I count myself as very lucky that I get to work on some amazing new build and renovation projects with a whole host of very talented people. I like to think that those talented people and my clients think the same way about me. I guess they do as most of my work comes via recommendations from them. The remainder of my work comes from my website and that’s about 20-25% of it. It’s that Pareto Principle (AKA the 80/20 rule) in action.
I have another Pareto Principle in my business – I work on around 80-85% of the projects where I am recommended to the potential clients. In these cases I usually get to meet them before they make their decision. Conversely, I only work on around 20-25% of the projects that come via my website. Again, the majority of those are ones where I meet my potential clients before they make their decision. So, what about the other 75-80%? These are the projects where I am one of perhaps two or three lighting consultants who are approached and asked to provide a price up front from plans and perhaps a brief chat on the phone. When I follow-up invariably I haven’t got the project and I am usually told that it was because I wasn’t the “cheapest”. Sometimes I’m told that I was the most “expensive”.
That reply always amazes me for quite a number of reasons. I don’t get how anyone can compare on a bottom line price alone. Every proposal that I’ve seen from other lighting consultants is different and that must make comparison very difficult. It’s like comparing apples with bicycles.
I’m also a bit of a “you get what you pay for” kind of gal! Maybe I’m just unlucky in that respect as when I have bought cheap I’ve often bought twice or had to replace something much earlier than I had expected. I get that everyone has a finite amount of money to spend. But, do you really want to say that at the end of your project it was made by getting the cheapest of everything?! To me, it’s about value for money as much as price.
I wonder how the “cheap” ones survive. Often it’s because they rely on getting the product sale to bolster up their low fees. If they are relying on their money coming from the product sales then their choices are probably margin lead rather than specifying what’s actually right for their projects. In lighting, usually the higher the quality of the products the lower the margins – some of my trade discounts are 10% so that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to pass much on! If they are relying on product sales to make their money and their clients decide to buy from elsewhere can their business model be sustained? Will they go bust before a project is finished? I believe to be truly independent as a consultant you cannot be margin driven. I don’t believe that anyone can be great at what they do AND be the cheapest – at least not for long.
So, if you’re looking for a lighting consultant and you’re looking for the cheapest then it probably won’t be worth asking me. I might be the cheapest sometimes, depending on which companies you have approached but its all relative. If you wanted me just because I was the cheapest then you’ll probably want the cheapest products – the ones that go wrong before they go out of warranty and cost me money to get an electrician to replace; the ones that cost you more to run as they need a lot of power to create enough light; the ones that create a slightly different shade of white light each because they have poor colour binning; the ones that keep dropping out of the ceiling because the springs are weak; the ones where the white paint goes a nasty nicotine yellow over time, etc. If you want me “cheap” then you will probably keep asking me to water down the lighting scheme that I created for you so that it’s a shadow of its former self. If that’s what you are looking for then, to be completely honest, I don’t want to work for you.
However, if you’ve realised that the artificial lighting in your home is crucial to making absolutely everything else that you’ve worked so hard to put into it look its very best; if you think that a great lighting design is the most important thing that you can get for your home; if you want to invest in the best quality lighting that you can afford (and, dare I suggest it, cutting back in other areas if need be); if you want someone who gets most of their work via recommendation; if you want someone who has been part of five award-winning design and build teams; someone who’s damn good at what she does; then, I think I’m going to be the lighting designer for you. Just as one last reminder, I probably won’t be the cheapest. Give me a call…