The Mamas Recommend: Real Amsterdam Renovations

November 26, 2012 By Lisa Benoist 0 Comments

Want to know how a project manager can help you make your Amsterdam house a home? Find out more about Real Amsterdam Renovations....

Toni Scriven’s relocation story may be a familiar one for many expats in Amsterdam. Her husband was commuting from the UK to Amsterdam on a weekly basis, as well as other destinations, for business. Once they realised this was going to be the norm and Toni had decided she had achieved all she wanted to in the world of banking, they seized the opportunity to relocate to Amsterdam.

The Beginning

Arriving in The Netherlands in April 2006, the day after her birthday, Toni had no idea what she wanted to do with herself and spent the first 9 months tying up loose ends in the UK whilst keeping her eyes open for a new challenge. As Toni herself says:

A new location opens up opportunities to change careers and embrace a new path.

In their “old” life, Toni and her husband had bought, renovated and sold properties as a very successful side project to their day jobs. Throughout these projects Toni had dealt with the whole spectrum of service providers - from the extremely organized, honest and prepared to the untrustworthy, difficult and downright chaotic. Based on her experiences as a customer and the ideal she had for customer service, she toyed with the idea of going full-time as a project manager but was not so confident of leaving a stable salary. Until the move to Amsterdam, of course.

“I was flat-hunting in Amsterdam and, after a lot of research, saw around 20 properties during my search, one of which was on the portfolio for Perfect Housing,” says Toni.

Impressed by her property knowledge, they offered Toni a job as a rental consultant, which she took. However, the high-pressure sales environment was not a good match for Toni, whose natural predisposition is more service-oriented, and after a year with the company she left.

Once Toni and her husband had settled on a property to purchase in Amsterdam, they brought in a designer -  Frank ter Horst - and renovations on their new home began. Frank worked closely with Toni to realise her vision for her home and, in the middle of the project, asked her to become the General Manager of his company, DOOB Design. A position that suited her well for a time.

However, once the economic crisis reached the Netherlands, Toni had to let go of Frank’s team of staff and, upon seeing Frank’s reluctance to do the deed, she then fired herself. “I was 3 months’ pregnant at that point, and was in the position to take the break as an opportunity to relax and enjoy the pregnancy.”

Motherhood and Entrepreneurship

Toni’s son Miles was born on 29/09/09, and around the same time as becoming a mother, the idea of her own company in renovation management blossomed. In those first months, she found herself pondering the logo of her new company, unsure of the design itself but certain it should have a reflective, mirror image. Re-enter Frank ter Horst, who designed her company logo and introduced her to her first client!

“Before I knew it, I was at the KVK registering my new company, Real Amsterdam Renovations, and back working alongside Frank again on my first independent project - overseeing the complete renovation of a 3-story house!” The project lasted 6 months and made Toni aware of how discerning she was about the contractors she was willing to work with. “I wanted skilled contractors with a good degree of flexibility for the customer, but who were uncompromising on quality and extremely communicative. It was a tough call!”

She soon began building her Little Black Book of preferred tradesmen and this, combined with her knowledge of the property market through Perfect Housing, gave her the competitive edge in the industry.

Real Personality

By nature, Toni is extremely frank, honest and clear in her message. Within minutes of meeting, we are sharing war stories of motherhood and its as if I’ve known her for years. Her character is key to her successful business relationships, building trust with her customers from the very beginning, offering feedback to manage expectations when balancing the customer’s personal needs with their resources.

My business is me. It’s what I personally bring to the table - how I personally add value for my client. And that comes with honesty, transparency, great organization, clear communication and achieving a high degree of trust when realising their vision for their home.

It’s clear that she’s passionate about what she does. Forty minutes after we meet, I notice she has yet to order a drink as she talks me through each stage of project planning and smooth lining operations.

Real Benefits

In line with her service-oriented attitude, she is extremely flexible with the project management services she provides, which include:

  • touring the property with the client, taking photos and thorough notes throughout the appointment
  • sending notes to preferred contractors to invite them to tendor and provide quotes
  • meeting with specialists from the beginning to ensure any potential issues with the project are spotted early and addressed
  • shortening the quotation process to move the process forward as quickly as possible
  • exploring possibilities for projects outside the customer’s current reality so they have a whole array of options to fully capitalize on their property

“An initial visit to a property involves a lot of discussion with the customer, listening to what they want and getting a good understanding of the vision they have, both for the project and their home as a whole,” Toni says, “Once I have a clear understanding of the vision, I can foresee what is needed for each stage of the project to ensure it doesn’t impact future plans for the property or cause any problems further down the line. This is essential in helping customers to spend their time and money wisely.”

Potential issues with any project are addressed with the customer as soon as possible. All practicalities are taken into consideration and, most importantly, Toni makes the customer aware of how the renovation will impact the future sale of the property, something that is often overlooked but is a major concern for expats living in Amsterdam for a limited time and looking for a good return on investment.

Real Experience

Now after several years of personal renovation management and at the end of her second year of business, Toni is surprised by questions she is asked around renovations. It seems that she’s had so much experience already that every small detail is automatically covered and logged down. She believes it’s the right of the customer to know exactly how she has spent her time on a project and that the time has been spent as effectively as possible.

Once the quotation process has finished and a quote has been accepted, Toni puts together a work schedule, and the customer decides how much time Toni should spend on the project, with an average time being around 10 hours per work.

She remains flexible with her time so that clients are able to manage their budget well. She also meets contractors on a regular basis to keep customers in the loop, providing them with full reports should they feel they need this.

If the client is on-site, Toni doesn’t need to be there, the client can decide how involved she is and how much information they need. If the client is off-site, they find Toni’s regular reports and communication skills invaluable. Full involvement includes negotiating with contractors over specific issues - identifying any problems and always looking for the best possible outcomes for her customer. The key to all of this is managing expectations: clearly defining the budget, offering the most effective solution, being transparent about what is involved and what is covered and being flexible about her involvement. 

Toni admits to being surprised by some contractors’ mentality of doing things as cheap as possible in order to get the job done. Ultimately, quality is a longterm saving of both time and finances. So what has she learned in her project management work in The Netherlands?

“In a male-dominated environment, my expertise in the field has been essential to holding my own. Learning the language definitely helped me to gain authority and credibility in the industry. It’s also great for maintaining full transparency for both my Dutch and English-speaking clients.”

And the most rewarding aspects of running her own company?

“Professionally, it’s seeing the vision come together, the excitement and anticipation of the client and the joy on their face when the project is realised. Personally, it’s being able to organize my own time and be able to pick up my son and spend time with my family.”

You can find out more about Real Amsterdam Renovations by visiting the website or by calling Toni Scriven on (0031) 062 902 0098.

Note: The company in this post has paid to be featured on Amsterdam Mamas because they believe that their services would be of interest and benefit to our readers, and we think so too. For more information on sponsored posts and advertising on Amsterdam Mamas, please see our Advertising and Disclosure policy.

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