Should You Add Design/Build to Your Company Name?

Shawn McCadden Interview


Shawn McCadden is a leading remodeling industry expert on the topic of Design/Build.  He was the owner of his own multi-million-dollar design/build remodeling business; Custom Contracting, Inc., in Arlington, Massachusetts, incorporated in 1991.  Accomplishing his original business goals and his written business plan, his business was employee managed by 1996 and he successfully sold his business in May 2004.

In this article Shawn shares some of his thoughts about naming your Design/Build remodeling business. 

Should You Add Design/Build to Your Company Name?

Naming a Design build business



Naming or renaming your building or remodeling company is an important decision. Many business owners may not realize this significance or the long-term impacts this decision can have. Many things can and should be considered before committing to a business name, far more than can be covered in this article. The purpose of this article is to focus only on adding or not adding the words Design/Build to the business name, for contractor-lead Design/Build.

Recently, many contractors have asked me about this. They identify and express some very realistic concerns about doing so, as well as several solid reasons to support their desire for making the change. I will share some of what they have identified, as well as some thoughts of my own. I suggest that you don’t look at this information as an architect-bashing session or as a complete guide for making your own decision. Concerns expressed here are based on real experiences shared by contractors. Use what is being shared as a start toward qualifying what you should consider. Then, Design/Build your business’ name.

Will architects be willing to work with you?

Archetect control freakIf they find the words “Design/Build” in your company name, many architects and design professional may be hesitant to work for you as an employee or as a sub contractor.  Depending on their belief system, education, or what I call their “reality”, there could be several obstacles to their willingness to work for or partner with you. First, they may no longer be the one in control. As control freaks ourselves quite often, this should not be a surprise to contractors. Perhaps control is even one of the reasons we have moved to Design/Build. Loosing control of the design process, the construction methods, the client, and even the bidding process may send shivers down their spines. Not putting their name, but rather your company’s name, on the plans may remove their motivation for creativity. Not being the guardian or protector for the homeowner and the homeowner’s money may feel completely unacceptable. In addition (and understandably so) they may have an overwhelming fear of what their peers might think of them if they gave up all of these things. Think of it as asking a contractor to give up his pickup truck; would he even consider it?

Will they refer you to their own clients?

Value of architect referalsTypically, most design/builders will not bid on plans drawn by others, but this may not be true for your company. This is particularly true for those contractors making the evolution from traditional bid/build to Design/Build. To meet volume requirements, bidding may still be part of your business plan. If they see the words “Design/Build,” will an architect or designer know that? Other legitimate concerns could include: Will you embarrass them if their plans are incomplete or not quite buildable?  Will you start offering value-added construction options or product alternatives directly to the client without first consulting them? Will they be afraid you will steal the design process away from them, particularly if it has not yet been completed? Will you expose mistakes in the plans or overlooked zoning issues due to your own acquired expertise? 

Will prospects know what Design/Build is?

If you only do Design/Build, first you will need to qualify whether prospects are eligible for your services.  Some may have no idea; others may have the wrong idea. Some may think you only do projects that require design. Other things you as the business owner must decide include: Will you do design if there will be no build or if the client wants to get other bids? Will you let others build from your plans? Are you legally required to carry insurance coverage? If not, should you carry it anyway, in case of legitimate and or alleged design flaws? Will clients be willing to work with you or pay a professional design fee if you are not an architect?

Education may be the key, both for the design professional as well as the consumer.

What is Design BuildCertainly design/build has no single definition, nor are there any industry standards for how it is being practiced. As a natural result, many design professionals just don’t know what design/build is or how different contractors are doing it. They may not be aware of or may be unsure of how they might fit into your design/build process. How then would or could they benefit professionally as well as financially by working with you and your team. These same considerations may hold true for consumers. Education and marketing could be your best allies.

Before you decide to add design/build to your business’ name, determine whether you are really a Design/Builder or if you are fully committed to becoming one. This requires understanding or establishing your own Design/Build approach first. Not only will this help you, but it will also help other Design/Builders and design professionals. By reducing any possible confusion in the eyes of the consumer as to what Design/Build really is, we will eventually standardize what they should expect if they choose the Design/Build project delivery method. As an additional benefit, more and more great architects and design professionals may join our teams, making what we as contractors can do even better!