Anticipate the learning curve
No pool professional, no matter how skilled, starts out with a complete understanding of these relationships. There is a natural learning curve.
As you progress in your career, you must work hard to see things from the client’s perspective, no matter the circumstances. A good pool professional is able to step into the client’s shoes over the course of a given project. While it may be awkward at times, this approach will enable you to do a better job of meeting the client’s expectations.
Avoid getting trapped by your own thought patterns, standards, values and experiences; they will limit your ability to relate to these clients. Remember, even the rich, famous and powerful are human beings, like anyone else. You must learn to balance being yourself while still finding ways to relate to the client.
First, do good work
Of course, all of the knowledge in the world is wasted if you’re unable to perform at the promised level of excellence. There are few people in the pool industry who are willing to admit they create average, inexpensive pools. As such, it is worthwhile to seek input from someone who has a neutral, unbiased opinion and understands quality in design and construction. This should be someone in a related field (e.g. architect, landscape professional) who can provide a fair, educated assessment of your body of work and help you determine where you fit in the overall spectrum. Every pool professional should always strive to exceed everyone’s expectations (including your own). Nowhere is this truer than with wealthy clients.
These individuals can have whatever they want, by whomever they want; they will naturally have high expectations for both the process and end product. When it comes to the process, success has everything to do with communication. This can mean simple things such as sending personal thank-you notes, keeping clients informed, returning phone calls and, in general, being responsive to all questions and concerns.
Be open and honest
Every pool professional knows how easy it is, especially with big projects, to get excited, over-commit and unwittingly create false performance expectations. It is a classic problem, one that elite designers and builders had to overcome the hard way. In general, however, it is best to under-promise and over-deliver, even when a project comes with a high price tag.
Above all, you must figure out what it takes to get everything done and, just as importantly, how much to charge for it. Remember high-end projects demand a certain level of commitment. You need to make enough on these complicated projects to justify the time, effort and problem solving required to complete them. Be sure to price your work accordingly so you’ll be inclined to come back and do it again, either for the current client or someone else.
Resist the urge to make unreasonable promises about performance, particularly those having to do with time frames. High-end clients will hold you to your word and you’ll find yourself locked into a commitment you can’t meet. It is far better to be realistic and open with the client about what they can expect. If you can improve on those promises, that’s fantastic, but you should never promise to do things faster and better just because there’s a bigger number on the bottom of the contract.
In fact, at times, you may need to look the client in the eye and tell them you can’t deliver in the expected time frame or sometimes even refuse a request. While this may seem daunting, most high-end clients will respect you for being truthful and keeping them informed, rather than offering up excuses when a commitment is not met.
To avoid future misunderstandings, take notes whenever you converse with clients to keep an accurate record of what was said. If you can’t specifically reference the conversation during which a particular subject was discussed, you might find yourself at odds over a detail that would otherwise be a non-issue.