trade tales | Mar 31, 2023 |
Will a waitlist help or hurt your business?

Demand—or at least, the illusion of it—is a reliable seed of intrigue. The intention underlying a waitlist may vary, but its existence generally signals to potential clients that your services are in demand. So we asked six designers—Christine Lin, Alison Downey, Robin Gannon, Andrew Suvalsky, Bridgette Caporaso and Blake Sutton—what informs their approach to waitlists.

Will a waitlist help or hurt your business?
Christine LinCourtesy of Form + Field

Manage Your Resources

“We have a waitlist because we proactively manage our project workload for every person on our team to maintain a work-life balance. We’re usually booked five months out, and having that little bit of a wait also gives current projects some buffer time to finish because of the inevitable and uncontrollable events that can impact schedules. When there are potential clients who are a great fit, we encourage them to sign our contract and send in the retainer as soon as they decide so that we can hold that future opening for them. Sometimes, we can start their project earlier than expected, and that’s a welcome surprise. The waitlist also filters for clients who are really committed to working with Form + Field, and therefore more likely to be trusting of us and aligned with our values. Plus, this pipeline helps us plan for company resources and finances, and reduces the anxiety that can come with this type of business and economic uncertainty.” —Christine Lin, Form + Field, San Francisco

Will a waitlist help or hurt your business?
Alison DowneyCourtesy of Downey Interiors

Location, Location

“We are typically courting a number of clients, and with that comes the ever-shifting variables around a project’s start date In New York. There is also the matter of obtaining construction permits, building the right team, bidding the project, etc. We are usually able to have multiple projects going at one time that are at different stages. While a waitlist sounds amazing in concept, there are a few unique factors in the New York market that make it tricky. New Yorkers do not tend to be patient people (guilty!), and clients will have just spent a large sum on real estate, and are about to invest a lot more on a renovation and interiors package that will have a long lead time—so time becomes a motivator as they want to use the property as soon as possible. This is a big factor in the Hamptons as well, as clients want to make use of as many ‘seasons’ as they can and avoid renting. It would be so nice to be able to lock in a project pipeline ahead of time, but I think in reality that’s challenging.” —Alison Downey, Downey Interiors, New York

Will a waitlist help or hurt your business?
Robin Gannon©Robin Gannon

Say It Like It Is

“We absolutely have projects we’ve signed on that we haven’t started—I’m just not sure if that constitutes a waitlist! I always communicate to clients, ‘If you want us, you need to sign us up, and then we’ll get to you as quickly as we can.’ We definitely try to lock in clients, but we also tell them, ‘If you want to hire us, and we can’t start for three months, don’t wait! If you come back to us in three months, it may be longer because we’ve taken on other projects in the meantime.’ The benefit of [being transparent about our lead times] is that it’s sometimes sooner than the three months, [but] booking work [creates] confidence that you’ll be able to keep the lights on for the next however many months the projects last.” —Robin Gannon, Robin Gannon Interiors, Lexington, Massachusetts

Will a waitlist help or hurt your business?
Andrew SuvalskyCourtesy of Andrew Suvalsky Designs

Balls in the Air

“If I feel a project is a good fit, I can either take it in the near term or will clearly define the start date slightly in the future. If I can’t commit to starting something within three months of an expressed desire to hire my firm, then I would more likely pass. The reality is I work best under a bit of pressure, so I’m comfortable keeping my dance card (reasonably) full. Once I sign a new client, no matter the size of the job, no project is higher priority than the next. I want each client to feel they’re the most important project I have.” —Andrew Suvalsky, Andrew Suvalsky Designs, New York

Will a waitlist help or hurt your business?
Bridgette CaporasoCourtesy of Sketch Design

Naturally Staggered

“Due to the custom nature of our projects and our modest yet highly qualified team, each project receives the full attention of the entire staff. Because of this, we have become quite discerning about what we accept. We typically take on large-scale jobs that include all phases of design. Therefore, new projects entering our firm tend to naturally stagger themselves, [and we find there is no need for a waitlist]. However, when multiple large projects are accepted at once, they are prioritized by [what we call] ‘Scope of Work’ and anticipated timelines created by a collaborative effort of the entire team, including the homeowners, architect, general contractor and us. It is very common for our team to work on multiple projects at once, in various stages of completion.” —Bridgette Caporaso, Sketch Design, Boca Raton, Florida

Will a waitlist help or hurt your business?
Blake SuttonCourtesy of Est Est Interior Design

Keep It Real

“We don’t currently maintain a waitlist at Est Est Interior Design. We like to keep open communication with both current and prospective clients about what we are able to take on. For instance, if someone inquires about a project, and they are at the very beginning of the process with the architect, we can usually make it work. However, the later they are in the design process and the more rushed it is, [the likelier we are to] tell them we are unable to take it on.” —Blake Sutton, Est Est Interior Design, Scottsdale, Arizona

Homepage image: In this Miraloma, California kitchen, Christine Lin opted for open shelving to show off a client’s Heath Ceramics collection | John Merkl

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