For those who have as yet not experienced the benefits of design/build, I suggest your No. 1 priority for 2006 be to investigate the design/build process. For many, the benefits of the design/build significantly outweigh a more common alternative: design-bid-build.
If you have read my past columns, you know that I started as an architect. Architects are different than remodelers. I know this because my partner and I are both architects and design/build remodelers. We find ourselves pitching our design/build firm to architects, and we find ourselves pitching our architecture credentials to individual clients and developers. One might think we’d have a clear advantage in both cases, and in fact we do, but by-in-large it still comes down to developing a personal, win-win relationship with another human being. But that’s the easy part, maintaining the relationships is much more difficult and time-consuming.
If there is going to be a problem, it usually stems from the fact that architects’ egos preclude them from seeing a benefit in partnering with a remodeler. This is the major hurdle to overcome. Here are a few simple business practices that we have learned by wearing both hats:
- Be professional: Architects come from a world where they are taught to be professionals.
- Demonstrate mutual respect: Your relationship with an architect should be the same as the one you have with your clients. The relationship with an architect must be mutually beneficial.
- Maintain simple courtesies: Do unto the architect as you would like him/her to do unto you.
- Maintain open lines of communication: Don’t keep secrets from your architect. If there are budgetary restraints on a project, talk about alternative solutions.
- What you bring to the process is your wealth of construction knowledge. Be responsive and proactive with your relationship, just as you do with your clients. Know what each of you needs out of the relationship. The only way this works is when you communicate.
- Define your mutual goals and roles: For any relationship to succeed, it is mandatory that you open the air and understand each other’s goals and responsibilities.
- Define projects: As you establish your alliance, it might be helpful to discuss the types of projects with which you are most comfortable, be they kitchen renovations, whole-house renovations, additions, etc. If your specialty is kitchen renovations, partnering with a commercial architect probably is not the right choice.
- Keep promises: One of the main principles in our vision statement is “to only make those promises we can keep.” I cannot tell you how important this is in any relationship, business and personal.
- Maintain realistic confidences: Being realistic about any relationship provides you with a platform on which to build and maintain a client relationship. This includes many of the principles listed previously, i.e., communication, respect and courtesy. These are also the principles that most of you live your lives, so why not extend them into your business life as well?
As with any relationship it takes time and patience to make it work. The relationship must be a two-way street. This includes mutually sharing referrals. If you bring a client to an architect, maybe you are the point person for the project. Likewise, if an architect brings you a client, the reverse may hold true. Somewhere in your community there are architects who want to partner with remodelers because they see the benefits and rewards. How do you find one? Join a networking group, chamber of commerce or a local architectural organization (the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) or the Society of Registered Architects (SARA). Contact one of these organizations and get involved.
NAHB Remodelors Council and NARI also have strategic alliances with many of these groups. This can be a place to start. Remodelers are in a business of preserving and improving the lives of our clients. All of our actions should be measured by our success in achieving this goal. Partnering with an architect can help you both with that goal.