How do you choose to hire the people that provide services for you? Last week (and yesterday) I contacted my plumber (who also is a G.C.), and whom I know well, because we are having a problem and it needs to be repaired. As I thought about it, I asked myself why am I still waiting for a plumber to get back to me when there are others out there? That’s easy – it is rooted in the fact that I trust him. See, I’m willing to wait a little longer, (since this not urgent or an emergency), to work with someone I trust, as opposed to charging through to the first person that is available, yet is a stranger. I don’t know how to predict that outcome, but my magic 8-ball says, ‘outlook no so good.’
Last week I signed a contract with a new client; we are going to design their new home, a place they’ll raise their family and perhaps the place where they’ll live out their days. We met once before during a lengthy interview (and their previous vetting period) and the meeting went well enough where they were comfortable in asking me to provide a proposal to move forward. Following that, there were a myriad of e-mail exchanges, draft contract proposals, and other information to convey what we’re going to do. Last week’s meeting was only the second time we’ve ever met in person, but I insisted we meet to sign the contract instead of through e-mail which would have been more expedient. I prefer to meet in person as that type of meeting warrants a personal meeting, and not merely exchanging a signed document where they’re committing considerable resources to someone to plan their largest expense ever. Face-to-face is the way to go.
It’s common knowledge that we live in a culture of convenience and pursue the swiftest way to accomplish goals. That might be effective for many tasks, and often a text or an e-mail gets the job done adequately. I hope we all remember that sometimes, many times it is important to meet face-to-face. The last I checked, we’re still human and not cyborgs. The primary purpose of the meeting was to convey how I want to earn their trust. Each interaction holds that potential and it’s best accomplished by seeing each other eye to eye.
In my world, business is still conducted in a relational manner and relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Yet, often we settle for doing business, purchasing things, or even buying services through impersonal measures. We buy more stuff online without an exchange of a cashier or sales associate. We use the self-check-out at the grocery store (I do) and now we can even buy groceries (or late night snacks) online, thus eliminating the need to ever visit the store anymore. Soon we will have self-driving vehicles that will cart us to our jobs, appointments or other areas without any human interaction, so the awkwardness of talking to your Lyft driver could be eliminated. Just trust the machine. Creative services are being marketed online and for the lowest bid, one can find a graphic designer, interior designer and I assume even an architect. What is wrong with us?
On occasion, I have run into people who have built a house, primarily with a builder, and have claimed there was an architect involved (which leaves me skeptical). When I asked them to recount the story and process, it is often described as a brief meeting, an exchange of a menu list, much like ordering a hamburger at a fast food chain. After what was deemed an unacceptable amount of time, the architect or designer or whomever, created a limited set of drawings by modifying some stock plan or what looks like a stock plan. It is also likely that designer may have only sent drawings in the mail or to the builder. The best part is the homeowner cannot remember the ‘architect’s’ name! After such an impersonal process with a stranger, they knowingly proceed to build this house having trusted their primary shelter and their largest expense ever to an absolute stranger. That’s not service.
I wish I could say every architect will have good chemistry with every potential client. I know everyone will not fit with me, nor me with them. However, I have found that the root of almost every problem in professional circumstances generally boils down to communication, and that communication is correlated to the relationship. The strength of the relationship is the foundation of the trust. I wrote recently about feeling accountable in my work. That remains true, but if someone asks what is the one thing I would like to convey to my clients, it would be that I am working to earn their trust. I acknowledge the expense they are entrusting me with in designing their home or business or church or coffee shop, but I also recognize that these are the places people spend their life.
So, in our world of fast, expedient and impersonal, how can you trust anyone? I hope you can trust your architect.