The Design Builder’s Gift: Guiding Clients Through the Hype Cycle

hype cycle graph

Design builders are incredibly gifted at transforming our most prized possessions. They can envision a new future for a kitchen, bathroom, or outside living area, plan out how to make that vision a reality, and then execute it step-by-step until the project is done. 

At the end of it all, clients are given the gift of a fresh, functional, inspired space that surpasses all expectations. They get that dream kitchen, that amazing new studio space, a room addition for their growing family…whatever they were seeking, they have it in the end.

But getting there is a hard fought process often mired by decision fatigue, doubt about taking on this endeavor to begin with, unanticipated problems (and thus expenses), and almost always, delays to arriving at the sought-after finish line. 

The construction contractor has a real challenge on their hands to guide the client through every hurdle along the way and get the project done. And they have to be really good at this part to maintain great relationships with their clients and ultimately, win new business from others.

Completing a design build project can be an emotional ride with peaks and valleys that make clients wonder if they can really see this thing out with their contractor. They go from believing wholly in the promise of what’s to come to utter doubt that this will be worth it all in the end. It’s akin to the Gartner Hype Cycle. 

The Gartner Hype Cycle

There’s a concept called the Gartner Hype Cycle that was developed by Connecticut-based tech research and consulting firm Gartner. At its core, it’s a graphical representation of how tech innovations are received, used, and eventually fully integrated into businesses and the public. It shows how technological innovations go through a predictable cycle. 

It starts with a trigger during which the tech innovation is the “talk of the town” then moves to early adopters latching on, sometimes too quickly for their own good. This is called the Peak of Inflated Expectation.

As people start using the new tech and face confusion and a steep learning curve, they begin doubting it will actually solve the problems they thought it would. This phase is called the Trough of Disillusionment. 

Eventually, the tech gains mainstream acceptance and integration that proves productive and useful for a wide swath of companies and users. These phases are the Slope of Enlightenment and the Plateau of Productivity. The Hype Cycle looks something like this:

We can think about the Hype Cycle in all kinds of applications, not just technology. In fact, design builders take their clients through their own Hype Cycle project after project. 

Let’s look at a metaphor that we can all relate to that will illustrate this more clearly. Instead of looking at an entire kitchen redesign, let’s look at something many of us have attempted to do inside the kitchen: cook or bake something we’ve never attempted before.

The Hype Cycle of Baking an Apple Pie

Let’s say you’re inspired to bake something. You never bake and you suck at it, but it’s a good time of year for apples…they look awesome at the store. So you decide you’re going to go all in and make an apple pie. That’s your spark of innovation.

You go to the grocery store, get all your ingredients and you are HYPED. You just know this is going to turn out great. You are so excited that you even decide that you’re going to make your own crust, which you never do. You’re taking on a lot more than you recognize you can handle, but you forge ahead with the promise of a delicious pie you baked from scratch.

So you start to make your apple pie crust. You mix everything up and start laying out that crust and things do not go at all the way that you planned. You’re creating this super doughy completely undelectable gummy mess. 

You’re basically moving through a Hype Cycle. You were excited and inspired but now you’re down in the Trough of Disillusionment where you want to take the whole thing and throw it in the trash because you can’t feed it to anyone.

But you refuse to give up entirely. You turn on YouTube and learn some corrective actions for your pie. Maybe you realize you need a little bit of water or you have to add some flour. You refine your process and find the optimism you need to push through that really difficult phase. 

You enter the plateau, understand that you can in fact finish this pie, and get to the result you wanted all along. And when you take that first bite, you are really glad you hung on for the entire ride. 

The Design Build Hype Cycle

Design builders have the challenging job of convincing their clients to go through this Hype Cycle when making pretty emotional and intimate changes to their homes. Let’s go back to the kitchen, this time with a full remodel, to see how. 

When they first present their kitchen redesign to the client, they are met with nothing short of pure excitement. The client is amped and ready to get this project started. They have visions of charcuterie boards spread across a waterfall-edged island and chef-inspired roasted meats being pulled out of their gorgeous new convection oven. They are at the Peak of Inflated Expectations. 

The crew gets to work. The existing kitchen is demoed, it’s dustier and louder than the client anticipated, and it starts to sink in that they won’t have a kitchen sink (or stove, or oven) for what now feels like a really, really long time. 

The client has to make all the selections for everything from cabinets to appliances to backsplash tile to hardware and it’s exhausting and confusing. They hate shopping and they are fatigued of making decisions. 

And then the contractor realizes there’s some kind of plumbing issue. They have to tell the client how much it will cost to remedy it and the time it will add to the project. The client is thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is really freaking me out and I’m not sure I want to pursue this anymore.” The client drops deep down into the Trough of Disillusionment. 

But the design builder has seen this before and is ready. This is when the client is pulled up the Slope of Enlightenment. They guide the client through with expertise, reassurance, and reminders of the big bold promise of the new kitchen that will, they promise, eventually become a reality. 

This gets the client into the Plateau of Productivity and gets the job finished. The client relationship remains so firmly intact that three of their friends call the contractor begging to get the next available slot on the schedule.  

This is no easy task and it’s a challenge design builders face over and over. They have an extraordinary gift, not only in reimagining spaces, but in carrying their clients through the ups and downs that are inherent to every project. 

At KBS CFO we work with so many talented and tenacious design builders and construction contractors who have that perfect mix of skill-based expertise and emotional intelligence that is absolutely necessary to achieve success in their industry. We get what they do and the challenges they face and it informs our ability to help them keep their financial house in order so they help more clients realize dream homes of their own.

Are you a design builder or construction contractor that needs a Fractional CFO, CPA, or accounting support? KBS CFO loves our construction clients and are ready to help you build a bigger, better business. Contact us today and let’s get to work.