New Outlooks Construction Group
We hired a kitchen and bath designer with 10 years of experience working in a manufacturer's showroom. We looked within the industry to find someone with experience, who has knowledge of the products and of what we do.
Clients want better products, and there isn't enough time to do everything else and help the client make selections. The designer expedites the process. That's her job, to pull that together. This way, you direct the client, so it happens at your pace. In one day, you can accomplish what a client might not be able to do in two or three weeks.
Contract architects don't like to get into the fine details. They give you the plans, but after that, they don't give you enough time to work with them. Or they're billing the client at such a high rate, it's unaffordable. Also, they can't qualify a budget.
At my company, we have a kitchen designer and an interior designer on staff. They both help customers with selections and have CAD drafting skills.
There's so much out there in the marketplace, the customers get bogged down. I call it "paralysis by analysis." Having a designer to work with clients has really helped expedite the process.
Adding both designers has definitely increased our revenue. We can charge a design fee, so design is its own little profit center. And we've seen a jump in the size of our jobs because we can turn down smaller jobs where the client won't pay a design fee.
Feinmann Design Remodeling
I had been working out designs with a subcontractor. About five years ago, I got to the point where clients were saying to me, "Your designs are good, but you can make them better."
Now we have two staff architects. Designing in-house gives us better control, which means we're able to serve our clients better. But it's not the easiest marriage in the world. The risk is phenomenal. When you've got one architect involved in a number of jobs, it can get ugly real quick.
When you hire a designer or architect, it's really critical to understand whether the person is going to integrate well into the construction process. They're taught to look at things in a different light. Creativity reigns, but the question is, can you build it? You also want someone who works well with a team. If they don't have a commitment to the team, it will be a very bad match.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
I hired a draftsman with residential experience, thinking he'd help speed things up. But my time hasn't been freed up enormously. It's speeding us up, but I'm still the bottleneck. I'm still stuck with all the design work, in terms of specifying colors and products, and so much of remodeling is involved in that process.
I've also tried contracting architects to draft plans, so we can expand our volume. But interiors need to be designed before you sign the contract, and I've found most architects don't want to touch the interior part of it. We're still left holding the bag. Also, some architects only bring one design. When you do design/build, you have to bring multiple designs. Then you figure out what the client really wants and flesh it out.
We grew to the point where we were losing opportunities because I couldn't process the projects fast enough. Working out the details of kitchens and baths became too time consuming.
We hired two interior designers out of a local design trade school. One specializes in the mathematics of cabinet design, and the other, in colors and materials.
I like to look at the big picture, so I hired individuals who could complement me and take care of the details. It really becomes a collaborative effort. You get a lot of talented brains working on the same project, and they're all looking at it from a different angle.
Our designers are also there to be a resource for the homeowners. Customers are looking for that expertise, and they find it very appealing to deal with the same people through the whole process.