John Danielian reflects on homeowner preferences and company culture in 2020.
Builder and Developer: Due to the pandemic, we’ve seen changes in homeowner preference and a renewed importance of the home. What were your thoughts about how Danelian Associates needed to approach this year?
John Danielian: We were pretty proactive starting in March and April, right after the pandemic started. We sent out a survey to our clients through social media and e-blasts and got a resounding response from builders, homeowners about what are their top concerns and wish lists having dealt with the pandemic. We got a great response.
BD: What were some trends that became apparent during these findings?
JD: Overwhelmingly health and wellness was one of the top important items. Air quality was really important. The other item was having a nice area to conduct business or zoom meetings or work from home without distractions. There’s been a lot of conversation about is the open space dead and we’re saying no. It’s not dead, but maybe there’s an appendage off these open spaces where you can have these intimate were you can have zoom meetings and do your work without having your cat crawling over your shoulders or your kids running behind you. We took a lot of those ideas and started putting into concepts that we’ve slowly been releasing through social media and others.
To give you an idea, for these places to do your zoom meetings, we envision having these little inglenook or appendages off these open spaces that are well lit, that have nice acoustics, that has the level privacy where you can have these meetings and its not disruptive to the rest of the family but still feels like it is part of the open space. We recognize that once we’re over this pandemic, whenever that might be, we’ve learned that using the technology of Zoom is really valuable. Not only for business but just keeping in contact with friends and family.
With regards to health and wellness, we started looking at different design concepts and we coined a space called the “Well-way,” which was basically a glorified mudroom. When you enter the home it’s a place where you can change when you get home, you can wash up. Perhaps it’s near the front door, near where you enter the house. Maybe there’s a washer or dryer where you can wash your clothes when you come in. It might be where you get packaging. This “Well-way” has been a concept we’ve been doing some studies on and we think that’s going to be conducive into the future.
BD: How would you describe the company culture during this time? How did you manage that this year?
JD: Culture is something that is very important to us. It’s exhibited through the fact that we were named the Best Place to Work For by the Orange County Business Journal, it’s our third time we’ve received that.
Just like every company in March, we sent all of our employees home. But what was really important was, how do you still keep a remote culture? We were thinking of the best ways to do that. One of the things we started doing was that we have a thing called the DA Huddle. We did this before, every Monday we’d have a staff meeting. We’d sit anywhere from 10-20 minutes every Monday giving highlights, talking about projects, recognizing people. We figured, let’s do this via Zoom. And it was amazing because we thought this wasn’t going to really work out but we found we got better participation when everyone zoomed in. In addition to that, we also have a Nashville office and they were never included in our DA huddles before but now we were able to bring them in virtually. Now that we have 85% of our staff back working in the office, we’re still doing those huddles virtually. I think even beyond that, we will continue to do that.
Safely, we were able to bring people back. We’ve taken several protocols. We’re taking everyone’s temperature, everyone wears a mask. We have a person on staff that cleans every door knob, refrigerator, microwave hour on an hourly basis. We’ve tried to create a safe environment for our employees to come back to. All of our work stations are more than 8 feet apart.
BD: Any last thoughts?
JD: We’ve been very lucky. We’ve been able to keep busy during this time. We’re grateful to be in an industry that’s been doing very well. We’re thankful to be part of that.
We had the opportunity to grow our staff by 15% over the last several months. We’ve brought in some young new talent. We also brought in some senior talent, a new principal who’s helping us with our business development on multi-family projects.