I have been designing and building for 24 years. Integrated Design & Build firms are a different animal to the traditional Client + Architect + Builder scenario. They are more profitable, but they usually have a larger staff ratio, which can be a bit of a handful and a trap for ‘inexperienced’ players. Essentially the responsibility of a project, from start to finish, resides solely with one company alone – and the blame game does not come into play for clients. This is why reputable design build firms are much sought after.
It took me some time to get used to the in-house design and in-house build workflow, and there were many things that I needed to do to flourish and become profitable. When I look back and ask myself what the key ingredient to success was, I always come to the same conclusion: Communication.
Concentrate on communication with the client. We all know that out of every 10 people you meet, you are inevitably going to clash with one. That is life. Try and ‘pick and choose’ customers. If it feels bad, gracefully decline the job. Life is too short! It is easy to keep clients onboard when you explain what you are doing, and in a way they understand. Clients do not understand 2D drawings, but they do understand 3D. We were all born seeing the world in 3D, and we only learned 2D because that was the best way to communicate before the advent of modern technology (like 3d CAD software & iphones).