By: Shirley Hammond, FASID, NCIDQ, RID

                Teaming or partnering in the design industry is part of our daily practice as we design, supply materials and build.  However, do we, as ASID members realize the value of this partnership within our membership?  This article asks that question through a series of interviews with several active IP members.  According to Bryant Williams, our ASID Chapter Administrator, these IP members “are always the first to jump to help us and all are platinum Chapter Sponsors.”   When contacted, they were, as usual, enthusiastic about answering questions to inform our membership. 

Our interview participants included the following IP Members:

Dee Bentley, of Robert F. Henry Tile

Dwight LeClair & Sabina Jahic, of Sherwin Williams

Chris Basselin, of AMA Lighting

The questions included:  Why does a company become an ASID IP member and what are the benefits to the company?  Why should a company become a Chapter sponsor of events?  What are the benefits to design practitioners, educators and students?  What are specific examples of great partnering?  What can ASID Alabama do to strengthen this partnership? Where do you want to go from here?

Why does a company become an ASID IP member and what are the benefits to the company?

                Dee has been connected to ASID since becoming a student member and, more recently, being an ASID practitioner and Industry Partner.  She continues to be impressed with ASID’s code of ethics, training requirements for practitioners, level of professionalism, educational opportunities (product support & CEU’s) and inter-relationships developed through participation in layers of ASID activities.  She has never considered not being a part of ASID because of the network of support.  As a practitioner member as well as an IP member, she believes “you get out of it what you put into it.”   With 8 locations in 4 states and an 88-year history, the company she represents values the same membership advantages that she has valued as an individual practitioner.   As a supplier of tile materials, she works with retail ID’s, architects, builders, remodelers, installers and individual dealers in a multi-segmented relationship.  ASID cross-promotes brand awareness for her company and provides support for her market. 

                Dwight and Sabina come to us through the national IP membership of Sherwin Williams at the Cleveland Corporate Office.  Therefore, it is a natural follow-up to join local organizations and develop local business relationships.  They see IP membership as an important way to drive sales through local stores and build relationships with local designers and contractors.  Sabina lists the value of communication with ASID’s highly respected design community and the ability to provide information to designers and their clients as a lifeline for shaping her company’s approach, mission and customer service. 

                Chris believes that IP membership for his company provides exposure to his market and allows him to offer service to our membership by providing educational opportunities.  His last CEU connected him to 26 potential clients.  This leads to relationships that produce product sales and the backup partnership for those sales.  His mission is to make designers “look good” and, therefore, lead to repeat business.

 

Why should a company become a Chapter sponsor of events? 

                Chapter Sponsors are companies that may or may not be IP members but pay for sponsorship packages.  These packages are above and beyond ASID membership fees of an IP member.  Chapter sponsors promote activities within our membership.  You will see them listed at many events and marketing opportunities as providing financial and voluntary support.  All interviewees agree that this extra layer of support provides them with an opportunity to promote their companies and develop relationships with their target market.  Designers need information and these events allow IP members to provide product knowledge and product support. 

 

What are the benefits to design practitioners, educators and students? 

                Dee believes that partnering with ASID provides validity to her company through its alignment  with ASID and its professional priorities.  For example, she recently received a phone call from a designer who commented, “I didn’t realize you partnered with ASID.   I want to come in to have you work with my client on a large new-build residential project.”  The connection led to a partnership of trust.  Backup technical support was provided to the designer resulting in a quality project for the client. 

                Dwight believes IP members provide local knowledge for ID practitioners.  For example, he provides technical advice on which paint products should be used on ID projects based on application performance criteria.  Ensuring appropriate specifications satisfies designer and client requirements resulting in quality results.  Sabina concurs that education and personalized customer service are a great benefit.  Striving to stay updated on current trends in color, design and architecture, she also takes direction from the design community when shaping her education courses.  Her mission with her CEU’s is to answer questions that not only pertain to color, but also to products, specifications and, most importantly, to the business of design.         

                Similarly, Chris reports that IP’s benefit the design community with individualized education, CEU’s, code clarification and technical advice for lighting specifications providing solutions making designers better specifiers thus leading to higher quality projects—a win-win.

What are specific examples of great partnering? 

                 Dee believes that trust and reputation are built over time through positive interactions.  Alabama is very interconnected and, with reputation being everything, “word of mouth” promotion through ASID connections is the best kind of marketing.  Additionally, Alabama has strong design schools, spread throughout the state, adding to name recognition and trust. 

                Dwight mentions a commercial project that was a great example of partnering.  A healthcare facility needed new product capabilities.  He was able to recommend a product solution because of its ability to kill bacteria.  The partnership provided great value to the client and sales for the company.  A residential example of positive partnering was the ability to provide information on the use of low VOC and low odor-producing products for living-well requirements.  By being available to partner with his ASID target market, he can align his company priorities with the process of design, ethics, customer service, educational requirements and customer needs and learn how to talk to designers, builders, contractors, and clients as part of the team. 

                Sabina has worked with more than six ASID chapters with overwhelmingly positive results.  She is a designer by training and comfortable communicating with other designers and architects.  She believes communication is key and the only way to learn clients’ needs.  Having the IP partnership allows opportunities (education, podcasts, interviews) that give her a chance to get her company message to her target market.  Her mission is to support the design community.                         

                Chris reports that he has daily positive opportunities through the IP partnership.  Partnering allows him to discuss finishes, unique applications within existing buildings, solutions for differing ceilings heights and a variety of opportunities for problem-solving with lighting specifications.  His availability to see the spaces and design renderings provides him with an understanding of the vision of the design professional and, therefore, helps make the best product selections.  Additionally, virtual meetings have made the process extremely efficient for the design team.  He finds that efficiency leads to more profitability.

What can ASID Alabama do to strengthen this partnership? 

                All three IP members agree that COVID has made the past year difficult.  All members have suffered disconnections making partnering more difficult.  They agree that getting back to individual and group in-person events is critical.  However, virtual is here to stay and we should hone our social media skills (among all ages of membership) through varying platforms such as Instagram, U-Tube, Linked-In and others.  When in-person is not possible, social media platforms bring people together. 

                Encouraging increasing numbers of IP members is important to allow IP’s the manpower to reach the entire design community to develop the ASID partnership.  Increased manpower allows IP’s to attend more functions and allow more company support to the design community within company coverage areas.  There is agreement that Bryant Williams, our ASID Chapter Administrator, has been “fabulous” to expand IP communication and resulting company exposure to the design community.

                Communication and marketing of the ASID partnership to the public are key.  Encouraging growth in this area should provide the potential client with information about the ASID partnership and its value to the quality of the project.  Rather than having potential clients go to the internet and “blindly specify,” we should strive to make ASID the “first stop” for clients looking for design and product solutions.  We should sell the importance of the partnership because of its problem-solving and service-providing ability. 

Where do you want to go from here? (A message to other IP/Sponsors and ASID Members)

Our featured IP members send the following messages:

We appreciate ASID and its members for reaching out for new products, product knowledge and training;

We welcome virtual and face-to-face sessions for product-specification knowledge and relationship-building opportunities;

We offer sales reps and technical reports to introduce new products and features to designers, educators, contractors and subs;  

We offer efficiency in meeting the speed of today’s projects; we recommend that you not be afraid to say “no” if speed reduces the quality of your work; give yourselves time to specify well;

In Conclusion:

                Industry Partners act as your liaison.  They are networking specialists, problem solvers and product support specialists.  Their research and funding of education enhance our profession.  They are the backbone of the Chapter financially, through volunteer hours and are the people to turn to when you need help.  Please remember them first when building your design team.  We share mutual concerns, common goals and financial interdependence.

Please reach out and thank our IP contributors:

Dee Bentley – Robert F. Henry Tile

205-556-1900 / 334-269-2518

[email protected]

 

Dwight LeClair – Sherwin Williams

678-942-5377 

[email protected]

 

Sabina Jahic, ASID, CMG – Sherwin Williams

404-985-5160

[email protected]

 

Chris Basselin – AMA Lighting

205-278-8163

[email protected]