Help! I Just Got A 15 Page Work Order!!

There is a learning curve that comes with every new client. They each have their own processes for administering quality control. Some want at least 100 photos to show the condition of the asset at the time of your first visit, the work they approved being done, and the condition of the asset at the time of invoice. Then, some just want the basics — a couple of befores and afters. 20 to 30 at the most. And, as you get better at what you do, and more conscientious about quality, you develop your own processes.

It is never a good idea to be inflexible when it comes to the documentation you deliver after work has been done. If a customer tells you in no uncertain terms they don’t want to see a picture of you holding a Windex bottle, and then another one of you scrubbing a toilet bowl, then that is their preference. There are often good reasons that follow these instructions. If, on the other hand, your customer wants to see the Windex bottle, get a good shot of it — and label the photo “Windex”. It’s a mistake if you blaze through assuming your “standard” will please everyone.

It’s tiring to nurse the egos that some contractors carry. Yes, they are good at what they do. And, they are very busy because of their greatness. Many times, because of this greatness, they treat you the person who recruited them for a job as the employee or as though they are your associate. They are only nice when they get your business, and then all the instructions you give are neglected because their process works for them. Matching yourself with talented contractors who bend according to your personal nuances is challenging.

But, I am also of the opinion that there are nuances that tend to increase productivity, as well as there are those which seem to inhibit productivity. As a company of any size in any market, it is crucial to question your processes regularly to determine the efficiency of them. Those that work should be kept and enriched. Those that kill should be killed. Without honestly evaluating how quickly, how completely, how excellently you complete a task you will lose your completitive edge.

One process in particular that must be fine — tuned throughut the REO industry is that of The Work Order passed from the outbox of the asset manager to the inbox of the contractor. It is a pivotal moment for the assigning company. In this exchange, they will send a contractor into the field either well-prepared or ill-prepared. With most customers, of course, an answered question concerning a certain detail is only a call away. But, consider the volume of work in some of your clients’ portfolios that they deal with on a daily basis. And then think about all the work you are supposed to complete before dusk. Or well after. The sheer nature of this work begs for a nicely wrapped work order at the outset which keeps it simple yet tells you as the contractors everything you need to know.

In my eagerness to pick up new clients, I was forced to fake enthusiasm when they told me their work orders exceeded 10 pages. Actually, I couldn’t believe it. But, I wanted their business. So I lied and told them I was impressed with their attention to detail. The truth was just looking at their order documentation overwhelmed me. It was like walking down the greeting card aisle to pick just one card (for a guy). All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of all these cards and you get nervous. You think there’s so many here that say just the right thing. And soon a simple gesture becomes a train wreck because you can’t handle all the cards. Too much information on a work order does the same thing. It actually complicates the work to be done.

I would muscle through these work orders, thinking it was just me. After all, I was still new to this client and I should just be happy to have another supply of income. But then I would talk to other local contractors who had thrown their hands up after trying to overlook this compamy’s detailed work orders. They referred to these companies with short-story length assignments as “dinosaurs”. Now I can see why they would make this assessment.

Business is now being conducted in a world where everything is streamlining. Costs are being cut. Steps are being cut. People are being cut. It has alot to do with the economy, but it also comes from a movement toward simplicity. Nowadays you can sit at your diningroom table with your iPhone and your laptop and rule the jungle. The iPhone is actually a good symbol of the trend of business startups now — small, creative and powerful. In that spirit, our back office processes should follow suit.

Apple believed they could put a thin device in the world’s hands, equipped with a teeny tiny instruction manual. Maybe, in light of this, we project managers should consider putting more faith in the intelligence of our contractors. I understand the reasoning that goes behind these mini-booklets, “If I don’t spell it out for them, they will make a mistake. Depending ont he size of the mistake, I may be liable. In that case, I may be forced to file an insurance claim or lose a client.” So we push forward with killing rain forests for the sake of providing quality control.

If our concern is that the contractor will not “get it,” much of what occurs during the recruiting phase (if it is done well) can prevent any frustration we might see down the road. By talking with these contractors in the beginning stages, we should be able to grasp their ability to focus, to communicate, to listen, to follow instructions.

These lengthy work orders draw out the work flow process because they create more questions than they answer. Days and days after the order landed on your customer’s desk before they assigned it to you, the order is still in review. You might have actually completed the work a week ago, assuming that your invoice was being processed. But then you get a call several days after the fact asking for a number of revisions. You have to wonder how long the patience of your customer’s customer could possibly last. There comes a point in time when the process delay just seems unforgiveable. Yet your customer still persists.

Most of the essential information that is needed for a work order could be found on a single piece of paper. Perhaps in an email if that is your preference. Anything longer than this and the attention span collapses. In fact, for as long as I have been in business, most of my assignments come with at most 2 – 3 paragraphs of pertinent information. And, it must be working because I’m keeping and building new business.


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