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Dear Thea:
In your last column about mechanics liens you mentioned a job sheet. Would you mind sharing what that is and important items to have on it? I would appreciate it.
Signed, Managing in Montana

Dear Managing:
I received several such requests, so here goes:

A job information sheet is the first step in securing my lien rights. It allows me to gather all the information I need while we are all still friends and singing kumbaya. As you are probably already aware, once payments slow up and things start to sour, it is not the best time to be asking for detailed information.

The job information sheet should include:

  1. Your customer’s name and account number. If your computer system allows you to set up a separate "ship to" under the customer’s account, that is optimal. You can set a separate credit limit on that particular job. You can also track shipments; it makes the invoices easily identifiable.
  2. The job name.
  3. The exact street address of the job, including city, state, and county. Yes, county. You will need that information; The second entrance past the large oak tree is not an address. If you have trouble getting an exact address, go to the tax assessor’s website in that county and look it up (told you that you would need it). You will also find the property owner’s name here as well. It’s something you will need and want to be able to confirm.
  4. The property owner’s name. You have to know who to send the notice to.
  5. Your customer’s customer. Usually, that’s the general contractor, but it could also be the property owner. You need their exact addresses, plus phone numbers.
  6. What type of job is it: Federal state, private, public, bonded? Generally speaking, federal and state jobs have bonds attached to them (you can't lien a federal or state job, so there is a bond in place for you to attach to if payments become a problem). It never hurts to ask, because some private jobs have payment bonds in place. If there is a bond, ask for a copy of the first page. This should give you all the bond information you need.
  7. Amount of the job for your portion only.

Beware Suspect Entries

That should cover it. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Don't kid yourself. I arm my sales guys with these job information sheets to either fill out or fill out with the customer. Over the years I have seen some pretty creative responses. So watch out for:

  • Every line having the exact same answer. If your customer, the owner and the general are the same information, that is probably fiction.
  • Every line blank EXCEPT for your customer’s name and the name of the job. That is the rep’s equivalent of "I don't know, nor do I care, I just need you to approve this."
  • Illegible squiggles. That’s a poor attempt to look like information was gathered.
  • The owner and general contractor are the same. This could be true, but most likely is not.

Once you get the job information sheet back and it looks a bit bare or sketchy, you may just have to call your customer and fill in the blanks yourself.
You will explain this job sheet many times over to your sales rep and to your customer. You are explaining the lien process and the laws regarding them, educating your customers and sales reps on the process.

Potential Job Sheet Instructions

I have explained the lien process so many times that I created a job information instruction sheet. It also gives the sales rep something to refer to.

The instruction sheet is a written version of walking sales reps and customers through the job sheet. Among the instructions you should consider include:

  1. "Fill out all lines completely. Blank lines delay processing."
  2. "Provide owner’s name and address when possible. If you cannot get owner’s name, list who our customer contracted with and what the relationship is. Who we are selling has a direct impact on our lien rights."
  3. "First shipping/labor date and your portion of the job. Estimate completion date."
  4. "Provide complete address of job site."
  5. "If job is sales tax exempt, include a copy of the tax exemption certificate with the job sheet. This allows us to set the job up correctly from the beginning.
  6. "Some jobs come with purchase orders, they also go on job sheets."
  7. "If bonded, we will need a copy of the bond."
  8. "If you have questions, ASK!"

You can throw in some Q&A on the sheet if you like. These will arm your sales team with additional information and cut down on calls to you. They can review it before they approach the customer.
Be less concerned about the number of pages and more concerned about getting it right. You can put both items together and make sheet job sheet information packet so everything is together.

I don't expect my reps to know the process inside and out; their job is to sell. Any support you can provide to make the process easier is your job. They will appreciate it, even if they don't say it!