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Design/Build Process in a Simple Diagram

Meadowlark Design + Build uses this clear graphic to bring homeowners up to speed on what's involved in a remodeling project

November 15, 2017

The project planners at Meadowlark Design + Build combine sales and design functions, so it’s their job to explain the design/build process to homeowners. Much of the time, the potential clients don’t know anything about remodeling, and that used to result in questions about material choices, construction costs, and schedule long before a scope of work had been established.

Things are a lot clearer now that our project planners use a visual aid called the “Design & Construction Funnel” (below). It’s shaped like a funnel because that’s a good graphic way to show clients how the process progresses from the general to the specific. They can see that as they move down the funnel, decisions get more detailed. That gives them a visual picture of all the work that has to go into the planning process before construction can begin.

The funnel also helps prospects to focus on the appropriate things at the appropriate time. Plus, it deflects their questions about cost because they can more easily understand why it’s difficult for us to put real numbers to their project until we have a complete design with detailed specifications. 

When the client signs a preliminary planning agreement, the Phase I feasibility study begins. It takes two to four weeks to complete, and usually results in two or three conceptual designs with budget ranges attached. It also paints a picture that there’s a lot more work to do to figure out the design and project details, and it provides homeowners with an opportunity to adjust their priorities based on the rough budget ranges.

Design & Construction Funnel

Salespeople and project planners at Meadowlark Design + Build hand draw this funnel-shaped time line to help customers understand the design/build process. Visually, it suggests a progression from general to specific and highlights not only the construction schedule but the amount of design and other pre-construction services necessary for a successful project.

The funnel isn’t preprinted; instead, each designer draws it by hand while meeting with the homeowners. Drawing it right then and there helps put the focus in the right place so that we’re no longer having a discussion about bath tile when we’re not even sure whether a bath will be part of the project.

Hand-drawing the funnel also allows project planners to walk through each stage of the process and customize the time line for every homeowner. For example, sometimes you may add bank financing to the time line, or you can set deadlines like: This is when we need your Houzz IdeaBook completed.

Revisiting the funnel at each phase lets clients see the relationship between design choices, budget, and schedule, helping them appreciate their role.

The funnel is often presented in stages. An outline version may be all that’s needed to sell Phase 1. During Phase 2, which can last anywhere from four weeks to several months, the project designer fills in details as they become available. By revisiting the funnel at each phase, homeowners can see the relationship between design decisions, budget, and schedule. And they have a greater appreciation for their role in the process.

The funnel helps us to set client expectations for each stage in the process. And for lots of our clients who are couples who both work and are extremely busy, the funnel sets a pace that makes it easy for them to get a handle on the process.

Since being introduced to the concept by business consultant Mark Richardson, Meadowlark has been using the funnel for about a year and a half. It not only helps customers, it also helps designers with project planning, prompting them to revisit cost estimates, start and completion dates, and other factors that may affect the project outcome.

About the Author

About the Author

Melissa Kennedy is sales and design manager for Meadowlark Design + Build, in Ann Arbor, Mich. She is also a member of Professional Remodeler’s  Forty Under 40 Class of 2017.

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