Resolutions for the Kitchen and Bath Industry

Early this December, I found myself in the utterly unprecedented situation of being ahead in my holiday shopping (i.e. I would not have to be the person shrieking “No wait! Please! Just one more gift!” as they pushed me out the door at closing time on December 24th). A designer friend who was also uncharacteristically ahead suggested this might be a good opportunity to work on New Year’s resolutions.

So, at dinner that night, we discussed our goals for 2006, from the possible (lose 10 pounds, do more online marketing) to the highly improbable (organize our financials so that our accountants don’t make that sighing noise) to the impossible-but-for-an-act-of-God (give up caffeine).

By dessert, we realized planning to get more organized for the 37th year in a row was depressing, and she laughingly suggested it might be more fun to make resolutions for someone else. So we decided to put together our “dream resolutions” for the kitchen and bath industry. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Take back design TV.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed that design TV seems to be suffering from a severe shortage of actual design professionals (no, “remodeling” someone’s kitchen for under $50 using broken pottery and glue does not constitute professional design!). And I understand why design professionals tend to eschew this medium. Too many of the shows are misleading about time frames. Unrealistic about budget. And in some cases, downright dishonest about the whole process.

But ignoring these programs doesn’t make them go away. In fact, if anything, design TV seems to be stronger than ever.

Of course the design community can continue to turn a blind eye to this. But shouldn’t we take some responsibility for how the design and remodeling process is portrayed to the public? Helping to educate people on a large scale means we can spend less time disabusing individual clients of their unrealistic expectations – which means more satisfied clients all around. And what’s not to like about that?

  • Focus on being more profitable, not just busier.

While economic forecasts are predicting some softening in 2006, record-high homeownership is still expected to translate into plenty of remodeling jobs (see related story, Soft Landing). In other words, it looks like it’s going to be another busy year.

But more jobs don’t always translate to more money – and sometimes they translate to more hassle and less money, as “too much to do” leads to careless, costly errors. Sure, having more jobs looks appealing, but sometimes it makes more sense to focus on doing fewer jobs better and more profitably.

If nothing else, be sure to find time to track your profitability, and make sure it’s where it should be. Remember, there are lots of ways to make money, and they don’t all have to involve running yourself ragged.

  • Think outside the box.

Sure, you’re a kitchen and bath designer, and these are the spaces you know best. But many clients find remodeling downright terrifying, and once they fall in love with your firm, they don’t want to go to anyone else. Unfortunately, these clients have other rooms besides just kitchens and baths – so what do they do when they want a new media room or spa?

Probably they’re going to someone else – and that’s a waste, particularly when so many kitchen and bath designers’ core competencies make them well suited to design these spaces (see story, ADD LINK HERE). Entertainment centers, media rooms, master suites, closets, laundry rooms and home spas are just a few areas where kitchen and bath dealers can create new profit opportunities while taking advantage of their existing client base.

  • Do business as if every client was your most important client.

Everyone has a few of those jobs that tend to get the back-seat treatment. Maybe the project is a bit too low-end for your firm, so you take it on but give it a bit less attention than your “serious” jobs. Or perhaps the job isn’t quite right for you, but the client is a referral, so you do it as a favor – except the job gets treated that way, and the client knows it. Or maybe the job went awry early on and the client’s been unhappy ever since, so you avoid returning calls because who wants to listen to complaints?

But every client knows people, and every client can be an asset to your firm – or a detriment – depending on what they say about you and to whom. Remember, you create your word of mouth.

We could come up with many other resolutions, but we’d rather hear your own. Send them in and we’ll print them in an upcoming issue. Happy 2006!