One of the banes of our business is that every job is a new project, a new home, a new client, a new sale. It can be draining, both emotionally and economically, to be constantly selling. It can take away from building the operations of your business and achieving operational excellence because you are spending more time selling new business than working on improving your business processes.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a steady flow of projects? The Source Home Theater is achieving that ideal. How? By working very closely with architects and designers. These peers are not like a top-rated high school basketball recruit—“one and done.” They are on-going relationships that continue to bear fruit each and every week.
I have developed several fantastic relationships with architects and designers, and it keeps the projects flowing in on a regular basis. But it isn’t a one-way street. I also recommend clients to my top architects and designers on those projects where I am the first one in the door.
A few months ago we talked about the value of these relationships, so I will get off of my high horse on that aspect. This week I want to focus on how to nurture and sustain these relationships. How to work best with the architectural and design professionals you meet.
Even though you will become friendly with these folks—going out to dinner or drinks, having lunch, spending a lot of time together on projects—don’t forget that this is a business relationship. Don’t share your company’s problems, don’t complain about the client, etc.
Treat Them as the Artists That They Are
Most designers and many architects are very right-brained. They are highly creative and can be sensitive to their design aesthetic. Work around their aesthetic to get things done. If you think something won’t work in their design, broach the subject carefully and with tact. Make it about the client’s needs or how the client may use the space. Don’t make it about your design or the AV world or you risk turning them off.
Partner with Them
We hold many design and strategy sessions without the client where we all lay out what we are doing and where we see issues and possible solutions. Get them on board with you so that they can help you with the client. More importantly for the relationship, get on board with them and support them with the client.
Even if you don’t have clients to refer, try to refer friends. Or even on consults tell clients that you have a great designer that they can work with, even if they choose not to work with you. I’ve even referred clients to designers after a client has told me they don’t want to move forward with me. Keep referrals flowing to your peers and they will usually come your way, as well.
We seem to have really hit our stride with this community in the past year. It has completely changed how we go to market, and it has allowed me to spend more time in the field developing my team and more time to improve how we operate. Now we are better prepared to be more successful and productive in good times and bad.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.