The Importance of Partners

Technology is a wonderful thing. We now can look up information at home in the comfort of our living rooms rather than having to trudge down to the library, or venture out into traffic on our way to the mall only to find the store does not have the product we are looking for. We can order the part for the lawn mower over the Internet, or phone in our dinner order and have it delivered to our doorstep. What a country!

Because of this new autonomy we may have lost sight of the value of interacting with our neighbors, communities and other businesses within our industry. Don’t fall into this trap. Those with whom you work are your lifeblood. At the very least, if you are a designer you should appreciate that nothing will get built without the general contractor. Likewise, if you are a GC, you need a plan from which to work in order to run a successful business.

But beyond the obvious relationships of the principals in design/build, there are various contacts with whom you work who bring their own value-added benefits. I recently calculated how many specialists were needed to remodel a typical 5x8 bathroom. Directly and indirectly I figured that 28 people were a part of the remodel. Twenty eight! I don’t want to bore you with details, but when you calculated all the tradesmen and suppliers required for the job, it really added up.

The point is that those 28 individuals represent business opportunities that can go beyond the job at hand. If you are able to assemble your “A Team” of tradesmen and vendors, you should be able to parlay that teamwork into an ongoing business stream. Of course the most important part of setting up business relationships is finding and holding on to good and reliable people. Whether it’s the window supplier who consistently meets delivery deadlines and fulfills orders accurately, or the plumber who is a master and leaves the jobsite spotless, you want to surround yourself with like-minded and savvy businessmen and craftsmen.

From the designer’s point of view, I can tell you that having accurate and detailed drawings is the first step in getting future referrals and strengthening your relationship with builders. Furthermore, owning up to errors or omissions when they occur is an indispensable part of the design/build process. The beautiful thing about design/build is if the relationship between the designer and builder is one based on delivering an excellent product within a stated investment range, then those errors and omissions are far less likely to occur.

As a designer who works with various builders, I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of skilled craftsmen and tradesmen. If I find a particularly talented landscaper or plasterer I always grab their business card and keep them in mind for future work that may come across my desk. Heck, I’ve even used some of these people in my home (another benefit of working with the A Team). Likewise, I’ve received referrals from those same tradesmen when they need design work done for themselves, their friends or family.

The tricky part is when you find yourself working with those who don’t have the same working style, standards or objectives. The first thing you need to do is identify this misalignment. If you find that miscommunication, cost overruns, delays and lack of accountability are the norm for a particular team member, you need to remove the player. If that is not an option, choose another team. After all, there may be no I in team, but there is a me!

Joseph Dellanno is the founder of my Design/Build Project, a Web communication application for design and build teams, and president of my Design/Build Coach, providing design/build business training exclusively for residential designers and building professionals. He is also president of Design Solutions Inc., a national design firm providing professional design/build companies award-winning design services. Dellanno can be reached at (781) 648-5548 or Read his past columns at Read Joe’s blog on Look for Blog Zone and click Dellanno Docket.