Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Why You Should Say No, and 5 Ways to Do It

Posted by

I have talked a lot about how important it is to say no to the “good” in order to make room for the “best.” But I wanted to dive a little deeper into that concept so that you really understand how important this is. Because I want you to start saying NO, and often!

Too often in my consulting business, I talk with creatives who let their clients cross professional boundaries. They give in on their fees, they give in when pushed about their hours, they take clients that their gut says won’t be ideal, and they take on too many commitments and responsibilities. In each of those cases, they should have said no.

There’s often a fear factor at work, a fear that the client won’t work with us if we don’t say yes to right now, a fear that we won’t get any other clients than the one in front of us, and a fear of missing a great opportunity. And we even tell ourselves that we’ll just give in this once, that we won’t do it again later. But once you let that guard down, it becomes far too easy to let it down again and again. It becomes a habit.

You know there are so many other times in your life when you should say no, too. Like when someone asks you to take on something big “just as a favor.” Or when you get an invitation to the 15th event this month and you’re already stretched to the max.

Yes, I know how hard it is to say no. Especially when a friend is asking the question. So here are a few ways to start practicing how to say NO so you feel more comfortable saying it during those critical times. First, ask for time. If you feel yourself cracking, say something like “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.” That gives you time to build up your confidence and to remind yourself of why you need to say no.

Second, make a mental post-it note that you can refer to over and over. It could say “You are the CEO of your life and you cannot give in.” Or it could say, “Is this the right decision for my business? For my family?” Whenever you feel cornered, picture that post-it in your mind. You can even make one for your desk so you can look at it when you’re on the phone or answering an email request.

Third, don’t make it personal. You’re saying no to the request, not to the person. It isn’t rude or “mean” to say no to something. You aren’t obligated to fulfill every request someone makes of you. You’re a busy professional with a jam-packed life, others should understand that sometimes you won’t be able to say yes.

Fourth, remember that there is strength in standing firm. People often test your limits to see how far they can get. And many times they don’t actually respect someone they see as a pushover. You can even say something like: “I know we’re both strong-willed people, and I wish I could give on this, but I really can’t.”

Finally, practice saying no. You can use a friend or family member as a sounding board, as someone to practice with before you meet with that pushy client or family member. Just like giving in can become a habit, so can saying no.

Let me know when you’ve faced a decision where you stood firm and said no, or where you wished you had, in the comments section below. Remember that you’re saying no to the so-so to give you the time and energy to say YES to the fabulous clients and opportunities that are out there waiting for you!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

The CEO Mindset

Posted by

Whether you’re just starting out or have been in this business for years, we all know how stressful owning a design business can be. Not only are we the senior designers, but 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 designing in there somewhere.

Too many designers forget that this is a business, not a hobby. You have to commit to that idea – 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, or you won’t be successful.

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 – maybe for you it was a love of color, or the idea that you are transforming people’s homes with gorgeous interiors.

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 a few things you must do:

  • You have to have a business plan. Do you have one?
  • You have to pay yourself – what business leader or CEO do you know that works basically for free?
  • You have to be clear on the goals you’ve set for your company and how you will achieve them.
  • And you must set financial benchmarks that your company has to hit to be profitable.

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?!” You’ll get to have fun in your business – 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 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. Instead, 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, then you might want to think about working for another person or at a larger company.

Because these are the facts of owning a business. It is not a hobby or something that you can do halfheartedly. And yes, you can hire people to do some of that work, 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. 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.

That is how you lead a company. That is how you act like a CEO.

Tell me what you think about these ideas in the comments section below! How do YOU take charge and lead your company?

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Listening?

Posted by

Have you ever gone to a party and found yourself drawn to person you’ve never met before, who seemed to be completely interested in you and everything you had to say? It’s like finding a new best friend, someone you seem to click with right away. That person usually only did one simple thing that made you feel special – they listened to you.

Listening seems to be a dying art. In today’s world of social media, oversharing, and selfies, we may be turning into people who want to showcase ourselves, but never really invest the time in learning about others. That can hurt us in our personal lives and in our professional careers. And if you’re want to turn things around in your business, this is one of the simplest things you can do that I promise will pay off. LISTEN.

As an extrovert myself, that’s something I definitely had to work on in my own life and career. Early in my design business, I had so many ideas and thoughts that I wanted to share them immediately with my clients, without actually giving them the space and time to tell me what they wanted and needed. I once even had a client say, “Are you listening to me?” before I actually slowed down and thought about how this was impacting me and my business. Now with 17 years of experience, I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions and to really and truly listen to what the other person is saying. It’s made a huge difference in my design work, and in my business as a whole. Who am I kidding – it’s helped my personal life, too!

It’s critical to focus on what another person is telling us. It does more than just make them feel important – you can learn so much about the other person and what they need. But you are also giving them a great customer service experience that will improve your bottom line. After all, according to Jonah Berger in his book Contagious, when people talk about themselves and are given the opportunity to share opinions, it activates their brains like a reward does, like when they are given food or money. And all of those chemicals that make them feel good are giving them a really good feeling about YOU.

Remember though, you can’t sit there thinking about what you’re going to say next while you’re supposedly listening to that other person. You have to really hear them, take in everything they are actually saying, as well as their body language and non-verbal cues. You want to lean in, to ask questions at the appropriate time, and to give them the spotlight that they want and deserve. Imagine what a different world we might have today if we spent more time focusing on someone else rather than taking yet another selfie.

Instead of being selfish with your time and attention, learn to give it away freely and openly. It will make you a better person, a better customer service provider, and a much more effective businessperson!

What do think of this simple but radical idea? Let me know in the comments section below. I’m listening!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Joy

Posted by

This quote by Franklin Roosevelt is SO true, and something that I think about a lot. I recently had a consulting client tell me that she felt like such a failure because so many other designers had clients and were hugely successful with their businesses and she felt like they were in a totally different league. It was really paralyzing her from taking action towards her goals.  But when I asked her how exactly she knew that the other designers had so many clients and were “hugely successful,” she pointed to their social media and the posts that she was seeing there.

I have heard from so many designers who think they are a failure, and that everyone else out there is doing fantastically. They are comparing themselves to the perception of fame and fortune, but what is the reality? The reality is that everyone suffers failure in their businesses. Everyone – from the top of the heap on down. What you perceive to be a “huge success” could be just a designer trying to drum up more business for themselves.

Too often we are comparing ourselves with others, particularly those that from the outside look like they are rich, famous, in-demand, and busy. And I hope for all of our sakes, they are! But in reality they are likely facing the same business problems we are – maybe even on a grander scale and with more “zeros” behind the numbers.

In some ways social media has made all of this worse. Those fabulous posts from exotic trips on Instagram, the tweets about having lunch with a celebrity in our industry, and the Facebook posts about how amazing someone is – those can mislead us into thinking it’s all better for other people than it is for each one of us. I just want you to remember that you never know what’s going on behind the curtain, and that’s why it’s so dangerous for us to compare ourselves to others and to use that as a yardstick for our own success.

I’ve told you my history with failure and the stumbling blocks I’ve hit in my own business. Without those challenges, I honestly would not be where I am today. I had to fall down and learn how to pick myself back up. And I still face issues every single day – that’s the price of being a business owner.

But one thing that I do – or I should say that I DON’T do – is that I never compare myself and my business to someone else’s. I’ve seen too many designers who have fabulous public personas, but are really and truly struggling behind the scenes. On the flip side, there are plenty of others out there who are quietly making a lot of money while keeping out of the social media and publicity fray.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love social media. It has been largely responsible for helping me to build my brand and my business nationally and internationally. I love being inspired by others inside and outside of the design industry who are doing remarkable work and building very successful businesses. Seeing others success can often make me dig deeper to see what next steps are right for me. But it is honestly a waste of time to watch what other people are doing if you are going to let it unravel your plans and goals and if it is going to cause self-doubt and frustration to seep in. Social media never gives you the whole picture of what’s really going on behind the scenes. And comparing to this “version” of our industry for many people can wreck havoc on their business and personal success.

The other grass often looks greener from the side you’re standing on – but that doesn’t mean that what’s going on over on the other side of the fence is better or worse. It’s just different.

We can all have successes, we can all have great clients, and there’s room for all of us out there. But only if we are true to what our own individual business needs, if we work in our own personal “sweet spot” and only if we keep our eyes on our own prize – whatever that may be. Comparing yourself or your business to other people will only distract you from that.

So be careful looking around to see who you think is gaining or losing ground – just keep climbing for yourself. That’s what really matters.

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

Designers: It’s Your LAST Chance to Get My LIVE Designer MBA Course Ever!

Posted by

Hey, Designers! Have you been thinking for quite some time about taking my very popular, life and business changing live course, Designer MBA but just haven’t made the leap? Well, first of all it is AMAZING! This course is a giant game-changer for designers at all levels. It’s so good we have had several people take it as many as 3 times and it’s so jam-packed with fantastic content they learn something new every time. And that’s partially because we are constantly updating and adding the latest and greatest business advice and foundational tools I have in my arsenal to make sure that each session of Designer MBA makes the biggest possible difference in your business.

There are many designers out there who have taken lots of designer courses and seminars and they tell me time and again, “Tobi your Designer MBA is amazing. It’s the real meat and potatoes of running a creative business!” and though these people say they get good nuggets from many seminars they take, mine is like a smorgasbord of content and that once their head stops spinning from the sheer amount of fantastic content, putting these ideas into practice changes every single part of their business from how they work, to helping them finally charge what they are worth, to finding their ideal client and so, so, so much more!

So if you have seriously wanted to work with me on this content, live and in person, now is your last chance. Seriously, I am not planning on teaching this live course again…ever! And that’s not because I don’t love this content or don’t think it’s valuable. I think every designer in business today needs this content and it really applies to any small business–not just designers. It’s especially great for other creative businesses. I have seen those who have taken this course leap frog a lot of their competition and reach major goals that were only dreams previously.

But if you follow my blog, you know I am moving in the direction of some big dreams myself, including new ideas and lots of exciting launches I have been wanting to put out in the world for a while and so I am ready to retire the live version of Designer MBA and move into some other things that have been sitting on the back burner in my life. As I know you well know as an entrepreneur, there are only so many things you can offer at once. So my beloved live version of Designer MBA will be just a memory soon but at least a memory that connects a lot of attendees like a big ole family!

So is Designer MBA right for you? Do you want to be a part of the designer MBA live family?  How can you decide if you should attend? Well If there is one thing I’m asked over and over, it’s how to charge for your services as an interior designer. Too often we don’t have the confidence to ask for what we are worth or even know those numbers are possible – or we’re just not sure that anyone will pay us a large fee, although we haven’t even tried to see what the market will bear. And charging what you are worth is only one small part of the Designer MBA curriculum. We cover everything from how to pay yourself 6 figures or more, whether you should hire or grow or outsource (hint: I am outsourcing more than ever before), how to create additional revenue streams so you can reach financial freedom, how to prove your value to your clients so they will pay you 5 and 6 figure design fees, how to increase cash flow and profits to have your best year ever and much more.

If you aren’t making the salary you want, if you aren’t getting the type of clients or budgets you want, and if your business is causing stress or worse, burnout, then you must join me at Designer MBA, a business education for design professionals and creatives, held May 16-17 at Thermador’s incredible Design & Experience Center in Irvine, CA!

In these two days, we’ll also talk about how and where to find your ideal client, how to make your firm lean and mean (and that means making more money with ease), strategies for marketing yourself, and how to really understand your financial health! I open my own books and tell you exactly how I charge and how I run my business. There are NO secrets.

And speaking of secrets – you’re going to see some super-secret new products from Thermador while we’re at their headquarters. They’re even going to show you how all these “secret” products work with a tasty and fun cooking demonstration the evening of May 15! With that, and the fact that you’ll earn .8 CEUs from all of my content, this is one of the most valuable Designer MBA events I’ve ever held!

At Thermador’s amazing Design & Experience Center, with my friend and MBA attendee Laura Lee

So if you want to learn the tips and tools that have transformed hundreds of design businesses across North America, this is your only chance to get this valuable content from me in a live setting again.

Here’s what a few of my Designer MBA attendees have to say about the course:

“I just gave a proposal presentation today for DOUBLE my fee from last year! I would have taken much longer to have gotten to this point in my business if it wasn’t for you! Thanks for helping me to stop leaving money on the table and start charging what I am worth” – Michelle Lynne, Michelle Lynne Interiors Group

“Tobi is so generous with her time and her knowledge. I walked in frightened about the future of my business. I walked out a confident designer! I have the tools to restructure, and I am rebuilding for success.” Alison Johnston

“When we first started working with Tobi in Designer MBA , we remember her saying this could be the year we get our first 6-figure design fee and we laughed to ourselves and thought ‘in our dreams’. Well you were right Tobi, and with your help we now have dream clients with big fees and multi-million dollar furniture budgets. Thanks to your classes we feel confident submitting the right fees and charging what we are worth. We just wanted to say a BIG Thank You! We wouldn’t be at this point without all the knowledge we gained working with you.”  -Jennifer Binion and Zeb Grant, Binion & Grant Interiors

“I would have paid twice as much for the results I have already reaped!” Suzy Watkins

Again, Designer MBA will be held May 16-17 at the Thermador HQ in Irvine, California and I want YOU to join me there! It’s your last chance to experience this amazing content live with me so I can help you kick your business into high gear and get ready to achieve the success you’ve always dreamed of! Click here to learn more and to sign up.

I hope to see you in California next month!

xo,