Snow falling on England

•January 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The article below was written in December just before Christmas when Britain was confronted with a rather unannounced cold front that caused serious problems on the roads and public transport, despite rather low precipitation and not even quite freezing temps. Oddly, two weeks later when Britain was hit with serious snow and ice, the problems were much less pronounced than on this remarkable 22. December, when much of  Britain stood still.

Dec 22, 2009 11:39 AM

The British, by this I refer to the general public and its government, once again prove their inherent ability to deal with national crisis, swiftly, smoothly and efficiently.
The overwhelming snowfall of the past 24 hours, up to 1/4″ in higher elevations, combined with nearly, but not quite, frozen slush on the roads would have been a challenge to any northern country, but Britain once again mastered the situation. A normal drive of 50 minutes that, under less organized circumstances, could have easily taken 10 or more hours, now only took 5 hours. The public provided an invaluable service to traffic radio as these seem to get their  information not from dubious traffic helicopters or satellite services but rather from the educated commuter stuck in traffic (a nice feature was that callers could also take the opportunity to discuss latest football scores and vent about local government failings). Through this eyewitness reporting system (whilst driving) many fatalities could surely be avoided and most of the vehicles “stuck in quite high snow” could be pulled to safety by cyclists who had the advantage of much better traction than, for instance, the 4×4 Landrover that was crawling ahead of us at just under 3 miles per hour from Croydon to Crystal Palace.

Thank heavens for the undeterred efforts of the local curry house that was able deliver hot food to our house at 11 pm and thanks to the curry delivery man who braved the elements and parked his car at the bottom of the hill (surely to avoid the slush splashing up onto the side of his car) and walked the rest of the way quite quickly to deliver the food while still hot.

Now of course there is much discussion in todays papers about the lack of gritting trucks being dispatched, but, having some sources in local government we are assured that gritting trucks had been sent out but there had been some issues with “the salty having been washed away by the rain….an unnamed London Borough).

There is no snow today and yesterday’s slush is now a thing of the past but we are staying in another night just to be safe.

Best wishes to everyone this Christmas season.

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The educated consumer – part 2

•December 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Let’s have a look at the value proposition of an interior designer:

When we look at interior design marketing  we often see keywords like

  • experience
  • resources
  • creativity

All inherently important characteristics of a good designer, but more detail is needed. Detail about the process of designing a space. So designers should include a description of how a job will develop over the weeks and months that it takes to complete. The more detailed the workflow the more value is added in the client’s mind. See, customers are in fact not always right, which is why it’s our job to educate them and that in itself is another value. So a real value proposition, say on a website or brochure, should include a sample work flow, from concept to completion.

  • Determination of client needs, wants, dreams and budget – all are important even if they don’t all fit into the budget
  • Physical assessments of the project – measurements, photos, floor plans, elevations
  • Conceptual presentations – sketches, drawings, mood boards
  • Resourcing of materials
  • Design presentation
  • Design approval and ordering
  • Order and shipping management
  • Delivery and installation coordination

There are many more responsibilities for the designer during any given project, coordination of sub contractors, management of damaged or incorrect items etc. and along every step of the way calming of the customer’s frayed nerves. It’s a tough job. It’s only to a rather small extent a creative job and the rest is the business of being creative. A good designer watches out for his clients best interests and develops a design with the client in mind. A good designer foresees stress factors and avoids them or keeps them as far as possible from his or her client. A good designer creates a space in which the client can find peace of mind and gather energy for the challenges that face him in his own life – the design process should not be one of those challenges.

With a designer providing so many services often for a flat or hourly fee, a client should think twice before going out and ordering merchandise behind the designer’s back unless he or she really wants to take on all of the responsibility.

It’s all about education and expectation. If we are very transparent with our customers about what to expect and how things work, we can engage them in process as valuable partners with one respecting the other’s areas of expertise and knowledge.

“But some of them will never learn and always try to shop me” I hear someone say. True. They’re out there. Always have a minimum fee in your contract so if you get out-maneuvered at the furniture store you still have a retainer you can count on. Be strict with your fees, you’re not doing this for your health. You’re providing a valuable service and it is your profession not your hobby.  Set rules, stick to them, do a great job and word of mouth will continue to provide you with clients, most of whom will already know how you work.

And never forget “Not every customer is your customer”.

Who am I?

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Who am I? In so many words: Brainstormer, Entrepreneur and Visionary.

Someone who has learned to harness the really good bits from great innovations and reapply or recombine them to create whole new concepts in social media and marketing. Someone who helps business owners see their business in a new light rather than mourning things that are no longer and who helps business owners to not only adapt to a new environment but benefit from it, by working less and earning more. The road I took to get here was bumpy to say the very least. Lost dreams, hopes and disrupted personal lives dotted the way but became a bit like Hansel’s breadcrumbs. Little markers along the way that now, no longer painful, serve as lessons learned and reminders. Having learned not to mourn what could have been or what I thought should have been, but rather embracing and cherishing the good things that come along and learning from the low blows. Wait, not just learning from them….using them in my favour. Coming out better, stronger and most of all…smiling. That’s what I do and that’s what I teach. My background is in marketing, predominantly small business marketing, to which I added interior design with an emphasis on kitchen design later mainly because of a passion I’ve always had and knowing that I had the confidence to sell myself and my ideas. I still love that field and it’s issues are very close to my heart, but I realise also that, while I am creative, my real talent lies in the business, marketing and branding side even in this arena. So if marketing and business consulting is where I belong that is where I shall stay.

www.businessvulf.com – business consulting for the interior design trade

www.modenus.com – A community platform for interior designers and interior design enthusiasts

The educated consumer

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

My 13 year old daughter is sitting a few feet away from me, frantically typing …always a sign that she has been procrastinating on a project. The topic: The Internet. The question: Did the Internet make a big difference in your life. My answer: I do hope that my life is firmly enough rooted in more intangible values for it not to be inherently influenced. But my business life? Now that’s another story.

Let’s have a look at Interior Design, because it’s a field I know well. How has it changed? What are it’s challenges vis-a-vis “the educated consumer”. Well, suppose we should first define “educated”. This is a consumer who on the upside is engaged in the process, knows what he or she wants, and has done their homework regarding available products, challenges of the project and of course knows a thing or two about pricing and resources. On the flip side, this consumer can be a challenge because he or she may think they know everything when they don’t, may be overinvolved and stifling to the designer and the design process and may (or most certainly will) try to “shop” the designer. How do we avoid this? Can we avoid it? Or is the answer in being more transparent rather than more obscure? Is the answer maybe in a shift of business model and a shift of value proposition? Since the Internet gives access to almost every resource available, along with tools and inspirations, what can the designer do to protect his profit margin?