Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Project Management - Which Option is the Best Choice for You?

Happy 2016! Happy New Year!

In New England, we are blessed with many choices when we want to remodel our homes.
As mentioned before there are Design Build Contractors, privately owned Kitchen and Bath showrooms of various sizes, very simple Mom and Pop Kitchen businesses, Hardware stores,
and Big Box retail home improvement warehouse stores. Typically each of these categories offer various levels of products needed to install in your home. The higher quality, truly custom cabinet lines favor doing business with the first two, Design Build and Quality Kitchen Showrooms.The other vendors generally carry lines that may be knock offs of the higher quality cabinet lines. There are big differences in selections spanning all of these options. Each of these categories have a place in the industry and meet different needs of their clientele.

We have discussed products in past posts. It is time to share with you different approaches each of these have regarding project management and installation. Over the next few weeks, I will be letting you in on trade secrets to help you make the best informed decision regarding who to award your project and business to. Great design is absolutely important! Great project management; even more so. Here we go! I  want to reverse the order in these posts. We will begin with the Big Box Retailer stores.

How many years have you been dreaming about and researching the remodeling project you want in your home?  Time is the only resource we can never get back. Most homeowners do not realize how many hours they spend dreaming, researching, and formulating everything they want to accomplish in their project. That is a fact.

You may need a kitchen or bath remodeled and updated in rental properties you own. If so, you may find the in stock cabinets available on the shelf in a big box store sufficient. You can install them yourself or hire a carpenter to do so. This is the quick and simple way to replace cabinets damaged by previous tenants. Another option in these home improvement stores is a step up to special order cabinets that are very basic and inexpensive. However, sizes, heights, depths, and special attributes people seek are generally missing in these lines. The finishes are more apt to wear off or dull over time.

When you are remodeling your own home it is important to perform your due diligence. This investment will impact the quality of your home and family life as well as the real estate value for years to come.
Some cabinet manufacturers will knock off their own line on a limited basis to build a similar looking cabinet to capture quantity sales in warehouse stores. Be aware, they are constructed differently. They are made out of components of less quality to be priced lower for Big Box retailers. Just know you are not comparing apples to apples.

Let me give you and example. Think about a amazing cabinet door style, or a faucet, sink, or light fixture you found in another privately owned showroom. Suddenly, you see exactly the same style and size in the warehouse store. It costs considerably less! How exciting! You think you found a great deal.

Big corporations that own warehouse stores have buying power. The volume they can buy is very tempting and lucrative to a manufacturer. The manufacturer is courted by the chain store buying agents who negotiate well. They require the same look for a much lower price than the original design and item.  The same look does not equate to the same quality. Beware! Nearly every product sold in these warehouse stores is modified. They look similar but the components they are made of are not the same as the more expensive original. Neither are their warranties and guarantees.    

Please consider the following: All the hours and effort spent in the planning stages are necessary. They help define your vision and are critical to optimize your results. The choices you make regarding who to award your business to has the ability to make this adventure joy filled, or filled with confusion, irritation, and stress. I want to give you some suggestions and information to help it be as wonderful an experience as possible.

You have selected the cabinet line, style, finish and special features important to you. You have seen the computerized design floor plan and elevations! Next step demo and installation! Yay!

What can delay or ruin all your hopes, research, and hard work?  The install! Who you select to design your project is important for so many reasons. However, who they work with to manage the project and install it matters even more. Minimizing the importance of who you invite into your home, your life, and trust with this long desired dream is a mistake. Let's consider your options.

We have been discussing the various vendors: Design Build, Mom and Pop Kitchen retailer, hardware store, and /or Big Box retailer. The project management and install phase is where the rubber meets the road. The true differences between these options are put to the test much more in the project management and installation than at any stop along the way.

I have experience as a Designer in all scenarios. I can attest the best choice is Design Build! I've experienced just about every possible problem and how it impacted my clients over the past twenty years of being in this industry. I am going to begin with the option having the greatest potential for problems and explain what you need to factor in to your decision.

Big Box Stores Kitchen Bath Department:

Kitchen and Bath remodeling projects are very personal decisions. This is one of the important decisions in family life where "bigger" is not necessarily "better". First we will discuss Big Box Retailer's approach to remodeling.

I stated in a previous post that it is not easy, although possible, to find and work closely with an experienced designer in a warehouse kitchen department. Most designers get their start learning kitchen bath design in these big box stores. It is a great place to practice, learn 2020 design software through repetition. This is one of the reasons fees for design are not required.

Yes, occasionally, some  more experienced designers choose to remain working in big box retailers. However, most move on. Typically, as soon as a newbie learns how to design and wants to improve their earning potential, they begin looking for a position in a privately owned showroom or a Design Build firm. Most likely, you will find lots of turn over of employees in most Kitchen Bath departments in the Big Box Stores.

You will enjoy building a relationship with the designer. It is important they "get" you and your vision for your project. This part is fun and filled with excitement wherever you decide to do business. You need to be informed that recently, a new policy has been introduced in some locations of big box design department. Some of these big box store corporations decided to have a customer service person in the department that only takes your information. They may not have any design experience at all. Their job is to greet you, show you product options, get your personal info, and determine what project you are interested in accomplishing. Once they secure all that, they forward all of it to someone out of the store, possibly in another region to do the actual design.

Your measurements will be sent along with your file of project you discussed with the person you met at a store. It is similar to the way they handle window shutter sales. The person you meet acts as your store contact. However, they will not be in your home at all. An outside design team member will be measuring and designing your project. This approach creates more profit for the store and company. It does not help you feel truly understood or connected to a live sales person who is really committed to your satisfaction. Practically speaking, the more people involved passing along messages and information, the more possibility of error. Error becomes stress with the potential of being very disappointed.

Hopefully, the store you decide to do business with still follows the original model of  two or three employees of that particular store, measuring, designing, and installing. At least the three may know each other, if they are all employed in one location.

Let me tell you about my experiences handing off design folders to the Install Department where I was designing kitchens and baths. It is very hard to let go and trust the installation department is going to understand everything you know is very unique and important to your customer. Kitchens and bath remodels are money makers for warehouse stores. Designers are pressured to move the project along so they are free to get the next client and make another sale. It is all about profit and which store does the highest volume in a district. That sounds harsh, yet it is true. It is the main reason Big Box store designers choose to move on to better showrooms and construction companies.

Managers of Big Box Stores are under a great deal of pressure. They do not hire carpenters, electricians, painters, or plumbers. They must locate freelance contractors willing to work part time on a 1099 tax basis. Typically, store management depends on these outside sub contractors coming to them for work. Think about this. How does a Store Manager know the history of  a particular sub? There is no former employer to call for a referral. Why is this person not working for another construction company? How much knowledge and experience do they have? If they are truly skilled and employable, why are they settling to work for a warehouse store? What happens if they just decide to split in the middle of installing your project because they found steady employment elsewhere? Are they insured? Have their backgrounds been checked to verify being free of any drug, alcohol, or problems with the law? Where is the accountability that creates safety for you, your family, home and property.

Our concern and responsibility is to inform you of  options you have and the differences between them. Next week we will write about the next higher level to educate you about why selecting the right fit for your project matters!