Grind the detail, don’t “stack ‘em high.” It’ll be worth it!
Many times we have had clients that come to us with a “dispute” but in reality what they have is a difference of opinions over the detail or the valuations, not a dispute.
What I mean is that contractors all too often attempt to shortcut the claims negotiation process and dive straight in and “do a deal.” Frequently this is at the end of a project, where contractors have submitted ill defined, evidenced and particularized variations and claims, hoping to “do a deal” based on a “big number.” I call this the “stack ‘em high” philosophy.
Clients know that the contractor has a lot of work to do to evidence his case and therefore wants to shortcut this and take the easy way out. Very rarely does this approach favour the contractor.
The problem is that at the end of the project, the “gap” may be too big and expectations too far apart. Clients also rarely believe in poorly drafted claims and it can take a hell of lot of work to shake off this perception.
From my experience, the best way is to particularize and evidence variations and claims as best you can as and when they arise – deal with the detail in the issues there and then! Then sit down to meet and talk regularly, in other words “grind” the detail; this avoids parties becoming entrenched in differences of opinion and enables the contractor to manage expectations better. Both his and the clients!