As a smaller remodeler, we know we can’t offer enough work to be any provider’s best customer. But if we put the majority of our projects into one source, we can be that one provider’s very significant customer and receive a measure of service commensurate with our ‘purchases.’
We’ve been working under this scenario and its variations for years. We’ve gone from providing a couple options to a prospect and letting them choose to now offering them the design through our company, with the designer as a "tool." This is no different than integrating the services of your most valued electrician, plumber, mason or any other trade contractor into your team.
We think we’ve found this solution to be best of both worlds — providing the services that satisfy our customers without incurring the expense or investment necessary to establish a design department.
Establish Guidelines and Procedures
Our business is remodeling, plain and simple. However, we find it appropriate to establish guidelines in offering design services similar to those of our trade contactors for other services. It is no more foreign to a prospective customer than getting that person to understand that we don’t perform every trade and task "in house" during the project.
It is key, however, to establish the rules/procedures up front, and to invest the time needed to properly set the expectations of all concerned. Here’s how we do it:
- Establish who will offer the actual agreement to the prospect (which we believe should be the remodeler or general contractor).
- Decide who handles changes in design scope and how they are handled.
- Create a basis for cost.
- Understand scopes of work as they apply to design.
- Recognize the stages of design (from concept to prelim, including estimate level drawings, to finish or permit-ready drawings, including engineering and other needs).
- Communicate effectively with your prospects so it doesn’t matter any more whether that designer is in house or not.
We’ve been through several different variations of this approach, and when it hasn’t worked we examined what we should have done differently to preempt failure. In most cases, it was because we simply lost (or didn’t have) control. Some architects just couldn’t subjugate themselves to our processes and had to have our client as their client, sans our input, influence and, of course, control over the process.
To counter this, we have found it important to stay involved with the architect or designer during every stage of the process, not just to meet when the final design is completed. To do this, we write the design agreements so our designer is bound to us.
While there are probably just as many valid arguments for in-house designers or design departments, we’ve decided that we’ll do what we do best: produce quality projects to our customers and let designers do what they do best — design, delineate or produce the drawings and other documents needed.
We’ve become satisfied — even convinced — that this is the approach we want. But, like every other process, it will need monitoring, updating, improving and managing.
Gregory Miedema, CGR, CGB, CAPS, is president of Dakota Builders in Tucson and chairs the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association's local Remodelors™ Council, which he founded. He is also a member of the NAHB Remodelors™ Council Board of Trustees and currently serves as the vice chair of the Remodelors™ Council Public Affairs Committee. The Southern Arizona Home Builders Association (SAHBA) named Dakota Builders, Inc. Remodelor of the Year in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Miedema can be reached at 520-792-0438 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of Housing Offers Courses and Designation Programs
The NAHB University of Housing offers a variety of business management courses and professional designation programs that set builders and remodelers apart from the competition. For a complete list of current offerings, click here.
'PREP: Your First Step to CGR' Offered at IBS
PREP is your first step to becoming a Certified Graduate Remodelor™ (CGR). For more information on PREP offerings at the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 18 and 22, click here.
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