Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That's Not a Lot of Sugar For a Dime

Ahhh, the colloquialism.

I love clever sayings and word plays. I was engaged in a kitchen consultation the other day when the lovely southern lady I was meeting with said to me, "...Well, that's not a lot of sugar for a dime," after I explained a design and construction process to her. In the design business we refer to it as the point of diminishing return.

Part of my job is to help people spend their money wisely with regard to their project and the value of their home. I hate to see them waste resources on details that won't make an impact visually or financially. I admit I watch a design show on occasion and find myself screaming at the TV, "Don't do that!" Usually it is one of the "flip that house" genre of shows that gets me going the most. I see people making design decisions that will cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars and in the end, no one will notice the difference. In the case I mentioned above, the "simple" act of adding a cabinet side wall to a refrigerator would have cost a couple of thousand dollars. Which would have involved moving electrical, moving and replacing HVAC, framing out a soffit, repairing the floor, altering the bank of cabinets beside the refrigerator ... shall I go on? It was my advice that she not do the work. In all honesty I just couldn't bring myself to "sell" her on the idea; it would be robbery. She thanked me for being honest with her.

My points: first, hire a professional. What you pay for their expertise will easily be recouped in the money they save you by avoiding costly mistakes. Second, be willing to rethink your design if you encounter significant issues. I like to let my designs evolve as the job progresses. I have an overall plan and most details will be executed as drawn, but if I get to a difficult spot I am willing to adapt and adjust if I think the client will overspend on an insignificant detail.

Have you had any projects where you didn't get “a lot of sugar for a dime”?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Whose Line is it Anyway?

I had the strangest thing happen to me at Staples a while back. In the course of business I, like most professionals, have to make copies and what better place to do this than your convenient local office supply store? On this day, however, I would find all the machines at my local Staples either out of ink/toner or paper or both. Maybe this should have been my first clue. Being the only customer for miles I went to the copy and printing desk and waited for the young lady behind the counter to acknowledge my existence. After a few moments of being totally ignored, I acknowledged her existence and asked if she could help me. "What do you want?" she queried. "Can you make me five copies of each of these pages?" I asked. She seemed taken aback that I had actually asked for prints from the printing desk. Her next comment stunned me. "I can do it back here," she said, "but what do I do if a customer comes in?" As I looked behind me in line and realized I was the line, I thought to myself, "What the heck am I -- chopped liver???" I smiled, gathered my papers and went next door to the post office and made copies.

This scenario has happened to me more than once; maybe I have "NOT A CUSTOMER" inked on my forehead or maybe we've lost the ability to focus on the person who is standing directly in front of us. Do we give them the proper attention? Or do we become distracted by a phone call, a text message, email or the potential of a conversation when, in actuality, we are already engaged in conversation.

I have a personal rule: if I am speaking to someone face-to-face, I will not answer my cell phone if it rings -- sometimes to the annoyance of the person trying to call. (Two words: voice mail.) The person I am speaking to deserves the respect of my uninterrupted attention. They are the customer.

How do you handle distractions and the constant pull of ringers, texts and emails? Better yet, how do you feel when someone puts time with you "on hold" to answer their own distractions?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle...Room

Elvis would be 75 years old today, hard to believe. I love Elvis, I love the music, the movies and "taking care of business in a flash" -- without the flash part.

A few years back, during my music days, I made the pilgrimage to Graceland. I didn't spend any time weeping at the gate or leave a guitar-shaped bouquet of roses at the curb side, I simply went to see how the King lived. You hear a lot of terms describing Graceland: tacky, god-awful; I remember one person on the tour asking if Oscar the Grouch's family was slain to create the carpet in the Jungle Room. I personally think the King was very forward-thinking in his designs and room purposing ... he should be credited with the first modern "man cave," the TV Room. Three TVs, count 'em, three built-in TVs! This in a time when most homes had one console unit in the living room and the more wealthy might have one in the master bedroom. Rumor is, Elvis got the idea for such an extravagance from the White House where LBJ kept three TVs going so he could watch ABC, NBC and CBS -- Elvis preferred the NFL. Then there is the aforementioned Jungle Room with its wall-to-wall and ceiling shag carpet, stacked stone water feature and plethora of Teak furnishings ... okay, tacky, but in a cool way. It may also have been one of the first "home recording studios." By 1976 Elvis didn't like going to the studio, so RCA brought the studio to him.

I appreciate the fact that the King enjoyed his home, made it his and even thumbed his nose at conventional design.

If you had unlimited funds like the King, what quirky rooms would you have? (I would have an indoor ball pit!)