OBSERVATIONS and RECOMMENDATIONS For designers and trade showrooms everywhere I love talking to Dennis Miller of Dennis Miller Associates. Our talks usually focus on something that he is noticing on the showroom floor that just doesn’t sit well with him and this was one of those talks.
Dennis told of a designer who was getting some push back from their client about crating and delivery charges. As a multi-line showroom, different lines have different policies – some blanket wrap, others crate – and there is a cost to both. Knowing who does which takes partnership with the showroom salesperson and needs to be part of the discussion well before the quote or order is written.
But the rub was when the designer passed the client concerns back to the showroom…for THEM to manage with the client… which doesn’t work on so many levels.
First, dealing with the client is the responsibility of the designer, not the showroom. To pass the buck of a concern back to the showroom breaks that connection, and in doing so, makes the designer less relevant. This isn’t intentional, but a natural occurrence when the responsible party steps aside. By passing the buck, the client will look to bypass the designer at the next difficult junction, again, diminishing their relevance.
Second, this is what the designer is being paid to do –to manage all aspects of the project and not just the fun or easy ones. The showroom can help with the information but it’s not their role to do the job that the designer has contracted to do.
And finally, having challenging conversations is an area of practice and development. It takes having them to get better at having them. Avoiding them or passing them along to someone else robs the designer of the opportunity to hone an important skill that will serve them the next time a challenging conversation or delicate discussion arises. I have coached countless professionals on developing the confidence and vocabulary necessary to successfully navigate all aspects of client interactions resulting in stronger, more profitable relationships with their clients. If you think you could benefit by improving or polishing your skills, reach out. I am just a phone call or an email away! You will be so glad you did.
Featured Artisan: Jeff Steele Steele & Rowe Inc.: Serving the Yachting Community from Newport to Cape Cod
Jeff Steele and son Leo
This month our Featured Artisan is Jeff Steele of Steele and Rowe – third generation canvas fabricators for yachts and boats in North Dartmouth, MA. I met Jeff a couple of years ago through his fiancé, Courtney Saunders, one of my favorite peeps who is incredibly driven and creative, with energy to spare…and Jeff shares those qualities and then some, which makes them a dynamic duo. Jeff’s photo (above) includes their beyond adorable son, Leo. Knowing what Jeff does for work, I asked him to replace the canvas on my vintage directors chairs (the orange and white striped one featured) and not only did he do a beautiful job of replacing the fabric (on chairs that are not supposed to be replaced!) but did a lovely job of refinishing the wood arms… I had to know more! So I asked him to show me other work that he did, which you will see. He also do leather work on yachts that is equally lovely.
And while he is fortunate to have more business than he can say grace over, like all small business owners he is looking to the future for himself and the next generation, and the changes to make in this business to continue to be profitable and relevant.
1. What are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry and to your business in the last five years?
The biggest changes in the boating industry is the decline in new production boats…with less new boats being built, there’s more individual customers wanting to renew or repair there existing canvas…
2. What have you done in your business to respond to those changes and how is that working for you?
To respond to our customers changing needs we have priced accordingly and seasonally to maximize our pipeline…we have also taken a more diverse workload…it has given me a chance to work on different projects to gain and diversify my experience…I’ve made cushions, backpacks and recovered chairs…
3. What do you predict for the art and design industry? And how will you prepare for it?
I predict the art and design to provide more options in color and materials available…to prepare for it we have to continue educating ourselves in product knowledge…we also need to know what materials are best for each application and regionally which materials will last the longest…we could work on a boat that will be in Florida all year long and the sun affects the canvas and thread differently and longer then in New England…
Thank you, Jeff for your participation and your commitment to excellence.