K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

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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. 

Mar 23 2015

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Dads Gain More Respect with Regard to Home Design

Image from marin, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from marin, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Steve Kleber of Kleber and Associates, an Atlanta-based home brands specialist and marketing data company, says it just makes good business sense to pay attention to how homes and families are depicted in advertising, in pop culture, in the movies and on TV. His company conducts studies and plumbs research to more effectively market home-related products. Its data found that men are more involved than ever in home design and making appliance choices.

This renewed respect for and spotlight on fathers has ramifications for all areas of the home. The more casual, active lifestyles of families today have dad not only grilling outdoors, but also in the kitchen. With workout spaces in the home becoming more prevalent, men are also making design decisions for the bathroom, favoring multi-head showers and other high-tech features.

According to a study by the NPD Group, a retail and marketing data company, not only is the number of men involved in cooking and cuisine at a historical high, but today’s men “covet mixers, toasters and gourmet appliances just as much as navigation systems, mobile phones and audio components.”

Men are no longer relegated to man caves – the dark recesses of the basement (unless it’s converted into a world-class home theater) – but are actively enjoying the whole house. The modern dad also finds time to coach his child’s soccer or softball team, attend parent-teacher conferences, carve out a space for a home office and install a fully equipped outdoor kitchen with fireplace on the terrace – all with one hand tied behind his back. Just kidding; one project at a time.

The message is clear: Men matter – whether married or single, with or without children. Their decisions include all facets of lifestyle products and services for the entire home.

Hold on…it’s Manwich time!

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