Laurie March got game.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Laurie grew up in a construction family, 4 generations of roofers that kept the Maryland rains out of buildings, she doesn’t do hot tar mopping but the family roofers at “Cole Roofing” are still going strong.
Attending classes in design and art Laurie also earned a double major for marketing and history, and a minor in German.Â Gutes gehendes girl! But that was just school because Laurie March Design was waiting to be founded and Laurie the intrepid entrepreneur she is, had the energy and the smarts to make it happen.
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”
Moving to LA Laurie spent time as the Maitre d’ of one of LA’s finest restaurants and she told me “keeping the staff and clientele of a busy high end restaurant happy and coming back taught me a lot about how a service business should operate”, and Laurie uses these skills in her design and consulting business. When you hear her tell it it does make sense, in a restaurant the greatest chef will fail if the waiters deliver a product they don’t understand, and the waiters can’t keep the customers happy if the busboys can’t keep water glasses full and tables cleared. Is remodeling so different?
Both dining establishments and remodeling companies provide services met with high expectations and often done under pressure, add that both cost more than many people like to spend and its easy to see why expectations are high. Good analogy!
Here’s the basic philosophy Laurie operates on.
There are many ways to run a business but Laurie follows a simple plan, see a need and fill it. Identify basic needs and just take care of people, from the start to the end. Those basic needs are important for everyone on a March project, the customers come first of course, but also the demo guys, the carpenters, the plumber, painters, everyone, after all, remodeling is a team sport. Don’t sweat the big stuff, little things add up so start with the little things and get everyone supporting each other.
What does she do anyway?
Laurie is a professional who works for the homeowner like a fair minded friend. She sees there is a balance between the contractors and the remodeling clients, Laurie the designer may ensure the textures and colors will produce the desired effect, or she may visit the job-site at 7am armed with a box of donuts for the demo crew, she is the consigliere, after the boss (customer) and the under-boss (contractor), a person to trust and a unassociated confidant, a person who sees that needs are met from the top to the bottom.
Say what Homie!
How about putting the ribbon on the package? Laurie believes many contractors do a great job with the project and physical expectations are met when building a remodel but these same competent companies fail to deliver on the experience. Good craftsmanship is eclipsed if you don’t communicate well or clean up properly, just taking a homeowners usual parking space can bring you down a notch on the love-ability scale and diminish their perception of how important they are to you. Do the little things, don’t just build, make a gift of it. Which is more enjoyable, a present handed to you, lets say a shirt, or a gift wrapped box with a ribbon containing that shirt? Put a ribbon on it! Laurie offers end of the job gifts with the Laurie March Design label, such as small cans of touch up stains or paints. Nice touch!
Laurie answers some questions for us:
What are some of the weirdest requests clients have asked of you?
Most of my jobs center around a big life change for clients. I’ve had a client call me 8 months pregnant – with 3 months worth of work to do on their first home they had just purchased, and plead to get it done in time to bring home their new baby. Call it pregnancy hormones or an intense desire to get the paint colors right: We went through over 146 paint samples before settling on the perfect colors for the home. After my crews working crazy hours and weekends, Baby Leo came home to his incredibly well appointed nursery (Farrow and Ball’s Pointing was the winning paint color) on time!
Another interesting client was an older folk singer who was moving into a new home – he had a wine collection numbering in the thousands of bottles! He ordered wine cabinetry to house them that wouldn’t fit into the elevators – needless to say ‘hoisting’ furniture several stories up the side of a condo is not for the faint of heart. He also got very tired during his relocation – so my team made up his Master Bedroom for him and he took a nap while we completed his entire move!
A client in Venice wanted to repaint her Guest House while her hubby was out of town. Not only did they disagree on paint colors, but he hates mess. We pulled off a full color scheme change, redesign of the space, and painted our way out the door of the second floor unit’s stairwell so that it would dry overnight! Hubby was a little confused, but completely impressed at how much we’d accomplished in 24 hours!
What excites you in the market today?
Here in LA, I am seeing more standout contractors who have mastered their own specific ‘Best Practices.’ Nothing is more exciting to me than process! I love to see companies in the market like One Week Bath who nail down a part of a remodeling project and perfect it to the best of their abilities. Matt Plaskoff is a great example of someone who relentlessly seeks to find the best way to perform each stage of a bathroom remodel, including how the client experiences the sale, the installation, and the aftercare program. It’s no wonder they have expanded into Kansas City! www.oneweekbath.com
Also, it’s truly thrilling to see people out there like Lorenz Schilling and the Deconstruction ReUse Network. Pushing the boundaries of recycling, their process aims to assist homeowners in adopting the practice of Deconstruction instead of traditional demolition practices – and working with Habitat For Humanity and Corazon Foundation in Mexico to give the building materials a true second life. The volume of building materials they keep out of landfills yearly is staggering! http://www.reusenetwork.org/about_us.php
I think leaders who continue to master their trades and offer homeowners unique services and alternatives to traditional businesses practices will keep growing and surviving in the coming months.
What’s are some tips you can offer the homeowner gearing up for a remodel?
I think a hugely overlooked conversation in preparation for a remodeling project is the role of the homeowner. It’s your job to be a good client too! While your project is exciting, and contractors are often eager to win the work, remember your role:
* Remodeling can be draining. Keep an eye on your emotional state and make choices in the appropriate state of mind. Indecision is costly – ask in advance for a list of decisions to make and materials you will be required to select – and any deadlines you must meet to avoid change orders. Ignore this at your peril!
* Discuss with any partners and family members the roles you will play in this remodel: Decision Maker, Decor and Materials Selection, Financial Planning, Supervisor, Cleanup Crew…etc. and leave the drama at the door!
* Contractors are people too! Advise them where they can park, where restrooms are for their use, any concerns you have about your children and pets during house calls. Sweeten the deal with a coffee, snack, or surprise lunch for the crew working on your home and you’ll be showered with goodwill and a happy project.
* When the work has been performed on time, and up to standard, make sure you pay on time!
Follow our exploits helping LA homeowners survive big and small remodeling projects as we indulge our curiosity and talk to the guy peering down your drain – or crawling under your home. Share a day in the life of an LA Project Manager and Designer at www.improvemental.com (formerly Laurie March Design) or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EvangelistaLA. We talk to contractors, homeowners, realtors, and service providers – all with a keen eye to a homeowner’s mental state while making life changing updates to their biggest investment.
* Many thanks to the awesome Paul Lesieur at Remodel Crazy for hosting a fantastic hub of information and for reminding us that home improvement can be fun!
Your welcome Evangelista