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Oct 10 2014

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K&B Talent: What Potential Employers Are Looking for in YOU

Image by of Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is much talk about not being able to find reliable talent in the kitchen and bath industry. This LinkedIn discussion asks professional what they are looking for when hiring talent. What qualifications do they desire? What level of experience is required? What kind of experience – marketing, tech, business savvy, design – is necessary?

Anne-Marie Harvey, Kitchen and Bath Design Consultant

One thing I learned in my previous career is that having the correct pedigree is not a guarantee for success in any given field. Having the right disposition, as well as the ability to use your entire brain, is crucial for success in this business. I encourage business owners to take a chance on hiring people who chose kitchen and bath design as a second career and graduates of NKBA-endorsed kitchen and bath design certificate programs.

As in any other career, the process of staying up to date and maintaining your proficiency is ongoing. Talent is overrated; some people with tons of talent waste it because they lack the work ethic required stay on top. If you have someone with a true passion for what they do and the aptitude and work ethic to improve, they are likely to be successful.

Rex G Hirst, CKD Au, Interior Designer at Let’s Talk Kitchens & Interiors

What we all do in this profession very much requires a right brain, left brain set of skills, which are REALLY hard to find. We recently sent out an advertisement that stated: If you are a qualified CKD, CBD or interior designer with loads of experience in the K & B sector – with a minimum of five years of REAL commercial experience – then we should talk. What was interesting when I placed this advert was the sheer number of applicants we got from all around the world, (about 60) and the very few who could meet the criteria. It’s not that the applicants aren’t there; it’s the fact that most just don’t have the skills.

Something else that I believe is critical in anyone looking to work in a creative discipline is the desire to do great work, not just make money. 
If you are good at what you do, the money will automatically follow your success. The word “passion” comes to mind. It’s not findable on the resume, but if it’s there, you’ll see it in an interview and the way they talk about past projects.

Cathy Osborne, Designer at Auer Kitchens

Within a 150-mile radius of Cincinnati where I am, most of the design firms are small, family-owned businesses – particularly at the high end. The hardest thing to find is that intangible “good fit.” A personality that meshes well with the other five – 15 people within the company, complementary (not identical) personal goals and expectations, a similar amount of “fight” in their souls, background that provides experiential balance for the company. 
Those may seem like trivial or frivolous qualifications, but the secret weapon of a small business is having team members pull their weight more-or-less equally, who genuinely respect, trust and support each other and who are willing to seek recognition for the group, not for the individual.

Growing a respected company name has immense value, and one poorly chosen person can set a company reputation back years. I could overlook a few weak spots in the credentials if I saw, for example, “five-year volunteer for Habitat for Humanity” or “PTA president” on the resume. As time consuming as it is, the interview is far more enlightening than the resume.

Nina Green, Principal Interior Designer at NGD Interiors

I would first like to see somebody who has an interior designer degree. This lets me know they have had the basic technical/space planning training that I am looking for. (I am willing to overlook this if there are other strong qualifications/credentials as in years of experience/certifications, etc.) I am also looking for skills that can’t necessarily be taught, i.e., organization, attention to detail, a sense of aesthetics, enjoys being around people/communication, etc.

The rest depends on the level at which I am hiring them. If I want a junior designer/assistant, I would prefer them to have basic interior design skills, some kitchen knowledge experience, and I would guide the rest. If I am looking to bring on a designer at the senior level, I look for designers who are at my level or higher who prefer to be independent, preferably with a CKD/CBD.

I think it is important that designers understand the business/sales side of things, but I have found through guidance/role play this can be refined. I do prefer that the designers have had training/experience selling to low-middle markets & high-end markets, as they require different skill sets. In terms of marketing, business, etc., I would typically outsource these to consultants that only do that function.

Amy Britton, CKD, Founder, Owner & Principle Designer, Artisan Kitchens LLC

Honestly, I almost think I would prefer to train someone from scratch. The character traits I would look for are: true artistic tendencies (eye for color a plus but not mandatory), bright engaging personality, eagerness to learn, superior attention to detail, good computer technical skills, literacy and organizational skills (!) and ability to work with people. All of those can be shaped into a competent K&B designer with good training and mentoring. And yes, we are all “designers,” but there’s also a sales component to what we do, and someone who is reclusive or introverted ultimately isn’t going to be a success.

Nava Slavin, President of The Creative Edge, Inc.

Designing a kitchen requires some very specific knowledge. You need to understand space planning, circulation and the overall use of the space. One needs to understand the requirements for appliances, electric, venting and plumbing.
We need to have product knowledge, know how different floors will affect heights in the room and how symmetry or asymmetry will look. Once you have all the technical knowledge, you need to understand the best ways a kitchen

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Sep 12 2014

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The Package Deal – Not to Be Overlooked!

When contemplating all of the possibilities available to you for structuring the pricing for your design services, I recommend you consider an option very often overlooked, or simply dismissed entirely – the package deal.

If you’re among the designers I speak to who question this approach because you think it in some way devalues your services or hurts the overall industry, I urge you to explore this pricing strategy a bit further with me.

Now while you can’t build an entire design practice on this particular pricing model, it is another tool in your arsenal for expanding your business by accommodating a particular niche of clientele that you might not otherwise have a plan for doing so.

For example, you could run a “New Nest” package deal for the kid’s room of a young couple, or you could create a package deal for a half-day of retail shopping, consisting of a two-hour consultation and  two hours of shopping, after which you provide the client with all of the information necessary to make the purchases themselves.

These are both examples of ways you can use package deals to appeal to specific types of customers, from new families to the DIY crowd, based on what they need and what they can afford.

If you’re still concerned that offering package deals might turn off more affluent potential clients, just realize that even some of the wealthiest Americans still shop at Walmart. The fact is, regardless of their station in life, people rarely turn their nose up at a good deal.

For more, visit: www.dmcnyc.com.

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Sep 04 2014

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Is Houzz Helping or Hurting?

Image by cooldesign, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by cooldesign, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

K+BB recently asked our Designers Network LinkedIn group: What are some challenges you are dealing with as kitchen and bath professionals? Some of the responses were expected and others were a surprise. Read on and see if you feel the same way, and feel free to comment here or in our LinkedIn group.

Rex G. Hirst, CKD Au, Interior Designer at Let’s Talk Kitchens & Interiors

While I am in Australia, I think our challenge here is a universal one – to find reliable, ethical, creative, commercially savvy design/sales staff who put the client and their needs, wants, etc., ahead of their desire to simply make a pile of money. While we all work for a living, it seems to me that most people just focus on the “what’s in it for me?” While understandable, it’s never going to make you really successful, as your client’s will sense that they are just a paycheck for you, not an opportunity to do something special.

Too many people forget that making money is the result of success, so if you just focus on getting it perfect, the money will always take care of itself. It should be the result of your success, not the reason for working. Every great salesperson I have ever known has been driven by passion, not money. The funny thing is, these people also make the most money.

John Meade, Kitchen and Bath Manager at H. N. Hinckley & Sons, Inc.

My biggest challenge is keeping up the workload. With the economy doing better I have more customers, and they want kitchens that are more custom than ever, which requires more hours. This includes changing dimensions of cabinet boxes and face frames and even modifying door styles. Most of these clients are regular customers, so I have to keep up with their needs. We are not busy enough to hire another designer yet, so I am in that in-between stage with the pressure. It’s not a bad challenge and much better than the alternative – I’ll keep pushing to the next stage.

Houzz and TV Influence

Karen Hockley, CKD, CBD, Kitchen Designer

Having been a sales rep for a cabinet company for seven years and just re-entering the design world has been eye opening. One of the biggest challenges I am seeing seems to be the customer’s budget versus their wants and desires. In the last 10 years, I have seen a change in customers’ wants, which may be a reflection of consumers visiting Houzz and watching HGTV. Technology and innovation is moving so fast.

Ten years ago customers were focused on purchasing quality cabinetry and a great kitchen. What I am seeing now is everyone wants granite or quartz countertops and the latest appliances, and the quality of the cabinetry they purchase is not their primary focus. I wish there were more websites with real kitchens along with budgets for the job. This would go a long way toward helping consumers set realistic goals, expectations and budgets for their projects. It is always a rewarding experience making customers’ dreams come true, even on a limited budget. I believe this and passion for design fuels myself and many designers in the industry.

Cathy Osborne, Designer at Auer Kitchens

Houzz and “Property Brothers” can cause another problem – a sort of “wave the magic wand” syndrome. I have many customers who do have the square footage and the budgets to do those grand rooms you see; they know there will be enough storage and countertop space – with 600 square feet, how can you not? But they think you can skip the design phase and leap directly to a pretty picture of something that looks “just like this Houzz shot”…“except sort of like that one.”

To adapt the look to their space and have something to render and price, one must have a plan. How many islands? How many sinks? Coffered ceiling? Design consultations with certain clients can be frustrating because they get bored with the academics. You never see that step on TV where the fully designed 3-D kitchen springs forth from the space, and it is instantly perfect. Clients are seeking that “big reveal” moment and are disappointed that getting their dream kitchen requires time, hard work and not much drama.

Lai Fung, Project Development Consultant/Designer at Paris Kitchens

HOUZZ and TV renovations shows – kitchens are getting more and more custom and detailed. I’ve been in the kitchen industry for nearly 20 years, and homeowners’ expectations are higher than ever.

Debbi Washburn, Kitchen/Bath Designer

Early on Houzz you saw real, everyday homes and projects – ranches, split levels, capes, etc., great before and after photos of 70s kitchens with avocado green appliances and dark cabinets with vinyl floors, which were turned into beautiful little kitchens. Now when you do searches, most of what you see are these grand kitchens with 10-ft. ceilings. While it is great to see those for design ideas, it would be nice to have a search option for smaller kitchens – spaces that fit that tighter budget many people are working with.

I use Houzz quite frequently with my customers; it helps them express what they are drawn to. Most of the time they don’t even know that the doors are inset/custom or that the counter is some expensive marble or exotic granite, they just like the look and how it makes them feel. Then we look at it together and pull apart the photos to find out WHY they like it. By already knowing their budgets and the scope of the brands I carry, I can discuss with them cost issues and help them find alternatives. My customers often have gone to a big box store first, so not only do I have to get down to that pricing, I still need to show them their dream kitchen so they don’t have to settle.

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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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