Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

4 Things A Small Business CEO Must Do

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Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, we all know how stressful owning a business can be. Not only are we the creative engine, but also we’re the CEOs of the company. We have to handle the financials, the employees, our brands, our home life, and try to fit some creative thinking in there somewhere and that doesn’t even leave space for self-care and health, which needs to be our top priority if we want to have the stamina to run our company! So how in the world can we make it all happen? We can’t. But there are a lot of things we CAN do!

Too often, owners of creative businesses forget that they are in business, not just having fun with a hobby. You have to commit to that idea of having a real business – even if you may have started your business as a side job to begin with. You are the CEO of a company – say that to yourself over and over. Take it very seriously, let it sink in. Many times our businesses start to take off but we are still thinking of ourselves as a “little business owner” and we have to step into the shoes of CEO and own all that comes with that if we really want to make money.

It’s tough to be an entrepreneur and a small-business owner. Most of us get into this business by focusing on the parts we love, and putting the not-so-fun things off as long as possible. The part we don’t focus on, in most cases, is the enormous amount of hard work, of tough financial times, and of serious business management that it takes to be a CEO. So how can you act like a CEO? Here are 4 critical ways:

  1. You have to have a business plan. Do you have one? Even if you started without one, it’s never too late to create one and start making shifts in your business to align with it. In fact, sometimes its better to try your business for a bit first to get some clarity and then come back and write it. That way you have more information on what you want and what your consumers seem to be interested in.
  2. You have to pay yourself – what business leader or successful CEO do you know that works basically for free?
  3. You have to be clear on the goals you’ve set for your company and how you will achieve them. This means starting with your Why, then moving to your What and then creating a list of steps that are your How. And please put timelines on these goals for some accountability.
  4. And you must set the financial benchmarks that your company has to hit to be profitable. If you don’t know what that is, then you don’t have your finances in order.

I can hear you saying: “Wait a minute, I just want to be creative and showcase my talents for the world. I don’t like all of the talk about working on financials or focusing on marketing. Where’s the fun in that?!” Business can be fun – but only if you aren’t constantly stressing about money or where your next client is coming from. And that takes hard work. It takes being a CEO! In fact, having all of that “hard stuff” taken care of gives you the freedom to focus on the things that are essential to making you happy and giving you more control over your life.

The reality is that in any business, creative or otherwise, a good 80% of your time will be spent on things that are not necessarily at the heart of the reason you started your company in the first place. At least until you get all that working like clockwork.  You’ll be managing your business, working to attract new clients and customers, researching new revenue streams, and taking a hard look at your financials. If that doesn’t sound like something you can do (or will do), then you might want to think about working for another person or at a larger company. That isn’t a knock on you! It really is a decision you might want to make for your overall happiness. Not everyone is cut out to be a business owner and especially a CEO.

Taking these 4 critical steps is the reality of owning a successful business–one that makes you the money you dream of. Being profitable, really profitable, is not a hobby or something that you can do halfheartedly. And yes, you can hire people to do some of that work (or outsource the work preferably), but that never excuses you from knowing every detail of your company at any given moment. YOU are the CEO.

I’m giving you this reality check because we need to take ourselves, and our business goals seriously. Think of yourself and your company as a start-up that is every bit as important as a Fortune 500 business and one day it may be one. The CEO’s vision and commitment are critical to the path that gets a company onto that list – and your vision and commitment are critical to the success of your own company. If you have that great framework in place, you can build the business of your dreams!

And when you get the foundation of your business and your finances in place, then you can start to prioritize and adjust things so you have a life again, so you take care of yourself and so that your business is really fulfilling not just financially but emotionally.

So are you running your business like a business or a hobby? What areas are you not serious about or are you hiding from? Finances? Client Development? Other areas?

If things are running well and you’re making money, what will you do next? I’ve made a lot of BIG decisions this year so I’ll be a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled CEO. Have you made any big leaps like that? Let me know in the comments section below!

xo,

 

 

 

 

If you need help in your finances, check out my Financials for Creatives E-course. If you are a Designer or Creative my online Designer MBA E-course or my  live version of Designer MBA course coming up in California this May will help you get the foundation of your business in shape and ready to become really profitable. And if you want one on one help, consider a strategy day with me where we dig into the details of your business together and make a plan to create the business and life you dream of!

 

4 Tips for Falling in Love with Your Business

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Feeling burned out? If you are constantly giving to everyone but yourself, you can start to feel resentment. Believe me, I’ve been there – several times! And over the years I’ve also discovered that there is one sure-fire method to make you fall in love with what you do again. But it may not be what you think.

Because to rediscover that spark, that thing that gives you the passion for what you do, you have to step away. Yep, you read that right. But if you try these 4 steps, I promise you’ll come back to work ready to take it on with new gusto!

  1. Go away. And I mean AWAY. One day could help, but for me to really unwind, it typically takes several days. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, then at least check out of business mode. Go drive in the country with your windows down and breathe in the fresh air. Take a spin through a museum or a walk in the park. Plan a long weekend at the beach or the lake. Just get out of your office and turn your phone off. Studies show that if you don’t give yourself a break, you’ll never be as creative and effective as you need to be. You really need to recharge your batteries and you can only do that if you step away from your office.  And for me if there is a component of nature involved, my relaxation goes up tremendously!
  2. Breathe deep. You need to relax and get your mojo back, and one of the best ways to do that is through meditation and deep breathing. Don’t believe me? Well the American Medical Association is now talking about big benefits from deep breathing, like elevating your mood, releasing tension, bringing clarity to your thinking, and boosting your immune system. That’s perfect for burnout! Add in meditation to reduce stress and improve concentration and you have a winning combination. And I combine these with yin yoga so not only my mind feels relaxed, but my body feels better too!
  3. Treat yourself well. You are your company’s most important asset, so you should be treating yourself like gold. That means it is critical for you to take time out of your day to exercise – look at it as an investment in your long-term performance. But for you to get the best benefits, find the type of exercise you really like. If you dread it, you are unlikely to keep it up. Plus, you need to take in the right fuel to keep you running like a well-oiled machine. And we are all different with what foods work for our bodies. At the Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I have been trained as a health and wellness coach, they call this bio-individuality. It’s the idea that one person’s food is another person’s poison. So learn which foods and vitamins make you feel best and make them a priority. Taking care of yourself isn’t some new age mumbo-jumbo – a Forbes study showed that CEOs who took time out of their day to exercise and eat right were 30% more inspired and effective at work. So take care of YOU and your take care of your company.
  4. Rethink your priority. That’s right, just one. The idea of priorities (plural) is a somewhat recent change to this word that was made in the US in the 1940s. This word originally meant the ONE most important thing, because you really can’t focus on more than one thing at a time right? So what is your priority? I talked a few weeks ago about the fabulous book Essentialism. To find out what’s most important to you, write down everything you are doing as a function of your job and then really start thinking about what is critical and what is really nonessential. And I mean cut it down to the bone. Multitasking is a myth, so what do you really want to focus on? Getting that clarity, and ridding yourself of things that are holding you back or tying you down will truly make you free! Your passion won’t be pulled in 20 directions, and instead you will get fired up and ready to focus on that one thing that will make the biggest difference.

I’m in my sweet spot of really concentrating on these 4 core ideas right now – and it’s been paying off in a BIG way! I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I am really feeling the fire again, but not for business as usual. It’s for a new and improved version of my business – one that feeds my family and my soul.

So what do you think? Where have you made changes this year to give you a better, more productive, and happier business and life? And if you haven’t made changes yet, what’s your plan? Let me know in the comments section below!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

5 Tips for Solving Customer Service Issues

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We ALL make mistakes, it’s the nature of the business. But it’s how you deal with those mistakes that can make or break your company. And yes, maybe the customer was at fault or maybe the contractor or subcontractor is the one who created a huge mess, but none of that matters.

Playing the blame game will only get you in a bigger mess with your clients, so don’t start doing that. Your job is to remember the customer really is always right – or at least they need to feel like you’re going to make it right for them! Because the way you deal with mistakes is going to decide if your client is reasonable, AND how they are going to talk about you in the future…to other prospective clients! It’s that important, so always make it right.

So here are 5 things to do to get those customer service issues nipped in the bud:

1. Stop, listen, and ask questions. Yes, you have to really really really listen to them. What are they really upset about? What is the issue and how did it happen? Sometimes your customer wants to just vent and get it out of their system, so do not interrupt, do not try to give them a solution too soon. You want to let them feel like they have been heard completely and fully. If your client is more uncommunicative, you need to be the one to reach out and to get to the bottom of what the problem is. But be sure your tone of voice is caring and concerned, not like you want to interrogate them.

2. Think about things from their point of view. It’s oh-so-easy to just think your client is high-strung and way too demanding, but that won’t help anything. Think of it from their point of view. This is a lot of money for them, it’s one of the most personal places in their lives (namely their house) and they are worried about every aspect of it. They want it to be right, just like you do.

3. Apologize sincerely. You need to apologize fully and completely – don’t do any halfway or passive-aggressive apologies. People see right through those immediately. Again, you want them to feel that they are being heard and understood. If it’s your fault, take that hit and accept the blame. People really respect someone who can stand up and say “I did this and I apologize.” Too many want to hide behind someone else or just not accept that they did anything wrong. Don’t be that person. And if someone else is really to blame, the buck still stops with you. So you can say “I am so sorry this happened,” even if the contractor is the one who made the mistake. Just don’t throw anyone under the bus (especially your own team members) and don’t start pointing fingers. When emotions are high, that does not help.

4. Don’t get angry. Yes, clients can make us all mad, but we have to be the person in control in any confrontation with our clients. They are already stressed and uptight about spending money and allowing someone else to have control in their homes. So they probably aren’t going to react the way they normally would in any stressful situation that comes up. You have to be the calm, cool, and collected person, even when you want to scream. So do whatever you have to do to stay calm – count to 10, step outside for a second, think about fluffy kittens. If you get angry, it will only escalate the situation and that isn’t going to help at all.

5. Do what you have to do to make it right – and FAST. Sometimes, you’re going to have to eat the cost of that $5,000 sofa. Or you’re going to have to have someone re-hang all that wallpaper at your expense. It is what it is. But think about it this way – if you spend $5,000 now, you may have a client for life. Or at least a client who will tell others how amazing you are. So think of it as a marketing expense. Communication is KEY. Like it always is. This is the time to really over-communicate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and when a solution will be ready. You want the customer to really feel that you’re resolving everything as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible for her. So be sure you tell her that.

And yes, I know there are some mistakes or issues that are SO big that a client may not be appeased with anything at all. But it’s still better to try to make it as right as you can. Send them a note, email them, call them – even if they’ve said they want to cut ties with you.

It’s better to have tried and let them know that you do care. Most clients will come around eventually – but you have to do the hard work to get them back into a good place.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to smooth over any bumps in the road for your customer service!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

The Creative Side of Business

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book cover

I have a shelf of go-to business books, the ones that have guided me and inspired me as I’ve built my company. And now I have a new one to add to my shelf: The Business of Creativity by my good friend Keith Granet.

Keith is an industry icon. He is a consultant, the founder of the Designer Speakers’ Bureau and the Leaders of Design Council, executive producer/host of Inside the Business of Design and cofounder of DesignersAxis. He’s been in the business of design for decades, and he has helped designers and manufacturers really up their game in licensing, business practices, and marketing.

His new book describes how you should focus on what you do best, while removing negative energy and people from your life and your business. You know I love that advice! He focuses on the importance of financials, negotiating and winning over clients, how to build the right team, and how to rid yourself of toxic clients and employees.

It’s a straightforward guide that really works for any creative business, not just the interior design world. I love that Keith also believes that design is a collaborative business and that it’s critical for us to all support one another. That’s exactly how I built my Mastermind program over eight years, and it’s a guiding principal of mine, too!

So Business of Creativity is definitely going on my shelf of go-to guides! If you’re in a creative business, too, get your copy right here! 

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Loving Your Work

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Today was an amazing day. So amazing, I forgot to post my blog this morning because I was shooting my home for an upcoming issue of Traditional Home. Days like today are the fun days. You know, the days that it feels like you’re living in your sweet spot!

And I’ve talked about my word of the year for weeks now in my 52 Weeks of Joy series. I’ve mentioned how I’m rediscovering or creating new joys in my life. It’s a daily practice. But believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There are dozens of reasons every day or at least every week that can bring you down if you aren’t vigilant.

One place where it can definitely be challenging to find joy is in our work. Most of us spend more time each day at work than doing anything else. So it’s really important to our happiness and well being to make sure that our job brings us joy many more days that not.

All of us have had times when the joy of what we do is drained right out of our workdays thanks to deadlines and stress. It can be hard to get motivated enough to get out of bed when your work isn’t inspiring you. And even though I am passionate about the work I do, I can’t tell you the number of times over my 18 years in business,  when I’ve thrown my hands up in the air and said, that’s it, I QUIT! Just shut the doors, we’re done! And when we add on top of that our responsibilities at home, it can really get overwhelming.

So if you are feeling burned out, drained or overworked, or if you can’t remember the last time you felt like you were working in your “sweet spot”, then it’s time for you to commit to finding joy in your work. Sometimes the problem is that your job or industry has changed due to factors outside of your control and you may start to ask yourself why you continue to do this job everyday. And believe it or not, that’s a good thing. When anything in your life is so painful that you are motivated to make a change, that’s exactly when something amazing is going to happen!

So what steps do we take to put that joy back or maybe find it for the first time? Well as problematic as it can be to watch all those fabulous photos, amazing destinations, and incredible projects everyone is posting on social media because it makes us envious or think that we’re doing something wrong, it can also be motivating. Yes, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but it can also light a fire under you to make your life what you dream it can be. I do turn to Instagram often for inspiration including ideas for what I want in my life especially in the way of travel with my family.

So if you’ve lost the happiness and passion you had for your business, what can you do? I have some ideas for you:

First, stop everything for 10 minutes today. I want you to turn off your phone and your email and shut your door. Then I want you to get a piece of paper and a pen, and I want you to write down why you got into this business in the first place. And do not get up until you have a reason that isn’t “I want to make money.” Because you could do ANYTHING to make money. You could probably do a lot of things that didn’t have the amount of aggravation and stress you’re feeling right now.

What was it? You need to get back to whatever the motivation was for your business, and rediscover it so you can bring back your joy!

You may also want to remember what positives you get from your business. What 2 or 3 things do you love about your business? Maybe you like the freedom of your schedule. Maybe you like not answering to a “boss.” Or maybe you like being in charge of your destiny – whatever it is, you need to write those down and remember them, too.

You know what else is really the enemy of happiness? Being overwhelmed. That’s why I wanted you to create a moment of zen, without phones or distractions, to focus on what is important to you. I wanted you to stop the “overwhelm” for just a few minutes or better yet a few minutes every day with meditation or yoga. That is definitely working for me this year!

When your to-do list seems as long as the Great Wall of China, taking that first step on the wall can seem like an enormous and almost impossible task. But that one step is everything. If you can focus on one goal, one task, just one step, it can really help you take action. Taking action, even a small one, is really motivating. It’s an accomplishment, and that can really help you keep going.

Remind yourself of any successes you have in your business too! I’m guilty of not doing this sometimes myself. We get so caught up in grinding away at everything we have to do that we forget to stop and say “Hey, I just did a BIG thing there!” Maybe you want to make a list on a white board where you can see it all the time. Or maybe you want to even set a reminder to have a glass of champagne when you get home. However you have to do it, set a routine to celebrate all of your accomplishments, your JOYS, from small ones to really big ones!

And finally, be sure you are finding inspiration for yourself. Inspiration really does lead to joy! So if you need to go to a museum, or read a book, or take a day trip somewhere, or go to the spa when you should be working so you can relax enough to be inspired, then do it! I suspect that inspiration and creativity were one of the reasons you listed for why you got into this business in the first place, so find ways to bring them back into your work life.

Here’s to us all having more days in our “sweet spot” this year!

Joyfully yours,