You sit down with a client at your first meeting, or maybe it's at a site measure, and you begin to have a conversation about the project. They know exactly what colours and style they like, they want to move a load-bearing wall, electrical and plumbing, but they do not want permits. The budget is too low, the timeline is too short, and it's all just very surreal. Before you decide how far to run from this job, you ask yourself 'where did they get this wrong information?' Having been left mystified, you, the designer, poke and prod to discover that the Saturday Superhero Client spent the day watching "Disaster DIY". Far be it for me to judge with my years of experience, certifications, and formal education, but I call this "The HGTV effect" : low budget, big ideas, and done quickly.
I have slowly begin to really understand the disparity gap recently. A few months back a colleague of mine had a meeting in our showroom and the client brought her contractor. I listened, from my partition wall, to the whole meeting and I couldn't help be feel angry the entire time. It wasn't just her annoying high-heeled shoes clicking on the floor as she ran around the showroom like a peacock, it was the contractor who sounded like he was half my age and was that snot-nosed kid - he had an answer and a better way to do everything. After they left, I did some online investigation on the contractor - he's laid paving stones and now he's a contractor.
"Nowadays you fart and you're a designer" - Phillippe Stark
Design is not just a creative career, it is a career in economics. The second foundation of microeconomics tell us that production, costs, and efficiency - or quality, cost, and time - must be in equilibrium. We know in our hearts that for us to hit our targets of customer base, sales goals, EBITDA margins, and employee moral that all three of the principals must be working together to be in the zone. We also know that if production slips, costs and efficiency suffer, as would costs and production if one of the others slipped. Okay, so by know you might be asking, "corg, what the eff is the point of all this?" Well, I'll tell you.
You can not win a client over, make a sale, hit your targets if you do not have a relationship with them. The relationship is not a sleazy car-salesman approach. It is a sincere, genuine, and honest style that allows you to focus on the bottom line without actually focusing on it. In a day an age where 62% of the home-owners design their own kitchen and only 3% of the designers are actually designing a kitchen1, I think we can do a better job of working with clients rather than shunning them from our exclusivity.
Right about now, I'm reminded of a joke that one of my favorite clients just told me yesterday:
A guy gets into a really bad car accident and his private parts are all mangled. He needs surgery badly. While on the mend, the Surgeon has a discussion about the upcoming surgery and the endowment that he might be bestowed.
The Surgeon says to the guy "Because this is plastic surgery, it's not covered by B.C. medical. Depending on how much you want to spend, will depend on the length. You may want to call your wife."
The guy promptly gets on the telephone, and during the discussion with his wife, he slowly becomes saddened and begins to slump with disappointment.
"What happened?" asked the Surgeon, and the patient responds "She wants a new kitchen."
1. National Kitchen & Bath Association, 2010 NKBA/NPA Consumer Study