April 9, 2019

Transcript of Episode 13

David Supple: All right. Welcome to the Design Build show. I’m here with-

Greg Antonelli: Can I sip while this goes on?

David Supple: Oh yeah.

Greg Antonelli: All right.

David Supple: I’m here with my mentor, Greg Antonelli, and my mentor from afar. Greg, when I got into the remodeling industry, Greg was an established remodeler and he was like … I’d never seen anything like him. He was successful, he was making money, he was-

Greg Antonelli: I had long hair.

David Supple: He was confident, he was … yeah, I didn’t have long hair either. He was everything I wasn’t at the time, so I really took to him and he was very accessible. He was the president of our local membership organization, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. He had this blog on the remodeling magazine, and I just ate up his content. He really helped me a lot. Any conversations I always had, he was so helpful. Always looking to point me in the right direction and I really, what’s that expression with the teeth? Chewed my teeth?

Greg Antonelli: Cut your teeth?

David Supple: Cut my teeth. I cut my teeth … thank you, thank you. Saved me there. I cut my teeth on his material and so it’s an honor to have you on the show. Really appreciate you taking the time here.

Greg Antonelli: I saw promise.

David Supple: Yeah, yeah, well, you saw something.

Greg Antonelli: It’s come to fruition.

David Supple: Yeah. Still got a ways to go. Greg does run a Design Build firm and I want to play the devil’s advocate with you here, because I think you’re that type of guy who’s probably good at that.

Greg Antonelli: Got for it.

David Supple: A lot of times, I feel like I’m just bashing architects on this show because I’m talking about all the things they don’t do, but there’s the other side of it which is the guy who, not a design builder or even not … you know, design build to me is a bit of a mentality. It’s like one of accountability and really taking care of a client in all facets of a project. You know, you collaborate, sometimes you collaborate with an architect, right, where it’s-

Greg Antonelli: One.

David Supple: Separate, where it’s one. But you do, who gets it, right? They get that you both have your role. But what about, you know, enough about the architect who’s not providing all the services that we do, but what about the contractor who’s purporting to a client that they do design, but really doesn’t have the skill set to design? What is the client missing when they don’t hire a firm that really has design capability?

Greg Antonelli: That contractor for whom good design all centers around an Anderson R Stop window?

David Supple: Right, right.

Greg Antonelli: That’s their design statement on every job?

David Supple: Yeah. The nuts and bolts of it, right? They know how to build but they don’t know …

Greg Antonelli: Yeah, I … it’s tough because, you know, everybody can call themselves design build if they want to.

David Supple: Yeah, they can, right?

Greg Antonelli: Yeah.

David Supple: That’s a very common thing in our industry.

Greg Antonelli: The one thing that I think comes along with design build even when they’re lacking on the design side is sort of a budget accountability, and they may not end up with the best product. I think the process and accountability along the way is still heightened with design build even with poor design.

David Supple: Yeah. But let’s play the devil’s advocate. What are they missing? With this architect that you do collaborate with, what does she bring to the table that you enjoy and acknowledge her skill set in that she is superior at?

Greg Antonelli: She’s a great designer, great problem solver. Is not pie in the sky with design ideas. Design ideas, they’re reality-based, and by the same token, her ego is not so big that she doesn’t realize that we might have a good solution as well.

David Supple: And what does she acknowledge that she, the capabilities she doesn’t have that you bring to the table?

Greg Antonelli: We can expedite the process. While we want to give design it’s due respect, and make sure we’ve covered all the ideas and given the client all the options and all the cost benefit analyses to any idea, with … and what I don’t … architects, by and large, are artists.

David Supple: Go on with that.

Greg Antonelli: For them, design is an end unto itself.

David Supple: Because with an artist, right, the painting is the end product. So you’re saying with an architect, some of them have the mindset like the plans are the end product.

Greg Antonelli: Right, and for most of our clients anyway, I don’t know, the people that we find a good fit with, design is a means to an end.

David Supple: Right.

Greg Antonelli: Again, it has to be given its due respect and we don’t want to miss anything, but we’re trying to get to a finished product and most of our clients want more of their dollars put into tile and faucets and things that they’re going to get and keep and use, not just esoteric exercises.

David Supple: Not pen on a piece of paper.

Greg Antonelli: Right.

David Supple: Yeah. So how do you expedite the process? How does this architect … what do you do? What are the things you actually do to help expedite a project?

Greg Antonelli: Just right off the bat, we’ll do a feasibility study, based on a baseline design idea that will get expanded upon and refined.

David Supple: What does that mean? What does that mean though, a feasibility study?

Greg Antonelli: We’ll take, okay, we’re going to do an x by y addition to the house, one story, two stories. It’s going to have hardwood floors, it’s going to have x number of Pella Architect Series double hung windows. It’s going to have, this room’s going to have eight recessed lights, and quantify everything and put a number to it. So this project as written, with all these bullet points, including design and engineering and all this stuff, is going to be X, plus or minus 10%.

David Supple: Yeah. Got it. So very early on, a client can have an outline of their project, have a cost that’s within a certain range there, a certain certainty-

Greg Antonelli: In our world, it’s plus or minus 10%.

David Supple: Okay. And so that’s how you expedite the process, because you’re not doing, you’re not going through the whole design process just to find out your 2X, what you wanted to spend on the project.

Greg Antonelli: Right, right, exact. In our world, 100% of what we design gets built.

David Supple: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. What do you think the percentage is for … I wonder what-

Greg Antonelli: I think it’s less than 50%.

David Supple: Yeah, I was just … I would love to have that metric, that statistic of what it actually is, because it’s such a testament to design build.

Greg Antonelli: Yeah. We had one exercise with this architect where she had the client sold, we were going in as a team, and then I don’t know … actually I found out later, I won’t go into it, but the client decided they wanted to put it out to bid. I said, “Great. Have a good time. I’m out.” She said, “But you have all the great ideas.” I said, “Well, then hire me.” It’s that simple.

Greg Antonelli: Anyway, we did end up bailing on it, and I asked the architect, I said, “So how much did your fees just go up?” She said, “They just doubled. If I have to put together bid documents,” like idiot proof documents versus we have an understanding and we’re going to make the client happy and I don’t have to draw every little molding detail and everything to put out to bid to three contractors, as if that’s a representative sample.

David Supple: Right. When we were just talking, I mentioned how I studied your … I just like, you were like my idol. Still are in many regards, but-

Greg Antonelli: That’s okay. You save that.

David Supple: On one of the things on your website, I remembered what the other thing was now. I think it was in a magazine article or something where somebody asked you, “What does an architect bring? What’s the benefit of an architect, or what does an architect bring to the table?” Do you remember what you answer was?

Greg Antonelli: Today I would answer ideas.

David Supple: Great … yeah, that was it. Great design ideas.

Greg Antonelli: Yeah.

David Supple: Which is very true, you know.

Greg Antonelli: Because they are artists.

David Supple: Yeah, and something is missing from a project if you … it is important. It is important. The thing I think that gets missed is that that’s not the only factor and when people go to an architect, they think, they have the idea that that person is looking out for those other factors when they’re really not able to because they don’t know.

Greg Antonelli: Well, and again this architect that we work with, she’s acknowledged that she has a huge level of anxiety while she’s designing. “Am I on budget? Am I on budget? They told me half a million.”

David Supple: Yeah. How come she doesn’t know what things cost?

Greg Antonelli: Because that model of design bid is broken, and there’s a place for it in commercial, maybe it’s commercial. I don’t know commercial.

David Supple: Right.

Greg Antonelli: Maybe new construction. A lot of what we do in the remodeling world is, and I’ll downplay it. We’re creative, but a lot of what we’re doing is plagiarism. We have an existing house that’s going to dictate certain design details. We’ve established our reputation on being seamless.

David Supple: Yeah. You guys are craftsmen.

Greg Antonelli: Can’t really tell where the old house ends and where the new part begins. A little bit less so in recent, like This Old House thing is, I hope I’m not offending anybody, but it’s just not as popular. In the 90s, it was all about … we did a ton of work on Victorians. Intricate woodworking and whatnot. Now, people are a little bit more minimalist. They want to give a nod to tradition but tone it down.

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: So, again, we’re copying things. We’re looking around the house and going, “Well, you have these beams here or this soffit there or this kind of molding or whatever and here’s how we can tie it together and make it look like this was always part of the house.”

Greg Antonelli: The level of creative … we’re not starting from scratch, and so much more the hands on, the technician needs to have a say in how it’s going to come together, because you got to undo things and make sure the existing things don’t fall down in the meanwhile.

David Supple: Yeah, but very simply stated, the architect of today doesn’t build.

Greg Antonelli: Right.

David Supple: So the question of how come the architect doesn’t know how much it’s going to cost, is like, well, they don’t build. They don’t know.

Greg Antonelli: Right.

David Supple: They just completely, they rely a hundred percent, even when it’s design bid build, it’s like, “We’ll see what the bid comes in at.” I mean, they may be crossing their fingers, but they don’t know. It’s like, there’s historical information and remodeling is different. Every project is different.

Greg Antonelli: We’re still blown away, even with change orders or whatever. We always, unless it’s going to be less than $300, we’re going to price it ahead of time, even when the client just says, “Go ahead and do it.” We’re going to figure it out and then say, “Okay, you realize it’s this much,” because even the cost factors are changing exponentially it seems, especially in this market. We’ve got lead carpenters pushing $100,000 a year.

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: You know, it’s … I can’t imagine, and this I think successful design builders, their core competency or their … there has to be empathy. That’s got to be the first qualifier.

David Supple: Yeah, you’ve got to care.

Greg Antonelli: And put yourself in the client’s shoes. Getting blindsided with the cost of things, because honestly, I’m still blindsided, you know?

David Supple: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s an accountable way to execute a project because in the design process, and even in the construction, I mean, you’re giving the client all the information they need to make a decision, with all the information. What’s missing when you can’t make a decision typically is information, because you don’t have it all. So to make a design decisions, go through design phases without having some accountability behind what, where you’re at at that point is very problematic.

Greg Antonelli: Well, and that’s with when we’re designing on our own or when we’re collaborating with this architect. She appreciates hey, what if we did this? Ten grand.

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: Right there, on the spot, you know, and then the client can go, “Okay, forget about that.”

David Supple: Make a decision, yeah.

Greg Antonelli: Or, “No, that’s worth it. I’ll cash in some stock to pay for that. It’s worth it.” Or whatever, you know. We often ask clients, “Okay, we’ve set a budget.” If we have a really cool idea that we know is going to blow the budget, we don’t want to be insulting to dangle a carrot in front of them that they can’t afford, so it’s like, “Do you want us to mention them, or just keep them to ourselves?”

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: “No, I’m on a strict budget. Don’t tease me.”

David Supple: Yeah. Good question to ask.

Greg Antonelli: Or, the worse thing is that you’re at the end of the job and go, “Geez, if I had known that was a possibility, I would have sold a car to pay, whatever it is to pay for it, I would have asked my parents for money, or something.”

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: Our mantra, we have quite a few, but one of our biggest mantras is respect the budget.

David Supple: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Greg Antonelli: Respect the budget and when design and build are divorced, it’s impossible to respect the budget.

David Supple: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s why you’re seeing even guys who are builders, they call themselves builders in our industry, they’re getting involved … like, the design bid build thing is still out the door because their whole model is based on getting involved early on in a project. So even if there is a separate architect like you guys do with this architect, you have that collaboration where the full picture is being presented to the client so that you can move forward.

David Supple: The other thing I mentioned to you from your website that resonated with me was the design bid build model is a failed experiment.

Greg Antonelli: Obviously, it’s a pious statement.

David Supple: It’s … dude, in five to-

Greg Antonelli: I don’t mind saying, screaming it from the highest mountaintop.

David Supple: You were one of the first guys that I recall just being very vocal to that regard. I think in the next five to ten years, it’s going to keep turning. It’s going to keep going back, because the whole purpose of this show is to educate and enlighten people on the fact that design build, if you look at the … when does civilization happen? Like six, five thousand BC? Like the Egyptians and whatnot? For the … what is that? Seven, six thousand years of civilization?

Greg Antonelli: I’ll trust you on that one.

David Supple: Yeah. Up until the past 150 years, it’s all been design build. The Romans, the Gothic age, even the Renaissance. That’s when the artists came about, but there was still respect of, “Well, I’m not an architect. I’m just designing the building.” But the architect is the guy who builds it, too. It’s only been in the past 150 years where it’s been design bid build, but there’s been such a good push and it’s so ingrained in the educational institutions that everybody thinks that that’s always the way it’s been.

Greg Antonelli: Yeah.

David Supple: That’s the ideal, it’s always been separated. Do you agree most people think that?

Greg Antonelli: Yeah, it’s … yeah. Somehow that model, they did great marketing or campaign or something because it’s … I still find … I think it’s coming around, but there’s so many people that will call us and they’ll be so far down the road that they feel, “Well, we’ve already spent ten grand on whatever,” and to get them to reverse engines and shift to a design build, though I usually tell them, “We can pick up anywhere along the way.”

David Supple: It’s not uncommon that we’ll get calls where it’s like, “Oh, we’re at two times our budget,” three times even.

Greg Antonelli: Right. And it sat on the shelf for a year. They became totally disillusioned, they were in love with that design. They could taste it. They just want to get going on the project. Then they have their legs cut out from under them that it’s two times their budget and it sits on the shelf and finally they get up the gumption. They talk to one of our clients or whatever and they say, “Hey, just call so and so,” us, or you, and then we can do some tweaks and we can reign it back in and get it going. But there’s that moment of disillusionment that is avoided in the design build model.

David Supple: Yeah, yeah. Right.

Greg Antonelli: That’s really, and what I tell … my goal is … you’re going to hear one of my patented spiels. But I was raised by an attorney who was raised by an attorney and there’s a reason I’m not an attorney. I don’t like awkward conversations. I don’t, I want to do everything I can up front to ground all of the parties in reality and find a happy place and go and not in the middle of the project go, “Oh, we didn’t think of this, or we didn’t.” If it’s not supposed to happen, let’s find out really early and save everybody a lot of time and heartache.

Greg Antonelli: That’s really the core of our model, is let’s try avoid awkward conversations.

David Supple: Yup. Yeah. There’s nobody else … I mean, when you do miss something, because sometimes we’re not perfect-

Greg Antonelli: Right.

David Supple: … what happens then?

Greg Antonelli: Most of the time in our world, we’re just paddling like hell below the surface and looking the calm swan above the water.

David Supple: Yeah, what does that mean though? What does that … translate that for me.

Greg Antonelli: It’s do whatever we got to do to stay on schedule and give the client what we told them we were going to give them.

David Supple: It’s not their problem.

Greg Antonelli: Right.

David Supple: Yeah. You’re accountable.

Greg Antonelli: We created a model where we have the right to investigate the hell out of their house. Cut holes in walls and ceilings and-

Speaker 3: Are you guys still working on the bread?

Greg Antonelli: Yeah. That was our waiter.

David Supple: I can’t tell you. Usually I tell people the restaurant we’re at, but we’re not supposed to be here now so ….

Greg Antonelli: It’s not obvious?

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: So, if we created the model where people place trust in us and engage us a hundred percent and we work out the final details, cut holes in walls and whatever, then we really don’t have the right to go back to them and say, “Ah, we missed that.”

David Supple: Yeah. Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: You know? So, and it’s not hard.

David Supple: Yeah, there can be unforeseen conditions but a lot of times, you can set expectations to let people know what you don’t know.

Greg Antonelli: Like, twice we’ve opened stuff up and found old fire damage, and the current owners never knew there was a fire in the house. It had been patched together, and we really couldn’t have foreseen this.

David Supple: Yeah. Right.

Greg Antonelli: That was … but it’s all a level of trust. If they believe that you’re acting in their best, on their best behalf, then yeah, they trust you.

David Supple: It’s more black and white, yeah.

Greg Antonelli: Yeah.

David Supple: And there’s less risk, a lot less risk I think for the client. Do you know what the derivation of the word architect is?

Greg Antonelli: Only from one of your other blogs.

David Supple: Oh yeah?

Greg Antonelli: Yeah.

David Supple: What is it?

Greg Antonelli: Vlogs. That’s the right word, right?

David Supple: Yeah, yeah.

Greg Antonelli: That’s what we’re doing here?

David Supple: Is that how you found out?

Greg Antonelli: Vlog. Yeah, I watched, I forget the name of the gentleman you were … as everybody will forget who the hell I am. Um, uh, it was builder, right?

David Supple: Master builder.

Greg Antonelli: Master builder.

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: Yeah.

David Supple: I mean, it makes sense, you know. The guy who started out as the apprentice was a journeyman, became a master. I mean, I was trained as an architect, never had any building experience, and then I got to a studio. I was all set to go and then I was doing, I remember I was doing some sort of detail and I was completely lost. I had no clue. I had never built … I had pitched some tents, and hung some drywall. I was going to detail a thing for somebody to build, and I was like, “How am I going …” like, completely deficient. But it makes sense, right? That’s the point. Once you’ve built it … the thing I look at is the education today of an architect is completely deficient because the great majority never have been on a construction site until afterwards and that’s who you’re directing. The right sequence is to build. Get the mass of it and some understanding and then once you’ve mastered that, then you can direct guys and be like, “Hey, here’s how you do it.”

Greg Antonelli: I’m tempted to go off on a tangent.

David Supple: Go ahead. Go ahead.

Greg Antonelli: Well, that work experience and whatever, it should be happening in the teens. Get out on a framing crew, summer job, whatever it is.

David Supple: Oh, amen. And the great architects, I think, do. You know, because there are a lot of great architects that do get it, but those are the ones I think, by and large, that have that experience.

Greg Antonelli: And unfortunately the kids who are … I mean, one of the best students I’ve had recently is my own daughter, who’s very artistic, thinks geometrically, and yet I sent her off to college and for whatever reason. So many kids who have that inclination are pushed down a separate track to end up as a barista anyway, with college debt.

David Supple: Guess the percentage of kids that go into architecture school, guess what the percentage is that actually become licensed architects?

Greg Antonelli: I’m going to skew it low, maybe, but …

David Supple: Yeah, it’s pretty low. It’s pretty low.

Greg Antonelli: 30?

David Supple: 20.

Greg Antonelli: 20.

David Supple: 20%, yeah.

Greg Antonelli: And what do the other 80 end up doing?

David Supple: I don’t know. I’m one of them.

Greg Antonelli: We have … I call him a kid, he’s in his late twenties now, who worked for us part time, full time, off and on, back and forth while he was getting his bachelor’s in finance. Graduated, work in finance for three years, called me. “Can I come back? I hate this.” Well, that was nice $200,000 experiment.

David Supple: Yeah, yeah.

Greg Antonelli: Or more. There are kids for whom what we do is just a natural fit and for some reason, they fight it, fight it. Or their parents fight it, fight it, fight it. They end up here anyway, wasting a lot of years and a lot of money. I often say that a large percentage of the plumbers I know own boats.

David Supple: Yeah, they’re doing all right.

Greg Antonelli: It’s like, you know, if they didn’t lie to themselves for their first ten years of their professional life … you can get a jump on it.

David Supple: Yeah, yeah.

Greg Antonelli: Stay at home, live with mom and dad. By the time all your friends are graduating with debt, you’ll be at $80 grand a year. You’ve saved every penny. You’ve got a down payment on your first multi-family. You fix it up, you rent it out. I mean, there are other ways.

David Supple: Oh, there’s a ton of opportunity in this arena.

Greg Antonelli: And you’ll be more fulfilled. Maybe first and foremost.

David Supple: Yeah, I mean you’re helping people. You know, another thing where we got to know each other a little bit is volunteer projects, because those are so validating for what we do. In a very short term basis, you can see the Room to Dream Foundation. You got me hooked up with them eventually, and in a weekend you can have this, and we do it for other clients but it takes months. In a weekend, you can change this space that completely changes this person’s life forevermore and improves it and you see it. It’s like so tangible. It’s an amazing feeling.

Greg Antonelli: Everybody … we had our monthly staff last month, we were talking about this and everybody’s house is like, they’ll go to work, they’ll go out into the world and they’ll deal with whatever jerks or whatever BS they have to deal with to bring home the bacon or whatever. When they get home, they don’t want to deal with any BS and they want their home to be a place of comfort and a fit for them. We create that fit, and all along the way, we hopefully do it so that they’re not dealing with any BS.

David Supple: Yeah. The experience.

Greg Antonelli: They don’t want conflict. The last place anybody wants conflict is in their house. It’s a sanctuary and a refuge and that’s what we get to do.

David Supple: Yeah, somebody-

Greg Antonelli: There are huge potential wins for everybody.

David Supple: Yeah, yeah.

Greg Antonelli: I don’t know in any other industry where the potential for a win is so huge.

David Supple: Yeah. Yeah. Somebody related it to me recently very well. The last … Colin Hand from Blade of Grass, which is a design build landscaping firm, said, “I don’t know anything, any physicality, any physical universe object that’s as relatable to family as somebody’s home. It’s like the next thing.” So we have an impact in that.

Greg Antonelli: It can be really, like I said, the wins are huge.

David Supple: Yeah.

Greg Antonelli: And if we can full circle to the design build thing, we’re setting ourselves up so much better for a win, a mutual win, through a design build process. Fewer hurdles.

David Supple: Less contentiousness, less people stuck in the middle.

Greg Antonelli: Yeah. Fewer finger, less finger pointing.

David Supple: Right. Right. Well, I want to thank you.

Greg Antonelli: Thank you.

David Supple: You’ve been a huge inspiration for me, and I hope for others.

Greg Antonelli: It’s great to see you kicking my butt these days.

David Supple: Yeah. Well, Greg, I feel like Greg’s been a little dormant recently, and I hope this spurs to … even if you video, just throughout the day, just have somebody video you. We’ll all be better for it.

Greg Antonelli: All right. I’ll try to figure that out.

David Supple: Yeah, just have somebody-

Greg Antonelli: I’m a little old school. I’m finding I’m more and more old school.

David Supple: Yeah, just get over it, you know. Do it for, to pay it forward.

Greg Antonelli: All the things that maybe you’ve gravitated to years ago really coming from a hippie place, not a vlogging and cutting edge place.

David Supple: Well, I don’t know what to tell you, man.

Greg Antonelli: I’ll get with the times.

David Supple: Yeah, I mean … you know, there’s a message there. I honestly, I do hope this inspires you because I do want to, that accessibility that … not me against the world mentality, but it was just this, it was just different. It was just a different perspective, that kind of devil’s advocate-

Greg Antonelli: Well, I think, and for whatever design builders or whoever you are watching this, I think the biggest thing is getting comfortable in your own skin. No matter how big we might be as design builders, remodelers, whatever, we’re still small businesses and every small business is a reflection of the owner.

David Supple: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Greg Antonelli: You can’t get away from that, and it was really, I only found myself begin to flourish … I guess my wife might be still waiting for me to flourish.

David Supple: Mine’s just kicking my ass. She’s not waiting.

Greg Antonelli: Is when you start to feel comfortable in your own skin and competent. I used to think that I had to be something else and act like that other guy. When you realize that the more you act like yourself and just let it be, then you’ll attract people who are more like yourself and it just, it’s just a happy, I don’t want to say vicious circle. It’s a happy cycle. Then those happy people who are like who appreciate you will refer like-minded people and you get to the point where we are, where our referral base has outgrown our production capacity.

David Supple: So just video yourself.

Greg Antonelli: All right.

David Supple: It just feeds right into what you’re talking about. Then you’re going to have more people see you that can resonate with you.

Greg Antonelli: Cool.

David Supple: Yeah. All right.

Greg Antonelli: You’ve been an inspiration to me.

David Supple: Oh, well, thank you brother.

Greg Antonelli: No, I watched a couple of your vlogs. These are cool.

David Supple: Good, man. Well, I appreciate it. Thank you much. Greg Antonelli. Out of the Woods Construction.

Greg Antonelli: Night.

Published April 9, 2019 | By