Building Excellence: Setting Expectations with MaryAnn Casas
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This is Ashley Wainscott and Michelle Mullins.
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Hello. Welcome to Season Two of the Simply Home podcast - Ladies Who Build. We are so excited to kick off this season because we are going to be bringing in some special guests. They are all team members of Simply Home and they all bring incredible value and expertise. So we're really excited to have them on to share a little bit more about what you can expect from the company and from them and all the good stuff. So today's episode, we are kicking off with Maryann. She is our beloved project manager.
So let's talk about the key points of this episode. One of the first things we're going to talk about is Maryann. And we're really excited to talk about Maryann because of her unique background and experience, which we'll get into in a minute. Next, we're going to dive into all things that Maryann has experienced in which is expectations - homeowner expectations, clients’ stories, things people should know and how they should prepare their home, and the insight scoop. And then the last thing we'll do at the very end is a mini snippet of some fun questions.
So we'll get into that at the very end. All right. So let's kick off with Maryann.
Maryann, tell us a little bit about yourself and welcome to the show. Maryann, our very special guest.
Thanks for having me ladies. Honestly, I'm honored.
We're also honored.
Great. Well, a little bit about me. I'm Marianne Casas. I'm from Miami, Florida, and I studied sustainable building design. So I started that about 10 years ago. And yeah, it all started with just an interest in the built environment and making sure that buildings are beautiful and sustainable and that has led me to Simply Home. And so I've been in the building construction industry for almost five years, starting initially at a sustainable retail store here in Austin and moving to Dallas to do that as well. And really I have loved being a project manager. It is really getting like the boots on the ground. And being able to implement things that I learned 10 years ago in sustainability, bringing into just making beautiful and healthy homes. Now it's Simply Home making sure that families are safe. Homes are built safely. And yeah, I'm really happy to be here.
We're really happy you’re here.
So I know one thing, I mean there's many things we love about you, but one thing that we were drawn to with Maryann is that she is the most positive person on our team. And it's so refreshing because there are times in project management where you have to work through things that are unfavorable or just overwhelming and you bring such a positive spin to it. And so it's always enjoyable to get to work through things with you because you see the light at the end of the tunnel in every situation.
So it's really beautiful.
Yeah. Construction could be dirty but the end of it is sparkly.
We love to get to the end. So I think it's really important, I mean life is meant to be enjoyed and so that's how I feel for my personal life and I love to be able to bring that to work too.
Construction can be scary and especially like clients coming in, sometimes not knowing what to expect if it's their first one and so if I can be part of the process of making that enjoyable in some small way, I am so happy to do that.
And you get to set the standard.
That they will always think about for every project they have in their future.
You will always have the standard that you set for them forever.
The other thing I was going to add that I love about Maryann is her perseverance. This is actually a whole podcast the things you love about Maryann.
Would you say it's a praise roast?
Take it. Take it, Maryann.
Sure I'll take it.
Maryann has her persistence. She perseveres through everything and that level of commitment. And it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter the situation. You are like, “No, I'm going to do this.” You like put your heavy armor on like, you're going into battle and you're like, “I am here. I'm going to do this and I'm going to finish it.”
And that level of commitment is just something to be admired.
Okay, so this is why you want Maryann on your project, right? Like who doesn't want to work with someone like that?
And this is why Maryann is so good at what she does. So when we talk about Maryann and the team prepping clients for their project, we specifically wanted to ask and discuss. When you think about projects that have gone smoothly, how did the proper prep from our team play into it?
Yeah. The construction portion. So when I get to the project, it's basically the second half. The first half is just as important or more important to be able to set up our construction team and the client for success. So before the client even gets to the construction phase, our team is meticulously planning through the designs, through cabinet layouts, selecting materials that by the time I get the project, it's like a beautiful folder. And it's like, “Hey Maryanne, here you go. Make it happen.”
And it sounds easy. There's always changes that come to the plan, of course, but the Simply Home team does so much of the heavy lifting at the beginning in regards to making sure estimates are accurate.
And then when it comes to material coordinating, making sure all your doors are on site, your windows are onsite, cabinets have been ordered and already measured, we've already selected the countertop, so it makes the construction process simpler. Simply?
Simply so there's..
There's a ring to that one.
Yes. That by the time we get to construction, we have everything to be successful. Obviously, homes are all different and we always find surprises. And so that is what is so important about the construction management and project management team is that we have seen a lot of these things already. We have seen busted pipes. We've seen leaky pipes. We've seen electrical that's in the wrong places. So we're able to focus our attention on any issues we find and then fix those. But the team on the backend has already prepped us for all the beautiful things that we're about to install.
Yeah, you're right. And it's really important when that set up really nicely is that the point that it, which you come in it's, it's this transitional period of we've prepped the project. Now we're going to give you everything we've prepped and we're introducing you to the client. So for those who don't know in that process at the beginning of a project, project management team sits down with the client. Face-to-face with the construction manager. We get to know the client, just get, feel them out. Every client likes to communicate differently. So we make sure we get that information. If they're more reserved and maybe they just want kind of, you know, quick daily updates. Great. And then some other clients want a little bit more involvement, which is great too. So we kind of weigh out the way of the land during that meeting. And Maryann, if you want to kind of explain why that meeting is so important.
And what are specific things you go through in that meeting?
Yeah, absolutely. So when we get introduced to the clients, we bring this beautiful expectations guy. Expectations are gone over from the beginning. Once our sales team meets the clients, we try and set the correct expectations of maybe how long the project will take. Kind of what to, I know we've had a podcast, what to expect when you're expecting. So we will try and prepare for as much as we can at the beginning. We almost want to prepare for the worst so that we can hopefully, over deliver.
What does that say?
Oh, under promise. Over deliver. I always say it backwards.
So it's a miracle that I just got it correct. But actually just said it to someone else the other day.
Hey, I have a question about this expectations guide.
Tell me about it.
Okay. So, what are a few of those expectation points that you feel like have come to life with clients where you might've said it early on, and then you had to bring them back to it mid project? Where you're like, see, this is one of those points that we've talked about, or this is something that has come true.
They actually helped or is able to prepare them.
From the beginning, we say the renovation is going to be messy and dusty. A lot of people already expect that. So that's kind of an easy one to get on board throughout the process. I remind them something amazing about one of the goals for Simply Home is we want to have the cleanest job sites in Austin.
So we're going to have construction cleans throughout the process, especially if the client is in the home and we still do it for vacant properties as well. But something that comes up frequently, our schedule shifting. So this is going to be because of material delays, possibly that could be like lumber, concrete, shower glass, things that weren't on the original material guide.
And it could even be that a worker is sick or his truck breaks down. That's okay. We kind of expect those delays sometimes to happen. So we try and buff out the schedule as much as possible to still do the project efficiently, but we take into consideration that there are going to be delays just like your house is going to be messy and dirty. There are going to be delays.
We will try and mitigate those as much as possible, but I just want to set that expectation from the beginning. Ideally, we're going to set that end date for the project once we get started. So clients should know. Okay. My project is probably going to take about three months. There's going to be schedule shifts weekly.
And they usually don't affect the end date so we can typically move up other things, shift things around to still end on a date that we tell our clients. But it's always important to know sometimes you say, “Hey, the plumbers come in this morning.” And they don't come until 2 PM. So we just like to make sure people are aware of that. It comes up frequently throughout the project.
Yeah. And that's another shift in construction versus any sort of I want to say another type of project management field or different kind of industry where they're used to working with 40 parties or people. But that maybe is in tech and that's very different than working with 40 different self-employed contractors that are mechanically inclined or creatives and one, their schedule management may just not be part of their strengths or two, because they are a plumber when emergencies come up that are way more important than just moving a kitchen sink in that moment, because what if someone's house is flooding or something's happening? And it's the nature of the beast.
Construction is a very fluid process. As much as we want to make it black and white, very fluid. Some things rely on one thing to get done to go onto the next thing and so that's why people hire us as project managers and construction managers is because we get to handle that for you.
Schedule’s gonna shift. There's no way I can not imagine doing it. It's a full-time job. It's my full-time job. Having a job and being able to do it. It is a lot of work to shift into like constantly be communicating with multiple people to get the work done, get it done correctly and get it done on time.
Yeah. And I was just telling people about the amount of communication that occurs on a project. I mean, you have so many people involved.
From start to finish. And that's why plans are so important because it says it. Black and white. And it can't necessarily be misinterpreted by the 40 people who've looked at it. It's all right there while you would think, you would think, but at least you have something to come back to.
We all agreed on this was the plan. And that's part of the prep time that clients will call and people can be surprised at how long this prep time you can take. But it all benefits when you're in the construction phase.
I think we talked about that on a previous episode two of the longer the prep, the better the project goes. And it's not just to like, not to like drag your feet during prep, but the more that we can prep on the forefront now, the execution is just how well we're executing, how well we prepped on the forefront. Right? So we have seen very successful projects go off without a hitch. And it's truly because the entire team has like, just like, they've just done such a good job of prepping for everything. So and we take the time with the client to make those decisions.
I was going to bring that to Maryann because you were talking about your role and things you're doing behind the scenes, which a client doesn't have to actually see or experience. But it's how the sausage is made. And those are all the things, you know, you have to shift the schedule because this guy or this woman, but how the schedule shifts. Maryann's not necessarily being like, oh no. Susie, I have to redo your whole schedule and oh my gosh. He had to take them all out. We don't put any of that on the client, you simply are doing these things.
And it's not discussed. Yeah. It's magic.
Yes. Well, that brings me to another point. That's very important during the renovation process is that Simply Home project managers are the only ones communicating directly with the vendors. So the contractors that are coming into the house, we have set very clear expectations with them on what their scope of work is.
And it might be kind of exciting when I, as the client am in the home, I see the worker, he might be doing something incorrectly. Or, you know, not to their expectation or maybe they're like, oh, that looks like it might be in the wrong place. It's so important to let us, as the project managers know first to not muddy the waters of what we have already discussed with the contractor.
And so communication, we try and keep it just directly between Simply Home and contractor, especially also because we have already determined the scope of work, the price based on the estimate that we've given to the clients and so we try and keep it as simple as possible. We do not want to burden the clients with any, any sort of management that they don't have to because that's what they've hired us for. We want to take on any, anything that comes up.
You know, we've seen how successful projects can go when something does come up and a client. I love when they totally listened to this expectation. And they'll always say, we'll call Maryann about that or I don't know, you should you know, ask Simply Home about it. And so I love that they just defer back to you.
Because like you said, I think the biggest thing we don't want to happen is for a client to feel like they have to manage the project. So I think that that opens a door as soon as clients.
I mean like of course, like say like good morning, Whatever, obviously you don't be like weird and cold and shy, but you know, if they start asking you questions about the project, refer them back to us because we just don't ever want you to feel like you have to answer them. And especially if you don't know the answer.
We don't want you to feel like flustered in that moment. So that is totally not the client's job that is absolutely on us. It just makes it easier.
So I think on the expectations guide, you also go through some kind of big factors with like electrical and plumbing, right? So what do you think is the biggest thing for clients to understand, especially living in the home, but also maybe it's vacant. What's the biggest thing to consider there?
If you're living in the home and we're doing a bathroom or kitchen remodel, plumbing and electrical will be turned off in those spaces. Especially at least like the first two weeks of doing the rough in work. So moving plumbing or electrical to the new spot and that is for the safety of the home, safety of anyone living in the home, safety of the workers. And then once we get them in the right place and things installed, we're able to turn them back on. So I knew we were talking a little bit earlier about a temporary kitchen. So if we're remodeling a kitchen, We actually have a project coming up. The only is living in the home. It should be a pretty quick kitchen remodel.
Oh, quick kitchen remodel.
Yeah. But we're going to be moving the fridge into the dining room, moving the microwave into the dining room, and then we will be working in the kitchen on an aesthetic flip. We'll take about like a month and a half. But yeah, we're going to set up their new kitchen, basically in the, in the dining room.
Which is very thoughtful and considerate because of us.
Yes, it is.
You know, I guess that we could, our job is technically to go in there and renovate someone's kitchen, but we're thinking about how they're living exactly and going above and beyond.
And it's probably yeah. Ripping up space in your home is not easy, especially living there. So if we can do anything to make it pleasant or like less disruptive in any way, we will do it.
Disruptive. That’s the word. Yes, totally disrupt. We are disruptive. We're coming in and disrupting people's homes.
I love what this was like years ago. But one of the stories when we were done with the remodel, the client said, I think I asked, like, what would you recommend like a future client going through your same situation. He was like, get a George Foreman and it was the funniest thing because that's what they use to grill there. The Jenner's and he was like, we used our sink to wash dishes and he was like, obviously it's not ideal. It's not great, but like, looking back, it's hilarious. And then we just have these cups and silverware and our vanity. And excuse me, while I brush my teeth.
But it's so temporary and you know, you just have to go with the flow, but it was just hilarious. He was like, invest in a George Foreman. I was like noted, got it.
Yeah. I mean, you really, when I think about going into people's homes, mid project when they're living through it. And they're getting their coffee from like their coffee table and their living room and then their pantries, you know, temporary set up on their bookshelf. And then they're like, oh yeah, I'm washing my dishes out of my bathroom. Seeing, you know, it's, I think people didn't visualize this when Michelle and I first started and now you can create this visualization for them. So it's not surprising.
When they're washing their dishes in the bathroom.
Yes. Something I also just thought of, especially in like open concept houses. What we're going to do is set up plastic walls so floor to ceiling walls especially if there's kids living in the house but also just to like mitigate any dust, that just anything like texture that's being sprayed on the drywall. We'll set up these plastic walls from wherever the work zone is away from the rest of the livable space and we can put zipper entrances just to mitigate dust from exiting.
Yeah, just know that like, whenever you do go into the space, dust can go out. So we always encourage to like, stay out of the work zone. Cause there could also be yes, loose electrical wires. We don't want your kids or your pets to be around that or you to be around it. We just want to make it as safe and clean as possible in the house.
Simply, we've really made a lot of things easier on the clients even just like our filter replacements. So we're really consistent now.
Tell us about it.
About making sure that filters are changed out in a home every week during the renovation. Those get dusty and so we want to make sure that HVAC system is taken care of and that you're breathing in as clean air as possible.
Someone else on the team was just telling me about how one of our clients has a 22 year old HVAC system and that thing is just struggling.
To keep up during the renovation, because you know, that always puts a little bit more stress on the unit and I think that's something that a homeowner would never think about, but yeah, if you're, if your system's on its last life, like if it's at the end of its life.
If it's a cat then it’s its last.
And we're comparing your system to nine lives as a cat, then yes. I love combining sayings into one thing. And I was about to even say is if your systems at the end of its rope,
Okay. That's correct.
There's so many options. But then the stress of this isn't going to help it feel great. It's probably just going to lead you to replacing your system.
So, which we can do.
All right. So in this meeting, you know clients are excited. They're ready to get going. And I have found, and maybe you have to, when going through these expectations, clients are like, yeah, this is great. Yeah, whatever, you know, I think they take it seriously, but I think you don't really know until you really get into it, right?
So, if you could really have the client take away one thing from this meeting, whether it be an actual concrete expectation, or maybe just something that you wish that you could just like impart on them as we begin in this process, what do you think that would be for you?
I mean, there's so many things, but yeah.
The most important one.
It's going to be, to be and this is mutual between me and the client. Be honest, be truthful, and be ready for surprises. So that's three.
Yeah, well, and I think to your point, be ready for surprises. It's not something that we say to scare clients, because when we say that, first and foremost, if we have seen almost not everything, but we have seen a wide array of things that can come up in the 10 years we've been doing this, right? So nothing surprises us by any means, even if it's something new that we've never dealt with, it still doesn't surprise us and it doesn't scare us because we know especially with this team, with our team, we know that there is a solution to everything and we will sure as heck find that solution. So maybe it's not Maryann, but it's her partner. If it's not her partner, it's me. If it's not me, it's someone else on the team. So there are a million resources that we can pull from to work through anything that comes up. So when we say, be prepared for surprises, this isn't like be really concerned and what are we going to do? It's it's simply to say, Hey, we can't see behind your walls. And so something can always happen, but when it does, and if it does, you are in total good hands of making sure that it gets solved correctly.
So I think that that's a good point. We're not trying to sugarcoat it to say like, this is going to be perfect. But what we're trying to say is that you have gotten an entire team behind you on your back to support you through whatever we find. Period.
I’m upset. Mic drop. We don’t have anything else.
What else should a client do when they're prepping, what do you recommend that they do for themselves or do in general?
Schedule a spa day.
It could be sometimes if the client is living in the home, maybe leave for the demo. Demo is going to be loud. It's going to be dusty. Maybe book a hotel, stay that night or two nights. But then another thing is just to know, also know your project well. Know your design. Be aligned with the vision. At this point, you've probably already memorized it. And just communicate to the project manager, if there's anything that you're not seeing that you do want, tell me, I'm like always so open to feedback. And if the experience is not what you were expecting or let me know when we want to make sure that the experience can be a positive one for you. So that just takes open communication too. I will be as open as I possibly can and honest and truthful about what's happening during the renovation. And so I think it's important to ask for that in return as well.
I think this is a big one because when I think about Simply Home and like what our purposes with clients is to create a safe space for people to feel heard and accepted and make sure that they're along on this process. But with that, like you just said, Maryann comes being really honest with each other and you know, your role is to set up a great relationship with the client. And in part of that, a great relationship looks like bringing things to the other person's attention when needed. So part of our process on the project management side is that the project manager will set up a weekly meeting with the client and that's an in-person meeting. You get to look at the work that's been completed and talk about things that are upcoming and then talk through anything that might be working or not working on the backend.
So some questions Maryann might say is how is my communication? Would you like to see more or less of that? Do you feel like you're getting enough of the information on a daily basis? And so it's just kind of digging a little bit deeper of is what I'm doing working for you. On that same front, like Maryann said, if something is maybe bothering you or bugging you or you wish went differently, we also expect the same honesty in return.
And so we don't take things personally. This is all part of a productive project. So we really expect the client to also bring these things to our attention quickly, so we can, we can like work through it and figure it out. Like that is literally why we wanted to create such a healthy relationship with the client, because we don't want to, just to be like, it's our way or the highway. We want you a part of this. So part of that, I think when I think about successful relationships that you've had with clients, it's because they have gone to you about maybe something that they were unhappy about and you heard them, you've listened to them and you immediately addressed it.
Cause we can, we can immediately address it. Like it's very simple enough for us to do so we just have to make sure you tell us clients are honest and tell us.
I just kept hearing client expectations and the expectations go to way.
And we have expectations for you. And you have expectations for us. And we all just like to be really clear with what we expect from each other, because that's how any relationship works.
And we're your bestie, at least for the next few months, if not year and whether or not you knew we'd be your bestie this year, we are, but it's a bestie relationship where sometimes you have things to share with us of how you want that relationship to be. And that's great.
Yeah. I think like kindness goes a long way too. Like kindness and understanding. And so I'm going to bring that to like any relationship that I have truly with like any relationship, friendship. This is, they don't have to be my bestie but it is just like a professional relationship that can be full of like kindness and fun and excitement and like hard times. But most of them end up, they've been great relationships and it's fun to give someone a beautiful kitchen or bathroom. And things just like, even through the hard times in a renovation, if a surprise does come up or framing is taking longer than expected. We see the end in mind. And I like to remind people like we are getting their framing. This took a week longer than expected, but tiles next week. And I get so excited and then the client gets so excited. So I think it's really important as project manager at Simply Home, we are just excited about the renovation.
And that's why we're at this company too, is because we love it. And we love being able to provide beautiful spaces for people and we can do it. We've done it hundreds of times.
Hundreds. Lots of fun and then tracks to go.
It is such a long way. When those people feel the trust, then you feel like you can do your job, we feel like we can do our job, the client feels that they can live their life.
I love it. I can feel the good vibes.
Yes. Yes. Okay. What else comes to mind? With properly setting up clients.
Setting up clients.
Did we talk anything about like what clients shouldn't do? And therefore what they should do?
Changing your mind during the renovation is tough. The plans, it might show four doors on a cabinet, and now you want them to be two, or you want this style to change. And that changes the budget that changes what the fabricator is ordering.
Even changing colors can be tough too, because we prepare so far in advance that our workers are excited for the work coming up as well. So let's say I plan three weeks in advance of the painter coming in. I've already sent them the picked colors. They might've already purchased them. So it's kind of tough if you know, your mind changes during the process. Obviously, we will be as flexible as possible but there are contracts.
But if it does cause like a big, great…
Yes. If something changes in the plan, we pause the project that is going to delay your end date. If you want it to be done by Thanksgiving and you decide to change your mind. I'm going to stop working until it's figured out, and then we will continue. And that is just for the benefit of both of us.
So that nothing happens at the house that you don't want to happen. It's so important to be on the same page. And if we're not on the same page, pause and let's get on the same page and then we move forward.
I think too, like a result of that, sometimes things have to change. Like sometimes things in construction we might be doing something does have to change like that's different obviously. We would talk about the client with that, but I think it's also really important for clients to know is that like you might think that changing a paint color is just changing a paint color, but you also don't understand what that change does to subsequent people coming after them.
Right? So because we see the whole picture and because we see all the vendors that have to be involved and their scope of work and their timeline, because we're not their only project. They also have other projects that they're working on.
So you schedule well in advance for these guys to come in. So when a change is made and we have to halt work, that's kind of detrimental to everything that comes behind it. It's not that we can't catch back up, but now I've got to reschedule 10 different vendors and 10 different schedules. I mean, that's pretty dramatic, right?
So just know that like, if we have plans in place like that is our guide and that's what everybody's going off of. So when things start to change that, it just becomes super mucky. And we're basically saying, don't do it.
Yeah. Even one time I saw cabinet material was ordered to be painted and then we changed it. It was decided to change to be stained.
But the thing is that the wood is not as pretty, like the…
It's different wood.
It's a different wood. The wood that you paint is like sand. It has less grains, like in a good way. It's perfect to be painted.
But not to be stained.
And so when you change it, it just doesn't turn out the way that we all like would have envisioned a beautiful stained wood. If we've already ordered the wood to be painted.
So that's just like a one small example.
Paint grade is not the same as stained grade.
Yeah. It is so different.
Yeah, but we would know that.
A homeowner wouldn't know that so these are all good things to talk about the beginning of the project.
Totally. Change your mind at the beginning.
Well, Hmm. I know I'm like, throw it on your side.
Yeah, that doesn't feel good.
But the projects that go the most smoothly are when it's already been decided.
And we just get to put it in. I mean, and when you're starting construction, really it's just full speed ahead. That's what it should be.
Because you spend all that time planning it shouldn't just be full speed.
I like to get it done.
We like to move and you like to move.
I love to move.
You move well, like you move quickly through projects, but you move at a space that it's not like quickly and are making mistakes. Like you really do like to get in and out for the clients. So I think on that note, we've also talked about how it goes really successful when clients are decisive throughout the project.
So of course, we are not going to make a decision for you. We want you to make those decisions, but if something comes up during the remodel process and we ask you like what do you think about this? We would like a decision then. You know what I mean? Like just be quick. We can talk you through with that website.
But you know.
Make a good quick decision.
Yes, I will set expectations. For example, I'm working on one right now. That masonry needs to get repaired. But masonry they're like entry pillars. Masonry should get like patched up. And we have a new railing going in on Monday and really the masonry should be done first before the railings. So that's something that's kind of quick. I'm going to try and give at least like 48 hours notice because there is a price associated with that, that you get to choose. If a change order comes up, 50 50. Sometimes it's like plumbing needs to be updated. Electrical needs to be updated. I'm so sorry. It's going to be X amount more, but it actually has to get done to move forward. Some change orders though are just the aesthetic. Oh, I want to add. Uh, extra space on my deck, or I want to add some extra canned lights. That's your choice. I can tell you how much it is.
And you could say. Ah, I don't want to do that anymore. And that is totally fine.
We will do whatever you want us to do in regards to like aesthetic things. What was the question?
That was beautiful. Wherever you were going with that, well said. Talking about change orders.
Yeah, we were talking about change orders.
I'm still investigating.
I was like, that's good. That's right. That's right.
Yeah. Change orders.
Yeah. Well, you were giving ample time like you try to communicate in advance to say like, you have time to think about this. Some decisions we understand you need to talk to your significant other about. We get that like…
Oh, yeah. Making decisions.
And deciding. I mean, I'm picturing the how to be… What was that show? How to be a millionaire?
You know and they give you like 30 seconds and they're counting down. That's kind of how we feel with change orders, where we're like, do you want to do it? And how about right now? Can you answer right now?
We literally have to know to proceed with your project. But other than that, no big deal. Take on it.
Yeah. Good ones. For sure. Okay.
What have we not covered on how to properly prepare our clients before the project kickoff?
We talked about moving with them. We've kind of advanced packing materials.
I got one. Dumpsters.
You might need approval with your HOA. So if you live in an HOA get approval or else you might get fined and we can set a timeline for when that dumpster will be at your house. Another important thing to think about are alarm systems, whether you want them on during the renovation or off.
We will expect our clients to manage their own alarm systems.
This is like, if they’re not living in the house.
If they’re not living in the house or if they are. We setthat expectation to begin with sometimes clients are living in the house. We can either like ring the doorbell to go in, or sometimes they're like, yeah, just come on in. I'm already at the office. Use the key. We usually have a lock box on the front door.
Use the key, come on in. So we'll ask that at the project manager meeting before construction starts.
Another important thing to think about are your pets. If you have pets at the house and you're living there, we do not want to let any pets out. So make sure to keep them away. Keep them safe. We love pets though. I have done a renovation where there is a cat at the house and the cat usually never came out. And when he did, we all got so excited for like, he trusts us. Like the client trusts us, now their cat trusts us. And we would get so excited.
Those are the levels of trust. First client, then cat.
Then what's usually dog trusts. Dogs like, you know, they just love. And then a cat. You can get a cat's approval?
It's really beautiful. Fluffy cat.
You've really made it in the world. If you got it. Yeah.
And then some important things. If there's like notes that we, as the construction team needs to know, we will tape a piece of paper on the back of the door and say like, don't let the cat out. We'll put a picture of the cat. Don't let Mr. Sniffles out or whatever it is. Make sure to turn off the lights and make sure the AC is left at 78, especially in the summer here.
Sometimes, the workers might be in the house and turn it down. We want to make sure that we don't rack up your energy bill. And so we will put a sign either like next to your thermostat or on the back door that says, make sure that thermostat is at 78.
Yes. We really try our best to manage that. Sometimes it doesn't happen.
Because people are exhausted at the end of the day. They're leaving and they just don't, they might read it and they just don't do it. But..
90 plus percent of the time, our signs work.
I used to tape the heck out of thermostats, like with blue tape. And I would just like layer after layer, after layer, after layer. So literally, you couldn't even find the button. And I would just say no. Period.
I should do that.
Don’t even think about it.
Just get away from this thing now.
Do not touch me. Fingers off.
Or like a character, I'm watching you.
Michelle and I used to claim that there were cameras in all of our job sites.
For sure. And I'm like, you won't ever know where they are.
And we'd be like, well, we got that on video. Are you sure that you did that or you didn’t do that? Remember way back? We didn't have video cameras.
It was like to get a vendor to fess up to something that we know that he did but he wouldn't fess up to it. And so,,,
Did you dig the drywall. Was it you? And they're like, no. Michelle and I will be like, well we have video and they're like, okay maybe.
Yeah. And then they would fess up.
Which thankfully we don't have vendors like that anymore.
Okay. So we talked about do’s. We talked about don'ts.
Yeah. I feel like those are pretty much high level. I mean, I think the only other question I have for you is you've been in quite a few of these project manager meetings to go over expectations. Do you think that there's like a common question that always comes up time and time again from clients and those meetings?
What does every client ask?
When will it be done?
That's true. They do.
When will it be done. Truly, that is the question that I can think of most.
Yeah. It really does. It's like, yeah we're so excited for you to do it, but like when will you be done? How do I not get to see you anymore?
From the moment that you haven't even started, they want to know when you will be out.
Unfortunately. Yeah. And then it's just a lot of people also desire good communication.
Either they could have had a bad experience in the past, or they've never experienced a renovation. And so it's really exciting to be able to be that first renovation could be like your first home. This is your second biggest investment. Like your home is your first biggest investment. This is your second biggest investment.
And so we take, I take that on with a lot of responsibility and excitement. So I want to be a good steward of that money, of that budget, of these like beautiful materials that you've already purchased. And I will communicate with you if like something breaks during the process or we need to get something different. It didn't fit.
Communication will bring something up as soon as it comes up. I think recently we've had amazing plans. And so something that's really hard during the renovation process is if we deviate from the plans for any reason, So plans are on paper. Construction, something totally different. There could be king steads and spots we didn't realize just like you said earlier Michelle, like we don't know what's behind the walls. The sales team has no way of knowing we haven't opened it up yet.
Not unless we just start hammering through the wall. During our walkthrough.
I don't know about that.
Let’s all look.
No. Thank you.
And put your head in the wall.
I don't know about that.
So the toughest part is when we have to like, change from the plans. And so because clients have already invested so much time and money and effort into these plans, it's very important to us like if anything needs to shift, that is communicated immediately.
Okay, should we run through our fun questions?
Okay. All right. Time for fun questions.
These are your questions for Maryann that are made to be fun.
Great. Cause we just did boring ones.
Boring questions out of the way. Fun ready.
Fun, fun, fun.
Okay. Question number one. What's the best kept secret of Austin, Texas?
Okay. I live in South Austin, south man Jack, and there are some amazing bars going in and yeah, just like really fun restaurants and cool spots. So I love going to Moontower. I played volleyball there also one time I got to dance on stage with an Elvis impersonator.
That’s such a Maryann thing. I am not surprised.
It was amazing.
Do you have photos?
I don't think so. No, it's one. Moontower is one of those places you bring a thing, any pack, you set it on the table. I'm playing volleyball. I'm running in barefoot to get a beer, and then I'm dancing with Elvis. So it's like…
I love it.
It's like a home base. And I usually ride my bike there.
This place doesn't sound real. I mean..
I know it is. I've been one.
We need to preface these questions towards Maryam first, because if you know Maryann, you know that she's the most like active person in Austin. And if anybody's been anywhere, like if we're like who's anybody who's been to this restaurant?
Maryann has been and Maryann's probably played in a sport there. And Maryann probably knows the bartender. Like, I don't know how you get your life is so social.
It really is.
Yeah, so this question is a big question for Maryann because I'm actually really curious. What you find the most fun?
Well now you know,
Okay. Question number two. What is a hidden talent of yours?
I am a photographer.
Yes, I do it on the side. It's my little side hustle, but I just love it. It's my artistic output. So I just bought a new lens so I'm very excited. I'm going to Yosemite next weekend so I'm just very excited about like taking more like landscape photos. And I love taking photos of people.
Yes. I was just about to say right now we hired Maryann to take our professional engagement photos and it was so fun and it was like hilarious because we brought like all these change of outfits and we like brought three different clothes, change the clothes. And then we asked Maryann when we got there, we're like, so does people do this? Like right people changed? And she was like, you're my first but it’s okay. And we’re like, okay. But you did it so fun. It was so good.
Yeah. Okay. Question number three. Out of all office supplies, what would be your favorite?
Colored gel pen. Yeah. So far, I'm somewhat of a doodler. If I'm like losing my attention and doodling, actually, that kind of helps me stay engaged. But I just love it's like, I also love like the Japanese colored pens.
Things feel like more fun. Find tips. And then some of them even have like a little easel, so you can like open the top and you like set it down and they're like standing. And then I just got lifted.
Wow. You know about gel pens.
Yeah, I love gel pens.
I am really convinced that you loved them. Do you remember like the sparkly one?
It’s sparkly and all.
So I pull those out at client meetings.
One hundred percent.
I feel like anything gel pen Lisa Frank would just in stone…
Oh my gosh. Lisa Frank.
You bring out these at the school boxes you put like all your utensils …
And you put glue on the box?
And put a little bookmark?
Would you be more confident in my skills? Everyone take this survey. Would you trust us more?
Yeah, with Lisa Frank by my side.
Lisa Frank has like baby clothes too, by the way.
I don't know if she did some line anyways. I won't even go down that, but they weren't what I thought they'd be.
So, I don't know if Lisa Frank is oh, okay. So we'll show you later. Okay, great. Yeah. You need to know? Yes.
Okay. Last question. What is something positive in the media world that you've seen lately?
The weather in Austin.
Yes. In Austin, slowly going down. Not saying I'm not still sweating. I'm still sweating.
Oh, for sure.
But I like the heat, but I went on a walk yesterday. And it was very pleasant, like 90 degrees.
Wasn't 19, a pleasant 90.
So it's getting there and that's a really positive thing going on in the media right now.
I'm genuinely more happy when I walk out and there's like a breeze and it's cool. And I'm like, it's going to be a great day because I feel amazing right now. But then when you walk out and it's like stifling hot and you like, I can't breathe.
Yeah. That's what people just you're angry. You're angry because you're so hot.
Okay. So that is all. That's our entire episode. And thank you Maryann for being on here with us and sharing all of your experience and your wisdom and your greatness with the world. We are grateful.