How do you market your company and how do you come up with creative ideas? For some the answer might be easy; you don't do any marketing and you come up with your own original ideas for projects. Or you construct only what the plans dictate. But other contractors see themselves as the member of a team. For them collaboration with others takes many forms.
Contractors collaborate with designers and market their company to them in hopes of securing work. Designers need relationships with contractors they can trust to install good quality work. They also need help building specifications for unique decorative projects. Both contractors and designers must collaborate with owners, and sometimes contractors collaborate with each other on joint ventures.
Designers are used to collaborating with owners and contractors. They present a range of creative ideas to owners that get discussed and refined before a concept is agreed upon. In this process, the design staff develops an understanding of what owners really want. Sometimes they have meetings with trusted contractors before going into such meetings to develop ideas they will present, but they mostly depend on contractors for other reasons. They need experienced, trusted installers to tell them that their ideas are constructible before they present them. In addition, they need samples to show their clients and accurate cost information so that they aren't surprised when work goes out to bid. Contractors don't usually think about work from the designer's perspective—especially on projects where the lowest bid can win the contract—but the fact is that their reputation is on the line and they need assurance that good work will be installed. For that reason, designers often try to influence the decision about who will be contracted to manage the installation.
Contractors collaborate with and market to designers because they are a major source for work. Developing trusting relationships is important to them, but the relationship is different for contractors. Collaboration for a contractor means supplying service. Service means supplying designers with the information they need when they need it. Jay Fangman, business development director, Colorado Hardscapes, Denver, says that the most important aspect of the relationship with designers is to always do what you say you will do. It's especially important to do this at times when workloads are heavy because it pays off when work is scarce.
For professional artists such as Carolin Braaksma, owner, Braaksma Design, Denver, collaboration with others is a major part of her business. On one project she collaborated with a group of children to create the concept for the work and then involved several contractors in the actual installation. Her recognition as an artist depends on her ability to collaborate.
The purpose of this column isn't to sell you on the concept of collaboration or to tell you how to do it. It's to encourage you to think about how you can collaborate better with the people that surround your business.