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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.”
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Feb 19 2015

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To Bill or Not to Bill for Your Time

Image by phasinphoto, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by phasinphoto, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In our K+BB Designers Network LinkedIn Group, Cindy Sherman, a kitchen & bath designer in Fort Morgan, Colo., asked the following questions: Do you charge for your “shopping” time, whether online, thumbing catalogs or meeting with local contacts? If I take the time to do all of the selections and they don’t purchase them through me, I have wasted valuable time. How do you all handle this?

We want to share the responses with you.

Kristi Wyndham, CKD, Lead Designer at Beaches Woodcrafts

As a 35-year veteran in the kitchen industry, I have ALWAYS charged for my time. If you don’t put a value on your time, no one else will. I use it as a qualifier; if they are not willing to put down a design retainer, they are probably not in my market. I do give every client one free hour of consultation to sell myself and my services. This is a verbal consultation and a few pencil sketches…by the time we are 30 minutes into the meeting, they are signing the retainer check. Many of those who have walked away after the hour send their friends to me because they learned the hard way that my fee is worth every dime.

Laura Vlaming, CKD, Certified Kitchen Designer at Arkiteriors

I charge an hourly rate for all design services, period, but no markup on products, since pricing can be found on the Internet. I tell my customers they are paying for my time and my service. If possible, I have the customer pay the vendor directly, telling the vendor I am passing on my discount. My customers are happy about getting the discount, and I’m happy I can get my value in services provided. The caveat is that many times I don’t charge for all the time I actually spend searching for that perfect light fixture or knob.

When it comes to the plumbing fixtures, depending on the project scope, I often have the plumber order the products per my specifications. The plumbers I work with give the customer a good price so they can have control over all the parts required. This works well, so 1) The plumber is responsible for coordinating pick up/deliveries & possible returns or missing parts (time). 2) When the plumber is passing on discounted pricing, it discourages clients from purchasing on the Internet, possibly ordering wrong (or omitting parts required), leading to job delays.

Anne-Marie Harvey, AKBD, Designer/Owner/Author at Fresh Kitchen and Bath Design, LLC

I also charge for all of my time. It says right on my website that clients receive one hour of complimentary time where we discuss the project in detail, but no work begins until I receive the project initiation fee. I also have a four-hour minimum charge, so if someone doesn’t want plans drawn up, for example, just needs help with selections, they must pay an invoice for four hours of my time before we begin.

I often end up spending a bit more time than I bill for, but if you are spending time on someone’s project, you should be paid. I am only designing at this point, so I am not making money on selling products. I know some designers who sell product will return some of the design fee or give a reduced rate if the client buys through them.

Cindy Sherman, K&B Designer in Fort Morgan. Colo.

Thank you for the insights, it seems we all struggle with similar issues – spending more time than we bill for. I have trade accounts with some companies that complement my business, as well as a local showroom. If the client is interested in a particular sink and faucet, it’s easy for me to find one through my resources. To compensate, I can either bill for selection time or add a margin to the product (which is minimal because I still pass along a discount). I guess it’s a way to control that the correct products/specifications/dimensions are selected and make sure they are on site when needed.