Interview with Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Amissville, Virginia
Today we want to introduce you to Sandra Brannock, owner of Expert Kitchen Designs in Amissville, Virginia. Sandra has been designing kitchens for homeowners throughout Northern Virginia and the metro DC area for 14 years. Her company has been awarded the coveted “Best of Houzz Award for Service” for five years in a row from 2015-2019.
We asked Sandra to tell us more about the services she offers.
Sandra: In the 14 years that I’ve been designing kitchens, I’ve begun to see some commonalities among my clients. Usually they come to me because they are making a big investment in their kitchen and they need someone to help them make sure they are making the correct purchasing decisions and design decisions to achieve the outcome they are envisioning.
They usually start by saying, ‘I’ve heard about you and your work. You do really nice work. This is my home. This is how I live. This is where we are going to be for awhile,’ and I lead them through the steps to crystallize where they want to land in their kitchen design. Every client is a little bit different in how they process the information, so my job is to read between the lines and understand precisely how they may process information and make it easier to get to the place they want to land at.
I liken kitchen design to a 3-dimensional sphere. When we tackle certain things, like a spreadsheet, you know you have to follow a certain path to get to a certain result. Kitchen design is a left-brain right-brain thing, so that is the challenge that most people have. They get off course because there are so many details to consider. They are trying to focus on the finishes and the layout of the kitchen and their brain becomes a bunch of mush.
So for me no matter how hard you work on it for a week, it’s almost impossible to come up with something that is going to fit that particular person. It has to crystallize and sit in the brain for awhile. I believe there is a natural process in the brain where people have a light bulb moment and they feel good about it and we know it is the right direction.So I come up with the design and then I work with the building contractor to make sure it is implemented and executed according to the client’s vision. A lot of times building contractors are challenged with the logistics of getting the trades lined up and project management so if a client comes to them with a lot of questions, it just a whole other category of work. So my job is to link the two together because I understand the construction side and I understand the installation side. The client doesn’t. So when they are telling me what their wishes are I have to communicate between the client and the builder and see what is the common ground here. How can we make this happen? And if we can’t make it happen, illustrate to the client why it is not a good idea and why we might want to take a different path.
It’s all part and parcel of making the project run smoothly. Open communication is essential and in my book it is better to overcommunicate than to undercommunicate.
NoVaBusiness Reviews: OK. So I am looking at your Houzz profile here — the social networking platform for home remodeling companies and home services companies. And I see that you have been blessed with five Best of Houzz awards the past 5 years. That means you were awarded the highest level of client satisfaction by the Houzz community. How did you get them?
Sandra: There’s a couple of ways that I get them. One way is that I am very active in posting on my Houzz site to show that my work is current.
And then I get reviews from my clients. I believe I have 55 reviews now. When I started I thought, oh my gosh, I never thought that number would happen but it has over all these years. So I obviously have a lot of positive reviews and with that I get the badge but I am also active in posting my projects online.
NoVa Business Reviews: So would you say your reviews have helped you grow your business?
Sandra: Absolutely! If you read them you’ll see that there is something to be gleaned from each one about how our interaction personally went in terms of navigating all the dynamics or maybe they encountered a difficulty that I helped them get around. So certainly the reviews are heartfelt and based on an actual experience.
I think the fact that people read them and that I respond to each one as well proves how involved I am with my clients and my work.
NoVa Business Reviews: Have you had anyone tell you specifically that they came to you because they saw your reviews and were impressed with what they were reading?
Sandra: Yes, I have had a few who said that I saw your reviews on Houzz. I think the reviews on Houzz help support and confirm that I am nice to work with and that I take responsibility for my work.
But I think the other thing is that the project photographs really draw people to my work first because they see something unique so the photographs are a driving force to get people to check me out.
NoVa Business Reviews There is a company called Bright Local that does a survey every year on the topic of reviews and the impact that they have on businesses and one of the things they found is that people are likely to spend 20% more with a company that they feel confident in and that has good reviews.
Sandra: Yes, I would agree with that. At the end of the day we are all watching our pocketbooks but when you know you are going to have a process that is more enjoyable than another option most clients will choose to spend more to get what they want.
NoVa Business Reviews: So what is your secret to get clients to give you these reviews?
Sandra: I just ask them! I ask them if they are happy and would they mind posting a review on Houzz for me because I would like them to share their experience with other people who are checking me out.
NoVa Business Reviews: So are most of your clients happy to do that for you? It looks like they are.
Sandra: Yes, they definitely are. I rarely have people who don’t follow through.
NoVa Business Reviews: Another interesting statistic from Bright Local is that 70% of people are happy to give a referral but only 29% do .. and the reason for that is that they just don’t get asked to do it.
Sandra: Yes, I can imagine that is true. But I am pretty obsessive compulsive about that because I realize that in this world you have to be proactive about tooting your own horn or you are just going to get buried.
NoVa Business Reviews:What areas do you serve?
Sandra: I generally work in DC, Maryland and as far out as Charlottesville Virginia. I do some work remotely. I did one project for a client in Long Island a few years back. I never went there and I just communicated with the contractor through drawings and the project went in spectacularly. I do have a project now in Charlottesville which is about an hour a way. So generally I’ll travel anywhere within an hour to an hour and a half from my office in Rappahannock County, Virginia.
NoVa Business Reviews: And how can people reach you if they want to learn more?
Sandra: I prefer talking to start with so the best way to reach me is to call me at (703) 801-6402. You can also go to my website ExpertKitchenDesigns.com and on Houzz under Expert Kitchen Designs LLC. I love to chat with people casually about where they are in their kitchen remodeling process or bathroom remodeling process and see if I am a good fit to help them with their project.