This article was based upon episode #4, please watch the complete episode here.
“Hey, it was very fine seeing you at the beach but like we’re delayed.” — Jason Pittock’s client
When you work in the business world, you must take chances anytime you perceive even the tiniest chance to gain money. Because business is all about taking risks, never pass up an opportunity because of fear or doubt. There is, however, a fine line between taking chances and understanding when to say no.
I understand that business is all about rolling the dice, but if you don’t take a step back and assess the situation, you may wind up like Jason, who ate something huge that he thought he could swallow but eventually choked and destroyed his business career. Yes, this is the story of Jason Pittock and his horrifying experience with a client about a time where he accepted a huge project without thinking about their capability as a company. Make sure to take some notes because we will also unravel some tips on when to accept an opportunity or not.
Jason Pittock was working in a construction company specializing in furniture settings, and their company was not that huge. Jason was still 21 years old at that time, and he was really an enthusiastic businessman determined to look for clients for his company. Jason was successful in looking for some clients, and the company made a considerable amount of sales because of Jason’s hard work.
While Jason was looking for another client for his company, he suddenly caught a very huge fish. Jason found a client who was a real estate developer and was famous for some of the most prominent buildings in Palermo, Buenos Aires. The client also owns the most expensive real estate in Argentina. This client’s company builds buildings, offices, and Airbnb, which was common in Buenos Aires.
Jason was really thrilled because if he can pull it off and make a deal with that client, it would be the biggest project for his company and would probably be the turning point of his business career. Without hesitation, Jason immediately asked the client for a meeting to discuss the project.
Building rapport was Jason’s greatest strength, so Jason and his client went along pretty well. Their conversation was so intimate that Jason even gave the client his personal number and social media accounts like Twitter and Instagram. After they converse for a while, the client then tells Jason the details of their project. They have seven buildings in total with around 12 — 15 floors each, and they need furniture settings to be applied on each floor of the seven buildings. This means that Jason’s company needs to arrange furniture settings on 100+ rooms, quite a massive task for their company.
Jason then started to get excited, especially when he saw the figures and how much money their company would earn after the project. Without hesitation, Jason agreed to the client’s request and signed the contract. He also talked with the team about the project, and his team was also thrilled with the project.
The commissions will also be piling up when they start doing the project, so everyone in the company, including Jason, was really hyped about the project. Jason prepared everything and acted on his own. He spoke to the company’s contractors and talked to the delivery processes. Before the project began, Jason already knew that there would be delivery issues, so he prepared all the necessary alternative solutions in case there would be a delay. Knowing his clients, Jason knew that there would be no leeway about delays and late delivery; the client wanted Jason to deliver on a specific date of their schedule.
When Jason thought that he already prepared everything, he then signed the contract, and they were now the official company to do furniture settings on 7 buildings in Palermo. Jason did not even take the time to consider his company’s capabilities in terms of whether they could execute it. This was the first mistake that he made which became the reason for this client-horror story.
I guess Jason was so pumped up about the multi-million dollar client that he forgot if they could do it or not. Before the project even began, Jason immediately faced a problem, which was his first hint of declining the proposal.
1. Don’t decide alone. Include everyone who is involved.
After landing the contract, Jason was very excited to tell his superiors and the project managers about his huge sale of the year. When they were all gathered, Jason then told them about the huge project: to supply furniture settings on seven buildings with 12 – 15 floors. They all smiled because of Jason’s news, maybe because they already imagined how much money they would have after the project. The room was very enthusiastic until the ace of their company, their project manager, announced that she’s pregnant. This project manager was the company’s MVP. If we relate it to football reference, their project manager was the Messi and Ronaldo of their team.
This was supposed to be Jason’s first warning, but the multi-million sale still blinded him that he told his team that he would take care of it. Jason was looking for someone who can manage them during their huge project. Days before the project began, Jason met a couple who were experienced project managers, and they both also handled similar projects before, which was perfect for Jason’s team.
The day of the project came, and Jason’s team started working on the first building. They delivered the furniture as scheduled, and his team was already placing furniture in each room. Everything was going smoothly until another problem occurred; the lift was broken.
2. Read the situation and listen to your instincts
They could not anymore transfer the furniture from one floor to the other because the lift was broken unless they did it manually. Jason was starting to notice the consequences of his decisions because the broken lift made the furniture settings for the first building delayed. That was not the only problem they faced in building one. The plans and measurements that the architect of the building gave to Jason’s team were not accurate. The designs were inaccurately created and interpreted in the factory measurements provided by their client. As a result, the first building was completed four weeks behind schedule.
Jason’s first warning sign was their best project manager’s announcement, the broken lift, and the wrong measurement, which led to the 4 weeks delay. If I was in this situation, I would definitely convince my client that we cannot do the job.
Jason was allowed to back out because his client also noticed that they were struggling, so Jason’s client called for a meeting. They told Jason that they were worried if he and his company could execute the project properly. Jason could not decide yet, so his client told him that they would be letting Jason sign a second contract. The client told Jason that they would create a second contract with specific terms and conditions, stating that Jason’s team will be liable for any losses and delays while the project is in their hands. There will also be a 1% deduction on their payroll every time there will be delays.
Again, this was another sign for Jason to back out on the project because letting them sign a second contract means that his clients also thought they would fail and could not do it. Their client did not fully trust Jason’s team, which is a bad relationship for business. Jason was given a chance to change his mind. Before signing the contract, he talked to his father first because he was under extreme pressure. Jason told his father the mess he was currently facing and asked for advice.
Then his father answered this: “You know you need to sit down and just tell them to look at the absolute worst-case scenario and tell the customer. Set the expectation really really really bad and then when you can work up from that it’s gonna be a lot easier than working down.” Jason’s father did not encourage him to quit, but he said that it could become a compelling lesson for him as his development. It was the right thing to do for Jason because it was true, Jason needs to let his clients lower their expectations of them even if it will result in their company losing the project.
3. Listen to advice
Another mistake that Jason made was that he did not listen to his father. After talking to his father, Jason went to his team and told them about the second contract. Jason also added that their client needs an answer within 15 minutes. If Jason signs it, they will continue to work. If not, then the team will not proceed in supplying furniture for the second building. Instead of following what his dad told him, Jason and his team did the exact opposite and did everything they could to make up for a month’s delay. Jason signed the second contract knowing that his team would do their best for the second building.
They articulated the need to pull more teams to help them with the project and created a planned schedule to avoid another delay. Jason even proposed to the manufacturer that they offer furniture settings for two buildings simultaneously to compensate for the first building’s one-month delay. They had a conference and meticulously planned the project since there is a high possibility that doing two buildings together is a recipe for disaster. They also considered the terms on their contract, especially the line stating the client would deduct 1% value of the building for another delay.
They began to move quickly, sending measurements of both buildings to the manufacturing team so that they could determine what furniture would fit in the rooms. It was working well for them, and they performed admirably. Each item of furniture for both buildings was delivered on time and without incident. Jason was feeling fairly good about those two buildings, but he didn’t realize it was the calm before another big storm.
4. Regrets always come last
If Jason listened to his father and his instincts, he would not have experienced another problem that caused them more demerit. His team placed all the remaining furniture in the basement of each building, and there was no way they could have anticipated the problem from happening. Monday morning after that weekend, they received a call saying that the basement of the second building where they stored the furniture was flooded. The water was about 3 feet deep, but the furniture was not damaged or soaked because there was a tight plastic covering them. However, it was still a problem because they couldn’t take the furniture out from the basement and continue working.
The water was too deep, which prevented them from taking the furniture out of the basement. Their client knew about the flood, and they also lost a lot of cement because of the incident. However, Jason’s team was still liable for the delay even if the flood was not under their control. There will still be a deduction because of the second contract that Jason signed. Knowing this, Jason did not let the incident get to him and transferred the team working in the second building to the third building. A lot of his team worked on the third building, so they finished it earlier than expected. However, they still have to wait for the basement of the second building to dry out before they continue.
They are already 3 weeks behind schedule for the second building because of the flood. This was turning really bad for Jason because their client only gave them three months to finish the job, yet they already spent seven weeks on 3 buildings.
Jason and his team continued working despite their problems and sent the plan and measurements for the fourth and fifth building to the manufacturers. They still encountered issues as the team continued working. It was a huge mess, and Jason again received an email from his client stating that they wanted to meet for a meeting. Their client requested Jason to attend the meetings alone for their reasons, but now Jason replied to his client, saying that he cannot handle everything alone. Jason wants his team to attend the meeting so that all of them can decide what to do. Right after Jason sent that email, his client then hired a lawyer.
Things then started to get creepy for Jason. Remember at the beginning where I told you that Jason’s strength was building rapport with his clients? Well, that strength backfired and was now becoming a huge problem for him. This is why one should know the boundaries between friendship and companionship.
5. Boundaries between Friendship and Companionship
While it is true that establishing your client’s trust is an essential aspect of business, you also need to know when to stop. You should never disclose your personal information to a customer because you could end yourself in the same situation as Jason. In the middle of the project, Jason went on a quick vacation. Jason was relaxing on the beach when suddenly he received an email stating, “Hey, it was very fine seeing you at the beach but like we’re delayed.”
Jason was being stalked on his Instagram account because he gave it to his clients. It was like Jason was deprived of unwinding because he was being watched all the time. Jason had no choice but to work and try to finish the project under extreme pressure. The 5th and 6th buildings are done, and they have to move to the remaining buildings immediately. The remaining buildings were the biggest buildings, so the team had to plan them well.
Jason’s team was already three months behind the deadline. There were problems along the way, the manufacturers and the team had misunderstandings, there was still a delay in the deliveries, Jason and his team were feeling down, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. It was just chaotic. Jason was under so much pressure that he had to seek a psychiatrist because of his anxiety attacks and depression. His therapist said something that encouraged Jason to continue the project and do everything he can to finish it no matter the cost.
One day, when he was working on the site, many people appeared and approached him. To his surprise, the owner of the construction company, the architect that designed all the buildings, a famous investor of the buildings, and a creepy-looking lawyer were calling his name.
The lawyer called Jason for a cigar. After lighting up his cigarette, he looked Jason dead in the eyes and said, “do you realize the mess that you’re in?” Jason replied, “I think I do.” The lawyer added that there should have been 300 families renting the building four months ago. These families were furious because Jason’s client promised them that the building would be finished four months ago, yet now they are not even close to finishing all the buildings.
The lawyer told Jason to step in the gas and work non-stop until the project is finished. Jason did what the lawyer asked him and went to the site almost every day. He even helped in carrying furniture and did physical work to fasten up the pace. After several weeks, they managed to finish the project. Jason asked the client for their payment, yet their client sued Jason’s company and asked them to pay for almost half the compensation they should have received.
Instead of being paid, Jason’s team found themselves in debt to their customer due to the delays. Jason engaged a lawyer to defend them, claiming that some of the delays were caused by uncontrollable circumstances such as a broken elevator and a flooded basement. Even though their client dropped the action, they were still not compensated.
To conclude, never eat what you cannot chew, or you will end up choking. It is important to know when to take an opportunity and when to decline it. You must know your strengths and weaknesses, and you should determine right away if you are capable of the task or not.
This article was based upon episode #4, please watch the complete episode here.