Archive for August, 2010
First off, I have to apologize to my husband for the inappropriate title of this post. I guess we’ll find out if he even reads my blog… (Hi, honey!!)
OK, so it’s no secret to those who know me that HGTV makes me pull my hair out. Why? Because I spend an inordinate amount of (non-income producing) time having to re-program clients into understanding that it really isn’t possible to remodel a whole house for $500 and in 2 hours. DOESN’T HAPPEN, PEOPLE! I don‘t find amazingly awesome used kitchen cabinets, that just happen to fit their space at a local flea mart for $1.50 each, nor do I just walk into a house with all my supplies ready for a few short hours of “fun” with my design assistant re-doing a space with apparently only 10-15 minutes of planning time the day before. News flash – nobody does!
Now don’t get me wrong. There are two things I actually like about HGTV. I think that Candace Olson is not only a goddess, but she is an amazing designer with a wicked sense of humor. Don’t you just wanna go out Candy and the crew for a night of binge drinking? I think it’d be a total blast.
Food For Thought And Note To Clients: Please notice that Candace never talks about price, or slamming bargain basement deals, or that she just whipped out an entire design plan in 3.5 seconds.
But really… what makes me weak in the knees is Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes fame. I’m not usually attracted to burly guys, but contractor-wise he is a total dreamboat. I could listen to him all day point out the flaws of other crappy contractors and then spend the rest of the show “making it right” for his totally deserving clients. I am a firm believer in doing it right the first time and it’s refreshing to see that I’m not the only one. So…I decided that I would become a Holmes groupie. I hopped on his website www.makeitright.ca and discovered that he is not just another buzz-cut with biceps, the man is an empire. I bought myself a baseball hat to support the cause (paid just as much for the shipping as I did the hat because it came from Canada) and am awaiting my first issue of his magazine. I debated about buying some of his overalls (yes, they sell those too), but didn’t think it would look classy enough on a design appointment. Maybe I’ll borrow my friend Gina’s BeDazzler and reconsider that…
In my fierce need to see justice done where crappy contractors are concerned, I would like to offer up a suggestion to Mike and his marketing machine. I think they should air a separate reality show after each episode where they let Dog The Bounty Hunter on the loose to track down the offending contractors and force them to face their wronged clients while on their knees begging for forgiveness. THAT, my friend, would be television worth viewing.
You can watch Mike and his crew perform miracles on Sunday nights on HGTV. I’ll bring the popcorn, the baseball hat, fan club certificate and pom-poms.
I know, I know… I need to get a life.
So if you read my previous blog entry about contractors, you already know that I’m a tad particular about who I select to work with in the contracting world and that the pool is very small. Well, the gods must have been listening! One of my favorite contractors commented to me a few weeks ago that he felt bad because I gave him so many great projects but he hadn’t been able to return the favor as of late. (Love him…) So instead, he introduced me to the contracting company that he modeled his own business upon many years ago. A very well respected, established, family- owned business with a great reputation. I called them up, asked if I could stop by and tell them a little bit about myself and when I showed up I was met by all four of the big players in the company. Gulp…
We had the BEST conversation ever. I’ll spare you the details but I found it interesting to hear about their frustrations of working with designers in their recent past. In my mind I’m already thinking “Ok…probably high maintenance divas with control issues” which is typically what I hear. (I even had a kitchen showroom owner tell me once that the most impossible designer he ever worked with wore more jewelry than a rap star and these god-awful gold shoes – thus starting the code word around the showroom about potential “gold-shoe designers”.) At any rate, what this recent contractor told me was that they’d encountered a string of designers who didn’t even prepare drawings of what they were expecting the contractors to install. (Wait for it…..) SERIOUSLY?? Another, I was told, just kind of came on to the jobs site and “waved her hands” around and told the crew to “just make it happen” when she was told that her design was not physically produce-able – or something of that nature. This is not the first time I’ve heard this comment either.
Before I realized I was actually saying it, I heard the Queen Sassafras in me say, “Didn’t produce drawings? They should just go back to calling themselves a d-e-c-o-r-a-t-o-r and be done with it already.” Remembering something about “only one chance to make a first impression” I recognized the horror of what I’d said (not knowing these guys very well), but my comment was met with laughter and a big “THANK you!!” from the owner. Phew. Another foot-in-mouth episode narrowly escaped!
I guess the moral of the story has something to do with understanding the level of competency you’re dealing with when hiring a designer for a remodeling project. If you’re doing a kitchen or bath, make sure that they’re certified at some level with the National Kitchen & Bath Association or very well established in that niche. Any other “certification” is just a code word for “completed training of some sort in an area related to kitchens and baths”.
And in case any of you are actually reading this and paying attention, you’ll notice that I am not yet certified with the NKBA, but my big exam is coming… September 20th to be exact. I’m sure you’ll be reading more about my level of anxiety as the day approaches.
I want to say that I love, love, love my contractors that I work with on a daily basis in kitchen and bath remodeling. They are an extension of my work and design so I choose them very carefully. The small handful I keep close to the vest know me well because I’ve made no bones about what I expect when I recommend them to my clients. I’ll let you in on a part of that laundry list:
- They have to be able to hold conversations with my clients and make them feel comfortable. This includes communicating clearly, demonstrating that they know what they’re doing technically, listening to client concerns and either educating them and/or problem solving for them.
- They have to do what they say they’re going to do – every… single… time. If they can’t follow through on a promise, they call ahead of time. If they’re going to be late, they call ahead of time. If there’s a major problem with anything, they call and tell the client what is going on and when it will be resolved.
- They have to have exceptional technical skill, and if they are lacking in any area then they know exactly which subcontractor to contact so that we get it done right the first time. That’s huge with me.
- They must have stellar business skills – they produce professional and accurate bids for work, they have formal contracts, they have an organized paper trail, they invoice on time, and don’t take the last payment until the job is done.
If you’ve ever hunted for a contractor, you probably know that there are few who fit this profile and it’s the rest of them out there that give contractors a bad name. But I’d like you to consider the challenges that even great contractors deal with, especially in this economy, by letting you in on some industry secrets. Ready?
Secret Industry Fact #1 – The prices for products, materials, and supplies have increased. Yes, increased. With business slowing for everyone, manufacturers have had to raise prices to keep their businesses going. Those at the end of the supply chain aren’t getting any better deals, despite what you might think. Have you seen the price of your gas or groceries drop anytime in recent history? If you received a huge salary cut while at the same time had your insurance premiums tripled, how would you feel if your boss asked you to work the weekend without extra pay?
Secret Industry Fact #2 – Suppliers aren’t stocking nearly as much product as they used to, and so contractors are spending inordinate amounts of time hunting down anyone who carries the product they need to buy in order to keep projects on schedule. And the tighter you’ve set your project deadline, the more work this causes. This increased amount of labor makes projects more expensive – period. Great example – I ordered a plain old shower arm from a major plumbing store in town over eight weeks ago. It’s not here yet and they can’t seem to tell me when/if I’ll ever see it. Kinda hard to take a shower with nothing to attach your shower head to, right? So I have to call regularly to see if they have any new news which takes away from other income-producing activities.
Secret Industry Fact #3 – Contractors who will significantly drop their prices to make you happy belong to one of two categories: 1) they’re not quality contractors to begin with (in my experience) or 2) if that’s how they conduct business (by undercutting all the other bids) then they will soon be out of business themselves or they’ll “change-order” you to death, thus actually increasing the cost of your project exponentially. This is the “$99 whole house carpet install” analogy which doesn’t include the pad and charges extra for stairs, pattern matching, carpet delivery, old carpet removal, moving any furniture, transitions at doorways, etc., etc., etc. And in the end, costs you $600 like every other installer in the city. If nothing else, you need to perform due diligence that you’re comparing apples-to-apples before making any decisions.
So if you’re in the market for hiring a contractor these days I’d have you consider these facts before making outrageous requests and trying to start bidding competitions. It’s one thing if you get two bids – one at $50 and the other at $5,000, but please don’t assume that everyone is so hungry that they’ll do anything to have your business. Believe it or not, if contractors can’t make any money to support the long-term viability of their business, then they’ll turn you away. HUGE SECRET: In fact, folks who try to pit contractors against one another and instigate bidding wars immediately get “red flagged” because chances are it’s only the tip of the client nightmare iceberg.
There’s no shortage of information out there about “Hiring A Good Contractor” and I recommend that you do your homework if you’re in the market. But just as there are good qualities to look for in a contractor, we have our own list of qualities we look for in a potential client. But I’ll save that list for another blog.