By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects
The Better Business Bureau is an organization that I admire and rely upon for referrals. Accreditation by the BBB is the gold standard for trustworthy businesses. Our firm has been accredited by the BBB since we were eligible for membership almost 20 years ago. Among the materials that the BBB provides to its members is an e-booklet called “Guide to Building Your Business with Trust” https://www.streampage.com/page/f40fd298e8db561d0e7cd1993432f753/0/0/1499696/323.
At the end of the booklet the BBB lists the “Code of Business Practices” that all BBB-accredited businesses agree to uphold. The 3rd principle in the list is: Tell the Truth. Our firm is committed to telling our clients and our potential new clients the truth. Sometimes that makes it harder for us to get hired for the project. Sometimes the truth is not what the client wants to hear.
Telling the truth might require giving people negative information. Can they do the project that they want to do? Maybe not. Perhaps they can’t get a permit for the project they envisioned. Can we meet the project budget that they have in mind? Sometimes it is not a realistic number. Do we like telling the truth when it isn’t what they want to hear? We don’t. But we do it anyway. We might not get the job when we tell the truth. That’s the way it goes.
We have heard so many stories about clients who gave the contract to someone that promised them the moon. “Sure, we can help you do that!” It’s easy to say in order to get the contract, but when the permitting agency says no, the designer (or contractor) will blame “the bureaucrats” in the planning department, rather than taking responsibility for their own lack of candor or experience. Knowing what can get permitted, and what it will cost, is one of the valuable things that an experienced architect brings to the project. That knowledge, combined with their superior design skills, is going to save you a lot of heartache in the long run. Why get down the road and then turn back to where you started, when you could have been going down a safer road from the beginning?
So, this blog is about telling the truth, and being willing to hear the truth. Take some time to consider whether you are getting better advice, even if the advice is somewhat disappointing. Would you trust a doctor who always said that you were fine, even if he or she knew that you needed treatment? Of course not. Why then, would you trust a designer who doesn’t bring up any of the potential concerns or pitfalls associated with your project?
Now I’m not suggesting that an architect should approach a project with an attitude of gloom and doom. Far from it. A skillful design cleverly incorporates as many of the elements desired by the client as possible, while still meeting building codes and zoning requirements. A great architect will also work closely with the General Contractor to find ways to save on construction costs. A positive can-do attitude goes a long way toward making your dream become a reality. That’s what an architect hopes to achieve with every project.
When the truth isn’t what you had hoped to hear, our suggestion is that you ask more questions. Is there a work-around that we can achieve if we add more room in the budget or the timeline? Can we apply for a variance? Could the design be changed? Can we go up instead of out? Is there a new technology or strategy that can substitute for a feature that cannot be provided? There are always options to discuss. Your architect should be able to tell you all of the options that are available to you. Often, the “compromise” solution will end up being the best decision for you in the long run. Be willing to hear the truth. It’s just good business. For more information on the Better Business Bureau and the companies that they have accredited, visit www.bbb.org.