I have never considered myself much of a writer so bear with me. It’s something I have always seemed to struggle with, putting my thoughts on paper…in words…that make sense to other people. I would say it’s undoubtedly a good thing I have made a career of the exact opposite. I draw every day. Correction, I get to draw every day.
I recently attended a party where I faced the inevitable questions about my job: “How are things at work?” or “What are you working on now?” and my personal favorite, “What exactly do you do?” Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to answer questions about work. But to remain consistent with my writing skills, my ability to verbally explain exactly what we do (especially when I am put on the spot) seems to be lacking as well. Okay, well I am not being completely honest. My ability to verbally explain exactly what we do in a fun, interesting, not-so-boring way needs a little work, because nothing could be further from the truth!
Let me break it down and I’ll keep it simple (it’s what we do), the basics of Project Planning.
If anyone knows how important communication is, it is someone in our department. I know you’re thinking, “It’s just shelving – how difficult could this really be?” We are dealing with building codes, safety needs, accessibility requirements…peoples’ lives are at risk! OK, that may be a little dramatic. That first conversation is always the starting point for what we do and a huge key to our success. An idea is presented to us and from there it becomes our number one goal to make sure we are getting the customer exactly what they need. Information like ceiling height, shelving depth, room dimensions (note that even the slightest mistake in a dimension can sometimes mean catastrophe for an entire project), capacity requirements, media being stored – it is a never ending list. Communication – e-mail, notes, verbal contact, all of it – eliminates the need to make assumptions, takes the guesswork out and gives us the ability to finish something quickly, but more importantly accurately as well.
When I was a kid, I would rearrange my bedroom furniture and every month I would get a new vision how I thought my room should look. I have physical evidence of floor plans, signed, dated, and “approved” by myself. Look at me now! I’m approaching my 5 year mark with the company (yay, me!), and I still get a rush of adrenaline when a huge project comes through the queue. A blank canvas, a fresh start and endless possibilities.
Space planning is about 80% of the job and arguably the best part of working on an assignment. It is a huge factor in the functionality of the room and plays a very strong role in the success of a space. And it’s fun! It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together; you start with an empty space, take it piece by piece until everything is a perfect fit. And after a little time and some brainstorming, it turns into something fantastic.
This may be a little bit of a stretch. Obviously we are not the ones doing the leg work in the field, meeting with clients in person, and clinching the sale. However, as planners, we are responsible for creating a drawing that captures the attention of our clients and helps them visualize what their space can potentially look like.
There is one thing I believe to be true: No project is too small to go “all out” on. I will wear out all of the tools available to me if I think it will help our clients paint that picture. My name is on this drawing, this demonstrates my level of care and this is how my company is being represented. All of this is in the Planners control, and we fully want to be a part of the steps to help close the deal!
When you start your path in this career, one thing you will never forget is your first “big” project, your masterpiece, your baby. For me, it was the Coca-Cola Archives System in Atlanta. A system requiring a variety of storage requirements – archive boxes, priceless framed art, glass bottles from each decade. I vividly remember all the conversations about this project, every bump in the road (that darn custom art rack which ended up turning out to be pretty awesome if I may say so), revision after revision after revision, and all the blood, sweat, and tears I put into it to get it just right. Okay, there was no blood…but there were tears and maybe a little sweat when my air conditioner was broken. But that moment where you plan the road trip to see this baby of yours grown up and actually come to life, it is one of the best feelings and biggest sense of accomplishment.
So there you have it, the basics of the success of our planning department. Communicate, space plan, sell, and celebrate. And now I am ready to take on the conversations at my next party! My answers will be I get to talk to people, draw some pretty cool stuff every day, play a role in the success of each project throw myself a victory party when we are done. And I’ll say it with a smile on my face!