I recently kicked off the new year with a meeting with our stone suppliers. An important topic came up during this meeting that we often ponder: What is new in this business, and how are we adapting?
The answer, we all agreed, was good service, project management, and quality control. Buyers always claim to want these attributes, and service providers always claim to supply them — but the opposite often proves to be true. Since the 2008 recession, many suppliers have cut inventory levels and expensive experienced staff in favor of cheaper, less skilled, or temporary workers. But better service providers have remained committed to their quality offerings, and they set their prices accordingly. This is true even on a small project like a modest-sized bathroom or kitchen facelift project.
Thanks to a slew of “reality” home-improvement shows, the buying public has been conditioned to think of home remodeling as a simple series of tasks that anyone can tackle in a weekend. They overlook the fact that the cast of their favorite show has decades of experience and back office staff to make sure the right experts and products are coming through the project pipeline at the right time and in the right condition. If something is missing or broken, which happens a lot, they make sure the fixes are made quickly so the project keeps rolling — all of which happens “behind the scenes,” with the beautiful room revealed at the end of a 30-minute episode. The reality is that even a seemingly simple process, like ordering a single faucet, has a multitude of places where things can go wrong. Can you save a few bucks ordering it online yourself? Maybe. But the risk is there is no one there to fix the order if it comes in wrong or incomplete. You may not understand how this item fits into the complex puzzle of your home, and often there is no one on the order-taking end to ask you the right questions.
In our industry, there is a stratification between providers who really do — and those who do not — provide great service, project management, and quality control. GCs, subcontractors, and vendors in our industry have had to decide where they want to be in that pecking order. If they want to sell higher end products, services, and projects, they have to stick to their values and business models. In 2015, it is more true than ever that you really do get what you pay for.
Image: Vero Villa