Message from the president: Do not be that designer

By Kimberly Tompkins

In a previous issue, I wrote about not being “That Rep.” Now I’m writing something to the design community from the other side of the table. And yes, just to get the question answered up front, most reps can read upside down and quite efficiently. Sorry, all you sales reps out there, but I think they already know this about us.

As a designer/specifier, please reach out and get all your questions answered before choosing a product or system for your project. Don’t be shy to pick up the phone and call the rep to determine all the “ilities” to make sure the system meets your needs—affordability; suitability; durability; sustainability; availability; and compatibility. It’s been a long minute since I took the TR course and remember the list of “ilities,” but you get the point. Trusted advisors will give you the straight goods. Don’t be surprised if they say their product cannot meet the project expectations. They may even recommend a competitive product in hopes of staying in future specifications. I have slept far better saying “No, this project is not for us, but try calling XYZ as I think they can help you.”

Please don’t confuse your trusted advisor for the “Generic” representative. Many years ago, while working out west for a national brand, I was called to a local architect’s office to assist in making a national specification generic. This was product specific, no substitutions, alternates, or “equals.” In other words, a unicorn spec. I explained that since I work for the company that developed said spec for the client to establish a consistent design across the country with a national warranty, I wouldn’t and couldn’t help them with that change. I did, however, suggest they contact the “Generic” rep to help them out. Thank goodness they had a sense of humour and understood my point. We worked out a solution that satisfied them without compromising the client’s needs.

I know the internet is one resource for finding material information but sometimes that one call where you talk to a rep with credibility in the industry gives insight you otherwise may never have known about. If you’re working with a new rep, recommend they take the CTR course and suggest a mentor from your local CSC chapter who they can call. I would rather train a competitor before they create any chaos that damages our profession.

Finally, check with your peers if you want to know who the trusted advisors are in the industry. They will know most of us and let you know who they think you can or cannot trust. If there is a long silence when you mention a name… trust in that silence.

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  1. Great article Kimberly. Proper specs = no RFI’s. To often I find specs that don’t match the finish schedule / legend / plans. On many projects I deal with a “generic” spec is selected from a consultants database which has no reference to the design intent, or components are missing. And yes I have often referred consultants to other materials where the materials I represent may not be applicable. That’s what a good CTR does.

  2. Oh, yes, Kim! So well said. That’s why the good spec writers don’t write “general-fications”.

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