THE $100,000 BET
The first Tuesday of February of 2010 started out like most days for me. The morning meeting with our team reviewing ongoing projects dovetailed into my typical second Iced Vanilla Tripio all before 9am. It was right about that time when I received an interesting phone call.
A well respected and highly regarded real estate broker I've known for years called to talk to me about an opportunity for a renovation. It seems that a client was considering a major renovation on their property which was in serious "estate condition" - prior to putting it on the market for sale. 6,800 square feet. Would I be interested in meeting with the family to discuss the options and possibilities? "I'd love to" I replied and a meeting with all was set up for early march. Plenty of time I thought to complete a project of this scope by the end of September.
At that meeting, the designers/contractors who were being considered for the project were allocated approximately 15 minutes each to discuss their individual thoughts on renovating the residence, where the budget could best be spent and how they would go about getting through the entire process: Gut renovating an apartment of this consequence in 16 weeks.... in a premier property on Park Avenue. Pretty cool.
I remember being totally intrigued by the idea of renovating on spec for a future sale and of course there is the cache of saying you've worked in a building of this stature. This would be my second project in this storied address. When my turn came, I spent most of my allocated time discussing what makes my Design/Build firm the perfect fit for this project: Without layers of subcontractors and with me running the project from start to finish, Id have no one to blame other than myself if things didn't go the way I said they would. I guess my enthusiasm got the best of me as I engaged everyone in what turned into a 1 HOUR discussion of what they were trying to accomplish and how I could get them to the end zone. And that's when it happened.
I knew I was being considered amongst other quality firms but I really wanted the project - so that's when it just popped out of my mouth:
"I'll tell you what", I said. "If I can't complete the project in accordance with the buildings "Summer-Only" rules..... I'll pay you $100,000.00".
And that's when the room got very quiet. And everyone's eyes seated around the long conference table of 10 were fixed on me.
YIKES!!!! I SAID WHAT???!!!???
WELL, GO BIG OR GO HOME, RIGHT?
That certainly got everyone's attention to say the least and after the silence abated, the client turned to me and said: "Are you serious?". I replied, "Absolutely.... and if needed, I'll write you a check for $100,000.00 on the first day of work dated for the last day of the contract. If I don't do every last thing I commit to.... CASH IT!".
4 Weeks later I was awarded the project.
Now, it was time to put up or go back to domestic wine. Problem #1. The building review of the proposed renovation took longer than everyone (including me) had anticipated which cut into the time we needed to procure materials and manufacture elements like millwork in advance of the Memorial Day (May 30th) start date. CUT INTO THE TIME BY 20 DAYS!. Almost a month. YIKES AGAIN!!! No problem I thought. Not the time to panic - the time to kick things into gear. And that's what we do at TRH better than ANYONE!
I'm extremely fortunate to have the best team in Manhattan working with me on our projects. From my team of management and designers, to the plumbers, the carpenters, the window contractors, the stone and tile installers - the whole band - they are talented and committed to their work, to our commitments and to our clients. Collectively, it's a very special group and it's comforting to know that they all have my back and even more importantly - have the backs of our clients. It's one thing for me to shoot off my mouth and make promises - it's an entirely different thing to come through on those promises. We did.
After starting demolition on June 20th, 2011 and having not procured a SINGLE ITEM item in advance, not a cabinet, not a screw - we were able to complete major combat operations (a little dramatic but hey, its a big project) on September 13, 2011. From the production and installation of custom moldings throughout the apartment to the Central A/C work. From the gut renovation of SEVEN bathrooms to the design and construction of a 700 Square foot Kitchen/Butlers Pantry/Breakfast Room. We did it. And we actually did it 2 days ahead of the building deadline. We spent the balance of the next 6 weeks completing all of the decorative elements like skim coating, priming and painting this consequential a space.
To say that the building management (who sees quite a number of consequential renovations in this building) was impressed is a fair statement. To say the client was happy to LOSE THE BET is an understatement.
During the second to the last walk through of progress on a Saturday in August when the light at the end of the tunnel was near, the client paid us a sincere and valued compliment.
"Most people in this world over-promise and under-deliver.... but you did just the OPPOSITE". It's nice when clients are that appreciative. These people were a joy to work for and we are deeply appreciative of the opportunity to "do what we do, better than anyone else in our industry".