In a recent workshop on selling high-performance
solutions, the question
was asked, “What is the first piece of
information that you provide to your
prospective client?” Almost unanimously
the answer was an estimate, price range,
or budget. Why?
|Sam Cavitt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
president of Paradise Theater in Kihei,
Hawaii, and Carlsbad, California.
The reasons all seemed valid. From
the responsible, “to qualify them.” to
the timorous, “that’s what they want
to know.” However, the result is the
same: a limiting of the project potential
and a failure to properly investigate the
It is true that we must qualify our
clients, and in more than 20 years of
designing high-end private theaters, I
have yet to have a project with no budget.
But, we have found a better way.
First of all, we do not want to avoid the
subject of budgets. Doing so will only put
the client off and end up having a similar effect on client communication
as dropping an arbitrary price. What we want to do is use the budgetary
discussion to assist our efforts to discover and educate and in the process,
establish value for the features we wish to promote. Ironically, this process
actually involves a more detailed investigation of the budget with our client.
We have broken a private theater budget into five categories. Here
they are listed in the sequence that they must occur along with some brief
explanation of each category’s significance:
Design and Engineering
Any endeavor with the purpose of delivering high-performance indicates
the need for engineering and design. Without these elements, there can be
no expectation of acceptable, let alone extraordinary results. Sadly, this is
an area that is often not included in many preliminary budgets, and the
client is left trying to figure out how to justify an investment they were not
informed of. Unfortunately without proper engineering and design, every
subsequent dollar spent is at risk.
Whether a remodel or a new home construction, there has to be a room
built for the theater to occupy. Much of the cost of this should not be
attributed to the theater budget. Standard building framing, electrical,
mechanical and other common structural elements should be part of a
rough construction budget that is not reflected. What should be considered
are specialty materials and additional labor attributed to quiet room
construction, modifications of ventilation systems, additional lighting and
control that is specific to the theater functionality, and other design specific
modifications. In a new-construction project, these items will be between
30-50 percent of the room’s rough construction budget depending on
the complexity and performance of the quiet room construction. In a
remodel, that percentage may be much higher or significantly lower for
the same reason.
Typically this is what the original budget is supposed to cover.
Unfortunately, it’s not always accurate. Engineering and design is the only
way to properly specify a system that supports a given room size, audience
size, and configuration, as well as client expectations. Good, better, best is
a poor strategy that is often used in an attempt to simplify this requirement.
I have often seen even “best” system specifications woefully wrong and
often underspecified for a specific room application.
|Cavitt’s design team addressed all five budget categories to
tailor a private theater to this client’s specific requirements.
Complexity of interior design, selection of materials, even the type of paint
finishes can have significant impact on the final cost of the theater interior.
We had a recent theater where the original interior budget was based on
a paint-grade finish on all millwork. The final finish specification, though,
was for a fine lacquer hand-rubbed paint finish with gold detailing. This
was not an insignificant increase to the interior budget but was a detail
for which the client was willing to pay. That the theater pricing had been
broken into the appropriate sub categories made this change transparent,
easily explained, and professionally handled.
This relates primarily to seating but can also encompass any other unique
and potentially budget-busting furnishings. In the case of seats, variances
can be caused by quantity, features, type, and quality. For instance, a
theater with a row of four motorized incliner seats and a front row with
a lifestyle sectional will have a very different furnishing budget than a
theater with two rows of four dual-motorized, steel-framed incliners with
seat warming and control system interface (do not underestimate your
client’s appreciation for such a quality feature set!) Again, by identifying
to the client that this is a separate budget, with unique considerations
for features and benefits, a line of communication has been opened and
increased customer satisfaction can be delivered.