At M. Grisafe Architects, we’re passionate about architecture. It’s what we do. We’ve been in business as a boutique architecture firm in Long Beach since 2005, and while we obviously love the challenges of designing spaces that inspire our clients and improve their home or work lives, it’s our love for people that truly drives us.
If you were to ask any of us how our firm has grown and remained successful over the years, we would probably all have a similar answer: Because of the people involved, and that includes each other as colleagues as well as our clients. Our approach with clients, which we sum up with
three words—advise, advocate, and collaborate—not only results in finished projects that fully address clients’ needs and solve their problems, but that also drives our inspiration and creativity as a firm.
When the Client Wins, We Win Too
We’ve learned over the years that our clients are at the heart of what we do. They’re the most important part of our business. We’ve also learned that when we go above and beyond for our clients—when we really dazzle them—our job is more fun! It’s so rewarding for us to know that a client is thrilled with their new space, and that goal keeps us excited to come to work every day.
When we begin a project, our very first step is to get to know the client we’re working for. Whether we’re working on a residence or a commercial space, meeting the people who will be using the space and understanding them on a deeper level is essential for us.
And we understand that not all architects agree
! Plenty of architects enjoy designing spec homes (which are designed and built without a specific buyer in mind), and plenty of architects enjoy doing large-scale commercial work in which there may be multiple intermediaries involved and not much direct interaction with the person or people who end up using the space on a daily basis. Those types of projects simply aren’t our preference because we believe we achieve better end results when we work with our clients rather than for them.
Relational, Not Transactional
Everyone has had the experience of feeling like “just a number” or “just a consumer” when interacting with a business, and it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t matter where it happens—getting a fast-food burger or navigating a car insurance claim—if a company is treating your interaction like a transaction to “get through,” you’re probably going to think twice about spending your money with that company in the future.
Because of the personal and permanent nature of what we do, that attitude is unacceptable for us. For one thing, it creates unhappiness all around. If our clients were repeatedly unsatisfied, we at the firm would all be unsatisfied, too. People generally don’t enjoy working for companies that don’t treat their clients well.
But more importantly, our clients have to live and/or work in the space we create. We might be able to get to “good enough” without inviting them into the process, but to get to their hearts and leave them with a space that inspires them for years to come? That requires building a strong relationship with them. It’s not the easy way, but it’s far more rewarding in the end, and it makes clients more likely to work with us again and refer us to their friends and families!
Advise, Advocate, Collaborate
Every business is different, but there’s always a way to invest in building relationships with clients. It takes time and energy, but the payoff is well worth it. For us as a Long Beach architecture firm, we have developed a three-pronged approach, and we’ve found it to be a good balance between establishing our expertise, which makes clients feel confident in choosing us for their project, and treating clients like valued members of the team who can provide input and participate in the process:
Advise: This is essential to building confidence and trust. We provide information and transparency right from the beginning, and we continue to do so throughout each phase of our work together. We believe well-informed clients ultimately make the best decisions, so we make communication a top priority from day one.
Advocate: As we gather information and fully understand what the client wants and needs in their new space, we work towards it wholeheartedly. We strive to reach the finish line with as few complications as possible and while meeting every client need. If problems or complications arise (which is not uncommon in our line of work, especially dealing with permits and codes), we jump in and solve them. It’s our job to navigate those stressors, not the client’s.
Collaborate: Just like we work with our clients throughout the scope of a project, we also have to work with agencies, city governments, and other various stakeholders to keep a project on time and on budget.
This may all sound novel or even crazy. We know that our exact approach may not be appropriate for every business—after all, different types of businesses require different levels of closeness with clients. What we are saying is that we create win-win results when we treat clients like team members, and we believe that most businesses would benefit from finding ways to do so too.