The following Article was published in Builder/Architect Magazine: "I wish I had a nickel for every time a builder told me their cabinetmaker’s product is fine, it looks good, the price is OK, but the process of getting the job done was filled with unwelcome surprises and challenges.  Does “custom” mean too expensive, off schedule and time consuming?  It can be all of those things, if all you think you’re buying is a product.

Cabinetry can come in a dizzying array of price points, styles, and quality levels. Cabinetry is an out front residential product. It is something that a client touches, uses, and looks at every day.  It is part of the home’s image as well as its functionality.  So how do you educate your client on the choices without overwhelming yourself or them?  It’s my observation that while you as the builder or architect certainly know a lot about many cabinetry details, this is not really what your time is best spent doing.  As a builder or architect it’s your job to read your clients overall needs and desires and put the whole package together for them.  Do you want to be the expert on doorstyles, veneers, lacquers, distressed finishes, hardware, kitchen design and interior features?  Is it possible to find someone who can provide this expertise and also understand schedule, budget and the effect on your bottom line as a building/remodeling professional?

What is often overlooked is the fact that custom cabinetry comes with a wide range of service levels.  Ask yourself  “How do the choices I offer my client affect my jobs beyond what the finished product looks like?  What is reasonable to expect from a cabinetmaker?”  Don’t ignore the hidden costs of mistakes, delayed schedules, and miscommunication.  The low initial bid is often not the most profitable.  Time is money and opportunity cost is real. You should expect your cabinetmaker to be someone who:

- makes you look good to earn referrals

- takes the initiative to communicate well with you and your client.

- can meet your budget and schedule

- contributes to your bottom line with professional service

It is important to be discerning as to what is important to your client.  Just as you wouldn’t take a Mercedes buyer to a Yugo dealership, a one type fits all approach to cabinetry causes headaches and does a disservice to the client.  Develop options for your clients who have different needs.  It is better for you to build a relationship with a cabinetmaker with an end in mind as to the niche you are looking to fill.   We find that homeowners in all price ranges respond well when working with someone who is passionate about helping them determine what the options are for their kitchen, home office, or master bath.  Sometimes clients are interested in spending a great deal of time exploring options, while others are simply looking for a nice solution without spending much of their time.  Either way, they want someone who can ask the right questions, who listens, who is experienced, organized, and efficient in providing value for their time and money.  This is not too much to expect from your cabinetmaker.  To meet these needs, it can be very helpful to build a relationship with 2 or 3 cabinetmakers who are set up for different service levels and price ranges.

Doug Steven is President of Steven Cabinets Inc., a second generation cabinet company that was founded by his father in 1964. He is a past President of the Minnesota NARI chapter of which he is still a board member. He was named in Remodeling magazines Top 50 remodelers in 2002. SCI has a highly experienced staff in both design and custom cabinet manufacturing which has been serving Twin Cities builders, remodelers, and discerning clients for 42 years."

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