Playing a game without a game plan, whether it’s football or Monopoly, usually doesn’t produce the desired result. Naturally, then, remodeling a kitchen without a game plan will result in extended playing time but not a victory. The design team remains on the sidelines and typically does not personally execute a project, but it should be the think-tank that creates the project’s vision.
Having a balanced design team is key to a design/build company’s ability to meet the needs of infinitely diverse clients and projects. Members of a design team need to think through the outcome of a project aesthetically, functionally and practically before the project is started. To do this effectively, the strengths of each member of the design team must be known so the company can play to their strengths and fill in areas of imbalance.
So, who is best suited to be on a design team? The answer is anyone you trust that is invested in the success of the project, and it should never be just one person. You might feel like Superman sometimes, but most likely you are not a plumber, landscaper, closet designer and home theater expert wrapped into one person. Also likely, there’s probably a professional out there who knows more than you about one of these fields. Maintaining a short list of trusted advisers is something all remodelers, big or small, can do. The list should include architects, designers, engineers, tradesman and vendors.
You might not need certain team members for every project. For instance, you might need a structural engineer only one or two times a year. However, having an established relationship with one who knows you, knows how your company works and knows that they are on your short list will make a project run much more smoothly. If all the members of the design team are invested in the project, the only difference between the employee and independent professional might be paperwork. Having professionals like these as employees makes it more convenient.
The design team should not be balanced solely by field, but also by style. Keep in mind the right/left brain theory, which states that the right side of the human brain is responsible for creativity, passion and imagination while the left is responsible for logic, order and practicality. It also states that each person has a dominant side that shapes how they experience the world. A good design team should not have a dominant side because clients come in all shapes and sizes with different tastes and ways of thinking.
Imagine you have a design team full of people with backgrounds in structural engineering. Now imagine a homeowner wants your company to remodel his bathroom and explains to you how inspired he is by surrealist art, showing you all the nice Salvador Dali drawings he has collected over the years. Should you agree to proceed with the project, it would be a very frustrating challenge for everyone, including a client, if they feel held back or even trapped by the abilities of the design team. A good design team must be able to adapt to meet the needs of all clients, addressing their individual tastes and styles.
Additionally, a design team, big or small, needs a point person within the company who manages the team for a project. This includes holding a schedule, initiating the next steps and making decisions. Knowing when to get someone involved is just as important as having the right team members. The critical players, the ones that will be around from start to finish, should participate early and often in the preliminary stages, meeting with the client to guide them through the project. Most tradesmen might not need to be involved until preliminary design is over, but certainly should be involved before final design while they can still provide input according to their expertise.
Your design team should be made up of members that you trust, and each should have an equal voice. However, a round table may not serve the homeowner best. There is such a thing as too many talking heads, and that can overwhelm a client. The point person must evaluate the client’s real needs and know which team member(s) are best suited to meet those needs. The outcome should be a design team that is flexible enough to create a project game plan for any client and situation.
Stephen Campbell is a draftsman with Harth Builders in Spring House, Pa.