I want to talk to you about being a hero. Being a hero is when you’re working in your studio on a project that you’ve been paid to do, you’ve got a deadline, and the contractor calls in a panic…
The tile setters are ready to go, and they don’t know how to set the tile. Do they go up and down, do they go sideways, or is it alternating? What are they doing?
You know this information is already on the tile detail drawings, but nobody brought those to the job site. You were just at the job yesterday and talked to the tile setters, but they didn’t ask that question.
Nonetheless, you’re going to drop everything and run over there to save that job.
The Price of Being a Hero
Three and a half hours later, you get back into your office and discover your head is no longer into the project you were working on. And now, you have two or three hours of paperwork to do that you’re going to have to do tonight instead of hanging out with your family.
That was the price of rescuing the job.
Now, it can happen in a lot of other ways. Here’s another example for you. A prospective client calls, and she’s got a new build. It’s five bedrooms, six baths, in other words, it’s a big house. She needs finishes, furniture, and the whole works. Sounds fabulous, right?
You try to set up an appointment with her to talk about it so that you can get hired for the job. But what happens is that she calls you back and says, “Oh, I need you right now. I need you to meet me at the plumbing showroom immediately, because the contractor needs the valves, and I need help right now.”
So, you run down to the showroom, pick out all the plumbing pieces, and you get it all figured out. You write the specification and send it out to both the contractor and the client. Everybody is covered, you get everything done really well, and it takes you maybe two hours. And then she leaves.
Even though you solved her problem, you didn’t get hired for the job. And, quite frankly, it’s because you jumped in or rescued her. This happens over and over again.
How Rescuing a Client Can Get You into Trouble
Here’s another example. You’ve worked with this client for a while, and you presented a whole room to them, but they never got around to ordering it. Something came up, and they lost interest.
But then months later, she calls you up, and she says, “You know what, we need that family room furniture right away. We are having a party because my son’s getting married. The party will be before the wedding, and everybody’s going to be here. I need that room done now.”
So, you jump into action, and you get everything ordered. Then, you expedite it and do what you have to do to make it all happen overnight when it really shouldn’t be that way. You put in all this extra work, except that you never did the paperwork upfront to actually sell it to her.
So now, you’re financially on the line for everything that you bought for her, and you have nothing to support it. Chances are you’ll get it signed off and paid, and it’ll work out, but you’ve put yourself in a very precarious position.
This happened once in my studio when one of my designers did an installation without a signed proposal. They were trying to help our doctor client get his office open on time. We ended up in court because they refused to pay us. We didn’t have a signed proposal ahead of time, and they wouldn’t sign afterward. So, I know you can get into big trouble by rescuing and trying to be a hero.
What Compels You to Be a Hero?
I invite you to take a look at why you come to the rescue for your clients.
Why do you react that way instead of responding with an offer that makes more sense? What is it that you get out of it?
Is it being needed, being important, or being listened to?
Is that the fact that you’re willing to do anything to make sure that your design comes off right, even if you don’t get paid or appreciated for it?
Are you so anxious to design that you’ll give up anything to do it?
Ask yourself, what is the motivator behind rescuing, because it causes a whole lot of trouble for everyone.
Now, I have to tell you that this is actually a boundary issue. The very best interior design business advice I can give you is that…
Your client’s lack of planning is not your emergency.
It’s simply an invitation to a job. If you take a deep breath, pause for a minute, step away from the client or contractor’s panic and look at what’s really going on, you can figure it out.
If you’re going to move forward and help them with the project, what do you need to make it work?
Then, use your voice, speak up, and take up some space. Say what you need to and make an offer that works for both of you. It will end up being a positive experience instead of a get-beat-up experience.
Until I see you again, design something beautiful and get paid what you’re worth.