Today’s question for the [Ask A Protractor] series is…”How Do You Explain The Value Of A Design-Driven Project?” Xavier Garcia @ninzanstudio has agreed to come on and share what he’s learned through the years. His background is in architecture and design, and he definitely gives an authoritative, and authentic conclusion to the question.
Dig in to this episode today, and be Inspired!
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Martin: Start off by telling us a little about yourself, like where you at, and what is it that you do specifically, and how long have you been in business?
Xavier: Okay, sure. I’m in Sarasota, Florida, which is on the Gulf Coast. It’s about an hour south of Tampa, and it’s north of Naples, Fort Myers area.
Martin: And what is it that you guys do?
Xavier: Well, if you look at my business online, I advertise it as a custom carpentry or a design-build carpentry business. So that entails anywhere from framing, remodel, addition all the way to trim finish work. I do a lot of punch out work as well and all of that is usually design-driven given my background in architecture. So, I studied architecture in college, four year degree from University of Florida. I finished in, I think it was 2003. And then I moved back home to Sarasota to work with a family business. My father owns an architecture company that does custom home mainly. We do some to this day even, some commercial work as well. I mainly like high-end residential work, custom homes.
Martin: So how long have you been in business yourself?
Xavier: I filed my company carpentry business in 2008.
Martin: So the question before us that was turned in says how do you explain the value in a design-driven project?
Xavier: Recently, when I first started the carpentry business I was working as an hourly subcontractor for a builder. So really, I was just learning carpentry. So I didn’t get to do a whole lot of design with the carpentry. But I always had it in the back of my mind. I was able to make suggestions when we were problem solving, so I was able to apply some of my design knowledge in that aspect, but most recently, within the last couple of years, I’ve gotten connected with some landscape architects, some builders that like to advertise themselves as design-build.
So I’ve been able to provide my services. For example, I’ve got a project coming up that is a yoga garden that’s very contemporary, almost like a Zen-like type of setting. I was able to apply my architectural background to develop the privacy screen wall enclosure that will be composed of a random pattern thermally treated ash installation. It’s pretty cool. So I was able to sell my services with my architectural background. I can provide shop drawings that I produce myself, I’m able to speak, I call it design lingo, if you will, with the landscape architect who’s design-driven. He’s also a design-build contractor, landscape contractor. So we’re able to speak back and forth and I can tell they really appreciate that aspect of our relationship.
When I have private or direct customers, not working as a subcontractor, again, I’m able to offer them my experience in residential project management as well as my architectural background. Recently I put together a renovation estimate for a customer and I was able to sell them, okay we need to do the drawings so I can do drawings to help explain what we’re going to be doing, and I think that aspect really helps you as a contractor. Whether you’re a builder, general contractor, or you’re a specialty contractor/subcontractor, you’re a carpenter or a woodworker, you’re able to convey ideas either through drawings or putting together color design package, and that helps to explain your ideas and then you can get creative with that. You can actually come up with ideas that would help sell the project to your customer.
Martin: So by focusing on a design-driven or having drawings, architectural type drawings presented, it’s able to bring more value to the table, is that what you’re saying?
Xavier: Exactly. Exactly. Now, in my case, I’m able to do that pretty much all in-house by myself.
And I would say if you don’t have that background that doesn’t mean you can’t offer that. You can associate yourself with a designer and it could be a team effort. You could offer that as a service as part of what you do as a carpenter or a remodeling contractor or what have you.
Martin: Yeah. I can see how if you have that training specifically, it’s really nice. You can do renderings and draftings and all that kind of stuff. But what if you don’t have that ability? What do you do?
Xavier: Exactly. So you want to connect yourself with a designer. It could be an interior designer, it could be somebody who maybe designs furniture, it could be an architect. It’s actually surprising, I’ve spoken to a lot of guys, mostly through Instagram, but in other areas locally as well, and whether they know it or not, they’re offering design services when they’re at the start of a project and they’re kind of problem solving. They hear what the customer or the client wants, what their wish list is, and then they’re producing kind of a set of ideas with a cost associated. You’re designing. You’re coming up with something from thin air. You’re creating an idea that’s going to be executed. Whether you know it or not that’s design.
Martin: Yeah. So, from my experience, if you can’t do it yourself, like say you’re a general contractor and you’re communicating with a client about their dreams and you whip up this little drawing and they’re like, “Okay.” But that’s not near as polished and professional as someone that’s schooled in it and has the eye for it. But the struggle is how do we, where are we going to come up with the money to hire someone that’s really good at it and yet still be able to sell the job and get that money back?
Xavier: Exactly. I think if … My friend Shawn Van Dyke says it pretty well. You have to have some kind of a retainer or a design service agreement to where the customer’s going to trust you to, they’re going to pay you to kind of come up with some ideas. You’re going to spend time on this, and then they’re going to have a result, and then they can decide whether they want to move forward from that or not. But I guess, to answer your question, if you’re doing this for the first time that might be a little difficult. So it might be good for you to associate yourself with a designer, somebody that’s already got kind of a portfolio of design work, and then you can team up and bring that to the table.
Once you’re kind of established, you’ve done one, two, three, four projects, then you’re going to get comfortable enough to say, “Okay, well I hear you, I hear what you want. We need to spend a little bit of time on this to come up with some ideas. Maybe it’s some floor plans or some sketch up renderings or even just some quick 3D sketches, pencil sketches even. And then you’re going to be able to kind of see what we’re thinking and then we can collaborate back and forth and move forward that way.”
I think that answers your question, but I think the most important thing is to convey trust to your customer. They need to be able to see that you kind of know what you’re talking about or the person that you’re associated with has experience and they know what they’re talking about and they’re going to be willing to put a little money down to see where that’s going to go, you know?
Martin: Yeah. Would you be able to charge more and get better jobs making more money out of them because you started with design rather than say, skills, carpentry skills? You started with design and went through that channel and had nice drawings to look at, nice renderings and things and so, in the long run, is it going to be a better client and a better end result?
Xavier: I think in my case I want to say yes. It might not always be the case. My market in Sarasota it’s … Sarasota’s one of the nicest places in Florida. It’s actually pretty fast-growing now. If you drive kind of the bay front and you look at the downtown skyline, there’s just crane after crane after crane, so it’s growing. There’s a lot of wealthy homeowners that are kind of living down here, whether it’s a retirement home or a second home. So in the circles that I’m kind of starting to get into, those clients are willing to pay more up front to better understand exactly what is being proposed and what they’re going to be getting.
And they’re willing to spend that money. So I guess in my case, yes, it is very much an advantage for me to have had that architectural training, that design training, design school training.
Martin: All right. We’re going to wrap it up now. Do you have one quick word of encouragement or advice that you’d like to give other contractors out there around this subject of design?
Xavier: Some contractors kind of have it in their mind that designers or architects just don’t know what they’re talking about. That might be true in some cases, but I think you could offer a lot more and probably charge a certain percentage higher more for your projects if you do offer design-build services or associate yourself with a designer, an architect or interior designer, but design professional. Certainly I’ve seen the benefits of it, not just in my business but other contractors or builders. So, yeah, I think it brings a lot more to the table. It helps you expand into another level, really.
Martin: All right. That’s awesome. Where can people learn more about you and follow along your online journey?
Xavier: Sure. My website is ninzanstudio.com. And then all my social media profiles are @ninzanstudio. Facebook, Instagram, I think I’ve got Twitter.
Martin: So if you have any other questions or comments for Xavier, go look him up online. Say hi at the very least. And with that, we’re going to wrap things up and I just really appreciate you coming on today, Xavier.
Xavier: Yeah. Thanks a lot. This was a lot of fun. This is great. I really appreciate the podcasts that you’re putting out, Martin.