KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Lloyd Princeton

Lloyd Princeton

Lloyd Princeton is a business consultant and motivational speaker devoted to interior design and architecture. Princeton frequently speaks in North America and has lectured internationally. For more, visit www.dmcnyc.com and www.imatchdesigners.com.

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.

Sep 26 2013

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Are you really saving money? The case for investing in professional services

Coin Dropping Into Piggy Bank

The recent global recession has dramatically changed the world and people’s perception of value and service. In fact, I’d say we have ushered in a new epoch, one that is indeed value conscious. It would be overly simplistic to suggest that the recession alone has caused this way of thinking. Access to information on the Internet has also contributed to this mindset largely because people equate access to doing and implementation, when the twain do not necessarily meet.

The result of this is that consumers feel compelled to negotiate and bargain down products and services, often times to their detriment. In short, just because a vendor is willing to work with a low offer doesn’t mean that it is in the customer’s long-term best interest.

We know for a fact that there was a great erosion of wealth when the capital markets tanked. In the U.S., the subprime residential lending market appears to have led the way, causing rapid loss in equity that led to unprecedented foreclosures and more market uncertainty, etc. People lost financial wealth and confidence in one fell swoop.

Nonetheless, they still need to do certain things, like remodel their homes or move into new office spaces or forge ahead with life by opening new businesses or moving to different states. These changes require the professional services of interior designers, architects and landscape architects, and the many contractors and subcontractors who actually implement the designs.

Here’s the rub: In almost all instances, the costs of running the professional offices have not gone down, nor have the cost of goods or labor for the contractors. What has decreased is income, and what has increased is client expectation.

It’s kind of a perfect storm for things to go wrong, unhappy clients and their design partners, wrought with clients demanding more and vendors trying to appease the requests in order to get the work. Professionals and artists need to practice their craft and stay in business and the clients need the services and products provided; it’s supposed to be a win/win.

The result of this “perfect storm” is the probability that firms are forced against a wall to cut their margins so significantly, that they are just in business to “keep the lights on.”

In the short-term, this can be all right since it forces a firm to look internally for cost savings. However, in the long term, after the cuts have been passed through, senior staff laid off and everyone working longer hours, it leads to loss of job satisfaction and design creativity, mistakes made from excessive hours and less oversight and the need to find other ways to make up the profitability.

In the end, the client pays for these mistakes in cost overruns and change orders or perhaps in design that is not what it could be because the firm simply does not have the extra time needed to find the perfect solution. There is a difference between good design and great design, the latter of which needs to be nurtured and supported.

As a quick reality check, I think it is fair to say that there are some amazing firms that are exceedingly busy right now and still manage to command the fees they need to produce top design and quality implementation.

I would suggest that those clients choose to pay what is required and recognize that a high level of customization and creativity needs to be supported in a proactive and enthusiastic way. However, the majority of firms are suffering and many have gone out of business. Yes, we can all sharpen our pencils. But, at the end of the day, creative talent needs to feel appreciated and one of the ways this is done is by paying what the talent asks for and becoming a preferred client, not just a “keeping the lights on” client.

Lloyd Princeton is a business consultant and motivational speaker devoted to interior design and architecture. Princeton frequently speaks in North America and has lectured internationally. For more, visit www.dmcnyc.com and www.imatchdesigners.com.

Aug 27 2013

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Common materials, uncommon eye

kitchen counter top view

Have you ever seen a piece of art in a gallery or museum and thought, “I could have done that?” Frequently and often, I make that remark within earshot of a wise friend who retorts, “But you didn’t!”

Just because something seems simple or obvious doesn’t mean that it is. And while the finished product may seem unremarkable, the initiative to make it is what counts. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

Similarly, people often walk into a space and say, “I could have designed this,” particularly if the products used are recognizable from familiar sources – say Pottery Barn or Ikea. Yet the same response holds true in this scenario as well: “But you didn’t!”

Often, some of the very best design or architecture is well done because it looks effortless, simple and yes, perhaps obvious. Without knowing the background of the clients, designer, the direction given to the designer or the budget, it is presumptuous to suggest that something is simple or easy to do just because the resources used are available to the public.

The design industry had maintained a certain allure for many decades by utilizing sources that were available only to qualified design professionals. There still are many stores, workshops and studios that will only (or at least truly prefer to) work with design professionals because it is easier to do so. They would rather have orders placed for custom products and services by people who understand what they are asking for, know how to ask for it and can envision the outcome.

This is vastly different from the retail model, which usually has ready-made product that can be viewed and acquired on the spot. Unless the merchandise is damaged in transit or while being delivered, the buyer gets what he sees. This is not the case with custom orders, which take time and vision in order to be placed and received.

So for a variety of reasons, such as timeliness, cost and certainty of what is being purchased, design professionals and consumers increasingly prefer retail sources for interior design projects.

Here’s the rub: Just because a consumer can buy an item from a store doesn’t mean that they would have selected it or paired it in the way that a designer would. Therefore, the end result of a project – whether sourced from all retail stores or a combination of retail and custom sources – is neither easy nor obvious, though it may seem that way.

If we can agree on the preceding points, then the natural extension of this is design fees and pricing. There are many ways in which a design professional can charge for their services, from a percentage of an entire project, to time and materials, to cost plus merchandise and so on. Any option that utilizes a mark-up on a designer’s best net cost is entirely reasonable. That means if the source is Williams-Sonoma and the product is $1,000 less a 10 percent discount to the designer, and then a 35 percent mark-up is applied, the final cost is $1,215 (plus tax). It doesn’t matter that a consumer can walk in and buy the product for $1,000 – they didn’t. The $215 is the service charge that covers creative talent, selection time, placement in the home and whatever is agreed upon.

Remember, everything is agreed upon in advance, and as a customer of a design professional, your job is to give direction, provide feedback, write the checks and then get out of the way and just enjoy the process and the end result! Period.

Lloyd Princeton is a business consultant and motivational speaker devoted to interior design and architecture. Princeton frequently speaks in North America and has lectured internationally. For more, visit www.dmcnyc.com and www.imatchdesigners.com.