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LOCAL STORIES

August 30, 2023 at 9:28:46 PM

The Right Way To Conduct / Start / Thrive in your business

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25 years of serving others ~ doing your best ~ living with integrity and dignity

Published on:

August 30, 2023 at 9:28:46 PM

Ignite Business Insider shares the stories of businesses that are making an impact in their local markets. We highlight their stories in order to inspire entrepreneurial growth and to let readers learn more about businesses across the world that are growing and scaling.

Featuring

Frank Christopher

Owner/Founder

The Christopher Collection

Thank you for taking the time to sit with us and share your story. Can you share a little bit about you and your company?

I grew up in Virgina and Miami, Florida where my family owned Carter Hall a historic circa 1700's mansion in Millwood, and a well known property on Sunset Island 1 named Tranquilla. From the time of childhood I always had interest, perhaps because of growing up in these special properties, with design and architecture. Started my own design and construction management business after having worked with and on several world changing resorts in Hawaii for Chris Hemmeter and then with Air Host, now owned and operated by The Marriott Group. Formed in Newport Beach, California and conducted high-end residential design and project management services there, Beverly Hills, Rancho Santa Fe, Palm Springs area, Sun Valley, Idaho, Aspen, Colorado, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

A question so many people are interested in, is how you got started. Can you share a little bit about what you were doing before this, and what that moment was like for you when you decided to start this new journey?

I was blessed with being born into a "privileged" surrounding with family business and connections in our federal and state governments and even met Jackie Kennedy as a child, who with my grandfathers permission, started the fox hunt season at Carter Hall, featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine. So I had the advantage of living in places as I came into adulthood that were communities of both wealthy and highly educated citizens. At around my early 30's I decided, having had the opportunity of working with and for some exceptional bosses, to start my own design business which struggled income wise for the first few years. It was both scarry and exhilarating at the same time. Having been raised to be honest, transparent, respectful, and to be "service" orientated, once I had a few significant jobs finished, even though making minimal profit, but with happy clients, referrals started coming in, a true blessing and anyone starting their own business needs to follow these personal and business directives. After fully understanding the "dress-for-success" moto and marketing myself for the first five or so years most all my business from that point forward was from past clients or exclusively by referrals.

Let's take a little bit of a detour, and rewind the clock a little bit. What did you want to be as a kid? And how did that influence the person you are today?

I suppose like most kids of my generation I wanted to be an astronaut, and then by age 7-8 perhaps a professional golfer. If my father had not died at age 32 in an auto accident two days before my 10th birthday, I believe I would of become a professional golfer if I exhibited both the talent and discipline for such as I matured. That event ended my childhood and suddenly I had to look after my mother and take on perhaps responsibilities a child should not have had to. That need to have focus and discipline early may have been the catalyst for a calling in design.

Have you fully let go of that childhood dream? And where do you see yourself going in the next ten years?

I thought I was at the end of my "work/business" life and semi-retired early thinking I would travel, play golf and tennis, hike, fish, workout and live a "vacation" lifestyle. However, after a few years of that I became bored and realized all the years of experiences gathered should not be wasted and I could "serve" others, make their lives better and more joy filled by using my gift and my expertise to continue doing what I was good at.

Now, I have found that with successful people, there is always someone pivotal as either a mentor, parent, teacher, or someone that you look to for advise, that helped set you on this path. Could you share who that person was? And what impact that had on the person you are today?

Early on in childhood, after my Dad had passed I had a childhood encounter with God. In that event, He asked me a question which changed the direction of my life and is more than anything else why I so enjoy service to others and enriching their lives through my efforts. However, I was blessed to have both parents until I was 10 that illustrated respect and concern for everyone and that was a foundation for my life. Later in life I formed several friendships with my employers, having the blessing of working directly with CEO's and they, through the way they conducted business, showed me how to be professional, diligent, and dogged in both life and business.

What was one take away that you learned from that person? And how did it translate into your business today?

Never give up, never let "no" stop you and believe in yourself and what you can accomplish if you set your mind and goal to do so. Lastly, that you can work harder, longer, and with less sleep than you think you can, at least while you are young.

When we work with businesses, we focus a lot on their "Why?". What is your "Why"? What is the driver behind your company, and why you and your team wake up each day and give it your all?

The why is making clients life better. Especially in the residential area you are improving the space they and their family spends the most time in. Making that experience more peaceful, enjoyable, appreciated, and functionable is the focus and goal in every project. Seeing the smile and joy on your clients' face of the completed work is the reward not the money earned.

Let's dive deeper into your products and services. You already gave an overview, but how do your products or services help your customers? And what makes them different from your competitors?

Specifically, quality of life... As a designer and project manager we have developed over time design elements that "fit" our clients need and most always exceed their expectations. Having operated for over 25 years you develop resources and tradesmen that many do not know about or have access to. Further, we strive on offering superior service and results at cost points below many in our industry. My focus has been, exceed expectations and come in if at all possible, under budget. Finally, we are many time client educators and mediators. Having gone through the process so many times we know what works and doesn't procedurally, design wise, and functionally. We focus on the need to be filled and how best to accomplish that task and use our depth of resources to make client dreams come to reality at a price that hopefully won't "break the bank".

Let's unpack that even further. Let's pick one aspect of your business. What makes it so unique? And how does it change you or your customer's experience?

A mind set that profit is not always the end goal but client satisfaction. Being honest, transparent, and highly professional at all times and stepping up and accepting our mistakes readily and resolving at our expense if they happen not at the clients. Finally, being available if necessary 24/7 for client communication and onsite developments. That means weekends and after hours if necessary.

Let's dive into your customer's journey a little bit. Can you share with us, how do your customers discover you and your brand? What are their next steps? And what is the experience you would like to see your customers go on, when working with you and your brand?

I would say 90% by referral, and at this point, unless it is a very unique project and client we do not take on "new" clients. As we normally come to the table with certified and personal references it is not so much "selling" the job but if our timeline meets those of our clients and their budget as well. We collectively set the "project" parameters and budget, sign the "Agreement" which outline every possible detail and set a start date. Fortunately, many of our clients have been through this process before and our educated on the do's & don'ts. In addition, we make clear and it is defined in our written agreement who is the "final" decision maker if more than one person is involved. That from experience is an upfront prior to work designation. Finally, being "realistic" as to timeline for completion, understanding if delays in deliveries take place, and knowing and anticipating exceeding budgets by 10% is a normal occurrence.

Let's rave about your customers for a minute. Can you share a story about one of your clients or customers, that either touched your heart, or made an impact with you and your team?

I can't divulge the name but in one major project in Aspen we went to the extent of calling their house keeper and personal secretary to find out their favorite wines, Champagne, usual daily food and drink necessities and have the refrigerator stocked with such. Her favorite flowers and arranged ahead for several arrangements to be placed, and finally his and hers monogramed plush spa terry robes. All that as a "gift" and not billed for.

Everyone likes an inside scoop. What detail or secret about either you, or your company, is something most people might not know?

I was a formally a race car builder and entered construction with that mindset and attention to details. Only became "formally" educated in architectural and interior design after more than a decade of designed and completed projects. And lastly, am a sports enthusiast in golf, tennis, snow & water skiing, fly fisherman, and daily gym freak.

Final thoughts. What feeling or benefits would you like your customers or clients to take away when working with you and your team?

We value their respect, their loyalty, their joy & happiness in the place they live and employed us to create for them. That it is truly "our pleasure" to serve them and create an envionment that they and their family will cherish for many years to come.

Last question. How can people find out more about you and your company?

We at this point do not advertise nor do we want to, we take on only a maximum of two projects a year so we can be "at-our-best" and if they don't have a referral I would direct them to my personal LinkedIn page for an overview, then contact me personally at those contact points.

Thank you so much for sitting with us and sharing your story.

You are most welcome ...

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