Charge Upfront for Your 'Expertise,' Designers Advised

Charge Upfront for Your 'Expertise,' Designers Advised

Charging a design retainer is nothing more than being paid for your expertise an acknowledged practice that's in place among most business professionals in this country.

That's the belief of Rick Glickman, of Skokie, IL-based Dream Kitchens, and Stu Dettelbach, CKD, of SD Kitchens, in Baltimore, a pair of dealer-members who addressed attendees at a recent educational conference sponsored by the Houston-based Bath & Kitchen Buying Group (BKBG).

As an example of their belief, Glickman and Dettelbach cited the practice of a doctor who "could listen to your heart, look in your ears, and evaluate your complaints . . . then write a prescription for you because he knows what's needed to heal you, and you pay him for his expertise."

"Kitchen and bath designers are no different," Glickman said. "We should be paid for our experience and expertise.

Unfortunately, there are a number of designers who do not value themselves as being an expert. They think they can sell themselves or their design, and often give away what it is they do the best."

According to Dettelbach, knowledge and experience are what dealers and designers are really selling, not just the design.
"If only the attitude of many kitchen dealers would change, than the entire bar would be raised inside the industry," Dettelbach said. "It's all about your self worth. Only after you change your attitude about your self worth, will you be able to [fully] accept the idea of being paid up front [for your services]."

Dettelbach and Glickman point out that designers often say they receive design retainers, but, in reality, what they're really getting is a deposit for the project.

"While there are many different ways to ask for and receive the retainer, the bottom line is you should not give away your expertise to a potential client unless they're willing to pay for it," Glickman advises.

A retainer is also the best way to qualify a customer, Glickman and Dettelbach assert.

"It's been said unless you need the practice, you probably do not need to design and price a project for a non-buyer," Glickman said.

Glickman and Dettelbach also noted that once they began charging upfront for their work, they found themselves working harder for the client, "because [we were] now being paid for [our] work and it was not just another bid.

In cases where competitors do not charge retainers, Dettelbach and Glickman challenged BKBG members in attendance to "do something different."

"If they [competitors] charge $500 for their design work, you should charge $800," Glickman said. "[The idea is to] make the clients wonder what's different about you and your company. Tell them that you're better and you will do more for them. Tell them it's not about price, it's all about customer service.

Added Dettelbach: "Unless you ask for something, you will not get it. We should be charging design retainers for the work we do."