The design staff at Titus Built, Wilton, Conn., consists of the director of project development (also called the lead designer), an architectural designer, a kitchen designer, and a draftsperson who supports all the drawing efforts and specifications. Burke Cheney, the company's lead designer, assigns and delegates work, generates the design proposal with clients, conducts weekly design meetings, goes over the status of jobs, and does most of the conceptual designing.

Owner Jeff Titus is able to focus on the budget aspects of the entire design department. At the beginning of the year, he sets up a budget and establishes a financial goal. “In order to [meet] that, we have to design this amount of work. ‘What resources will we need?' ‘Are we hitting those goals?' What we budgeted and accomplished is important,” he says.

Titus looks at key metrics and tracks them. “How long does it take to get from initial concept agreement to hand-off to construction? If we can better predict that time frame, we know our resources and can schedule around it,” he says, adding that “our initial concept agreements are hourly, but we want to be accurate. How long does it take us, and how much are we billing on average?”

And he looks at the overall costs of the design phases. He bills out design time at different rates depending on the position assigned to tasks such as permits, review boards, existing and proposed drawings, and revisions. “I go by gut feel and history,” Titus says. “We use that to provide better information to the clients.” The typical time frame from concept signing through construction handoff is about three months. “Ideally, we'd like to tighten this up but based on what's involved, I think that's pretty good.”

His financial person generates a monthly report, which is used to track new design concept agreements sold and potential construction dollars, as well as construction dollars in the design/build stage and how they are trending up or down, and total design income versus design overhead.

All of these figures are used to keep everyone accountable and on task.