E-news for the Construction Division July 2007

Top 10 Ways to Lose a Client

10. Don't Return Phone Calls or E-mails
As simple as it might seem, some people are terrible about returning phone calls or e-mails. Nothing makes a client feel more unimportant than being ignored.

9. Hit Them Up With Large Additional Service Fees - After the Fact
I am all for getting paid for our work, however we do owe it to the client to advise them in advance that we are now performing work outside of our original scope of services. The agreement should be in writing and include an estimate of our fee, a schedule of deliverables and be signed by the client before we do the work.

8. Send Invoices 2 Months or More After the Services Were Performed
When we send out late invoices we are sending the wrong message to our clients. We are saying to our client that money is unimportant to us. Or worse yet that we are so disorganized that it takes us 2 months to send out our invoices. It also sends a lot of other messages but it is beyond the scope of this top ten list to itemize.

7. Switching Project  Managers in Mid-Stream
Yes, switching project managers is often unavoidable and sometimes the best thing for the project and client. But all too often I see project managers switched for reasons that are not in the best interest of the client. Do this often enough and you'll be looking for a new client.

6. Telling the Client What They Want to Hear
We have a professional responsibility to give our client our best advice, even if they don't want to hear it. That is why they have retained our services. Don't fall into the trap of telling them what they want to hear, it is a shortsighted strategy that will come back to bite you.

5. Leaving One Person as the Sole Client Contact
Being the sole client contact is a dangerous place to be for both the employee and company. Don't put yourself or employee in that position.

4. Over Promise and Under Deliver
Some firms get it wrong. Instead of under promising and over delivering, they flip it around. They promise the client the world and then wonder why the client is disappointed with their performance.

3. Making No Effort to Know Your Client Personally
It is important to learn something about your client's life outside of the project at hand. People do business with people they like. They tend to overlook their shortcomings and even refer them business with other clients. I have made many friends over the years through my consulting work and it has added to the quality of my life.

2. Being Reactive Rather Than Proactive
A client appreciates and expects us to be proactive in addressing their project needs. Don't wait for them to take the initiative in identifying problems and solving them.

1. Don't Make Them Feel Important
People have a basic human need to feel important. When we take the repeat business for grant it, switch project managers, miss deadlines and under perform, they feel unimportant and start to look elsewhere. Make them feel important is not an option - it is required.

Herbert M. Cannon, President of AEC Management Solutions, Inc. and Publisher of AEC Managing Partner Newsletter, is a management consultant, seminar provider, and speaker exclusive to the A/E industry. He is available to speak at company meetings and conferences. For more information, contact Herb via e-mail or visit his website.



Give the Gift of Wisdom to Graduating Young Engineers

Former PEPP Chair, and incoming NSPE President, Bernie Berson has a passion for the engineering as a career and is an enthusiatisc supporter of young engineers.  He was instrumental in creating the successful PEPP YEAC, the NSPE Young Engineers Council, and has served as  Mentor Task Force Chair.  He has joined with former PEI Chair and NSPE member Doug Benner to provide wisdom on what young engineers need to know as they transition from an academic environment to the professional world. 

College engineering programs focus primarily on the technical skills and requirements of a career in engineering, devoting little time to real-world matters of employment, on-the-job performance, project management, leadership, ethics, licensure, project delivery systems, and professional liability.  This is a great gift for the graduating young engineers in you life.

Career Success in Engineering
Bernard R. Berson, Douglas E. Benner / Pages: 336
Price: NSPE Member $16.00 / Nonmember $19.95
Product #: 7510

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Professional Liability/Risk Management Brief — Certifications

Richard B. Garber, Vice President A/E/C Risk Management Services, Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc.


In legal terms, a certification is a formal assertion, in writing, of some fact. The client, the client’s lender, or a government agency requests a certification as assurance that some aspect of the project has been completed as promised in the contract for professional services or as required by law. Depending on the wording, the certification could establish a warranty or guarantee, and this can increase the professional’s exposure to claims. By signing an unqualified certification, professionals may assume a level of liability that is both beyond the standard of care required under law and the coverage afforded by professional liability insurance.

Avoiding Warranties and Guarantees

While it is possible to rewrite certification language to reflect an expression of professional opinion regarding those facts or findings that are the subject of the certification, this is often not accomplished by the professional. Thus, the certification may establish a warranty or guarantee, which is excluded from insurance coverage.

If the conditions of a certification are not precisely as certified, liability may result regardless of whether or not there was negligence on the part of the professional. The main points that should be considered in every instance before signing a certification are the following:

  • Based on the scope of services provided, the professional can only certify conditions that are within the direct knowledge or control of the professional.
  • Any additional services or tests by the professional necessary to certify a specific fact need to be compensated for by the client.
  • The language of the certification should be properly qualified. If the certification is not based on facts, it should be stated as an expression of professional opinion based on knowledge, information, and belief. This can prevent the certification from establishing a warranty or guarantee.
  • The certification language needs to be crafted in such a way as to avoid the possibility of a claim of detrimental reliance by a third party. The client, or another party specifically identified in the certification, should be the only parties entitled to rely on the certification.
  • The certification should be identified as to the specific purpose, applicable time and date, and recipient. Improper identification of the recipient could lead to third party claims.

Identifying Unqualified Certifications

Construction-related professionals need to carefully read the language of a certification to avoid unintended liability. A certification to avoid would contain language similar to the following:

Intending to be legally bound hereby, the professional hereby covenants, represents and warrants, and agrees as follows…

Such language could be construed by the courts, and a professional’s insurance carrier, as being an uninsurable warranty or guarantee, leaving little recourse for the professional’s defense.

Qualifying Your Certifications

Careful attention to the language of a certification, and the ability to provide the client with realistic limitations of that certification, constitute prudent risk management. This allows the firm to better predict the costs and consequences of performing professional services. An example of a certification with appropriate qualifying language is as follows:

In my professional opinion, and based on [my observations] or [my scope of services], I hereby certify that…

As always, remain diligent in reviewing a certification to avoid language that may exceed the legal standard of care or the scope of professional liability insurance coverage.

Victor O. Schinnerer & Company Inc. is managing underwriter for the CNA/Schinnerer Professional Liability Insurance Program commended by NSPE/PEPP since 1957.

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2007-08 PEC Executive Board

James Goedert, Ph.D., P.E.
Omaha, NE

Immediate Past Chair
Arthur DeWit, P.E., F.NSPE
Lake Havasu, AZ

Leonard "Bud" Darby, P.E.
Alexandria, VA

David Hunley, P.E.
Burlington, KY
Northeast Region Vice Chair
Jon Drosendahl, P.E.
Glenshaw, PA
North Central Region Vice Chair
Paul Harmon, P.E.
Lincoln, NE
Southeast Region Vice Chair
James Harper, P.E.
Tampa, FL
Southwest Region Vice Chair
Paul Bakken, PE
Centennial, CO

Central Region Vice Chair
Carl Meglan, P.E.
Columbus, OH

Western and Pacific Region Vice Chair
David Shields, Ph.D., P.E.
Henderson, NV

PEC Staff Liaison
Kim Granados, CAE

PEC Homepage 

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PEC would like to thank its 2007 Sustaining Firm Sponsors.
Join your colleagues and competitors. List your firm on the NSPE Web site and link more business to your future. 

Abriola Company
Allied Contractors, Inc.
AMCC Corp.
Applied Engineered Systems, LLC
Associated Sprinkler Company, LLC.
Baete-Forseth HVAC
BEC Engineering
BEC Engineering, LP
Big M Constructors, Inc.
Blitman Building Corporation
Bonhag Associates, PLLC
Bridges & Co, Inc.
Broaddus & Associates
Brown Construction Services, Inc.
Buchart-Horn, Inc.
Building Performance Construction
C&M Road Builders Inc.
Calvi Electric Company
Capital Project Management, Inc.
CBD Design and Construction Corporation
Century Electric, Inc.
Cherokee Enterprises, Inc.
Code Consultants, Inc.
Construction Control Dynamics, Inc.
Construction Management Services
Dalton, Olmsted & Fuglevand, Inc.
D'Annunzio & Sons, Inc.
DG3A group
Drury South, Inc.
E.G. Middleton, Inc.
EVCO Construction Company, Inc.
Feutz Contractors, Inc.
Fitts & Goodwin, Inc.
Five Oaks Associates, L.L.C.
Frank Gurney, Inc.
Fred Weber, Inc.
Fred Zook Engineer, Inc
Frederick Derr & Company, Inc.
Free Contracting, Inc.
Gabriel Fuentes, Jr. Construction Co., Inc.
Geco Engineering Corp
George Harms Construction Inc.
Glynn Geotechnical Engineering
Graber Concrete Pipe Company
HAKS Engineers, P.C.
Halverson Construction Co., Inc.
Henderson Electric Company
Hydraulic Concrete Breaking Company
Industrial Refrigeration & Boiler Company
James D. Moore, Jr., P.E.
JEI Engineering, Inc.
John N. Puder, Inc.
Johnson & Scott, Inc.
JPM Construction Consultants, Inc.
Judy Construction Company
K. L. House Construction Company, Inc.
KeySpan Energy
Lundy Construction Company, Inc.
March-Westin Company, Inc.
Marshall Erdman and Associates
Mayberry Electric
McAbee Construction, Inc.
Metromont Corp.
Notch Mechanical Constructors
NTA, Inc.
Owen-Ames-Kimball Company
Paric Corporation
Paul J. Gallo Contracting, Inc.
Pembroke Construction Company, Inc.
Peter Basso Associates, Inc.
Project Development Services, Inc.
Rice Lake Construction Group
Richard W. Rauseo, P.E.
Riverso Associates, Inc.
Rodgers Builders, Inc.
S. Seltzer Construction Corp.
Sachs Electric Company
Schoor DePalma Inc.
Sebastian Contracting Corporation
Shook, Inc., Northern Division(Formerly Shook Heavy & Environmental Group, Inc.)
Sioux Falls Construction Co.
Skanska USA Civil Northeast Inc.
Snyder Electric Company, Inc.
SpawGlass Contractors, Inc.
Stansell Electric Company, Inc.
State Utility Contractors, Inc.
Suberroc Systems (SUBSYST)
T.A. Loving Co.
The Construction Industry Advancement Program of N.J.
The Crom Corporation
The Rubicon Group, Inc.
Trade Construction Company, L.L.C.
Van Dyken Mechanical, Inc.
Vision Land Consultants, Inc.
Withers & Ravenel, Inc.


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