, and follow through on, all of those obligations.
Remember, if it’s in the Specs, it’s in the Contract.
This post originally appeared on Liz O'Sullivan's website as "If It’s in the Specs, It’s in the Contract"
(Editor's Note: The CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) Construction Document Technologist (CDT) Certification is an ideal resource for this core knowledge of project delivery. Want to learn more about the CDT and the Study Groups offered for the Spring Testing window? Please visit here.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
With 2018 behind us, and with that another great year of articles, podcasts and many workshops across the nation (and even one in Canada), Let’s Fix Construction looks forward to 2019, as do many others. A new year starts with fresh energy, renewed spirit, a hopeful change of habits and a positive outlook.
With 2019 facing us and 2018 in the rearview mirror, Let’s Fix Construction is using this post for a Call to Arms. A challenge, if you will. Hopefully you can identify your role, or more than one, in this list. Don’t see a challenge that calls to you? Identify your own. Step out of your comfort zone and move yourself and the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry forward.
Educate yourself before you proceed with your project, especially if it is your first one! Take the time to learn the roles of the major players in a building project. Vet your architect, construction manager, general contractor and any other major contractor or consultant that you are going to be contractually obligated to. You don’t have to be best friends, but it will go a long way if you know who you will be working with and get along with them. What makes them tick? What sets them off? What are their expectations? What are their expectations of you? And in the end, if you really want to educate yourself about a project, get a copy of the Construction Specifications Institute’s ‘Project Delivery Practice Guide’. It could just be the best $129 you’ve ever spent. AND save you a thousand-fold in the long run.
Projects are getting increasingly complex and the demands on you, your supporting staff and ultimately, your entire office are growing as well. The world we live in changes rapidly and with that the demands that are put on all the major players in a project. You’re being asked to do much more in much less time for the same amount of money. Practice saying no. Don’t be afraid to lose a client that expects more from you without understanding your point of view. Make sure you and your staff are compensated appropriately for your time. Track all costs and analyze your data. If you are able to reference a completed project that is similar in size and scope of a new project you are working on, you will be able to substantiate to the Owner why you have the requests, both financial and otherwise, that you do.
Contributed by David Bishton
The ranks of the great overused and often misapplied phrases in architectural and engineering drawings and specifications include gems such as:
To this list we must add the ubiquitous and often redundant phrase “…as required.” A further aside on instructions to kids: “Clean this room as required“ may lead to somewhat unsatisfactory results.
Many times I have reflected on the possibility, after wrestling through a problem in the field, that one extra phrase or even a word added to a drawing note or specification might have prevented the problem from occurring. The phrase “as required” has never been associated with such reflection. Musing in my previous chapter, I wondered if a slightly longer version such as “…AS REQUIRED BY ANY SANE PERSON WITH HALF A BRAIN THAT OBSERVES THIS CONDITION” would be more helpful. Recently I began to wonder which other technical/scientific fields or even everyday endeavors regularly use this term with success when providing instructions.
What if this term was used regularly in cookbooks? You’d list all the ingredients like 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. melon liqueur, pineapple juice to taste…wait a minute, that’s the recipe for a Pearl Harbor. What else do you need after you have the ingredients – ice and a glass? Let’s try something more complicated. Say it’s an extra special dinner to impress your family at a holiday. Something liked the filling needed for a Stuffed Boar’s Head. You have your 2 lbs. cooked ground pork sausage, 7 cups boiled long grain rice, 5 tbsp. melted butter, 2 cups chopped onion, 1 lb. coarsely chopped walnuts, and on and on. After all that work the last thing you want to see is “Boil boar’s head in a large stockpot, scoop out head meat, stuff and bake as required.” Or even less “Prepare and cook per manufacturer’s instructions.” And yes, the full recipe actually exists in Joy of Cooking. I’ve never tried it.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
Get blog post notifications here