KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for October, 2010

Oct 26 2010

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Make your client feel good

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou

People buy because it makes them feel good.

Obvious, right? We’re in the business of fulfilling the wants and needs our clients have about themselves and their home. These needs come from one source: emotion. Want. Need. Love. Ease.

“If I only had a window here to let in the sunshine and light, it would make me happy.”

“If I only had a place to store the juice boxes and the homework, then the kitchen wouldn’t feel as messy and I’d feel more in control.”

Even a new stove is about the feeling of satisfaction from something that works.

“The kids love the new stove, and are cooking 24/7. Score!” (Well, we’re also in the fantasy business too.)

Answer all questions matter-of-factly, no matter how surprised you may be.

As we’ve discussed before, we forget clients don’t know our field. We’ve answered these same questions countless times—hard not to get impatient when we’re mired and the electrician needs an answer now.

Nothing spoils a relationship faster than a buyer feeling like an idiot for asking a question.

I remember the first time I went in to buy a car. Now I’m certainly not comparing us to car salespeople, but I’ve always kept this in mind for my own clients. I was excited, right up to the point when I innocently asked if the hubcaps could be changed. The car salesman actually rolled his eyes. Talk about a killjoy.

If he’d been a good salesman, he could have:

• Explained why without the eye-roll. “This is a cheaper model, and only comes with this style. Let’s keep looking—we’ll find something, or let’s explore why this is a sticking point.”

• Paid attention to my needs. “No, it doesn’t, but let me think here. If I can get another set in the style you liked, would you buy the car?” Answer: probably.

• Shown me an alternative, even if it was higher. “This car has the exact hubcap you like. It’s more expensive, but comes with power steering.” (Benefits, benefits, benefits.) Would I have upgraded? Who knows? I did what every belittled buyer does: walked out and bought down the street.

Engage your clients in terms that they understand (but determine what their understanding is first.)

Aren’t you finding clients today are a fascinating blend of understanding complicated details, while missing the most basic knowledge?

Take my mother and her relationship with a computer. She can unlock locked Excel cells faster than a hacker, install complicated programs, understand ftp (file transfer protocol), but still has a challenge finding her downloads in her document folder. (Don’t tell her I told you.)

Asking “Do you know what a (fill in the blank) is?” can be useful. So can the follow-up: “Would you like to know?” While you may find a half-hour discussion on ceiling treatments and scissor trusses fun, not everyone does.

Me, I keep Maya’s quote pinned to my desk.

Until next time,


Oct 25 2010

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Nobody is perfect, except for us Environmentalists

Don’t hate the player, hate the game

eric 1My little family in our (gasp!) swimming pool
Courtesy: Ann Summa for The New York Times

Last month, I was interviewed for the Home Section of The New York Times. The article, entitled “Green, but Still Feeling Guilty,” looked at several green experts to discuss the things in our lives around which we still hold some guilt. When asked if I still felt guilty about my environmental impact, I responded, “Yes, are you kidding?! All of the time!” and then proceeded to talk about how I changed my own home to cut energy and water use.

eric 2

I spoke at length about our graywater sink, our ultra-low-flow showerhead and the dual-flush adapter for our toilets.

I even mentioned the reused 2-liter soda bottles I slipped into the bank of the toilet tank. Half of the water inside my home (and probably yours) either goes down the toilet or the shower drain. These simple measures save more than half of that wastewater. Anyone can do them too, which is why I was excited to be included in the article.

eric 3

While the article reveals the tips and conclusions these experts have drawn in their own lives, the overall tone of the article (and of the reporter I spoke with over the phone) was one of expecting perfection. We expect environmentalists to live impact-free lives. Someone stands up and says we need to change the world and, instead of listening and considering the information, we look for the things they are doing wrong. Is this human nature? Or is it just easier than facing reality?


Just a few days ago I was giving a lecture and was asked if I felt guilty about all of the jet travel I take to give my talks. “Do I buy carbon offsets?” they asked. I get this question often, and it tells me we are all missing the point.

For an exercise in frustration, take a moment to read the public comments on your favorite political site. They are shouting matches. Most of the criticism is not countering the salient points of the article, but instead attacking the actions and character of the reporter. It’s an old trick: Someone makes a pointed argument and the other distracts them by attacking them on an unrelated point. And I see this with environmentalists all of the time. Sometimes the loudest criticism comes from your fellow environmentalists.

The day after winning the Academy Award for An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore received a wave of criticism about the energy use in his Nashville home. The facts didn’t matter. Many used this bit of juicy info to dismiss his message about climate change entirely.

The idea of environmental perfection is one you quickly abandon (or lose your mind trying). I see it among my eager students who, armed with their new knowledge, skirt to edge of a nervous breakdown over their own impact. You’ll recognize these students by the nervous twitch and Nalgene bottle.

I have news for you. There is no perfect solution; there is no choice without impact. Our job, our responsibility, is to measure our impact and find ways to mitigate or reduce it. We have to do this to buy ourselves some time while we redesign the world.

Going back to the Times article, it criticized me for our swimming pool. As I write this I feel this impulse to inform you it’s an unheated, covered, saline pool with a variable speed pool pump run during off-peak hours. But then I realize that is my guilt talking again.

Should we dismiss the larger message because I have a pool?

(If you think so, I refer you to read Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human.)

While our national political discourse has descended into shouting matches on television, we can’t afford to lose sight of the environmental issue. We are all in the same boat, and physics doesn’t care if you believe in Global Warming or not.


Eric Corey Freed is an architect and author of four books, including Green$ense for the Home.

Oct 22 2010

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The quest for productivity

It seems the quest for productivity never ends…at least for me. In the course of my working through a myriad of project management systems and settling on www.wrike.com, there seems to be another piece of the puzzle that has been lacking. Within a certain, manageable, workload, this other piece may not be as critical, but it is coming into play for my business now, maybe for you too, and I’d like to share it with you.

It’s…drumroll…a calendar. Stick with me and I promise a solid idea to enhance productivity. In my business, I am finding that I am increasingly involved in a variety of responsibilities, all related to my business and the kitchen and bath industry in some way. And that number of responsibilities is rapidly increasing. Regardless of the project management system I have implemented (which does add organization to tasks and projects), perhaps being an entrepreneur, I am finding that I may not be picking and choosing what tasks I do and when I do them with the best of judgment…plus, I’m a creative person, so by default, I’m a bit of a free spirit, and too often, my mood guides my choices. Sound familiar?

Enter the calendar. I now realize that I need to schedule some of my tasks and to put them on the calendar, putting into play a good cop/bad cop scenario…with myself playing both roles. Some tasks are on a daily repeat schedule within the calendar; all the others are scheduled as needed. Oddly, I found myself resistant to attaching a scheduled time to something that was not a “real” appointment with another person. I have no idea why. But my juggling skills had me dropping balls here and there. I knew I had to implement an additional layer of structure…real structure. I had to procure my “good cop” (and I knew she was there somewhere) to get me into line.

In addition to scheduling some (not all) tasks into the calendar, I am devoting one monitor (I have three set up in a row in front of my keyboard) to displaying the calendar, visible all day as a gentle reminder to GET THINGS DONE. I’m using Google calendar as my calendar of choice, as I love the many features of the calendar, such as color coding; multiple calendars (relating to particular categories of common tasks with a separate name for each calendar) within the central calendar; multiple reminders for any given appointment; and one feature which makes me very happy…the ability to include the image of my choice (in my case, a rose from my garden) as a background, which makes me want to LOOK at the calendar. 

google calendar 2

Putting some special tasks on the calendar will be sort of a timely back up, a structured piece that is connected to my general project management system. If you feel, too, that you need a good cop to keep you on the right track, let that good cop (the office manager side of your brain) schedule your important tasks. The calendar is not only for appointments with other people…it’s also for appointments with ourselves to help get tasks done. 

Susan Serra

Oct 20 2010

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7 Tips to Skyrocket Your Business Success

What’s holding you back from incredible success in your design firm? Would you like to know how to step up to the next level?

What is success to you? You don’t have to meet other people’s expectations. What matters is your own personal vision.

1. Design your business with the end in mind from the very beginning. It’s just like building a house. You need plans and a solid foundation before applying shortcuts. I’m assuming you have a great idea, great products and you understand the principles of business success online. You can’t take it to the stratosphere without lots of little details working well together.

2. Become an expert at what drives your business. That includes sales, marketing and copywriting. If you just have these three skills with a great product or idea and you hire someone else in house or outsource everything else, you can be a great success in almost any economy. Focus on the drivers for at least 2-4 hours a day and watch what happens even in a down economy. Become a celebrity expert in your market.

3. Survey your market. Find out what they really want and what they’re willing to pay for it before you create it. Why spend your hard-earned money developing products or services that might not sell. You’ll save valuable time and be seen as a marketing genius in your niche.

4. Build your expertise in the core product or service you’re offering. Invest in yourself and your business. Become a fanatic for learning faster and better about what drives your business and about what your clients and customers care about more than anything. Appeal to the emotions of your clients instead of marketing with a shopping list of services you provide.

5. Ignite your passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, find something else to do. It is called work for a reason, but if you passionately enjoy what you do, it seems easy and effortless in spite of the hours of work.

6. Outsource or delegate your weaknesses. Quit trying to do everything. Stop doing things that you don’t do well and focus on what makes you and your business unique and build on those strengths. If you’re not good at doing something or you don’t like to do it, why spend time trying to improve what doesn’t make you happy?

7. Joint venture. This is the rocket fuel for your business. If you are good at networking, take your end plan and think about who you could partner with to get in front of people who have access to your ideal client. Figure out what you can offer them first, and then do that. Give and build a relationship on trust and mutual benefit. When the time is right, you will know when to suggest a joint venture that could benefit both of you. When you do this, you can double or triple your business in no time.

Join a mastermind group. Push each other and really commit to bringing your gifts to your group. Choose carefully. The people you associate with determine your success.

I am a huge believer in getting the right education from the very best people you can find to teach you what you need to know to be successful. Why learn the hard way? Go to people who are at the top of their game and pay the price of learning from them. You’ll only cry once.

—Gail Doby, ASID, is co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of Design Success University. She is an Interior Design Business Shortcut and Success Coach to thousands of interior designers globally and is also a Social Media Strategist.