The Value of “Hello, How Are You?”

September 3, 2020

By Bill Darcy, NKBA CEO

Like many industries, ours is a relationship business. Unlike many other industries, kitchen and bath designers and remodelers are involved in homeownerslives – for a relatively short period, anyway – in an intensely intimate way. Our professionals get inside their habits, how they live in the space, how they eat, how they shop, clean and sanitize, how they bathe, brush their teeth, prepare food and do all the other things that we now do – especially in our kitchens – whether its homework, office work, online meetings or any number of other activities.

My family is in the midst of a kitchen renovation, and the detail that our NKBA-certified designer, John Petrie, CMKBD, dug into was amazing. My family has been on a whole-food, plant-based eating journey for a couple years – well before the pandemic inspired clean and healthy eating for many. Our new kitchen has been designed and appliances and fixtures chosen to accommodate the needs of our eating habits down to the tiniest detail. We cant wait to see – and live in – the results.

This type of project is only possible because of the relationship we built with John, our designer: one of trust, managing expectations, honesty about what we want, whats realistic, what we really need and whats on the fantasy list.

Its the same with professionals dealing with each other. Whether between designer and salesperson, remodeler and subcontractor or manufacturer and specifier, the relationship built through that personal contact and interaction is invaluable.

Thats the enormous benefit of attending KBISin person. It almost sounds like a cliché, but the networking is an indispensable part of the show. Todays technology has made it easy to look at a new product collection online and to read about its benefits, but the personal interaction is often what solidifies the sale.And nurturing those relationships with local dealers, reps and other professionals is what keeps jobs going smoothly.

KBIS registration opens this month, and as we have repeatedly said, we are implementing every precaution to ensure a sanitized. In the current, very uncertain environment, however, we are prudently preparing for a hybrid show that will use virtual tools to enhance the live experience. The best of both worlds will offer a combination of virtual and live learning and the safe interaction among exhibitors and attendees that is irreplaceable.

The enhanced Voices from the Industry 2.0 conference includes two featured presenters, as well as 10 workshops and more than 40 hourlong, highly curated presentations, all qualifying for CEU credit for NKBA-certified designers. This years very timely topics include how to conduct business differently after COVID-19 and e-design insights, as well as the usual great slate of instruction about business strategies, growing a business, marketing tips and kitchen and bath specialty training.The value of personal instruction with an industry expert is, again, an invaluable way to gain a competitive edge.

We know the world will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic as a changed place and that big challenges lay ahead for our industry (and our society).Different attitudes may remain after the health crisis is over, at least in the short term, toward even the simple things like going out to dinner or shaking hands.

But we also know that our business in particular is one of resilience and creativity. Especially during this time, when people are embracing their homes and really living in them not just passing through on the way to work, school, the gym or out to dinner the strength of what our industry does, in enhancing home environments, will become even more critical to our clients. And since they are spending more time in their homes, noticing the flaws or elements that just dont work for their changed lifestyles, theyre likely to spend more money on improving them.

With mortgage rates at historic lows, the housing market is starting to percolate again as people consider moving to less dense areas. And as we know, remodeling is closely tied to the housing market. Historically, the kitchen and bath remodeling industry gets hit first in a recession, but its also among the first to come out of it. We remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for our industry. Maintaining the personal relationships necessary to bring projects to successful conclusions is critical to keeping those prospects positive