Contractor’s Corner | Managing fluctuating client expectations on a large-scale pond build

By Patrick Handley

Published on August 6, 2022

Queensland, Australia
Applying the Finishing Touches

The client and his wife are a young couple that have recently relocated inter-state to regional Queensland, Australia and are striking out on their own with a new business and a new life. They purchased a large 180-acre block and set about creating an eco-camping (or “glamping”) retreat. Their vision for the retreat included a resort-style recreation pond with a long, sandy beach entrance — a stunning centerpiece and major drawcard for attracting campers to the campsite. The inspiration for this project had come from our social media and YouTube content, which the client had been watching for years. He got the shock of his life when it turned out that Waterscapes Australia was his local pond contractor!

We are currently in the final stages of completing this project at the time of writing this article — a 40-by-32-foot recreation pond that has a 6 ½-foot deep end with a 30-foot white, sandy beach and a 20-by-16-foot wetland filtration system.

The client is young and enterprising and has tried to save money every step of the way. He requested that the supply the pumps be sourced more inexpensively through a relative. Also, as he was conducting regular earthworks on the campground, the client requested that he also supply the machinery for the project. At times during the planning period, the heights of the client’s vision did not always align with the constraints of his budget, despite his desire to find ways to save on costs.

There have been many situations when we have agreed to our client’s request to provide machinery for our project. These arrangements have at times been fraught with issues, such as the provision of aging and unreliable machinery and the low supply of fuel available on site. We agreed on this occasion, as the client was an experienced operator and had significant earthmoving experience.

drone shot of queensland pond
A Birds Eye View of the Project

In the weeks leading up to the project, we called the client to check in and make sure his machinery bookings were locked in. The week before the project was scheduled to commence, the client called and advised that the heavy track loader unit he had booked a month prior had returned from the previous hire damaged and may not be available by the start date of the project. Then, two days later, on the Thursday before the project start date, he called again and advised the hire company could no longer supply the excavator or the track loader! We quickly contacted our regular supplier, who pulled some serious strings and delivered what we needed three days later. Needless to say, the project schedule was nearly sunk because of this issue.

In the final weeks prior to signing the contract there was much back and forward about the final design and the costs. Throughout the planning and preparation for the project, we were in regular contact to discuss design elements of the build, including the costs and challenges. The client asked for the recreation pond to be 1 foot deeper at the deep end, so we re-costed and gave him the price to do so. The client wanted the recreation pond to match his vision, but it was clear in multiple discussions that if we were not clear on the costs from the beginning, the project could become more costly than the client could afford. We were transparent and frank with the client when discussing costs, ensuring that he was not pushing the limits of their budget. In the end, we provided the client with a full cost breakdown for the project, with a supplementary additional costing for the extras that the client had been considering at the point of signing the contract. Then, of course, after the first day of excavation, the client made the decision to go for the bigger, grander option. As the additional cost presented in our supplementary breakdown had already been worked out and was clear, we agreed to proceed.

Filling the Wetland with River Stone

The project is scheduled to be completed any day now and is framing up to be a complete success — on time and on budget with very happy clients and no surprises as to the cost. It turns out the client was a stellar machine operator and a great help on this project; however, relinquishing our responsibility to supply the machinery nearly cost us dearly with the delay of the project and the need to reschedule our contractors and other stakeholders. This incident has strengthened our resolve to be even more conscious of what is at stake if there is disruption to the project due to machinery.

Regarding managing the client’s vision while being a good steward of their budget, it simply came down to very frequent, transparent and honest communication. If we had not taken the time to carefully guide this client through the project-estimation process and carefully consider his vision, the project might have come to an uncomfortable close with a dissatisfied client.

Contractors Corner

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contractors-corner

Designer: Patrick Handley

Installer: Waterscapes Australia

Contact Info: office@waterscapesaustralia.com.au

Project Location: Childers, Queensland Australia

Size: 32’ x 40’ x 6 ½’ deep; wetland is 20’ x 16’

Components: Aquascape components and wetland

Time to Complete: 11 days

Crew: Kai Sanderson of Symbiosis Landscapes, Darren and Liam Burton of Clearwater Billabongs and Brad Vanders of Waterscapes Australia as Project Manager

Buyer’s Cost: AUD $140,000 (approx. US $97,000)

 

 

 

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