Off the heels of our last blog post, we prove our point on learning directly from the pros. This was a spot on discussion with our industry's most influential designers, Jamie Drake, Brooke Gomez and Charles Pavarini III. Each one shared their best advice and stories on the designer-client relationship. The event was held at Donghia and commentated by Donghia's Vice President Residential Sales, Carolyn Reed.
|Charles Pavarini III, Brooke Gomez, Jamie Drake and Carolyn Reed|
The designer panel was asked a series of questions, but personally I learned from their stories they told more so than from their direct answers. Surprisingly, there was a general consensus on going with your gut when working with a new client. You should always heed the warning signs before taking on a new client.
|Stunning Interiors via Interior Designer, Jamie Drake|
Let's start with a story Jamie Drake shared with the audience. It's no surprise Drake Design Associates has no need to hunt for clients, but when the clients hunt for Jamie Drake, he makes sure no whistles, smoke or alarms are going off. "In the past 35 years I've been doing this, only once I had to fire a client." It came down to Jamie not trusting his gut when this particular client proved to be trouble. First Jamie mentioned, if a client takes 6 months to shop for a designer, you know this will not work out when they finally settle on you. They should be able to like you after one or two meetings. His radar went off immediately, but he ignored his gut. After 9 months of tedious client changes and requests to be at the expense of his firm, he had no choice but to Donald Trump them. "Your fired!"
The point is you will always have an inner voice that will tell you if a client is worth investing your time and talent on. Listen to it and let it guide you in your decision making to work with your future clients. It will help you avoid costly situations and keep your sanity intact.
|Classic Interiors via Gomez Associates, Mariette and Brooke Gomez|
Brooke Gomez shared her appreciation on working with clients that know exactly what they want. Recently both her mom, Mariette Gomez and her worked with Bravo's NYC Real Housewife and Skinnygirl creator, Bethenny Frankel. This was the first time Bethenny has ever worked with interior designers, but she, like some clients, came fully prepared with a book filled of magazine pages. "Bethenny was a great client to work with as 'The Book' became the bible of reference." You can only imagine deadlines designers face with each of their clients. Add in TV schedules, network deadlines and just plan business and that bible becomes the answer to your prayers. (Check out a video clip on our Facebook page of the Gomez's presentation to Bethenny and Jason from the hit show, Bethenny Ever After)
Brooke made a valid point on working with clients like Bethenny. They are a godsend as working with clients with no clue can cause time consuming lack of communication. These clients are just not familiar with the jargon that goes on between designer and client. It becomes a "fishing expedition" to narrow down exactly what they are looking for and can prolong the process. It is a welcome breath of fresh air to work with clients that have emotional opinions and are open to share them with designers.
|Fascinating Interiors via Charles Pavarini III|
Charles Pavarini III had a hysterical story to share. He mentioned that usually in the very first meeting he sets the tone for expectations from both the client and his firm. With that being said you are really never prepared till you are in full swing with the project. The entire process could be going smoothly and then there is a trigger moment that puts a halt on getting to the finish line. You may wonder how to avoid this? How does a project that has been going so well and is moving along brilliantly, do a 360? Well Charles admitted he was at his breaking point with the client and was set to terminate the job when a little fact was presented. "I wish we had known the client was on medication. We would have made arrangements to handle that situation differently." (Hilarious!!!)
There are some situations that are just completely out of your control. If you can communicate from the very start and set those exceptions either be it financially, process wise or obtaining hidden facts, (ie. If the client is coo coo for cocoa puffs) it will prove to be beneficial in the long run.
|The Designer Panel|
The designer panel all agreed on the following tips and again were happy to share:
- Get a letter of agreement that will cover the terms you need to protect both you and your business.
- Always have an attorney draw the letter of agreement for you and understand it will evolve as your business grows.
- Be transparent with your clients. Set those exceptions early and ensure your clients speak the same language as you do.
- With modern conveniences like the internet, make sure you protect yourself by charging for your time and expertise. Many clients have a budget no matter what their financial stance is and they want value. Even at the expense of shopping online to get it. Make sure you communicate this with your clients to avoid wasting time on both your vendors resources and your own.
- You will wear many hats. It should not be surprising you will not only the designer, but an actor, therapist and even attorney. You should consider being familiar with these roles even if it means you should get educated in them.
|Brooke Gomez and I|
|Jamie Drake and I|
There are events you need to curve time out for and this was one of them. As a busy designer, it can be tough to attend them all. I blog to share, so you never feel you missed out on anything. "Pick Your Pro" will be my new phrase when selecting the designer to learn from. I love and learned from each one. It's just another practical way Viteri Style Management helps interior designers run that boutique style business.
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