Article of the Month

Picking the Right Client in Design Build is Critical for Project Success.


Those of you that are Seinfeld fans might remember the episode where George is breaking up with his girlfriend. He rehearses the break-up phrase, “It’s not you, it’s me.” (That episode is hysterical.) Well, sometimes it is the actions--or inactions--of the client that drives the service provider to consider the relationship they are in and give some thought to doing work with that client again. Let’s face it: All clients are not created equal. Picking the right client, especially in Design Build, is critical for project success.


In another article later this year, we will explore the thought that it was you that may have cause the problem with the client. After all, the most common excuse for poor performance is to blame the client. But for today, let’s explore what to do when you find yourself in a situation where you need to say, “It’s not me, it’s you!”


Despite conducting thorough background research on a new client and harboring the best of intentions to have a collaborative, mutual beneficial relationship – it just doesn’t happen. The relationship is strained, tense. And now you find yourself working on a project where the technical aspects of the project are advancing, but you find yourself dreaming at night about the client and wondering “is it me?” You realize that relationship with your client is broken.


Here’s is my advice – wrap up that job and do a really honest post-mortem on the project and service provider – client relationship. I have found in my many years working in the AEC Industry that the most common excuse for poor performance is to blame the client. Understanding that YOU might be the problem, let’s turn our attention to some reasons that you might want to drop a client or no longer pursue work with that client. Here are some things to think about.


Reasons to drop a client:


  1. Your instincts say so. Don’t underestimate what your gut it telling you. If your client is renting space in your head – lose them.

  2. The client does not appreciate the value to bring to the team. You can see or feel this in your interactions with the client.

  3. The client does not treat you in a professional manner. Professionalism means being respectful of others and speaking with integrity and in the right tone.

  4. The customer does not share the same values as you. (I’m defining values as the motives behind the actions that are being taken.)


I think it is important to understand that YOU decide who you will work for. All work is not good work. While nurturing client relationships is critical to success, it’s important to recognize the signs of when you should end those partnerships that are no longer functional or mutually beneficial.


William A. Sorrentino, Jr., P.E, PMP, DBIA

2021 DBIA Hampton Roads Chapter