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Question DetailsAsked on 2/1/2012

Dear Contractor, What recommendations would you give to interior designers to build an effective and efficient working relationship.

As the Principal Designer for a leading online residential interior design firm,, I manage a team of professional interior designers who work with hundreds of clients and contractors all across America. Of course our focus is to champion the interests of our client, but never to undermine a successful win/win relationship with their contractor.

An example of a best practice we encourage is for the client to require separate line item pricing for labor and materials. Another is insisting on a clear scope of work, timeline (resource commitment) and defined deliverables for making progress payments.

In such a competitive market environment, what advice do you have for interior designers to help both our clients and the contractors we recommend to achieve a successful win/win outcome that will result in exceeding the clients expectations?

Feedback from any and all categories of residential service provider is welcome!

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2 Answers


There are, of course, benefits to the Customer when a Contractor itemizes the estimate for work. However, it's not always in the client's best interest.

Before you dismiss this answer let me explain. As an experienced remodeler I've found there can be a number of variables that will affect the final price of a project, both known and unknown. When preparing my estimate I have to add a little to help account for some of the possible unplanned repairs I'll have to make in the process (rotten subflooring, damaged electric wire hidden in the wall which seems to be a common problem with the Handymen running around here, etc.) I can't always account for everything but there is always something that needs to be done unplanned when remodeling homes so I allow a small overage for this so I'm not going back to the Customer for more money if I don't have to. If we come in under budget I'll knock some off the total. It's an estimate afterall and should go both ways, over if problems occur that could not have been foreseen or under if the budget for the expected surprises is not used. Because the estimate is itemized I don't know what perils I'll encounter at what stage and since any given peril can be tyed to a particular point in a project I have to account for each possibility seperately. This is charging the Customer more than needed and makes the estimate too confusing for most. Instead of adding a lump some amount (5-10% depending on the job) to the overall figure I've now had to add amounts to each item based on any possible problem I may encounter while completing that item, even if that same problem might be encountered on another item. It's my experience that people requiring line item pricing want the ability to eliminate or change any particular line without concern for the effects on the rest of the job. One of two things happen probably 99% of the time I itemize, either the person is a cheapskate more concerned about price than quality so I'm not getting the work anyway or they make changes to particular items and expect the job to simply go down in price based on just that one item, not looking at the big picture.

To answer your question about building relationships with contractors you'll have to be in the same mind set as the contractor. For my business, I work with other professionals who believe quality is the number one priority over cost and even time. Much like your business, it is my name on the line every time I complete a job and reputation is very important in our businesses. If I have to keep my guys on a job an extra day or two to make something right I will. There's a saying you've probably heard: You can have 2 of the following: a good price (cheap), good customer service during and after, or a good product. You can't have all three.

The other thing to do to build your relationships is get the referal swapping going. It takes some time to establish the relationship but send a customer to a contractor you believe may be fair and honest. He may return the favor and eventually you'll both be working hand in hand on more and more projects. Contractors like working with the same engineers, designers, etc. repeatedly because you'll learn what he likes and his methods and he'll learn yours. You'll get feedback on how a specified product really is in quality and installation while he'll get exposed to new products he may not have seen yet.

I hope I've given you some good points. Every Contracotr runs their own business slightly differently and has their own preferences. Open, yet unobtrusive, communication will get you the furthest in establishing a long relationship in business just as in your personal life.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services

Answered 8 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Stop spending all the customer's money on outrageously priced fixtures and materials and let us spend it on everything else.

Answered 8 years ago by JGHamm

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