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Archive for Business

Aug 26 2015

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Three Big Lessons to Apply to Your Own Business

Laurie Brown is an NKBA University Instructor and customer service industry veteran with 29 year of experience. She says exceptional customer service has become a must to survive and thrive. Below are some big lessons she has shared from a few big players synonymous with excellent customer service.

Lesson from Zappos: View every customer interaction as a chance to build your brand.

From its hassle-free return process to personalized responses to customer complaints, Zappos has created a fiercely loyal customer base through its world-class customer service. And since satisfied customers sing the company’s praises via word-of-mouth marketing, its budget allocated to marketing is nominal. Disclosure: Zero marketing spend may not be the best practice for many designers, builders, etc., but harnessing the power of your satisfied customers is – especially when 84 percent of consumers first and foremost trust recommendations from friends and family, according to a recent Nielsen survey.

Lesson from Amazon: Strive to be a customer-centric company.

Amazon knows firsthand when everything is aligned – from operations to logistics – to work for the ultimate benefit of customers. In the long run, this benefits Amazon, as well. While the design and construction industry can’t always deliver in two days or less like Amazon Prime, we can, however, take a look at our project management and operations to determine how we can better – and in a more timely fashion – meet client needs. Improved efficiency means happier clients, faster job turnaround and ideally, more work.

Lesson from Uber: Manage expectations through frequent, timely communication.

This on-demand car service champions customer experience through its app, which communicates with users throughout the entire process (examples: surge charge notifications during rush hour or rainy weather, estimated pick-up time, etc.). By maintaining constant communication with your client, everyone stays on the same page when it comes to progress, timeline and budget.

For those attending KBIS 2016 in Las Vegas, Laurie Brown will also be leading an onsite NKBA U course, “Born to Buy – Grow your Kitchen & Bath Business with Multigenerational Clients.”




Jun 17 2015

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Tips for Making a Lasting Impression on Your Clients

Image from Idea, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from Idea, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In our K+BB Designers Network LinkedIn Group, designers Anne-Marie Harvey, AKBD, and Cathy Osborne discussed this topic: How do you leave a lasting impression on your clients? Do you follow up after a project to see how things are going?

We want to share the discussion with you.

Anne-Marie Harvey, AKBD

I make an effort to get to know my clients and understand their needs and preferences. Rather than trying to “sell” them something, I take more of a consultative approach in attempt to solve a problem.

I also try to keep a positive attitude – even when something goes wrong. These things, I believe, leave a lasting impression. I do follow up with past clients with holiday greetings and supporting any businesses or efforts they endorse whenever possible.

Cathy Osborne

You leave a lasting impression on a client by letting them know that they have left a lasting and positive impression on you. I love Anne-Marie’s comment about supporting their personal efforts. It is really important to make a mental note of things they may have shared casually, such as “That’s not a good day for an appointment. I volunteer on Wednesdays at the Food Bank.” Now you know something that is truly important to your client. You might comment: “That must be really rewarding. I’ll bet you have changed lives.” That brief dialogue can lead to a stronger connection between you and your client.

Remember their kids’ names, greet the cleaning lady. The lasting impression will be that you interacted with them as a whole person, not someone spending X thousands on “The Smith Project.”

Anne-Marie Harvey, AKBD

One of my past clients makes jewelry, so I attended her first show and bought some of her pieces! This couple had spent two years in the Peace Corp in Belize before moving back to the U.S. The wife had mentioned that she fell in love with an exotic wood called Purple Heart, and she loved the color purple. When they decided they wanted a second material for the upper level of their island, I remembered the exotic wood and found a local source. I also found granite that had purple streaks and mineral deposits. It brings me great satisfaction when I can find elements my clients really love!

May 20 2015

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How Healthy Is Your Business?

Image by hywards, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by hywards, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To make sure your business is in top shape for the rigors of the summer remodeling season, keep these vital signs in check:

  1. Keep a Strong Pulse on Your Finances. Knowing exactly where your business stands fiscally enables you to make smart decisions when it comes to growth and expansion. Commit to updating your P&L statement each month and do a solid review each quarter with your team to stay on track with your goals. If this is a chore you dread and avoid, see a specialist (like an accountant) regularly to make sure your business stays healthy and well out of the red.
  1. Flex Your Management Team. A solid management team empowers business owners and senior managers to work at their full potential. You may have started as a sole proprietorship, but you don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) do it alone. Motivate your management team by communicating how their work directly affects the overall health of the business, and assign more responsibility as they demonstrate competency. You may find they feel more empowered and committed to the success of your business.
  1. Look at Your Business Plan as Your Backbone. Like your P&L statement, your business plan is a living, breathing document. Revisit it quarterly or every six months and make revisions as needed to stay on track to achieve long-term goals and to stay on strategy. This will not only help make growth goals a reality, but provides an opportunity to bring key players from your business together so everyone is on the same page with deliverables and action plans required.
  1. Check your hearing. Your employees are your business’ brain trust and their insights can prove invaluable when it comes to improving daily operations that can impact profitability. Are you listening to them? Good business owners know solid internal communication begets success, so develop a healthy mix of formal meetings and casual touch-points so direct reports can give status updates. Sharing knowledge consistently not only helps prevent a major ‘illness’, it manifests externally in the service and experience you provide your clients.

– Kimberly Morrison, CKD, CBD, NCIDQ, ASID, IIDA, IDEC
has more than 30 years of experience in the field. She is also the interior design program coordinator for The Art Institute of York Pennsylvania, overseeing the development and implementation of curriculum relevant to the ID and K&B fields. 

May 01 2015

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From Hotels to Homes

David_RockwellThe words, “There was this hotel I really liked…” have turned up more and more frequently when discussing design aesthetic with a client. People travel and explore for retreat and inspiration, and often when they return, homeowners realize that they can have a similar escape at home too.

This past week I had the honor of hearing architect David Rockwell speak on what inspires him to create the hotels, restaurants, theater sets and other spaces for which he is famous. The Rockwell Group, founded by Rockwell in 1984, has imagined and built some of the most creative structures seen in recent years. From a journey-like experience in an Asian restaurant to a moving train on a Broadway stage, the company’s creations drive the hospitality world and therefore are leaking into our residential designs.

“The barrier between work, home life and socializing is more permeable than ever,” said Rockwell. “So it’s making sense to mash up several ideas into one.”

By this he’s referring to the idea of taking what people want – like a beach house – and finding a way to insert it into the mundane place they need it to go, like a plain old office space. He reaches for inspiration around the world to find ways to incorporate these ideas practically, and we can use similar methods in residences. Here are some of my takeaways from his inspiring talk.

Fear up front is a good thing. Having been asked to do the stage set for the 82-tc-1009Academy Awards, Rockwell was intimidated by the scathing criticism the ceremony often gets. He took on the challenge by looking at choreography and movement.

“People move in arc movements,” he said, explaining how the importance of a journey to a space is just as important as the space itself.

Only 20 percent of a project creates the memory. In TAO Downtown in New Tao_NYC_Downtown__David_rockwell_groupYork City, the restaurant is laid out in such a way that the entrance feels like a transformation into a different world. The main seating area, set up in a unique theater format, faces a giant statue illuminated by projected animation. Even though the majority of the budget went to the statue’s animation, most of the diners say they remember the statue more than anything else in the building.

yotel-01Environments tell a story. Looking to the past for inspiration is old news, but by melding different parts of the past – like 60s air travel and Japanese hospitality in Yotel hotel – an entirely new space can form.

There is a power in things changing. Designers are no strangers to this. Rockwell felt this experience the most after 9/11, when he was asked by a New York mother to build a playground to replace the one destroyed by the attacks. His creation resulted in a series of building-block playgrounds called Imagination Playgrounds, which have changed communities around the world.

“Be curious,” Rockwell said. “You’ll see how the eccentric things you love in design can pay off in the future.”