This article is about how fads can cause problems, how items go out of fashion quickly and what happens when someone supplies a product that doesn’t stand the test of time.

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Decking your Clients

I’m often introduced to garden designers by my architect, and design and build clients, who rely on designers when undertaking large projects. A number of years after being introduced to one designer I had the urgent call saying “that issue we discussed has just come up, literally”. Our previous discussions included the provision of products including wooden decking, which was all the rage a few years ago.

When I first start discussing risks with the client they indicated that they did not require any cover for products because they kept a full list of who they purchased from. I did explain that sometimes product suppliers went bust, leaving those that bought them holding the baby. It was in a stronger financial climate and the designer felt that the supplier was “too big to go down”. They also said that if something did go wrong, they would ensure that client targeted their legal action towards the people who made the product. I explained that this would be wonderful, typically, most people complain or take action against the person who issued the invoice when a project fails or didn’t meet their expectation when it was completed. It also happens sometime after work is completed because new Products take some time to get used to or bed in.

No surprise there then

It wasn’t a surprise when I received a call from the client to say that they would now like to investigate the cover I previously recommended. When I asked what had changed it was the supplier who had disappeared from the decking landscape and therefore unable to provide back-up if something went wrong.

I said I was happy to look into it, and asked relevant questions, because it’s important that I understand the current issues before making an accurate assessment of risks. It transpired that another designer had been supplying decking from the company concerned and it had deteriorated quicker than it should have. This made the client concerned because they thought it could happen to them. They could be accused of being erroneous in their selection of the product which seems harsh at first. What would you do if you had paid someone to design something that broke or failed within an unreasonable amount of time?

A stitch in time saves nine

The unfortunate designer had recommended this decking on a number of occasions when they were under pressure to reduce their costs in order to win projects. This short term gain usually leads to a long term pain. And people who get tough on price may well be the same kind of people who will complain when they don’t get their moneys worth.

The issue that concerns me is the number of business people, especially those who need products to complete their projects, who believe they can refer a disgruntled client to the product supplier when something goes wrong. It’s odd that they expect clients to leave them in peace when it was they who recommended the product in the first place. Yes, many designers have terms and conditions which say the product supplier is responsible for the quality of a product. However those Ts & Cs are somewhat meaningless when a client issues proceedings because “the product should never have been used”. There are many grey areas that contracts fail to address. They will still have to find a way to ensure their client turns their aim towards the actual miscreant, product supplier. Which takes time that should be spent doing business.

Wrap Up: Insurance helps reduce the financial impact when things go wrong. It does not prevent things going wrong. Businesses can get caught in the firing line even when it is 100% clear that they are not at fault.

Top Tip

Request copies of insurance of anyone you work with. If they go bust, their insurer can be persuaded to deal with certain claims.