September Pro to Pro

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Have a question and looking for feedback from industry peers? This month KBDN listens in on dialogue between industry professionals as excerpted from the KitchenBathPros.com online Design Discussion Forum.

CLIENTS WITHOUT
DESIGN APPOINTMENTS

QUESTION

I am a kitchen/bath designer for a firm that caters to retail and commercial clients. Currently, I am working with large-scale projects and working under extremely strict deadlines. The problem I’m having is that a lot of clients think they can come in unannounced and without an appointment and, in effect, monopolize my time.

Since we have a showroom, I understand that people will want to come and check us out and look around. However, I need a tactful way to convey to these clients that I cannot spend a large amount of time with them without an appointment, and that it is not okay to just show up without an appointment and expect to receive excellent customer service.

Unfortunately, we do not have a sign on our door that states “By Appointment Only.” I feel this would be a good solution, however my boss does not agree. Any ideas?
—SirenDezign

RESPONSE 1
Limit yourself to five minutes and when time is up, say, “I’m sorry I can’t answer all your questions, but I’m on a deadline this morning. Is there another time that we can sit down and discuss your project?”
—susan27

RESPONSE 2
I agree, but I’d also tell them right up front how much time you have, that you can speak with them for five, 10, 15 minutes, whatever, and then stick to that time, unless the person turns out to be clearly someone who would not be your client, then cut it shorter in a pleasant way. If, on the other hand, they represent a huge job, extend the time as desired.

But, I think it changes how they will discuss their needs with you if they know how much time they have. I’d absolutely stick to your watch on that and then end it when you said you would, at which point they can make an appointment if they are interested.
—susanckd

RESPONSE 3
Some of my customers use two-sided business cards. The front has all the usual stuff, while the back side is for appointment details. This makes it clear what the expectations are.

You could add a tag line that your clients should feel free to call ahead to schedule time whenever they feel the need. Be clear when you hand your card out that a call is vital to ensure that you are in the showroom and the time will be convenient for both parties.
—cabrep

SALES & PROMOTIONS

QUESTION

I’m just wondering what others’ opinions are about doing discounts and promotions.
Things are getting quiet around here, but I’ve certainly never had any luck with promos in the past. That, plus perceived bargains for better quality kitchen design, just seem to be counter-productive. Better yet – does anyone have any fresh ideas about generating valuable leads?
—ScottFL

RESPONSE 1
I agree, sales and promotions do not work, and they give quality dealers a bad image. In my opinion, nothing works right now. I have used television with no results, so I am going to try newspaper inserts, and I’m also going to try a local Women’s Expo.
—ootb

RESPONSE 2
Things are very quiet for me lately as well. I sent out a bunch of e-mails to AIA members and didn’t get a single bite, but...in placing one random call last week, the architect talked quite a bit and was enthusiastic about working together.

I gave him incentive, telling him that if a project is published, he’d be listed as a resource. First comes writing the letters, then is the follow up. I’ve had some success with that tactic, especially since architects usually have the big-ticket kitchens. They’re worth contacting.
—susanckd

RESPONSE 3
We’ve never used any means of advertisement, but this was due to the large grouping of builders, architects and cabinet dealers we had [on our client roster].

We still find that word-of-mouth is the better advertisement. It comes off as more sincere if it’s from a past client or builder.
Contacting everyone on our dealer list always seems to stir up new work and gives us advance notice for scheduling.
—Bell1

 

GLASS TILE MOSAICS

QUESTION

Does anyone use any glass mosaic for backsplashes in kitchens, or maybe as border/trim pieces in bathrooms (and kitchens)?
We had this stuff last year but we had absolutely no bites, so we gave our display to a local dealer.
But we are looking to make a push for it again, this time specifically with trim and accent pieces. We are in a very traditional market and mosaic scared everyone before – it was too modern.
We like it for two reasons: it looks fantastic and can be bold or subtle, and the margins are great. Does anyone else share this market and sell mosaic? Is it worth trying?
—jkelkitchen

RESPONSE 1
I’m working for a company that does high-end design work, and every kitchen and bath uses tile work, including mosaics.
The key is to design the kitchen or bath showing the mosaic or tile pattern, and get the homeowners excited about the look they will achieve.
It takes more time to design with these tile patterns, but it will increase your profit margin.
Likewise, if you only show the tile in the showroom, without specifying and designing a layout, the interest will not be as great in your tile product.
—KarH

RESPONSE 2
That gives me some hope. If we decide to go forward, we’re going to design a couple backsplashes in our showroom to show what a finished product looks like. And yes, the profit margin is part of the reason why we are taking a second look. Every little bit helps. Plus, I think it looks cool mixed with natural stone-type colors.
—jkelkitchen

VALUE OF HOME & GARDEN SHOWS

QUESTION

What does everyone think about the value of attending local home & garden shows?
—Kompy

RESPONSE 1
I worked the PA Builder’s show for a countertop company. He brought in a new product that no one else could get for the show.
The booth expense was large, and without the new product to show, I don’t think he would have had as many leads as we generated. The new product was exciting and brought people into the booth. That generated the leads for other products he sold.
Years ago, another company had quartz countertops at the show. Those tops easily generated a year’s worth of leads for them.
Across from our booth, they were selling wood-burning stoves, and the business in that booth was phenomenal! The company I worked for even mentioned that they should have opened a wood-burning stove account, and had the stoves at the show.
Basically, it’s hard to generate leads in home shows when all of the kitchen companies are showing the same products – granite, quartz, Formica, and cabinets with the same stains and glazes.
So, what sets you apart from the other companies at the show?
Unless you have something unique to show, I think it would be hard to generate business. There has to be something different that will get them to walk into your space. Then, you have a chance of talking with them, bonding and setting up future appointments that will be profitable.
—KarH

RESPONSE 2
We just wrapped up our local home show. I attend these in part because I feel the need to stay “top-of-the-mind” with my community. Last year we “met” a client at the show who has since spent over $250K in our showroom.
Like anything, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
—Biko

RESPONSE 3
I agree that you need something different to draw people in and get them interested in your company and what they have to offer. I think my company is going to start doing one or two shows a year now. I agree that keeping your name out there is the best advertising, because even if the people who see you there don’t contact you immediately, they might remember you down the road.
—Kompy

INSURANCE POLICY

QUESTION

I am renewing my liability insurance with a different company than the one I currently use. I am told I should have an Errors & Omissions policy. This has never been recommended in the past, and I’m wondering what everyone here is doing in this regard.
—Gary

RESPONSE 1
My liability policy has it. The way it was explained to me is that you should really have it if you are a contractor; and it becomes less necessary if you are simply supplying cabinetry. Of course, like any other insurance, it all seems unnecessary until the time you actually need it.
—ScottFL

RESPONSE 2
Thanks for the reply. We actually have two companies here. One is strictly install; the other is design and supply. The policy in question is with the latter.
My agent informed me that the GL company won't even write me without the E&O policy (by another insurance company company). I'm told it pertains to the design aspect of the business. The premium for the E&O policy is twice as much as the GL!
Something doesn't seem right, so I am going to investigate more.
—ScottFL

RESPONSE 3
The following was recently published by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Perhaps this will help clarify any confusion about E&O insurance policies and business.
Do You Need Errors and Omissions (E & O) Insurance?
by Jeffrey Moses

Also called “professional liability” or “malpractice” insurance, errors and omissions (E & O) insurance should be considered by companies and individuals who work with clients in the areas of consultation, service provision, design or sales.

In essence, E & O insurance protects you against claims that you did something incorrectly for a client or did not do something that you normally would be expected to do in the course of business events.

E & O coverage provides protection for claims or lawsuits for mistakes or omissions that result in financial losses for a client. This insurance is different from all types of coverage protecting against damage to property, physical injury and so on.

E & O insurance helps protect you in two vital areas:

  1. Attorney fees, which in many instances can be as costly or more costly than settlements that might result. Even if you are hit with a most unreasonable lawsuit, you still might have to pay for your legal defense.
  2. The amount of any settlement you would pay if found at fault.Businesses that should consider E & O insurance include, among others:
  • Real estate companies
  • Consultants
  • Advertising specialists of all types, including web and graphic designers
  • Appraisers
  • Service providers such as ISPs, home inspection, janitorial, building contractors, etc.
  • Financial services, ranging from mortgage brokering to financial consulting
  • Professional services, including attorneys, dentists, doctors and chiropractors

The cost of E & O insurance varies widely according to geographic location and industry. There is great competition between providers, however, so it’s easy to receive cost comparisons and detailed policy information.

E & O insurance contracts contain specific information that protects you. Included should be:

  • Dollar amount per occurrence of liability (limits of liability).
  • Statement of deductible amount per occurrence for liability (dollar amount of claims) and deductible amount for defense costs.
  • A section stating something to the effect of: “This policy applies to errors, omissions or negligent acts in the course of providing or failing to provide professional services.”
  • A section stating the services you provide.
  • The retroactive date for claims.

Most attorneys would agree that one of the best ways to limit the amount of claims – and your liability in general – is to design a contract along with your client that expressly defines each of your specific, individual responsibilities [in the matter]. [It is also strongly suggested that you] consult with your attorney and insurance agent in this regard.
—LeoDSK

ISLAND HEIGHT

QUESTION

I am working with a client and her designer. The designer recently mentioned a trend toward using taller islands, or European height-islands at 39" or so.
Has anyone heard of this trend? I had not heard of this trend before. If anyone has done this, how do you find stools that allow for this height? I know stools come in standard 24" and 30" heights, but what about 27"?
—susan27

RESPONSE 1
I have worked with a couple of customers who have had me raise their island to 42" high and they love it. I believe that the allure of this height is that it is a more comfortable height for people – especially taller people.
—ootb

RESPONSE 2
Susan, it could be because one of the European trends is to have a thick, square-edged countertop – 3" or larger – which makes for the overall height difference.
I’ve done some counters from 39"-42", depending on the client’s height, but had to watch how to handle the treatment, especially for the appliances.
—KellyM

RESPONSE 3
Holland Barstool does custom heights in wood and metal barstools. I have used them in my personal kitchen and it has worked out well.
—Kompy

RESPONSE 4
We have at least of dozen of those in our showroom and they are built like tanks. It’s a very durable stool.
—jkelkitchen

Editor’s Note: Material for Pro to Pro has been excerpted from the online Designer Discussion Forum at the KitchenBathPros.com Web site under an exclusive agreement with Kitchen & Bath Design News.

KitchenBathPros.com is an online networking community for kitchen/bath professionals whose goal is to create a central forum for industry professionals, open 24/7, through which they can collectively share knowledge and information. This sharing of resources enhances the industry’s value to the public, builds more successful businesses and raises the overall bar of excellence in the industry.

To join in this free kitchen and bath industry discussion forum, you can sign up at KitchenBathPros.com, or contact Susan Serra directly for more information at info@kitcheninteriors.com.

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