If you think back over your career in this industry, undoubtedly you have learned a few hard lessons. One way to leverage the value of these lessons is to add a layer of protection into the proposals that you offer your customers. The official name of these clauses is proposal conditions. Let's review a few of them just to get you thinking.

These proposal conditions are usually not contained in the body of the proposal, but are preprinted on the back, or included on a separate page. They are referred to as the "fine print" of a sales agreement. If you pay attention, you'll find them on nearly every agreement you enter into.

Proposal conditions are comparable to the terms and conditions we all click through and agree to when we make a purchase on-line.

Preface
Before listing these additional conditions to proposals, language such as "Advanced Mechanical agrees to perform the work described in the attached proposal subject to the following provisions:"

After this introduction, make a list of specific conditions that protect you and your customer. You'll notice each of these are fairly standard, but each may clear up a potentially hazard condition that may affect the general well being of you or your company.

Expiration
This proposal is good for a period of up to 90 days from the date of the proposal.

If you leave a proposal with your customer, and they decide not to act on it, this clause sets a deadline for them to accept the proposal and then the offer will expire. If you don't, and say their furnace dies 6 years later, could they sign it at that time and expect you to install a new furnace at a 6 year old price? OK, how about a year later? Or four months later during your super bust season?

Change Orders
The cost of any changes to the scope of work will be priced individually and agreed to, in writing by both parties, before additional work is performed. The cost will be added to the original project price.

Change orders occur on nearly every construction project. I should know; I'm just completing a remodel on my home. The cost of the original scope of work has increased the original contract significantly. And it's been worth it. The four new skylights are gorgeous. The dry rot in the walls in the living room and on both sides of the front entry had to go, even though the original contract called for siding repair. Change orders were discussed with our contractor upfront, and when the need became apparent, we had already agreed on the process.

If you don't discuss the possibility of change orders, most customers will assume, when unanticipated problems become evident, that your company should have previously found the problem and included it in the original contract. Don't laugh, especially in retrofit and remodel work, homeowners are amateurs.

Scheduling
Work is normally scheduled to begin 7 to 10 business days after the proposal has been signed and the deposit has been paid.

This does not apply to change-outs, but for larger jobs and new construction it can be critical.

I remember arriving at a job site with a roofing contractor friend of mine. The job super jumped on the roofer the moment we arrived and demanded he show up with at leas a 12 man crew the following day. The roofer calmly replied. "It may surprise you sir, but this isn't the only job I have going right now." The job super was speechless. The roofer then calmly stated that he would arrive on the project, and start work following Monday morning. The argument was over.

Financing
Until written verification of available funds is received from the lender, no work will commence on the project.

This sounds pretty tough, but if your customer does not have the cash and financing is a condition of the proposal, you would be extremely unwise to invest any money in a remodel or construction project before you receive confirmation from the lender.

Mechanics Liens
We reserve the right to file a mechanic's lien at any time.

Remember, many of the homeowners we work with are novices at the game of construction and may be extremely offended if a mechanics lien is filed on their home. Mechanics lien filing laws in many states are very prohibitive and require contractors to file them well in advance of any payment default. So let your customers know in ahead of time.

These are just a few examples to get your mind thinking in the direction of publishing your own list of proposal conditions to add to your sales agreements. As you can probably read between the lines, each of these conditions was born during a project gone bad, or as a result of an unhappy customer situation. They happen, and proposal conditions can limit their occurrence.

The primary value of adding conditions to your proposals is to allow you to discuss the fact that sticky conditions may arise during a construction project, and to make your customers aware in advance.

Remember many of your customers are novices in construction and both of you will benefit by using this educational approach to solving problems in before they happen.

Rob "Doc" Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a free list of Proposal Conditions you can add to your diagnostic testing proposals contact Doc at robf@ncihvac.com or call him at 800-/633-7058. Go to NCI's website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, technical articles and downloads.