A favourite client named George

Don’t get me wrong – I love you all!  But every now and then, you come across a client who really is an instant favourite.  His name is George, and being legitimately inspired by a subject is always the best possible way to bring out my best as a writer.  So I wanted to share what I came up with after catching up with him.  Without further ado…

GIORGOS: The future of new home design is already here

When you talk to George Giannakakis, you just smile.  It’s impossible to do otherwise.  Confidence without boastfulness, unbridled enthusiasm about his own passions, and still the best listener in the room.

But it’s when you watch him instinctively crafting an iPad sketch of your magnificent dream home masterplan that you share something truly emotional.  It’s suddenly clear that he’s one of the very few people who get to do the exact thing they were put on this planet to do … every single day.

“Many people think of design as problem solving,” he says.  “But it’s not that to me.  To me, design is emotion-creation.  It’s that emotional change that you feel when you walk through a new space.”

George talks about design with a sparkling-eyed passion that is akin to the way people talk about art, love or spirituality.  And there’s a good reason for that: for George, design truly *is* all of those things and more.

Take his new business name: GIORGOS.  It’s not just a cool twist on his name.  George tells me that Georgius of Cappadocia was a soldier, saint, martyr and defender.  But much more than that, GIORGOS is George’s way of taking the audacity of his proud Greek ancestors, and his love of the construction industry, and propelling them audaciously into the future, with a bold new way to totally reinvent the building sales process.

“Business is just people,” he says.  “Homes don’t sell homes.  People sell homes.

“My core mission with GIORGOS is to vastly simplify the new home buying process for South Australians,” Giannakakis tells me.  “How are you going to do that?” I ask him.

George answers succinctly: “It’s about bridging the gap between beautiful design and the cost.”

The implication is that truly beautiful design has hitherto been the reserve of those with beautiful bank balances.  But Giannakakis tells me he has cracked the code for attainable design beauty by honing in on a single keyword: lifestyle.

“Normally, you get the budget and you go from there,” he explains.  “But I want to get the lifestyle and make that the starting point.

“Let’s say it’s not your last home, it’s your first home.  You’re planning on being there for five years and you won’t have kids in that timeframe.  Do you need five bedrooms?  Do you need a second living area, or can you use that space better and smarter and cheaper?”

The questions that only a skilled, in-house, design professional or consultant would ask keep on coming: “What about the fancy finishes?  You can change a tap whenever you want to,” Giannakakis says.

It begs the obvious question: has George found a gap in the market because people are currently being badly advised?  In truth, that’s probably an unfair question to ask.  Why?  Because the people giving that advice are generally operating in the world of sales, profits, and big budgets.

“We’re in sales but technically we are consultants.  Typically, you tailor the design to suit the budget.  But with us, it’s the opposite.  We start with the aim of a beautiful custom design and make it work for the budget.  That’s what I mean by bridging the gap.”

Give me another example, I ask.

“Take the facade,” George answers without a pause.  “You might rule out the cost of the render, or you might go for it and you’ve taken a big bite out of your budget.  But can you do it all?  Can you achieve a nearly identical result by using similar-coloured brickwork, for example, and maybe adding a little bit of render to finish it?”

It all sounds smart, but to the lay person, surely this can’t be an all-new business idea?

George answers: “It’s new because …”

For the first time, he hesitates – and it’s clear why.  George not only operates in the construction industry, he loves it.  It’s why he has forged strong and impressive relationships with major builders, real estate agents, and even finance brokers.  Many of them – most, truth be told – are names that even I have heard of.  They’re some of the biggest company names in Australia.

“They’re businesses we trust, because they trust us,” he explains.  In other words, he doesn’t want to sound overly critical.  But his core message is in fact not critical.  Architects, for instance, are by nature people who like to design beautiful things.  And true beauty mixed with a tight budget can be like oil and water.

“That’s why we bridge the gap,” Giannakakis says again.  “Our vision is for property to be hand-crafted and for people to think that is achievable.  I want people to live in really beautiful homes.  Simple as that.”

And it’s just a fact of life, and of business, that where there is that deep desire for a beautiful home, there are often some very deep pockets.  George is driven by his desire to make the necessary pockets a lot shallower.

“I’m in sales, yes, but I don’t really think in a sales-driven way.  I think in terms of wanting to help a client.”

George’s bio has all the usuals, including a Masters in Architecture and 12 years in the industry.  But when you ask him about his past, those eyes light up again.

“I went to uni because my father wanted me to.  It was his dream, not mine.  From the earliest age, I was fascinated by design.  I loved the process.  A home coming to life.  It fascinated me.”

You can see it in his sketches, which he delights his clients with as he puts flesh and skin on the bones of your vision.  And that he does them on an iPad is no mistake, either.  “I’ve always loved technology, too,” says George.  “It’s a technology-driven business.

“But I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck in front of a computer.  Sitting in those architect offices, I thought: ‘Is this it?’.  I was much happier designing and selling verandas because I got to talk to a lot of people.  I thought: ‘This is awesome’.  I love to design and I love to talk.”

I tell him that, as a writer who feels most comfortable at a computer, I’m the exact opposite.  Talking to new people is usually a bit of a struggle.

“Smile,” he says, instantly offering sage advice.  “It changes the dynamic of the room.”

George’s face is a lot younger than his experience and obvious confidence and wisdom would suggest.  His industry knowledge spans several firms and roles, but what he got to know in most detail was a deep understanding of what clients actually want from their new home.

“I really evolved when the emotional side became a lot clearer to me.  It was truly eye-opening,” he says.

“I learned so much about the process, but what I really learned about was the people.  I talk a lot but I listen even more.  If you don’t really listen to what people want and then apply that to what they don’t know but I do, it’s no surprise that the gap is there.  You don’t just ask them what they want or what their budget is.  You want to know the person.  The people.  Who are they?  How do they live life?  How do they want to live life?

“It’s like buying something because it’s on special.  No.  Find out exactly what they want.  Then tell them that they can have it – on special!

“No one does it the way I do it.  It’s not a new product, it’s a new process.  And I’m proud of it.”

For the future, George is already thinking even bigger, better and bolder, but we’ll save that for another day.  For now, GIORGOS is already the future.

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