Changing the Rules in an Interior Design Company
“Times are a changin”
Having your own large interior decorating company has never been an easy feat to accomplish. This is especially true with the constant changing of economics. It keeps everyone in the industry trying to adjust to very different global rhythms. I would imagine anyone who has been in this industry for any length of time, can see as much. Of course many things are changing, so be prepared for changing the rules in an interior design company. knowing its structure or how you fit in the industry – is well worth the time to ponder.
One of the largest problems I sometimes witness within your basic start-ups or smaller to medium size interior design companies – is in their lack of definition. Some worry too much about what the competition is doing, rather than focusing on what they are the best at.
We cannot all be good at everything we do. Everyone has their strong points. As a leader, these are the areas you should build upon. You should look at employees that can augment your strengths and who share the same passions. Your team should be an extension of your strongest points. They should also bring unique abilities that branch out from your core strengths. The prior sentence is key! Do not make the mistake that I am saying you should add on all the skill-sets you can. Extending what you stand for is far different from wanting to be everything to everyone.
Changing the rules in an Interior Design Company, is comprehending that the world is changing and so are the needs of many potential clients. Take the time to really define who you are as a professional. Bring in friends, family, old clients and co-workers and take the time to talk with them. Ask them what they see in you when it comes to your trade. What stands out! Then, ask yourself what you find true passion in. You will find a jigsaw puzzle in front of you, One which will slowly build itself the more you research into your skills and passions. Try it, you may find that everything you are doing is more counter intuitive rather than what’s more important towards your Longevity. Think! What makes you happy or your company a success. Do the math first, then find that equation which best represents who you are
Look around you! So many companies seem to worry about getting as much of the local market as they can. Their focus tends to be straight ahead. As they build clients they hire more designers. They get newer, larger and fancier offices in the heat of the city. They get fancy cars and brand name designer cloths and on it goes. Then there is the flip side. As the economy fluctuates, designers are let go to adjust to the local market. If they do not downsize, they often are left to closing down completely. I can tell you from experience that I have seen many companies end this way. I’ve also seen companies last a long time just breaking even after all the highs and lows. These type of owners tend to invest in other avenues to adjust to these changes. In the end it is all about supply, demand, your reach internationally and how well you define yourself as a company
Look around you! A fair amount of companies stay targeted on getting as much of the local market as they can. Their focus tends to be straight ahead with blinders on. On one side all looks good. As they build clients they hire more designers. They get newer, larger and fancier offices in the heart of the city. They get fancy cars and brand name designer cloths and on it goes. Then on another side. You see clients folding, pulling out of contracts while some end up in court, the economy fluctuates, It’s that time of year where things slow down and so on. Those who are unprepared for the realities of owning their own companies, get to witness the down side far too often. They realize that in order to survive their investment, designers must be let go if they are over staffed. If they do not downsize fast enough, they often fail and are left to closing shop. I can tell you from experience that I have seen many companies end this way. I’ve also seen some rare companies last a long time, just breaking even after all the highs and lows. These type of owners tend to invest in other avenues so they can adjust to any economic changes. In the end it is all about supply, demand, your reach locally, internationally, knowing your correct client base and how well you define yourself as a company.
Be Prepared in all things
Aside from structuring your company correctly and having a keen eye on the local economics, there are realities of clients, contracts and laborers.
When it comes to your customers, make sure they know what every phase of the design process entails. It can easily go wrong later on because of poor presentations on the steps involved, a poorly written contract, selective hearing on the part of the client or a bit of everything. Having pointed this out, be extremely methodical in putting your contract together. A contract is made to protect both you and the client. Furthermore, make a check list that explains the contract step by step. Make a presentation which explains every aspect of the design procedures and leave room for Q&A. Clients should clearly understand the difference between delays caused by their side and your side. As the project moves forward, make sure your clients are very clear about which days you will be present on the job site, what your responsibilities are and which companies are called in to do extensions of your design, like furniture builders and kitchen builders. I have had a small handful of clients over the years blame me of creating more cost or avoiding my design responsibilities by handing over my kitchen designs to good companies who specialize in only kitchens. Which, as any designer already knows, this usually does not create more cost, but saves money and is part of the design process in most cases.
Beware of budgets verses taste. Be very tactful but steadfast from day one. A budget is a budget and you get so many choices for the budget you choose unless it is a no-holds-barred budget. Clientele often have far better taste than there budget. That’s where being a good manager comes into play.
On the labor side, you should have a very good fit-out contract with builders and craftsmen. If the contractor is new, do a pay by day method until you build a trusting relationship. If you cannot negotiate this, then find a builder who is willing. Always keep a long list of craftsmen and builders in your office database. Keep notes of their strengths and weak areas.
A bit of reality for dreamers
I would like to say to all the very large dreamers out there that far too often the reality of the industry goes like this: there are only a very small handful of companies encompassing the globe (when compared to the masses in the industry) who have been at the top, who will reach the pinnacle and remain at the top of the game. The same holds true for world-renown celebrity designers or architects who are always splattered in just about in every magazine you open, media networks or on certain TV channels. Truth is, you have much better odds of becoming a YouTube Pop Star or sensation, with 80,000.000 or more hits or simply hitting it big at some major casino! At least in my humble opinion. Does this mean you should give up? No way! Just be aware of the odds involved and have the drive, nerves of steel and work ethics to go with it, Then, strap yourself in for the long ride ahead!
Most important from my perspective is by keeping a very small team of long-term professionals. Do not try to handle everything, Put a lot of effort into defining your company and clientele, long before you start marketing. Remember that more often than not, hindsight is 20/20. Also, slow and steady in a well-oiled machine has a greater chance of winning the race.
I feel it is far better to continually build connections with many other companies like your own. Ones that you can trust and work well with. Take the time to invest in great relationships and think-tanks with one another. Be the Avengers! Join forces and stay true to your own styles – whether it is residential or commercial. I liken it to Modules within certain applications. You plug it in when you need it! Hopefully those you choose to work with will consider you a primary module as well.
Please do take the time to share your thoughts below in the comment area. I would like to be of help and share what I can, So don’t be shy- ASK! Also, please share on your social media. A small effort helps me build my audience. Thank you kindly for reading- Changing the rules in an Interior Design Company.
Jack Anthony LaBarck