We spend a lot of time trying to get better at what we do. It’s more than design, materials and production. A huge amount of what we do is related to people. We are talking about your home. We need to be empathetic, honest, an advocate, and communicate clearly. We truly aspire to be the best Design Build firm on the planet. But… something that is not often mentioned is that great projects typically involve great clients. It’s time to turn the tables. What makes someone a great client? I’m so glad you asked. While not an exhaustive list, the following are characteristics that make for a great client.
- They have an opinion. This is really important. We want this to be YOUR project. We will guide and suggest but ultimately you make the call. If you don’t like something, tell us. You won’t hurt our feelings- it’s about the project, not personal. If you find it difficult to articulate what you like, tell us want you don’t like. It will help us get to a project you love.
- Great clients don’t let too many cooks in the kitchen. It’s actually a great thing- after the project is complete! But while the project is being developed “crowdsourcing” decisions is not always the best path. Design issues often do not have right or wrong answers. The right answer is what works best for you and your family unless you intend to sell the home in the next few years. Every person you ask will have a different opinion and this can lead to confusion. If you need other opinions, lean on your designer. They don’t want you to make a mistake. If that is not enough, ask someone that understands you and what you value.
- Are realistic about expectations. A project takes time to develop and produce. It doesn’t work like on tv, we are not going to move a bus or create photo realistic renderings in real time. There will be some inconvenience during construction. Things will come up.
- Communicate. Let us know your schedule- are you busy or out of town for a period of time? Did you see an image on Houzz that you just love? Are you particularly sensitive about something? Another item is to explain to us the best means to communicate with you. Designers tend to be very visual people- we often communicate project details via drawings. Not everyone understands drawings. Some people prefer a phone call to a long email. If you prefer to communicate in a certain way, make sure the person you are working with understands this.
- Great clients make decision and stick with them. The path to a decision can take many different forms. Some clients make decisions quickly, others want to ponder for a while, either method is a perfectly reasonable approach. Take the time you need to decide and then stick with the decision. Your first inclination is usually the right one.
- They are fun and enthusiastic. Getting to personalize your home should be exciting. If it’s not, something is not right. Communicate what is dampening your enthusiasm for the project, including budget…
- Have an idea of budget. Many people are hesitant to share a budget with us. That’s ok, we will tell you what we think an appropriate budget should be for the project you are considering. But once that dance is over, please share with us how you are feeling about budget. Not being open to this discussion can cause trouble downstream. If you tell us your maximum budget for a project is $ X, we will work really hard to keep the project at this budget. This includes proposing materials that keep you in budget, controlling the scope of work/ keeping it from expanding, and not looking for other improvements or making suggestions that may benefit the home. But… regret can be a real issue. What if you find out that for a little more money the project could have been better or we could have solved a problem that drives you crazy? We are sensitive to doing what we said we would do- deliver a project that is in your budget. We take budgeting very seriously. If you want to know what possibilities existing beyond the budget, let us know. Another way to address this might be to ask the team, “ If you were to spend an additional $ X on this house, what would you do?”
- Are open to suggestions. You have been thinking about the project for years. You have it all figured out. Perhaps, but maybe there are other ways to accomplish your goals. Be open to suggestions and ideas. Often you will see or hear something that you didn’t think of or builds on your original idea.
- Picks everything before work starts. Once work begins, it starts to feel like everything now rests on the production team. Kind of, but Craftsmen can’t install materials they don’t have. If everything has been selected, it can be ordered and staged in a nearby warehouse so when its needed, its available. If a final decision has to slip, try to make it something that happens toward the end of the project and doesn’t have a long lead time. Certainly not cabinetry, but cabinet hardware or interior paint colors can be determined while a project is taking shape. Don’t be the cause of delays on your own project.
- Great clients appreciate great work. They understand that it takes a team of people to create a great project and that they are an integral piece of the puzzle. They hold us to high standards and always do their part. Together we create something that is really special.
You, the client play a huge role in the success of your project. If you do nothing else, communicate what your expectations are, be open to suggestions, have an opinion and enjoy the ride. If you do these things you are going to create an amazing project.