What’s the story behind Design+Build Group?
Jeffrey: It was eight years ago when Daniel and I formed Design+Build Group. Although we might not have realized it at the time, we shared a vision for our company. You see, we are both somewhat idealistic people who had worked for our father’s construction company growing up. The construction business is based-on a status quo mindset and we constantly heard people say, “We’ve always done it that way.” We thought it was inflexible and the customer’s voice wasn’t really heard. We talked about starting a company for years and promised ourselves we’d do things differently if we ever did.
Daniel: First, Jeffrey isn’t only my brother, he’s also my best friend. I had an eye-opening experience before we decided to start Design+Build Group. I went to Sydney, Australia to work as an apprentice for a design build construction company. What made this experience unique, was this company was a sole source provider of all the aspects of completing a construction project. I saw how this reduces risk, helps keep project costs down, and the end result for the client is much improved. Jeffrey and I had many late night conversations about this new methodology of design, most of them at the Muddy Rudder Bar and Grill, where we decided to start or own company. It was probably the scariest decision we ever made, but we knew we were right.
Explain your titles of “Business Zen Leader” and “Client Success Evangelist”
Jeff: Technically, I’d be called the President but I really don’t like that title because it is associated with hierarchy. I see my role more as someone who helps every team member do their jobs more effectively. The concept of Zen is based on calmness and peaceful relationships. I think my job is to ensure there is a smooth operation within our company and with all of our clients.
Daniel: Simply put, my role is to ensure clients are happy during all stages of their project. I’m an evangelist as well, and my goal is to share my knowledge and experience with clients to help them avoid potential pitfalls. I’m the customers advocate and when it comes to solving their problems, I’m a bit of a bull dog too.
What exactly is “Design+Build” and how this different than working with an architect and general contractor?
Jeffrey: Design+Build Group sees the project in its entirety and accepts responsibly for each stage. A general contractor builds based strictly on the architect’s drawings. Meanwhile, the architect creates designs that are independent from the general contractor. This can result in costly iterations between the architect, general contractor, and client. Our design build methodology employs a different philosophy where there is a single point of responsibility across the entire project.
So, Design+Build Group has a different philosophy?
Jeffrey: Yes, it does. Our company philosophy has four principles. First, there’s a better way to do things and usually it is simpler. Second, Clients should not have to chase down accountability. Third, we ensure every client is educated and informed, so they know exactly what they will be getting when they sign our contract. Finally, we never stop learning and have fun doing it.
What’s the difference between modern, millennial and traditional office design?
Jeffrey: One of the misconceptions today that is perpetuated within the industry is that all offices designed for millennials are vast open spaces that resemble Google. The reality is that even a office space designed for millennials might have specific areas where there will be modern and traditional office spaces within the same space. For example, accounting might be in cubicles, where marketing might be in a more open and collaborative environment.
Daniel: The millennial office space is targeted for a particular type of younger employee who wants a more playful, casual environment that encourages collaboration and technology usage is prevalent. We see a lot of modern office spaces in brand-conscious industries like finance, consulting and legal. These sleek, clean, upscale environments reinforce prestige and cache. In contrast, traditional offices are based upon individual workspaces, typically a cubicle, where workers can focus on their tasks.
What type of clients do you typically work with?
Jeffrey: We work with clients who have a wide range of office design expertise. For example, we pride ourselves in simplifying the process for the medium sized business owners and first-time office remodelers. Many times, this is the company owner who has a vision of what they want but aren’t sure how to accomplish it. We also closely work with senior facility directors who have been responsible for dozens of office remodels. We make their jobs easier by taking complete ownership of the project.
What size of companies do you work with and what is their typical budget?
Daniel: One of the fundamental advantages of the design+build methodology is that you can accurately plan and control the project end-to-end. As a result, we can work within our client’s budget to maximize their value. We’ve worked with clients who have budgets ranging from twenty-five thousand dollars to seven figures. I’d say our sweet spot in the market is companies that have between fifty and one-hundred-fifty employees.
There’s lots of office remodel companies in the Portland area, what makes you different?
Jeffrey: We’re natives and we have lived here all of our lives. Portland is a truly one-of-a-kind place and I don’t think outsiders can understand the Portlander culture. There’s a lot of architecture firms and general contractors here. However, there are very few true design build firms. One of the things we continually hear from our clients as to why they selected to work with us is that we were the youthful, energetic company with fresh ideas.
What are the key mistakes buyers make when selecting an office remodel vendor?
Daniel: After meeting with more than five hundred companies, I’ve seen three key mistakes:
They don’t fully understand the positive impact a more thoughtful design can produce in the end. There’s a knee-jerk tendency to over simplify what they are trying to accomplish.
They take on the role as the project manager without a professional guide. They underestimate the scope and risk of managing multiple vendors (architects, engineers, general contractors, furniture vendors, etc.).
The first decision they make can often be the worst decision they make. The first call should be to someone who will help maximize your budget, not someone who is most interested in grabbing their share of your budget. Calling an architect first can lead to a lot of headaches and cost overruns.
How do you manage client projects?
Daniel: It’s our holistic approach to projects during the early stages that enables us to provide Clients with detailed insights into feasibility, project costs, zoning, code requirements and design concepts. Right from the start we ensure that we have the right foundation in place to support the project’s future decisions.
In other words, you believe your process more than your competitors?
Daniel: First, because we are a design build company we are in control of the process as opposed the client trying to coordinate what the architect/designers, general contractor, and project leaders are doing. Most importantly, our designers and project leaders are working side-by-side in constant communication to ensure the project is on time and on budget.
What strategy do you employ to ensure your Clients business is uninterrupted during the remodel?
Daniel: We’re very used to working in occupied spaces. For example, we had a recent client who is growing and had to increase their headcount by 30% utilizing in the same existing space. In order to minimize impact, we created a detailed project phasing plan which included elements such as temporary walls and dust/odor control. Obviously, you can’t operate a business with some of the construction noise in the background, so we scheduled certain tasks after hours.
What excites you about office design and the latest office trends?
Jeffrey: I think what is most fascinating is that the entire concept of what an “office” is changing. For some employees, it’s the place they work at every day in the same way. For others, it’s a place they stop in occasionally. Nowadays, there are more people who work at offices who are not permanent employees. They’re working on a shorter term project. Because of these diverse types of office workers, the office must be more dynamic and flexible than ever. And that’s exciting.
What does the perfect workspace look like?
Jeffrey: The perfect workspace is the one that achieves the goal it was designed for. For example, it can be a tool that is used to successfully attract the next customer. It can serve as the selling point that convinces the next job candidate to accept the offer. It can drive more productivity because it’s easier for people to collaborate or focus on important tasks. Personally, I prefer a workspace that allows me to access my team easily because I tend to MBWA (manage by wandering around) as opposed to tons of formal meetings.
What client space are you most proud of?
Jeffrey: We’ve completed more than three hundred projects, so it is hard to pick just one. I guess I have to say it’s the project in the video on the main page of the web site for Warn Industries. We created some fantastic open spaces for collaboration, very cool mini-conference rooms and workspaces with glass partitions which lets in a lot of natural light. But my favorite part of the project was that the Client was open to us integrating a shipping container into the space, which we converted in to several mini-conference rooms.
Daniel: It sounds a bit cliche but, honestly, every client project is actually my favorite, because we get to work with the best people!