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Recently I was asked to name a favorite project and describe what makes it so. I immediately thought of a project we completed several years ago, and which I still consider the epitome of favorite project and client: Double T Smiles, and Nadene and Roger Tipton. I’ll admit that we love to design dental offices and that I’m rather a fan of going to the dentist. It may sound crazy, but where else can you spend little time and gain significant payoff in your overall health and well being? The Tiptons believe not only in the good they do for patients' health, but in the more global difference it makes when we all do a little good in the world. One of their personal credos—that smiles make the world a better place—eventually turned into a noteworthy affirmation prominently displayed in their practice.

Roger engages in pediatric dentistry and Nadene practices orthodontia. They both stay current on technology and trends, and are aware of their specific markets. Forward thinkers with a deep commitment to their firm’s purpose, the Tiptons are gracious, easygoing and communicative. They are discerning: As studied professionals in dentistry their tendency is to respect others they perceive as experts within their own fields. They demand much of themselves and expect the same from others. Early in our relationship Nadene and Roger assured us of their confidence in our role as team leader in all things design related. They are also generous, accommodating and encouraging. To tell the truth, we fell in love with this client even before the project started, and our affection continues to grow years after the final installation.

Based upon their focus, the Tiptons imagined a space especially attractive to a specific customer base, largely kids and teens, and were eager to create a “Wow!” experience. The idea of designing for youth is always exciting to us; they are a savvy market, not easy to impress, and not easily fooled. And children and teens are subject to first impressions like the rest of us. When we began collaboration with Nadene and Roger, both dentists were enjoying a successful shared practice. They first approached us after having already initiated work with another firm. By the time we came on board a preliminary floor plan was in place and finishes were under discussion. To this day I admire that the Tiptons knew—without really understanding why—that they were heading in the “wrong direction” and away from the dream they held for their practice. Had they really worked this diligently only to live in a brand new space that lacked inspiration for them or their patients? Hardly! Nadene and I met; we imagined; we pondered. A relationship ensued. Studio West would become not only dream weaver, but architect of those dreams.

A favorite customer seems always one who is able to enjoy the process along with us. Even in the midst of what most perceive as stressors … delays, decisions, quality issues, change orders … they remained steady. (Believe me when I say that every project creates stress, even the best ones!) The Tiptons, while trusting our guidance, continued to ask sensible questions that challenged our thought processes and rationale. As I’ve mentioned in earlier stories, design is both science and art. If we’re not always right sometimes it’s because there is no right. Sometimes there is simply a best solution for a particular situation. So, a favorite customer appreciates the collaborative aspects of design. They are thinkers with a universal mindset; they understand the need for consistent review of the overall vision, and they get that every decision (no matter how minor it may appear at the time) deserves consideration as part of the whole. A thinking, collaborative client-partner keeps us on our toes and causes us to constantly up our own game.

Finally, favorite clients are those who share with others what we do and how we do it and, by doing so, they substantiate their role as true partners in our success. I wonder how many reading this story will remember the book Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. I first read this book over 15 years ago. The authors’ idea of developing a deeply loyal relationship with our clients lit a fire in me. Those same clients serve their own customers, and what we contribute very much supports them in building a raving fan base. We are always committed to, and fairly consistent about, going the extra mile to serve our clients. We love to be of service and we hope it shows. When so many forces merge, when a discriminating customer comes along who wants unique, enjoys the process, and is eager to collaborate, the experience is infinitely rewarding. When that customer also commits to making a positive difference in the world—and invites us to design with the good in mind—the result is captivating. Double T Smiles is proof positive!

 

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