No need to reinvent the wheel

The owner of Rugby Fitted Kitchens Trevor Scott questions fellow designer Rob Mascari’s claim that retailers should charge for their services rather than their products

One short month after taking a gentle pop at Rob Mascari in my ‘Look to the Future’ piece for the kbbreview show special, I find I’m doing so again. Sorry, Rob, nothing personal.

Having had the luxury of reading Rob’s ‘Sell your services, not your products’ piece, along with the responses from the likes of Jim Geddes and Darren Taylor, I find it that much easier to respond, as many of my views on this subject are shared by these gentlemen.

The question I’ve asked myself is – am I a businessman, a salesman or a kitchen designer? Well, the answer, of course, is all three and more besides. And what name do I give to this skill set? Kitchen specialist.

I am a kitchen specialist. Once upon a time, I was a one-man band. But today, I’ve built up a multi-outlet business and employ a team of highly-skilled individuals who all bring something different, but equally important, to the table.

Some of the designers do just that – design. They support the sales designers, who also interact with the client and take the order. The designers shadow these more experienced staff and learn from them as they aspire to become fully-fledged sales designers themselves.

Rob would suggest that these designers should be billing clients for their time spent on each project and that this should happen from the very start of the process.

I can hear the conversation now: “Hello, are you looking for a new kitchen? You are, fantastic. Now if you could just swipe your credit card here and we’ll begin. Hold on, where are you going…?” Cue sound of showroom door slamming.

Rob’s somewhat Utopian dream is just that – a dream. In the real world, kitchen specialists have to sell their services as well as the products they supply. If the consumer doesn’t like the sales message, then they simply vote with their feet and make their purchase from a competitor.

It is the keen edge of competition that keeps us sharp and stops us from becoming complacent. Never stop looking for ways to improve your business model and ensure that it is the competitor’s door you hear slamming shut behind a lost sale and not yours.

So how do we put a price on design, and all the other costs and thus ensure our business is profitable? Well Rob, it’s called margin.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Decide what part of the market you are comfortable operating in and what kind of price point that market is happy to pay. Source appropriate products that you can make a margin on, chuck in a percentage for overheads, do the maths and hey presto – that’s your selling price.

That margin will allow for the loss of some jobs. After all, in the real world, we all know you can’t expect to win every job. The clever bit is securing more jobs than you lose.

As a kitchen specialist, I see no shame in making profit on the goods we sell – that is our purpose in life. The designers don’t think they are more important than any other member of the team. They’re not looking down on us mere mortals in the rest of the business from some imaginary ivory tower, because they are a part of the team.

Julie Carlson, one of the founders of the design website Remodelista, has been quoted as saying “the average kitchen remodel requires 2,500 decisions.” As kitchen specialists, it is our job to help guide our clients smoothly through this hefty decision-making process, so that in the end – and not the beginning – they are more than happy to pay us for the privilege of supplying and installing their new kitchen.

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