Communication.Listening and understanding your needs. Accountability. You work with the same person start to finish.
Resources. To build your project.
Experience. Knowing and understanding the big picture.
Note above that the first letter of each sentence when you look down spells the word "CARE" and that is a good place to start when considering someone to work on your home. Do they care about you? or they simply see you as another job to "Bang Out" and move on. Do they care about how the project will affect you while it's taking place? Do they care about how your project is built? About the best way to do things?
Let's take a look at the above and really, they are a way of doing business rather then "secrets".
Communication- Of all the things that can go wrong on a project, lack of communication- both ways can really have a detrimental impact on a project. A well versed contractor will keep you in the loop even when there is a problem. Folks get annoyed when they are constantly having to ask "What's going on with my project?"
Communication is not just been reachable by phone or email. It's have a start and finish date for the project, it's having a clear readable contract. Having specifications for the project. It's telling the client regularly about what's happening and what's going to happen next. Yes, it takes work to do this, however it makes for a smooth project that glides over the bumps that will occur.
Accountability- Simply put, clients should be able to know who to go to and have assurance that things will be taken care of when there is a problem.
Resources- It's not just about having bodies to do the work. Rather it's about having trade partners who have a depth of experience to tackle just about any project. It's also about working together as a team and thinking ahead for the next craftsman so that his job is made a little bit easier. Having the right tools will also go along way towards building a better project efficiently.
Experience- With today's increasing specialization, it's rare to find a contractor or craftsman who has worked across the trades and has built a project from foundation to finish. It's critical to have someone who can step back and understand the big picture. From knowing how to control moisture in a home to building bathrooms with universal access. Being able to identify potential problems in a kitchen before anything is built. Working for years in whole house remodeling has provided me with the ability to see and understand the big picture.
In selecting a contractor, builder or craftsman, See if they CARE.
How do they communicate? Where does the buck stop if there is a problem? What resources do they have to ensure the project is completed right and in a timely manner. What big picture experience do they have?