The Value Proposition

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

It really isn’t that tough to figure out. We all want a good deal. We thrive on it. We will drive all the way across town (even when gas was $4.00 a gallon) to get that Tri-Tip steak for $5.99 a pound instead of $6.99. It is rare to find people who do not care about getting a good deal.

But how do you define a good deal? Is it just first cost? What about life cycle cost? I can recall (here I go again regaling you with tales of ancient times) when I was a pup and we had a ’69 Firebird Convertible. My sister and I had cleverly convinced Dad that Mom needed this car. We took him to Thompson’s and he bit. He probably thought Mom would have enjoyed hauling four or five of their seven kids around in this sporty thing. Anyway, back to my message. Tires. That car went through tires like a hot knife though butter. Those pretty red striped wide oval Firestones were good for maybe 12,000 miles if we remembered to rotate them. I can’t recall what they cost, but I do know that one time they needed to be replaced and Dad actually took an interest in the tire situation. He talked with the guy at the service station and they decided that Firestones were out of the question and we got some no name generic tire for pretty much the same cost.

I just could not figure out what was going on. 40,000 miles later, those darned tires were still on that Firebird. True, they were not as “grippy.” We’d slide a bit rounding corners in Southern Hills at seventy miles an hour (Oops, don’t believe I should have told that – oh, well, the Statute of Limitations has passed anyway).

The point here was that a different type of tire with a better, harder, rubber mix could last three times as long as the pretty soft rubber wide oval Firestones – and cost the same. That was a “good deal.” That tire company had a value proposition which allowed them to make a tire that might have cost a little more to make, but lasted longer and since they were “no-name.” I assume they spent less on advertising and ended up with a pretty good profit margin.

So, what does that have to do with our business? Well, it is not much different. To get a really good deal on anything from professional services to construction and the operation of your building you have to look at more than first cost. Look at first cost, maintenance, replacement, and operational costs. You can pay less up front, but if that carpet has to be replaced in three years instead of ten years, have you really saved?

When you hire your architects and engineers, you want to find the ones that provide you with the type of service you want. You want experience, capability, capacity, and a level of care. A/E services are not a commodity like bushels of grain. You can always find someone to do it for less but as Dad used to say, “You get what you pay for – if you are very lucky.”

Our job is to help you get the best deal. We are supposed to know about every aspect of the project and understand the way everything works, how long it lasts and what it costs to maintain. We are there to make sure that the right materials are used so that they will last and will not be an ongoing expense to you.

We also are there to manage the construction process. We will help you find the best contractor (not the cheapest) who can build your project. At the end of the day it is our goal to deliver to you a project that works, has been built for the budget we established up front, is delivered on time, and has exposed you to the least risk.

That is the “value proposition” – we are here to get you the best value up front and ongoing for the life of your project. We do not want to give you a set of pretty wide oval Firestones that will leave you flat and disappointed 12,000 miles later.