This also costs us time, even though we use screening techniques, some developed from Architects Marketing, and a “radar” system we’ve developed over the years. We’re also “niching down”, as the AM approach encourages, and this is improving results, but it could be useful to hear what others have done in these cases, too.
Sometimes, when we offer an LCC, even for a super-low fee of say $500, we’re blown out of the water by builders, real estate agents, “designers”, former gas station attendants, or even desperate architects showing up “for free” to provide lesser services that we might otherwise provide neutrally and without favoring any particular marketeers, based on our expertise.
For example, we just lost a project where we had a verbal commitment with a promise of a check & signed agreement, then when we showed up, we were told that a builder had already gotten him to “sign up” — to protect them against an architect (us) “designing something wrong”. As you may gather from this, these are fairly small residential projects (though we just lost one industrial project the same way), so the clients are relatively unsophisticated and susceptible to the influence of arguments like that.
Frustrated at these experiences, I posted two blogs that got a few views through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Here are some questions that I thought I’d throw out to the Group, if they may help lead to some concrete suggestions, mainly for smaller projects:
• How do we overcome bad builders second-guessing our expertise? (Good ones don’t, and we refer them, but the bad guys always seem to be around.)
• How do we anticipate and overcome less-qualified providers deriding our usefulness to the client?
• How do we avoid antagonizing the good builders, while warning consumers against bad builders who may do them harm?
• How do we avoid unnerving potential consumer clients while emphasizing our role as balancing the process?
Phillip Andrew Jessup, I have no experience of overcoming this problem but I thought what if you join forces with your builder and go to see potential client together? Then by the time a “bad” builder comes your potential client will have some knowledge about your importance – imparted to him by your builder.
Well, I wouldn’t let this get you down – you don’t really want these clients anyway.
As part of your early conversations with the potential clients, you should tell a story, to feel them out, as to how the project should go. IE: do you want something amazing or something run of the mill? Do you want to be happy or merely satisfied or disappointed? It’s important for the builder to understand and respect my design, if you want to be amazed by the result, this is only possible if they are able to ask the questions before building, be a partner in the process and understand your goals for the project.
I do a lot of commodity level residential work – where the results aren’t so important. But when I’m doing higher end, it’s important to have this conversation early and establish yourself as the project manager – because if they don’t let you do the PM work, they won’t get the result they want. You can actually have this conversation with them and establish quality expectations.
The less sophisticated client will trust the builder more than the architect because “the builder builds it”. It sounds like you practice in a place that does not require an architect for residential projects under a certain threshold – I would make sure that the potential client understands that the plans that any contractor might draw up will certainly be less than the minimum standard of care to which any architect is held (without using those boring words) and that in your years of experience any project built wihtout an architect who designs the building and stays involved with the construction process is of lesser quality, and may even cost more, than with a highly trained professional at the helm. Its about bang for the buck. If the statement is made that the builder is protecting the owner from an architect designing something wrong, ask for specifics (bet you won’t get any). Ultimately, you are better of wihtout those clients. I know that I am.