Traveling the Critical Path

As architects we need to remember how incredibly complex the design and building of a custom home is for our clients. Most will have already exhausted the resale market before they get to our door. They will be ready to hear our story, and the more we can simplify it for them, the more successful our conversion rate, from prospect to client, will be.

Because design/build is a fairly new approach to the custom home solution, it can be confusing to know which expert to consult with first. Architects can assume the leading role by presenting the big picture as to how the experts and their roles fit together.

A great tool to use is a timeline to view the critical path with a client. If kept simple and fairly general, a timeline becomes the road map for a new adventure and invites the client to take an active part in deciding which turns to take.

A timeline shows the client who the players are and how you fit into the picture as a whole. Walking them through a critical path timeline can help them realize the extent of your leadership and expertise.

While it’s easy to forget to say things in conversation, viewing a diagram enhances the odds that the information will be digested and remembered. A timeline is a good way to distill the complex down to the essential in a memorable way. It reflects the who, what and when of the critical path.

Don’t just note the architectural and construction milestones; consider financing. Some clients don’t have a clue how to proceed financially.

Note on the timeline when application and closings occur, and be prepared to recommend a couple of lenders. Note how the cash flow works; when payments are due during design, engineering and construction.

Another area of emphasis in our timeline needs to be interior design. Getting the interior design team in place is critical to timely selections, which too often is a stepchild that doesn’t get addressed until the superintendent is ready to install. Starting the selection process early is critical to the overall success of the project. Indicate when furniture orders need to be placed for timely delivery and installation.

Create a chart that fits your profile and company philosophy. The longer you’ve been in business, the greater the wealth of knowledge you have to convey. The simpler you can present it, the easier it will be for the client to place his confidence in you as the expert. You will become the go-to expert.

As architects, we are well positioned within the design/build niche to guide the client through an indeterminable maze of decisions. We bring a promise of relief from their worst nightmare, becoming the project manager. We make transparent the endless management headaches and contingencies inherent with building a custom home. Whatever the problem, we assist our clients toward resolution.

Custom home building is a daunting consideration for clients. The more we can simplify the complexity of the process, in presentation and in practice, the easier it will be for the client to place their confidence with us. We have to walk the walk to meet the high expectations we set.