More referrals, more profits


Partnerships between remodelers and kitchen/bath designers have proven greatly successful in recent years. Benefits include increasing revenues, boosting margins, smoother project execution and happier clients. Here’s how and why these partnerships work, beginning with advantages to partnering with a professional designer:

1. Projects on schedule = higher profits, more referrals. A qualified kitchen/bath designer not only helps the client with design and product selections such as cabinets and countertops, but also assists the client with plumbing, appliance, flooring, lighting and wall covering selections. This is an invaluable service because one professional – the designer – has a vision for the entire project to ensure all pieces fit together and the selection process remains on schedule. The designer then supplies the remodeler with detailed plans and product specifications to make his/her job easier and the project run smoothly for on-schedule completion. This makes for a happy client who pays in full and recommends the remodeler to future clients.

2. Unique products = higher revenues and margins. Good designers make it their business to know the breadth of products available on the market. Most clients are looking for something uniquely their own and designers can help direct the client to the unique products that are often more expensive, so the remodeler’s revenues go up. Unique products can command higher margins since the remodeler is not in the trenches competing on price in the mass market with the big box stores or online retailers.

3. Fewer errors = higher profits. Restocking fees can be detrimental to the bottom line, so having one source for product specification reduces errors in products that may not fit in the design. Fewer errors add up to higher profits and timely completion.

4. Save money and close the sale by not having a designer on staff. Partnering with a design firm allows the remodeler to have access to professional design services and products while not incurring the expense of a staff employee. I have seen remodelers lose jobs because the client’s taste did not match the staff designer’s style. This is extra costly to the remodeler as he/she has lost the sale while incurring the expense of a staff designer. If a remodeler works with a design firm with a large staff of designers, the client can be matched with the appropriate designer personality and style, helping the remodeler close the sale.

Selecting the proper design firm partner is critical to a project’s success, so here are a few tips for completing the process:

1. Choose a team player. Interview the potential designer, checking for team-minded qualities. It is important the designer recognize that the remodeler is the head of the project and the designer is there to support the remodeler as a team member and act as a consultant to the client. There is no place for back stabbing or finger pointing when things might go wrong.

2. Offer more than kitchens and baths. Look for a design firm that specializes in more than kitchens and baths. Firms that offer interior space planning and design of other rooms such as wine cellars, libraries and outdoor kitchens will help increase the remodeler’s scope of work and open the door to repeat business.

3. Consider a certified kitchen and bath designer. While to be a great designer does not require a certification, much like many great chefs are not formally trained, a CKD or CBD is certified through the intensive National Kitchen and Bath Association program. Study touches all aspects of design, construction and products. These certifications will assure the remodeler and client that the designer has the professional skill set required for the job.

4. Find a qualified designer. Many skilled designers are members of NKBA, NARI and the local home builders’ association. Use these organizations to find designer members, but also seek designers that are active in these organizations. Participation demonstrates commitment, communication skills and community service, all of which embody quality characteristics that will translate to a good professional partnership.

How to structure the remodeler/designer partnership is important, too, so here are tips for doing this:

1. Enforce a written agreement. Meeting with the designer to formulate a division of responsibilities, fees, products and a clear line of communication is vital. The agreement should be in place well before clients are introduced to the process. For the client, a good remodeler/designer agreement will be transparent by creating a seamless partnership with clearly defined roles.

2. Clear communication. Thanks to technology it is easy to document each meeting or correspondence with the client and share every detail among client, remodeler and designer. This way, everyone is privy to all conversations and decisions to keep the project running smoothly.

Jill Dybdahl is co-owner of Dybdahl’s Classic Kitchens in Madison, Wis., with her husband Paul. With projects from Atlanta to Chicago and Los Angeles, Jill recently remodeled the home of MTV’s president and has received several national, first-place design awards. Dybdahl’s Classic Kitchens is Madison’s premier interior design studio specializing in interior space planning, kitchens, master suites, libraries and wine cellars.

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