Would Someone Please Define Value

Trends

Have you ever wondered just how many ad campaigns and marketing slogans would be rendered mute if you struck the word “value” from the English lexicon?  It’s a tantalizing concept, since it would require companies to be a bit more specific about just what their products and services contribute to the lives of their customers.

Like the words quality and service, the meaning of value has become a marketing cipher into which many businesses expect their customers to apply their own definition.

Which is precisely the problem when applying value to the business of remodeling.  While the concept of value may be a bit fuzzy to many consumers, far fewer have a difficult time defining the term bargain.  And unfortunately for those of us in the remodeling industry, these two words are too often thought of as being synonymous.  As a company that takes great pride in the value that our services represent, we think it’s high time to open up a discussion as to just what that term means.

The idea of “getting a bargain” when it comes to a remodel makes us very uneasy.  After all, there is a reason that so many businesses throw out the lowest bid when it comes to getting quotes for products and services.  There simply is a cost to things below which you cannot go without sacrificing the quality and integrity of materials and services.  The willingness of a service provider to go below that threshold should raise a red flag when it comes to their professionalism and experience.  And while quality and integrity are certainly “value propositions” in our minds, we think these two attributes should be a given for anyone in our business.

A more popular concept of value in recent years has been “return on investment”, or ROI.  In the heady days of the real estate boom, the idea of picking up a property for little or nothing down, upgrading the interior and/or exterior, and then “flipping” the property for a windfall profit was a mighty tempting behavior for a lot of homeowners.  Too tempting, as it turned out.

With real estate prices languishing for the foreseeable future, we think it makes a lot more sense for homeowners to look at where they live as a “quality of life” rather than “return on investment” proposition.  The days of treating ones home as an ATM are long over…to which we say, “thank goodness”!  We encourage our customers to look at a remodel as a process and outcome that adds to their quality of life, and not to their indebtedness!

In thinking of value as something we experience, rather than a “bottom line” transaction, we see value in both the process and outcome of a successful remodel.  And after all, if you reject that idea of value as something material, what you are basically left with is a qualitative definition – one that looks at the experience of the “thing” rather than the thing itself.  In our next blog installment, we’ll talk more about the concept of value as an experience, and just what that “thing” is from the perspective of our customers.

2013 NARI Remodeled Homes Video Tour

Trends

For those of you who were unable to attend this year’s Remodeled Homes Tour, we wanted to share the story behind the two projects we featured.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we thought we’d save a whole lot of pages by simply putting together this five minute slideshow presentation.

You’ll not only see the obligatory “befores” and “afters,” but the “whys and wherefores” as well!

From Danger to Delight: a Trellis Deck Addition

Deck Addition

A beautiful deck can add a lot to ones quality of life…until it ages to the point of becoming a hazard.  Remodeling to the rescue!

Vision

When a deck begins to wobble, it has become more than just an eyesore.  It’s just plain dangerous.  Our client wanted us to not only make it safe, but more appealing.

Challenge

Our client wanted to keep the basic configuration of the old deck, but add a new design element in the form of a trellis that would offer both an element of visual appeal as well as a source of shade for a southern exposure.

Accomplishment

We removed the old slab that the original deck was built on and poured a new slab for the deck’s foundation.  The new deck was a two-tier version of the original, with decorative metal railing to define the upper and lower areas

Highlights

With a southern exposure, you want to limit the negative effects of the sun, but not at the expense of blocking the view from a hillside lot.  We used a clear rail system to balance these considerations, as well as opting for a more durable material than the previous deck’s wooden railing.  Ah, the good life!

 Click on photos to enlarge. 


And Baby Makes Five

Addition

When a family increases by one child more than the number of bedrooms, it’s time to consider a larger home — but that doesn’t mean buying a new one.  Think of this situation as an opportunity to customize, as well as add on.

Vision

Our client’s family had increased by a child, and with only two kids’ rooms in their current floor plan, they needed to add a new bedroom to accommodate number three.  Having recently spent some time overseas, however, they wanted a design that would reflect a new esthetic sensibility as well as provide more space.

Challenge

The original floor plan design for the new addition had been created by an architect whom our clients had hired.  As the folks who were responsible for building it, however, we found some aspects of the design to be a bit awkward.  The first thing we did in redesigning the space was to create a larger family area as part of the new bedroom addition.

Accomplishment

We ripped out the two original kids’ rooms and used the space over the home’s garage to frame three bedrooms and a family room.  This was a more technically demanding project than it might seem on its surface, since we had to accommodate existing duct work in the construction.  In designing the layout of the new rooms, we made sure that each of them had windows on two sides — something we are big believers in doing.

Highlights

Along with the windows in each child’s bedroom, we added a skylight to the new family room space to bring in more natural light.  The result of the project was a balancing of personal and communal space that appealed to the newfound sense of esthetics that our clients had acquired while living overseas, and gave new meaning to the expression, “one big happy family.”  Great design, when applied to where we live, has a way of bringing joy to our lives.

Click on the photo to enlarge:

 

 

 

 

 

Beam Us Up, Scotty!

We traditionally think of kitchens in very functional terms.  After all, this is the space from which we feed our families.  But it is also a space in which we interact with them, as well as with guests.  It’s not surprising, therefore, that when our clients ask us to remodel their kitchens, they often not only want to update their look, but open them up to the rest of the home in the process.

In cases where opening up a room requires the removal of a load bearing wall, we need to do more than a facelift; we have to engage in reconstructive surgery.  This often involves installing a steel beam for structural support — which further involves getting an 800 to 900 pound piece of steel into the house.  Needless to say, you just don’t walk one of these bad boys in through the front door.

The point to this post is simply to demonstrate that whatever the construction challenge, we find there is always more than one way to skin the proverbial cat.  We just want to make sure the cat can still take Best in Show by the time we’ve finished with it.

Click on photos to enlarge:

The Strite Experience

40 Years of Delivering High Quality

Over the years, an essential attribute of the “Strite brand” has become “experience” — not so much as defined by the amount of time and knowledge we’ve invested in our craft (as considerable as that may be), but more from the standpoint of how our customers experience a remodel project.

As Marketing Associate for STRITE design + remodel, I have the privilege — and challenge — of promoting a company that has spent nearly forty years building an enviable reputation in the Treasure Valley. To get a sense of just how solid that reputation is, I would invite you to take a look at our customer satisfaction ratings on Guild Quality.com (an excellent resource for anyone looking for reliable suppliers in their local residential building industry).

When 97% of third-party survey respondents say they would recommend Strite, you would be justified in wondering just how much of a challenge promoting our brand might be. Short of being the public relations director for “The Organization for the Advancement of Puppies, Kittens, and Toddlers,” marketing a company with the customer loyalty that Strite enjoys isn’t a bad gig. You’d figure I could get in a few naps during the day, or at least update my Facebook page on a more frequent basis.

The challenge with promoting almost any brand, however, is defining and communicating the attributes that constitute its “value proposition” — and Strite is no exception. In the case of the remodeling industry, the most obvious brand attributes are quality, delivery, and price.

As a professional services provider, the first two of these attributes, quality and delivery, are givens. That doesn’t mean they’re a slam dunk — it just means that we consider them to be the inalienable right of every customer. The third brand attribute, price, is a far trickier one. While you can choose to compete on price, all of us understand, at least on an intuitive level, that you can only cut so much cost out of any undertaking before you compromise quality (and even delivery, if you’re not fairly compensating your trades).

Over the years, an essential attribute of the “Strite brand” has become “experience” — not so much as defined by the amount of time and knowledge we’ve invested in our craft (as considerable as that may be), but more from the standpoint of how our customers experience their remodel projects. In measuring our success, it’s no longer enough that the people and processes in our organization deliver the expected result — we want the experience of that result to enhance our customers’ lives in very real and meaningful ways. To put it another way, we’ve gone from focusing simply on the quality of the customer outcome to including the quality of the customer experience.

If all this seems a bit “touchy feely,” consider this: We are in the business not just of “building stuff,” but of harmonizing people’s homes and lifestyles. Our customers’ needs generally go beyond, “We want another 1,000 square feet of space in our home.” Nowadays, their needs are more aspirational. “Now that our kids have left home, we want to do more entertaining, and our kitchen just doesn’t work.” If that’s not “touchy feely,” what is?

Focusing on the lifestyle aspirations behind a remodel project means, first of all, understanding those aspirations; and because the only people who truly know what those are are our clients, this also means that the “Strite experience” must connect with who they are, what they value, and the ways in which the esthetics of their environment not only reflect their lifestyle, but enhance it as well.

Involving our clients in their remodel project means helping them get in touch with “their inner designer.” We do this in part by asking a lot of questions, but also by encouraging them to pay attention to design elements that resonate with them. In one recent project, for example, our client did a Google search on “zen bathrooms,” which yielded a number of ideas for colors, textures, and fixtures that collectively expressed “the feeling of water,” as well as her feelings toward a cherished home of thirty years.

Being able to experience the connection between a personal sense of esthetics and how it might best express and reinforce itself in the remodel of a bathroom turned out to be an energizing and creative exercise that far outweighed the anxiety our client naturally felt about the change taking place in her home. We are, after all, creatures of habit. At the core of the value proposition underlying our brand is a commitment to immersing our clients in a creative process that not only yields a more beautiful and/or functional home, but also helps them realize that we are creatures of creativity as well. That’s an epiphany that stays with you long after a remodel is completed — and as ineffable as it may seem, it’s what the “Strite Experience” is about.