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Jul 07 2014

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The Seven Most Common Negotiating Mistakes

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While even the word negotiation can evoke fear, stress and anxiety for many, the intent is quite simple: to discuss and ultimately agree on a deal. Whether it’s a multimillion-dollar contract or just deciding where to meet for lunch, life is rife with negotiations. And, the negotiation process is a lot like a chess game where strategy reigns supreme – one thoughtfully considered move at a time. Make a careless, shortsighted, ill-conceived move and suffer the perilous consequences.

Even when faced with the most daunting of deals, regarding the act of negotiation as a ‘game’ may alleviate the apprehension and give you the confidence to make power plays that will ultimately facilitate your desired result. Unlike strategy games like chess, however, the most effective deals are a win-win proposition for all parties rather than a winner-loser result.

To help individuals maximize their bargaining prowess in business and in life, below are the most common mistakes made during a negotiation:

  1. Lacking confidence. Many people think they need to show a certain kind of confidence, like being loud, bold or brazen, to successfully negotiate a deal. Others think that a lot of experience is required to be a good negotiator. Most of the time it merely takes tenacity and good old preparation to ensure you are aptly equipped to assert mutually desirable terms, anticipate objections and discern what are motivators or hot buttons will resonate with your opponent.
  2. Thinking something is non-negotiable. When you think like a negotiator, everything is negotiable! When you decide that the terms for anything can be changed in your favor, a world of opportunity presents. Of course, as with most things in life, there will be rules to adhere to with each deal on the table, which are needed to evade chaos and keep discussions on track. However, even rules can be modified if you simply propose an ethical, viable and mutually beneficial alternative solution.
  3. Not building relationships first. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes individuals make in regard to negotiation and business in general. Perhaps you have attended the standard networking event where you give dozens of cards out without having a real conversation with anyone. It’s time to slow down and start making real connections with people – particularly those with whom you might be involved in a deal later on.
  4. Not asking for what you want. There is one key truth in negotiations: You must ask for what you want. People naturally fear rejection or were taught not to be greedy as children, so we instinctually refrain from asking for things in life. It is important to understand that if you don’t ask you don’t get, and the only way to master the art of rejection is to get rejected and keep asking.
  5. Talking too much. This is a sure-fire way to kill a deal. Have you ever been offered a product or service and the salesperson kept talking until she talked you right out of the purchase? When discussing a deal, if you simply stop talking and get comfortable with the awkwardness of silence, your ability to win your argument, sell the product or a get concession in the negotiation increases significantly.
  6. Not documenting. The importance of getting the final agreement in writing cannot be stressed enough. Even better, consult with a contracts attorney to review contractual documents or any that require a signature. The purpose of a written agreement or contract is to provide protection for both sides and alleviate any ambiguity of terms. Documenting the agreement eliminates such perception problems and protects the interests of all parties involved.
  7. Signing without reading. Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s imperative you read what you are signing – no matter how large of a packet it entails. Modern life is fast-paced, making it difficult to focus and causing some to sign legal documents without reading them first. Make sure you read any agreement or contract in full to ensure you are not confirming terms you will regret and cannot undo, which can cause copious problems for your future.

Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez is author of Think Like a Negotiator and is the CEO of Dynamic Vision International – a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills. She is also a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the art of negotiation. www.ThinkLikeANegotiator.com.

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Jun 04 2014

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Atlanta Food and Wine Festival – A Little Something for Everyone

AFWF

Being a member of the press definitely has its benefits. I was able to enjoy for the first time the Annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival this past weekend – it’s in its fourth year, and although it called for rain, we managed to escape it. My boyfriend accompanied me, and we both highly enjoyed ourselves. If you haven’t gone, definitely make it a priority next year.

Food samples

Restaurants and drink labels from Georgia, as well as several surrounding states, were on hand to give out plenty of Southern food and drink samples, including barbeque, fresh seafood, red and white wines, craft beers, bourbon milkshakes (my boyfriend’s favorite – he went back for thirds), sweets, cheeses – you name it, it was there. While we wanted to stay for the whole three-hour program, after 90 minutes, our tummies were just too full. We took a break at the 45-minute mark but then made our way back into the crowd – after all, there were still items to be savored!

Me getting wine sample

Big Green Egg – probably a favorite appliance a lot of designers and homeowners specify in their outdoor kitchens – was a sponsor, as well as Sub-Zero/Wolf, Kingdom Woodworks Cabinetry, Brumark Total Flooring Solutions, Calphalon Cookware and Le Creuset. After eating some sausage, BBQ, Indian cuisine, fried seafood, cheese, various salads and even half of a Patron popsicle, we left with our tummies full and a lot more knowledgeable about available local food and drink – as well as some of the appliances used to provide it.

Ribs

I plan to attend some of the available classes during next year’s programs so I can see how some of the exceptional talent prepares world-class dishes.

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Jun 03 2014

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How to Keep a Budget – and Your Client – on Track

DollarDollarDollar

K+BB recently asked the question in our Designers Network LinkedIn group: Has anyone had experience designing a kitchen or bath on a tight or otherwise challenging budget? The helpful responses provide insight into tips to keep the budget on track, as well as the clients.

Anne-Marie Harvey, Kitchen and Bath Design Consultant

New paint, door hardware and faucets can go a long way in freshening up a room. If your house was built in the 80s or early 90s, removing the dated borders, wallpaper and the often-matching window treatments can also help. Many people with limited budgets do not want to make any fixes that cannot be reused in a future update, so I tend to keep it simple.

Tom Clarke, CKD, Certified Designer at Baton Rouge Design Studio, LLC

To keep cost down, if we’re talking about replacing an existing kitchen, start by finding out what the client likes about what they have and what they would prefer. Re-purpose anything that can be reused that the client is okay with. Replace cabinets with a door style that fits the budget in an affordable wood species. Sure the client would love to have cherry cabinets, but maple wood with a cranberry finish may fit the budget better and still give the same appearance (almost). Laminate is still the most cost-efficient surfacing material for kitchens. If laminate doesn’t fit the bill, imported pre-cut granite slabs will be the next cost-effective material (in my region). Strip convenience features from the cabinets such as rollout tray storage and lazy Susans. Many of these items can be purchased after market and installed by the homeowner later when budget allows. I won’t ever “kill a corner;” the additional cost for that blind corner or easy-reach cabinet far outweighs loss of the additional storage.

Paul Kenning Stewart, Owner, PROJEKT HOME/Originals by Design (Member NKBA)

Doesn’t matter ‘who’ the client, everyone has their budget limitations including myself. A budget is a challenge, and a good designer should be up to it. In some cases it also means sourcing and turning that sow’s ear into a silk purse while listening/working with the client.

Debbi Washburn, Kitchen/Bath Designer

Everyone has a budget – some are easy and some are tight. I like to educate my customers on what the differences are between my entry-level lines up through premium semi-custom lines so they know what they can purchase with different budget sizes. I discuss the amount of time they will be remaining in the home. I also discuss what the scope of the project is. Once we determine that, then the discussion goes to the things that must be done “right” the first time – cabinets, flooring, plumbing, electrical – and items that can be put off until later – high-end counters, rollout trays, fancy backsplashes and even appliances. This allows the customer to get the bones of the space done and return to the more easily changed items when their pocketbook will allow.

Deneane Bradtke, Owner, Brookstone Design, Inc.

It doesn’t make sense to place expensive counter tops over lesser-quality cabinets. And layout is king. A good, well-functioning layout is the most important thing that we, as professionals, can give our clients.

Sharon L. Olsen, AKBD, Designer’s Edge Kitchen, Bath & Interior Design

As an independent designer, I find that when clients contact me, they are not looking to reface items – they want to remodel their spaces often due to poor layout or materials that are worn out. I agree with the comments that we must manage expectations and help them understand the costs associated with even a budget remodel. However, we do this all the time – for most people, they remodel maybe once in their lifetime. It is about us educating them and helping them achieve their goals within a realistic budget. Value engineering! There are so many wonderful products now that are quality and mimic the high-end look – the laminate countertops at KBIS this year are one example. Understanding how much DIY skill they have can help control costs with demo, painting and in some cases tiling back splashes as long as it does not impact the construction schedule. I have helped clients with staging a project over several years, which can allow them to afford the items they want. It has to begin with good bones – function, layout, updating electrical and plumbing to code, ventilation, cabinetry and flooring. The rest can be added over time.

Patrick Forse, Design Professional

A “tight budget” for someone with $100,000 to spend is vastly different from someone with only, say, $10,000 to spend. Surely a budget for work is just that – an amount of money put aside to do the work. The client is the one spending the money; it’s not ours. I think because of some inflated prices by certain manufacturers this creates a false idea of how much a client should spend, but I think the question should not be about a “tight budget” but an “unrealistic budget.” The client wanting the very best on the market but with an amount of money that won’t meet [those needs] – now that is one to solve carefully.

George Gobes, Park Avenue Designs, Inc.

Every job has a budget. The question is, how do you arrive at it? A budget is only tight or challenging when an unrealistic customer expects you to provide them with a product that costs more than they can afford or are willing to pay for. Since accurate costing is difficult for some in our community, many designers don’t know when to walk away from a poor prospect. Here is my tip: Tell the client to infuse more cash into their budget or lower the project’s specs. If you don’t, they will become your headache – and more importantly, your wallet-ache!

Erica Kalkofen, Remodeling Designer – My Remodeling Designer

We frequently run into this scenario and have several easy solutions. First, we find out how much the client is willing to participate and show them that the more they participate, the more they can keep the costs down. Second, we find out their buying preferences (Ikea, stock, semi-custom, full-custom) and make recommendations for them based on that. Third, (depending on the situation), we may opt to take a lower margin but higher project management fee on the products they opt to purchase from us. Fourth, we offer a design-only service that gives clients a way to get all the details they can purchase on their own instead of purchasing and installing everything through our firm. We have done kitchens for very little and kitchens for quite a bit, and it all boils down to good design and showing clients how they can achieve bliss in their space.

Charles Cameron, Owner/Principal Designer at Design Details

I would not usually recommend repainting cabinets, but walls and countertops are an easy way to give a space a boost. The thing I find that most ugly kitchens have in common is bad lighting. It’s not always an easy thing to fix, but it buys more bang for the buck than any other change. K+BB recently asked the question in our Designers Network LinkedIn group: Has anyone had experience designing a kitchen or bath on a tight or otherwise challenging budget? The helpful responses provide insight into tips to keep the budget on track, as well as the clients.

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May 08 2014

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Key Issues for Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers When Working with Multi-Unit Projects

Image from Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With banks cautiously loosening their grip with proven investors and morale percolating with hopeful intent, the building market for condos and multi-unit housing is again showing signs of life. South Florida and outer Manhattan, for example, are two markets that are sprouting new construction for apartment sales and rentals.

When working on these kinds of projects, communication occurs among four main contacts: the buyer, architect, manufacturer and client. The buyer is either the general contractor, the developer or the owner of the project. The buyer generally communicates directly with the architect on building products and furnishings for the building. It is the architect’s responsibility to give clear adherence to the manufacturer in regard to drawings, specifications and approved designs. The client in this case is considered the buyer of the unit and should always have a clear understanding of what cabinet choices they have.

Pointers for Successful Communication

The manufacturer is usually in the passenger seat, trying to get the project awarded. For a working relationship to be successful in the long run, it is important that the manufacturer doesn’t oversell. The company needs to face any limitations realistically in terms of volume, production times and manpower. A mutually beneficial relationship depends on respect and professional understanding.

Product Selection: What to Consider

The decision about a product, especially from the kitchen and bathroom category, is most influenced by past experience, budget, the architect’s recommendations and the marketing/sales division. All of these factors are valid, however, in most cases marketing wins and is most influential in the buyer’s decision-making process

Important factors for the selection include the manufacturer’s capacity, performance and reliability of the product. Many buildings today are looking to meet LEED or USGBC requirements. Market value and the reputation of customer service during and after the installation of the building product should be considered even before meeting with the company.It is up to the architect and buyer to fully research the company in reference to financial strength, longevity and overall performance. Often it is up to the architect to make the initial selection, which s/he will then present to the buyer.

A good barometer for production capacity for a small project should not be less than 200 cabinets per day. When a buyer or architect is in the decision-making process, they need to consider what type of track record a company has and how long the company has been in operation. Later down the road, a developer does not want to be faced with problems obtaining replacement parts. This impacts the decision of the fronts for the kitchen; for example, it may not be wise for a developer to choose an exotic wood front in the event that at a later date it is no longer available. Another issue when selecting a cabinet is with book-matched fronts. Should a buyer select book-matched and one cabinet front in a unit gets damaged and a replacement is needed, all fronts need to be replaced. In this case, the buyer must weigh attractive design with long-term practicality.

Questions for the Buyer to Consider:

- What is the delivery time from the release of the design to the jobsite and through final installation?

- Who is taking care of the installation?

- What type of packaging is being used?

- How many cabinets do the developer and architect expect to be delivered per day? Per week?

- Are parts readily available at the factory? If not, how are they supplied if replacement parts are needed?

- What is the warranty in the event that a product is damaged upon receipt at the jobsite, and what are the terms and conditions when a cabinet becomes damaged?

The buyer also has the right to ask the manufacturer for a performance bond, which is a document issued by a bank or insurance company to guarantee that the value of the work will not be lost in the case of an unfortunate event (such as insolvency). A performance bond is also known as a “surety bond,” which is a promise to pay the obligee a certain amount if a second party (principal) fails to meet some obligation, such as fulfilling the terms of a contract. A suitable manufacturer for a multi-unit building should be able to present this bond. A company with good credit or good standing will be able to get one.

Reaching the Final Agreement

A signed shop drawing by the architect or buyer’s representative, including a written production release by the buyer, is the only way to create a final manufacturing agreement. A shop drawing is the best receipt for the buyer and manufacturer as long as it is completely clear, detailed and mutually agreed upon.

Final plans should be attained by the manufacturer to specify and draw the project correctly. The plans provide detailed information, including ceiling heights, electrical plans with outlets, plumbing diagrams, final floor-by-floor detail, requirements for appliances and countertops and finally, provisions for cabinet backing or inside wall material, which is always important when mounting cabinets.

Outside-the-box requests sometimes arise from the architect or buyer in regard to upgrades, for example. Sometimes a penthouse unit will have features the others don’t. In this case, clear documentation to upgrades and credits needs to be established up front. Red flags for kitchen manufacturers start when the company starts to design products outside of their business model. A manufacturer performs better on multi-unit projects when producing products from its own product line rather than creating “special” products.

Consistency in quality, color and style for cabinet door fronts is the responsibility of the manufacturer to maintain during the production process. Most large cabinetry companies equipped to furnish high-rise developments have a specialized Quality Control Department to undergo rigorous checking and testing. Additionally, depending on the size and duration of the building’s progress, aging and storage need to be considered especially for raw (wood) materials. For real wood fronts, in the case that the cabinets arrive on time and the project is delayed, storage must have be kept dry in a dark cool place and out of view of any direct sunlight.

Because the buyer and architect have so many decisions to make for one project is the reason a project can be held up. The fewer kitchen choices a buyer offers to their end client, the least amount of difficulties are expected in reference to ordering, specifying and installation. Giving a customer too many choices, especially those who live out of town, will create delays, confusion and disappointments because of more complicated decision-making. It’s generally recommended not to give customers moving into a new building more than two packaged design options for their future kitchen.

Special Conditions

Kitchen designers may run into special conditions from the buyer or architect, for example, they may want to see the kitchen in full before the release of the main production. A real-life, mock-up kitchen has many great benefits for all of the trades. First off, a mock-up display is a great way to test the design and clear up any uncertainties. If the buyer or architect has questions or concerns, seeing the design in real life solidifies their decision and approval. A mock-up also reconfirms that the electrical, plumbing and appliance fittings are correct. Lastly and most important is that when the building is on the market to ensure the look and feel of the design underscores the unit’s marketing goals.

Jobsite

Scheduling of appliances and cabinetry should be a priority. It is important to keep the flow of communication constant throughout the entire phase of the project for notifications on delays and milestone dates to better align delivery and performance. Before installation, the manufacturer should appoint a chief installer who serves as the go-to for technical issues. Union and OSHA requirements can be requested to be presented by the manufacturer to ensure that proper safety is executed on the jobsite. Also ADA requirements should be discussed before approaching the installation.

Training and knowledge of the facts and demands of the job are acquired through factory training and experience. Professionalism is attained when the right person acquired the proper experience and skills. Last but not least, servicing multi-unit projects requires the highest level of integrity from the manufacturer’s representative combined with attention to detail and an innate interest and passion for the trade.

- Lothar C. Birkenfeld is a National Kitchen and Bath Hall of Fame award winner and a 30+-year veteran of the European custom cabinet industry. Birkenfeld discusses what it takes to make it in the cabinet business as a manufacturer for multi-unit projects.

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