What consumers should expect from Remote Design Professionals – Part 5
What does your design professional bring to the table? So many folks look great on paper, but cannot perform. Real-time knowledge and field experience are absolutely essential. Anyone can learn a software program and input data. But can they see it? Do they really know what will happen when the product is delivered? Without solid qualifications, errors will happen. Check your design professional’s track record before you decide to utilize them.
- Quality Assurance
What quality guarantee is there? Will the stand behind their work, or flee at the first sign of trouble? All credible companies have a high level of quality assurance in place, to catch the errors before they are noticed by the customer. Do you really want a “bid service”? Those design professionals that perform well, will already have a system in place that can be transparently outlined to a prospective customer.
Design professionals earn their money by being more talented and able then their peers and the odds are you’ll save money with a consultant over a full time estimator on many projects. In the United States you could probably find a consultant for $25 per hour, maybe even less for an online service overseas, but this opens the floor for several questions: Am I getting what I pay for? Why is the rate so low? Can they provide back up for the numbers? Will they be in business in 6 months? Are they insured? How will problems be handled? A design firm with experienced talent, that pays its taxes, insurances and fees has a cost of doing business – they are playing by the rules and the rates they charge are going to reflect that.
How many “re-do’s” will you have to endure, due to error? Nobody likes a job that has to be re-worked. This causes the end consumer to be dissatisfied, which costs the high price of credibility. If the design professional has a quality assurance system, the chance of re-work is slim (due to design errors). There will always be revisions due to changes, but re-work should be next to zero for the cutomer paying for the service of the design professional.
How did you get the firm’s name- in a directory, via an associate? Can the firm offer you names and contacts from current clients you know and trust? Can they provide sample work? Would you hire a new staff member without references? Of course not! You should do business with a design professional without them either.
Does the design professional reflect your ideals? Can they live up to your standards? This often overlooked area can seem less important, but is it? Will the final product resemble what it would have been, had your in-house staff done it? If the answer to this question is no, then find a new design professional.
- Regional Code Knowledge
How much working code knowledge does the design professional have? Are they active in the building code official’s chapters? This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Items such as wind speed changes or lumber value changes will affect the finished product tremendously. Without real-time code knowledge, re-work is eminent.
- Regional Preferences/Tendencies
Does the design professional know what the carpenters/framers prefer in your region? Each region has vastly unique preferences. Without first-hand knowledge in this area, expectations are difficult to meet. Be sure your design professional provides some prior experience referrals for your region before sending workflow.
- Relationship Building
How much value is placed on building relationships? Without the farmer providing produce, we all starve. The same is true in design. We must continuously strengthen the relations between the design professional and the many parties that are in contact with them.
How reliable is the design professional? Can they meet your deadlines? Can the meet your expectations? What proven methods are in place for them to do so? Never make an assumption in this area. It will cost you something you cannot buy back: respect of the consumer. Ask for proof of reliability.
What is the reputation on the design professional? What do the industry leaders say about them? What do current and former clients say? When you use a design professional, they become partially absorbed into the company. Reputation always seems to precede an individual, whether good or bad. Find out what your prospective design professional’s reputation is, in as much detail as possible.
Can the design professional provide samples or work? More importantly, do they have the right to share the samples with you, by gaining permission from the end consumer? Do not overlook this seeming harmless step. A lot of the information is proprietary information, which the design professional has no right to share without written permission. When they do share it, does it dazzle? The best type of sample work to show are ones which provide solutions, not the “bigger is better” types. Do yourself a favor and call the company listed on the sample and ensure that the do indeed have the right to distribute it. If not, you already know that the design professional has little or no integrity. Is that who you want sharing your work as a sample in the future?
What is the satisfaction level of current clients? How satisfied are their industry partners? This is a pivotal area of determining how well you will be satisfied in the future. Never assume satisfaction is equal to longevity.
How does scheduling and completion times work? What is the backlog? How are scheduling conflicts handled? Can the design professional keep up with the current workload and add your work to the mix? Without a transparency in this area, someone will be left with the short end of the stick. This area should be one of the highest priorities to define at the beginning of the relationship.
Does the design professional provide their own seals as an option? If not, will you be required to do some re-work to enable your engineer’s approval? If re-work is required, then how much? Who will foot the bill for it?
An employee is paid to perform work on the company’s behalf, a consulting firm is paid to be masters of the estimate and to help your company succeed. In addition to the estimate the consulting firm brings knowledge and advice as part of the package and in the long run this advice may mean more than anything else. Every consulting/design/estimating must firm meet certain baseline standards, provide qualified advice and estimating practice and do all this while maintaining the ethics of true professionals. The services will be broad, focusing on the proficiency they possess.
Where does the design professional’s software come from? Is it a legal copy they have obtained, or will your company provide it? Credible design professionals will have an answer for this question instantly, that leaves no room for doubt on legality issues. There should always be some type of software in agreement, signed by both parties, that is in place before workflow begins.
Inevitably, something goes awry. Humans are imperfect beings, which sometimes make mistakes. How will it be handled? Will the design professional be there to provide solutions to the issue at hand? This should be clearly defined long before the issue ever arises. Without a pre-defined solution protocol, your design professional may be flying by the seat of their pants.
- Strategic Alliance(s)
Any forward thinking company has taken the time to form strategic alliances. The old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is just in true in business as well. When a design professional is acting as a solo entity, they are extremely limited with what they can provide, and when they can provide it. After all, no matter how many ways you divide 100%, it never increases beyond 100%. Strategic alliances help fill the gaps, allowing more options to the customer. The construction industry is heading towards a one-stop-shopping center. Wal-Mart recognized this in the retail industry, ever heard of them? When a design professional can provide more of the services required for the total package, you will know that you have a company committed to serving your needs and the demands of the consumer.
Synergy is very important to overall morale and relations. Does the synergy gel between the design professional and the rest of the team? Are the key players involved open to building and maintaining a professional, working relationship? The answer to this question could be the difference between cohesiveness and sabotage.
Stay tuned for Part 6…