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Could scope creep bust your project budget?

Sooner or later, every business owner runs into a client who expects more deliverables than specified by the contract. It might be something small, like adding a few electrical outlets to the media room of a house. But it also could turn into something major, e.g., moving a weight-bearing wall or pillar.

When contractors and business owners first run into scope creep, their natural inclination may be to acquisesce to the client's request. After all, successful business owners understand well the value of satisfied customers and word of mouth referrals.

While it may be fine to accede to a client's simple demands on occasion, regularly allowing scope creep on your projects will eventually begin to cut into your bottom line.

Still, it's never pleasant to have to negatively counter a client's request. Here's how you can avoid the unpleasantness.

Make sure your contract is crystal clear

Sticking to the terms of a signed contract is a hallmark of a reputable business owner. It's hard to fault someone for agreeing to do everything that they promised to do. A willingness to negotiate a new contract that includes the desired feature can be a way to work out the differences.

Prohibit unmanaged agreements between your team and the clients

Pushy clients are adept at attempting to get from an underling what they can't get from the boss. Maybe they slid a few bills to your project manager or job foreman or made another quid pro quo agreement to get what they want. Making these arrangements is a fireable offense and can deter the likelihood of it occurring.

Insist on cost-benefit analyses before agreeing to any changes

Clients may try to badger you into agreeing to their demands. But fundamentally, they understand that you are not in the business of doing unpaid favors. You are a business owner with expenses, insurance and payroll to meet. Putting them on notice that you cannot agree until you run the numbers is just a good business practice.

Blame it on one of your attorneys

This is one time when passing the buck is not just permitted but advisable. Tell your client that your business law attorney insists on reviewing any changes to avoid running afoul of the law. This may be a foolproof way to push back on scope creep.

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