3/12/10

When to Hire a Professional

You would be amazed how many times I'm asked this. Not because as a Lifestylist I am a professional, but because if you are going to make the investment to build a model home, advertise and market it, and have a sales professional there to sell it, why would you trust your model home merchandising to someone who isn't trained and doesn't do this for a living?

The times are a'changing. In years past many merchandisers only bid doing homes by charging according to the square footage of the home. As someone who teaches merchandising for the National Association of Home Builders IRM courses we tell our students in every class this isn't the way to bid or budget a job, and at the Home Idea Factory we don't. Until we do a study figuring out who the buyer is, what the demographics are and how much that buyer can and should spend, and of course what their lifestyle is we won't give a quote. The other big question that many builders are reticent to give up is budget - how much the builder can or will spend on merchandising. They think if they give a budget the merchandiser will spend every penny even if it isn't necessary. I was amazed when I builder that I'm currently working with told me that I was the only firm that was willing to work with him and his needs not on a sq. ft. budget, and even though he doesn't have a lot to spend we are doing innovative things that will save his company money while still giving a home that will stand out and sell homes. Doing some partnership merchandising with the Ashley Homestores is one of the ways that we will achieve this and also help him with his marketing dollars.

This has been a really busy week and I love it! Color selections were made for 3 different builders and communities, and we were also finally able to finish up interiors selections for one of our builders. This was when I realized how working with firms that understand professionalism, have a system that works and are able to guide not only the builder but their customers through the process seamlessly can make all of the difference. This particular builder was a new to this market so we were deciding who the other partners were going to be on his team as we went. And I love this builder - American Custom Builders - because they understand the value of a strong team and include all of us in the decision making. Mike Land of Plans by Land designed amazing homes that I couldn't wait to get started on, and getting his feedback on what he envisioned these homes looking like has been a huge help. But when it came to partners that would supply flooring, tile, etc we hit some roadblocks.

So you know, one of my biggest pet peeves is people who don't return phone calls. Especially when they have bugging you for your business for months, then you give them the opportunity and they disappear. Or they are 9-5, even though that may not work for your homeowners who need to make selections. We wasted almost two months making selections with companies like these that once you offered them the business they suddenly became too busy to return your phone calls.

Enter the perfect missing link to our team - Creative Touch Interiors. Shame on me, I hadn't heard of them before, but I promise that won't happen to anyone else because I'm going to spread the word! Paul of CTI found the owner of ACB Homes and contacted him making promises he kept! When prices were needed we got them by the next day (if not within the next hour!), when appointments were needed they happened - at our convenience, not necessarily theirs. They wanted the business and made us feel like they appreciated it.

When it came time for me to make and finalize the interior selections on the four homes ACB had started I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Shannon who works out of their beautiful design center in Dallas. She made it so easy, knew her products and gave me the opportunity to design amazing homes for my builder and stay in budget - I didn't have to sacrifice a thing! It was an absolute delight to work with another professional, and as I told the builder I am comfortable putting his customers into Shannon's very capable hands.

So back to the original comment - when to hire a professional. Why would you not hire a professional? When working with the other companies I was working with sales people who sold carpet, and tile, and wood, but they didn't seem to grasp the fact that we were working on something that could not only make or break the builder, it also could make all of the difference in the potential buyers lives. There was no way they could work with potential home buyers, and I wouldn't want them to - it might have jeopardized the sale. I'm thrilled that we now have Creative Touch Interiors, Paul, and Shannon on the American Custom Builders team. I'm comfortable with the fact that their professionalism will make a difference in the homes they help my builder's buyers with and now I can concentrate on our model homes! We are shooting for a May 1 grand opening so I have a lot of work to do!

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