While it's essential to have a well-defined outcome in mind for your project, it doesn't matter how specific the vision is if you don't have someone to help you get there.
For this project we knew we'd be working remotely, and I didn't have my list of reliable, responsive, creative resources to go to. So we started asking around. When no wonderful proven options surfaced, we fell back on the modern tool of today: the internet. Houzz was a great starting point where we could narrow vendors by area, see project photos, and read reviews. I knew the client needed a kitchen design resource; I thought we might need some custom cabinet work; and I wanted someone to manage the entire process on-site. We didn't need the assistance of an overall designer, as that was my role.
We ended up having conversations with three very different resources. The first was a well-reviewed local builder who focused on kitchen design and remodeling. Our meeting with the kitchen "designer" was less than inspired, and the plans she turned around reflected little of what we discussed. Despite several attempts, she truly didn't seem to understand the client's goals, and we determined pretty quickly that she was a no-go.
We then called the Michigan outpost of an extremely high-end design group and found that for them to simply walk in the door required a retainer of several thousand dollars, no sketches would be provided without a fee, and they really only wanted to work with a client whose budget included plans for a $20,000 range. Plus they pushed their design resources to help us select decor to work with the kitchen ... so they too were a no-go.
Like Goldilocks, we found the third option to be just right. Though we were initially cautious
about contacting them, we found Priebe's Custom Woodworking, http://www.priebeswoodworking.com/, the perfect fit. They specialize in custom cabinetry, which was the root of our hesitation, thinking we really didn't' need totally custom work and this would drive the price out of range. But they also feature several highly customizable cabinet lines so that what didn't need to be completely new design (most of our work) could be made at a lower cost. And they promised an on-site general to manage the day-to-day details to ensure that the project stayed on time, on budget ... and got done. Plus, they've been in the area of years, and have the contacts we didn't as we tackled this out-of-area project.
Defined goals? check. Resources to make it happen? Check. Time to make some decisions ...