In spite of what I wrote in the preceding post, F. Specify Standard Catalogue Items, most of our time is in fact spent on specials and custom items. This, unfortunately, means that we know better than anybody what can go wrong. Some tips: 1. be clear that you really do need a special or custom item.
There may be a good reason, of course, but it is, prima facie, silly to have a special made that is Ø110 when there is standard item Ø100cm (as we were pricing for a client last week).
2. work WITH the supplier.
Explain what you are trying to achieve and let them work with you on the details. They will know what tweaks could reduce the price and the time. For example, a small adjustment in a measurement could allow a standard width of fabric to be used with no wastage. Materials and components that the supplier regularly purchases will be cheaper to them, and therefore to the client, than similarly priced materials that they use rarely or never. A good supplier will thus actively help value for money to be achieved.
3. GIVE THEM THE TARGET PRICE!!!
This is the most difficult point to get over, admittedly because the designer may not yet have been given a budget (see post A. Have a Budget!). But when you specify a special or a bespoke item, you are having something made specially for you. The target price is as fundamental to the design as the dimensions are. If all the work is done and then the price is wrong, it has to be designed all over again. Invariably, if a reputable supplier knows the target price, the customer gets a better deal.
4. Be as clear as possible about what you want.
The most typical situation is that there is a concept -- maybe a real light -- that is American, or too expensive, or can't be used for some other reason, so we are asked for something similar. If something identical is expected, then the situation is simple: it won't be done, because that would be theft.
But, something similar that is not identical…what characteristics are the ones to be repeated? This problem is insurmountable when the final client has preferred one option to another but can't say why, so the designer can't tell us -- she has no idea either. Obviously, the more specific the brief, the quicker and more economically the design can be finalized, and the more relevant the solution.
5. Provide as much information as possible.
A designer asks us to source a light like one in a picture she attaches. We puzzle over it. Only after further conversations with her do we find that she's got a lot more information that she could have given us, e.g. visuals of the space, a mood board. We need to know whether a wall light is in a corridor or a bathroom, for example, because that changes what the light has to be able to do, as does knowing what other lighting is in the space. Providing too little information could mean that our time is wasted: knowing too little, we would be unable to recommend the light that would have been suitable, and good value for money.
Note: this series of posts builds up into a single Briefing, a PDF of which is downloadable here: A Briefing on Value for Money when Purchasing for Hotels.