Dealers Share Tips for Successful Collaborations

“I think the best way to succeed in a collaboration is to employ honesty, openness and a willingness to share. The flipside of that is just because collaborators are in the same business as you doesn’t mean they can’t also be your friend. In the end, we’re all here to do wonderful things for good customers, and the more you can collaborate to create satisfied customers, the more successful you all will be.

It’s a part of our business model to partner with other companies in town for certain aspects of the remodels that we do.
I learned years ago to play to your core competencies, and the corollary to that is that if it’s not your core competency, then you should make it a point to hire someone who does specialize in this area. You’ll be better off in the long run, and your client will be, too.

In other words, knowing everything there is to know about tile on top of everything there is to know about kitchen design dilutes our core ability.

It’s like a restaurant kitchen. You have a sous chef and a pastry chef and the overall chef who is responsible for the end result that goes out. But that person alone cannot create the whole gourmet meal – it’s a group effort.”

Megan Landry, owner/designer
Jack’s Kitchen
Santa Barbara, CA

“The best way is to spread the success and the wealth to everybody involved and make sure they get their just due at the end of the project. That way, nobody takes all the glory.

There should also be as much communication as is allowable. You want to make sure that there’s a [point person] who takes ultimate responsibility for the project, but all the other parties should have their say and should get to have some glory in the end. That way nobody’s ego is hurt, and if everybody knows that they’re sharing in the credit, you can accomplish more and can ultimately do the overall project better.

If the glory is spread between all the parties involved, then I think everything will be more likely to remain on a friendly basis.”

David DuPree, vice president
Modern Kitchens & Baths
St. Louis, MO

“We deal with everyone pretty much on the same level and I think that’s pretty important. In any profession, you have to treat everyone with respect, and listen to their needs at all times.

You can always learn from other people. You learn from their experiences and what they’ve done, as long as they’re willing to share their knowledge with you.

I think everything I’ve ever learned in this industry has been from other people. Of course, you learn your basics in a classroom, but when you get to the ‘nitty gritty’ stuff, you really do learn it on the job site. If you’re able to work with somebody on a project, then you really learn a lot. If you deal with any professional in this industry, take advantage of it.

Anybody that you can work with who’s a complete expert on any aspect of this industry is going to teach you a tremendous amount. You just have to be open. You can’t just take the stance that you know everything. Once you feel you know everything, you probably won’t learn anymore no matter what you try.”

Heather Alton, president
New England Kitchens and Baths
Londonderry, NH

“Good communication, whether it’s verbal or written documentation on the blueprints or floorplans, is important in working with allied professionals.

I think there needs to be a designated leader of the project, whoever that may be. You’ve got to have one person in charge. It just depends on who’s bringing the project in and who’s in charge of the project. That will keep the focus on the project and keep it going in the right direction.

Therefore, when you bring in consultants – such as if we brought in an engineer to tell us whether a wall could be torn down or not – then we’re asking for their input and their advice, [but we make it clear] that they’re not running the project.”

Stuart Harle, ASID, designer
Showcase Kitchen and Baths Inc.
Tulsa, OK

“I would believe that the best way is just networking with your fellow NKBA members. You need to try to attend all the chapter meetings. I think it’s important to get involved as far as becoming an officer if you have time. There are a lot of local organizations you can join in your community, like the Better Business Bureau. You can join the Chamber of Commerce and just network with your fellow associates that are in your community.

I think you have to decide what your specific target market is. There are many avenues you can take to do this, but you need to know what market you want to be in [so you can attract professionals to collaborate with who are in that market].

I think it’s a good idea to stay in touch with associates at other kitchen and bath firms, too. These people may be your competitors, but it doesn’t hurt to have a friendship with them. Through that friendship, you can feel the pace of the economy – if their business slows, it’s likely yours will also slow down.

There are many avenues you can take to network with people, and networking helps you find the best collaborators for your projects.”

Kathy Owens, CKD, designer
Kathy’s Designer Kitchens
Birmingham, AL