Firm Focuses on Quality, Communication for Success

Firm Focuses on Quality, Communication for Success

By John Filippelli

"[Marino and I] are in the listening and service business. Attention to detail and the highest quality level of craftsmanship is our highest priority," he offers.

In fact, Haas, who is immediate past president of the Metro New York Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) as well as a current chapter representative, cites communication as the key element of any successful design firm.

"I find that when we listen very carefully to our clients' needs, we have the ability to touch the sensitivities that they are concerned about [in their project]."

The firm which was established in 2001 caters to "clients who carefully pay attention to costs and budgets, but are not willing to sacrifice quality of design, installation and service for a lower price," according to Haas.

He believes the best way to satisfy clients is to allow them to make educated choices about their design. To that end, he notes that the firm which specializes in kitchens, bathrooms and multimedia design associated with kitchens and bathrooms purposely makes the client an active part of the design process through comprehensive qualifying interviews and meetings, a process that lasts some seven weeks.

In fact, it is this type of commitment, combined with the firm's design, installation and alterations services, that have led to such a strong client base, he believes.

"Eighty percent of our business is word of mouth," proclaims Haas, who notes that the business has tripled since its inception.

Also noteworthy, he believes, is the way projects are completed.

"Marino and I have very specific areas of responsibility. He handles running the jobs and supervising the crews and I handle the designing, sales and management of the company," he explains.

He adds: "But we have the same philosophy quality comes first. Therefore, even if it costs us money, we will do the right thing. [As a result] I feel we will not only earn the money back, but get the referral as well."

Show and tell
From the moment prospective clients enter the 1,600-sq.-ft. showroom, they are afforded every opportunity to make the right choices about their project, Haas says.

To accomplish this, the firm's showroom manager greets each customer and offers an initial tour of the showroom, which features four full kitchen displays, three bathroom vanity displays and a den display. It is during this process that the showroom manager gets a feel for customers' needs and briefs them on available products, he says.

The company, which is an authorized dealer for Kountry Kraft Cabinets and Omega Cabinets, also carries granite, marble, Zodiaq, DuPont Corian, LG-Hi-Macs and Silestone counter surfaces; Sub-Zero, Asko, and Best appliances; and Franke and Jado plumbing fixtures.

"The showroom displays reflect all of the different cabinetry features and options in proper design usage, reflecting a good base for clients to evaluate if it is the best selection for them," he offers.

"[Once clients are introduced to our offerings] they can bring in their dimensions and meet with me for an hour at no charge.

In that time, I project what the ballpark figure of their project will be. When they walk out of the showroom they get a very comprehensive figure [as to the cost of their project]."

Client conversation
While focusing on budget allows the firm to handle both large and small projects, Haas notes that he implements a specific design process one that consists of meetings over a course of seven weeks designed to help clients make educated design decisions.

During the meetings, clients discuss cabinetry, color and species of woods, appliances, countertops, backsplash options, ceiling and task lighting and sinks and faucets.

"Clients come for the function and they lean on themselves for the color or door style. That is 40 percent of our business. The other 60 percent is us doing everything from soup to nuts," he describes.

At this point, he adds, the firm develops a functional floor plan, complete with a "perspective sketch," or "three-dimensional sketch," drawn to help clients visually step into their kitchen.

"It is not an elevation, it is a perspective," he adds, noting that all aspects of the design are reviewed, including countertop lengths, work triangle, distance between islands and aisle spaces, the application of appliances and even heating issues.
"[It allows the client] to become their own interpreter," he explains. "This way, they know what they are getting, what they are not getting and why they are not getting it."

Once a project is signed off on, Haas notes, it is Ceko that supervises the installation work.

"Therefore, the client receives owner supervision on every aspect from concept through installation," he explains. "[To be successful] you need someone at the helm who is diversified, not only for doing large or small jobs, but someone who has the knowledge base of knowing what the right thing to do is [when designing a project]."

He is also quick to note that the passing of knowledge is especially rewarding when he is on the receiving end, such as other collaborations with interior designers and architects.

"When I get to meet new architects and designers, I get to learn some new concepts, as well. I always walk away from that sale learning something new. The thing I get most from collaboration is knowledge," he states.

Spreading the word
Haas adds that the firm advertises through the Yellow Book, cooking demonstrations, newspaper and magazine ads, promotional gifts to clients as well as the extensive word-of-mouth referrals.

But, he suggests, his firm is just trying to spread the word about how beneficial communication can be between a designer and client.

"There are few companies that focus on giving high quality service. We [pride ourselves] on communication. You have to know what their needs are functionally, aesthetically which ties into emotionally and financially. Whether it's a $30,000 or $300,000 project, everyone wants to stay within their budget," he notes.

He concludes: "[I truly feel] education is a very big part of becoming successful in this business."

Architectural Kitchens & Baths

LOCATION: Rockville Centre, NY
PRINCIPALS: Steve Haas,  Marino Ceko
HOURS OF OPERATION: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: Kountry Kraft, Dynasty by Omega; granite, marble, Zodiaq, Corian, LG-Hi-Macs, Silestone, Sub-Zero, Wolf, Asko, Best, Franke, Jado
SPECIALTIES: Kitchens, bathrooms, multi-media systems, from concept to installation.
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: "Maintaining the highest level of quality and communication results in a high level of client satisfaction."