10 Tips for Building Good Relationships With Other Pros
Industry professionals share how to find the right people to work and form bonds with when collaborating on projects
Here, 14 designers, contractors and landscape pros share tips on how to find other professionals to work with on projects and build productive relationships with them. Take a look at their advice, then in the Comments tell us how you make new connections and keep them strong.
“Learning if someone is professional, reliable and trustworthy often takes a leap of faith,” interior designer Meredith Park says. It’s hard to know what will materialise from a potential business relationship, but opening yourself up to new opportunities can help you grow. And you never know how a new partnership can help your business.
“Some of our cultivated relationships can go back 25-plus years,” says Anthony Collins, owner of and certified builder at Northlight Custom Builders. “[However], it’s not always possible to work with the same suppliers and subcontractors on every project. When taking on new subcontractors, we do it in good faith that they will provide the same high quality we require for our clients.”
When seeking out new people to partner with, consider looking them up first. This can help give you an idea of their skills, work ethic or reputation before you meet them.
Sam Koob, president of sk7 design studios, believes examining a pro’s online reviews, media presence and level of professionalism during initial interactions is important before moving forwards with a business relationship.
“Before partnering with someone, we’ll do a background check on the individual or the company,” says Jason Faulkinberry, owner of Faulkinberry Enterprises. “We also look at their online ratings to see what their customers think of them.”
Jason likes to have an on-site trial period to get to know them better before deciding on a more permanent arrangement. “Proper certifications, licensing and paperwork must also be in order,” he says.
“We also get out and see some of their previous work and even do a surprise visit to a project they’re currently working on by calling them and asking [if we can] drop in,” he says.
“Good relationships with renovation pros and vendors is not only important, it’s absolutely essential to remain successful in this business,” says Kirby Foster Hurd, founder and principal designer of Kirby Home Designs. “In almost every remodelling project you take on, there will be some sort of team formed to get the job done. As a designer, you may have the initial vision, but without the team to execute the plan, you’ve got nothing.”
Robin McHaney, owner of and designer at Simply Elegant Interiors, believes the success of a project depends on the team you choose to work with. “You need a strong base of professional, communicative and organised members to be able to achieve great results,” she says.
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Once you’ve decided to work with someone, there are things you should do to help build a positive relationship with them.
Being courteous and respectful, on and off the work site, can help your projects run smoother. “You have to set the tone from the beginning that you’re a team player and that you expect the same from them,” says Anna Shiwlall, owner of 27 Diamonds Interior Design. “Creating a foundation of respect for each other’s roles will create a better foundation throughout the process.”
It can be helpful when team members carefully consider how their actions can affect every aspect of a project. “My clients look to me to bring a remodelling crew, tradespeople and vendors to the table who bring the highest quality of work and integrity to their job,” Meredith says. “My positive working relationships with my team, crew and vendors make the client experience pleasant, stress-free and even fun.”
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Being responsible and dependable can help you build meaningful work relationships and a positive reputation. “The most important [characteristics for] building trust are accountability, being on time with requests, [meeting] deadlines, knowing the process and anticipating the client’s needs,” says Sara Malek Barney, principal designer and founder of Bandd Design. Her team occasionally works with new vendors or pros, which can be a gamble. “However, we’ve been lucky to partner with those who respect the job and the work they provide,” she says.
When project stakeholders can depend on you, it can make getting work done much easier. Teresa Watkins, owner of Sustainable Horticultural Environments, says that when problems and emergencies arise, it’s important to know that other pros on the project will answer your calls and help get things resolved. She gives them the same courtesy and loyalty in return.
When time permits, try to get to know your partners a little better. Things such as quick team-building activities at the work site can help you improve your teamwork skills and create stronger bonds with your colleagues.
“As a landscape design firm, our projects are being constructed by some of the best contractors in Arizona, and all of this is possible because of the time we’ve spent getting to know the amazing people at these firms,” Phil says. “Our relationships are what’s most important to us.”
Staying in contact with other pros working on your project can help everyone stay on the same page and avoid misunderstandings.
“Having close contact and a collaborative relationship always leads to better communication and execution of projects,” says Kai Geschke, president of Geschke Group Architecture. “We visit the site often to check on projects. [Pros] in the field will usually make you aware of problems that you can hopefully avoid the next time.”
Being open, honest and upfront can make a world of difference when attempting to build and maintain relationships in the industry. “After 32 years, I’ve been able to weed out the ones that are not so good,” architect Eric Baker says. “Building a great relationship starts with honesty and good past references. It’s easy to build a good relationship [with a professional] who is organised and honest.”
When you’re working on a project and you’ve realised a pro has made a mistake or may have missed the mark on something, be honest with them. Try giving them constructive feedback in a reasonable tone to help them get on the right track.
Projects can run smoother when everyone plays their specific role and sticks to what they do best. Consider leaning on the expertise of other pros and allow them to lean on yours. “[For example,] while I’m in the process of finalising a design, I’ll review it with my team of tradespeople and vendors to get their thoughts,” Meredith says. “Often, they’ll think of something I didn’t account for or have some brilliant input that improves the design.”
And, as a rule, Kai never tells tradespeople how to do their jobs. If he sees an issue, he will alert the contractor or builder and let them handle it.
Your professional reputation can help or hinder your ability to build good relationships with other pros and partner with them on projects. “Our reputation is on the line with every job we do,” Jason says. “We have to be on good terms and have a trusting relationship with all of whom we partner with.”
Boris Groysman, president of Groysman Construction, says having a good reputation is imperative when looking for honourable pros to work with. Interior designer Sandy Schargel uses her connections in the design community to make it easier to find the right people to collaborate with. This helps her determine if it’s best to partner with a pro she’s not familiar with.
Ultimately, being an honest and accountable home professional who does great work is the best thing you can do to build a good reputation and strong relationships with other industry pros.
Share your advice for developing good relationships with other home professionals in the Comments.