Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Confidence (REALLY) Counts

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When I meet with my consulting clients to talk about challenges they’re facing in their businesses, there is one single core issue that’s at the heart of almost any problem. And that’s a lack of self-confidence. It keeps people from doing their best work, from reaching out to the perfect prospective client, from charging what they’re worth for their services. It holds them back from success!

We all struggle with our confidence at times, but it’s how we respond to those moments that really makes the difference! Do you feel like I am talking to you? Let’s do a quick quiz to see where you are on the confidence spectrum:

Do you do what you think is right, even if others mock or criticize you for it? Or do you make a lot of your decisions based on what other people think?

Are you willing to take risks? Or are you too afraid of failure to move out of your comfort zone?

Do you admit your mistakes and learn from them? Or do you try to cover up mistakes and hope no one notices?

Are you comfortable telling others about your skills and strengths? Or do you wait for other people to point out your accomplishments?

Are you great at graciously accepting compliments? Or do you start protesting or downplaying the compliment?

I think you see where I’m going here. If you identify more with the second question in each paragraph above, you have confidence issues – and I’ll guarantee it’s impacting your success at work.

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After all, how can you “sell yourself” to someone and convince them that you are the perfect person that they need to hire if you can barely recognize your own skills and specialties? How can you take the risks required to get your business to the next level if you don’t have the confidence to make the first move? And how are you going to ever be happy – with yourself and with your life – if you can’t stop worrying about what others think?

Part of getting into the confidence zone takes some practice and role play. Some would call this the “fake it till you make it” idea. But I don’t think it’s fake. You are talented. You are unique. You have something to offer. And by pushing yourself to “play” confident until you start to really feel more confidence it’s really fake. It’s more like practice. Rarely is anyone good at something without a lot of practice, right? And most people haven’t been “practicing” confidence. So you have to put your shoulders back, hold your head high, and pretend you’re wearing a crown! You have to stride confidently into a room, look people in the eye, and act like you are the world’s best at what you do. It’s an odd thing, but even just projecting confidence will actually make you feel more confident about yourself. It just takes practice. It’s at the core of the book Presence by Amy Cuddy, who says that taking those “power stances” gives you a hormonal boost that makes you feel more confident!


But you also have to stop fearing failure. You have to be willing to try new things and to take risks – even small ones. Because you will learn new things as you fall and get back up. You will have successes too, and both things will give you more confidence! So today, write down 2 things that will get you out of your comfort zone, either personally or professionally. And then make a commitment to do those 2 things right now.

We also need to stop thinking we have to be perfect at everything. There is a difference in excellence and perfection. There’s nothing wrong with having high standards. But there has to be a point where we really believe we tried our best and our outcome is not only good enough, but that it’s actually great! That’s not arrogance. It’s important for happiness, joy and fulfillment. We have to be able to be satisfied with our work. Too often we won’t try something unless we believe we will do it absolutely perfectly. Well that’s just not going to happen in every situation, so get over that perfectionism and get out of your comfort zone! That’s where the good stuff is – where the great new ideas come from.


Finally, and this is probably the biggest thing you can do, you have to get rid of that inner “mean girl.” You know the one – she’s constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t have what it takes, that you’re stupid, and really not worthy of success. Would you let anyone talk to your daughter or your best friend that way? Then why do you allow that voice to talk to you like that?!? It’s the worst form of self-abuse and you have to commit to stopping it today.

That inner voice also tends to whisper to you what others think of you, too. It’s a complete waste of time to worry over what others think of you or what they say about you. Often they aren’t even thinking or saying anything about you, they are too busy being a “mean girl” to themselves. Trust me on this one. And yes there are a few out there who really do think or say negative things about you. So what! I am perfectly aware that I have people out there who may not like me or believe in me. We all do. And if you are putting yourself out there, leaning into your potential or taking risks to be your best, somebody is not going to like it. But my favorite saying for situations like that is that “What people think of me is none of my business!!” They are entitled to their opinions but I don’t have to hear them!  Everyone and everything has detractors, but it doesn’t make any sense to pay attention to them. We have to remember that we are each on our own paths and we can’t let others knock us down or push us off the path or we will never become all we were meant to be!

Instead of hearing those naysayers, focus on your cheerleaders and supporters. They’ll help remind you of why you’re so special, unique, and fabulous. Because YOU ARE! Now get out there and show the world what you’ve got!

Confidently yours,







Why You Have to Pay Yourself…Today!

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If you read that headline and you are NOT a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you probably just said “Huh?” Because not receiving a salary for your hard work seems illogical and crazy, right? But that’s exactly what so many small business owners do, and they think they’re making a smart move for their company.

If you are one of those small company owners, particularly for a creative business like interior design, some of you may be saying: “Pay myself? Really?! I can barely pay my bills!”

But let me turn the questions around to you and ask: “Who is your most valuable employee?” YOU are your most important and most valuable employee, and you need to treat yourself just as you would any other staff member who’s important to the success of the company. And I feel pretty confident they wouldn’t work for free? So why are you? And really, if you never make any money in your job, what’s the point of doing business at all?

This is what separates the people who are operating their companies as a hobby versus of as a real business. Not paying yourself a real salary and just assuming that you will use whatever profits are left at the end of the year is a very dangerous game of smoke-and-mirrors. Because if you are just making enough to pay your bills, or fooling yourself that the $10,000 left over at the end of the year is a job well done, then you don’t have a good grasp on your financials and you don’t have a clearly defined path to profitability. Basically, you don’t have a sustainable business model.


If that’s the way you’ve been operating, then you’re just one income issue away from disaster. Not good. And if you are one of those many people that think “one day” I will have the money to pay myself, you’re wrong about that too. That magical moment of “now I have enough” will never come. If you don’t value yourself and your business enough to pay yourself today, you will find all sorts of other reasons (excuses) that you need the money you are earning for growth or employees, or expansion or other. So trust me…Today is the day to pay yourself.

Still not convinced? Here are my top reasons that you absolutely have to pay yourself, and how:

1. This must be a business, not a hobby! This is worth saying again. If you’re subsidizing your business by not paying yourself, then your company isn’t in good financial health. Too many small business owners think they should be the last to get any money when they’re starting or growing a business. But that isn’t true! You have a better chance of starting on the path to a real and profitable business if you have a salary included in your overhead from the very first day of business and you make a plan to cash flow your operations including your salary.

2. You can’t ever hire if you aren’t paying the ONE employee you have now! That would be you. Think about everything that you do for your company – all of your responsibilities and tasks. Wouldn’t you pay someone else to do all that work? Exactly. But it’s going to be tough to add someone to your overhead and come up with the money to pay them, if you’ve been just “volunteering” for your company all this time to complete those same tasks. You have to be able to afford employees as your company grows, and you can only do that if you have a budget line for salaries. If you haven’t been paying you, I doubt you have money earmarked and ready to pay others.

3. You have to pay yourself in order to keep the passion for your business alive. I’ve already asked this, but if you aren’t making anything out of this business, then what’s the point of doing business at all? No, really, what’s the point? Running a small business is hard. I know from experience that if you haven’t already, you will soon find yourself managing people and tasks and you will have very little time to do the thing you started this business for to begin with. And if you are working for free doing these tasks you don’t love it’s even worse. You’re going to burn yourself out and you’re going to be angry and resentful about your business and lack of funds. That isn’t exactly a great mood to be in if you want to attract more clients and more business. And it’s just no fun. Your dream was to do what you love AND get paid well for it. And if you aren’t paying yourself for that work today, (I’ll say it again) you never will.

4. It’s a great incentive. If you do want to attract more clients (and I know you do!), then what better way to motivate yourself to work harder than you already do than to give yourself a paid incentive to bring in more money. If you’re really being disciplined about your finances, then you know exactly how much money you need to make each month to meet your overhead. And you should then know how much more you need to make in order to give yourself a raise. And realizing all the things you can do with that money from taking your family on a vacation to saving for your kids college funds, can be a real reason to work even harder and put some more of that money in your own pocket.  A great incentive, indeed!


Okay, so now HOW do you pay yourself? I’m not saying you should start out with a $100,000 salary (unless you really are doing that well financially), but even just paying yourself a few hundred dollars a week can help. And of course you can give yourself a raise as your revenues increase. So I suggest mapping out what it would take in revenues to cover your business overhead AND pay you what you want and deserve and reverse engineer that into your sales goals.

The way to make more money is to bring in more business, and/or to raise your fees. Most of you are NOT charging what you’re worth, which is a whole other conversation, but that’s probably your biggest challenge to paying yourself. So you need to get a strong handle on your finances so you know exactly what your overhead expenses are, what your revenues are, and what you need to be making every month to not only stay in business but earn a profit. And you need to be absolutely sure that you’re charging enough for your services to hit these numbers.

I know it’s tempting to not pay yourself when you are afraid you can’t pay your bills or your employees. But if you ever stop paying yourself, it will be almost impossible to start it back again. So I suggest instead of cutting your salary as a payroll savings, spend your time and energy increasing your revenues and launching diverse revenue streams that will help you afford yourself and your business. Again, it’s really the ONLY reason to stay in business.

I know getting serious about business and making money can be tough, especially for creatives, but it’s critical to getting your company into great financial shape and operating it like a real business should so it can afford you your dream life. So get out that checkbook and write a check to yourself TODAY! And leave me a comment below and let me know if this is one of the things you struggle with in your business and if you’re willing to make the leap towards valuing yourself as the key part of your business right now.  You can do it!







PS – If you want my help in getting your financial house in order, and learning to charge what you’re worth, check out my online business courses in Tobi U! There are specific modules on those very topics, as well as ideas for attracting your ideal client, putting together a winning marketing strategy, and MORE!

And a few weeks ago we asked you to enter to win a FREE semester of Tobi U – and the winner was Angela Palmer! Congrats, Angela! I know Tobi U is going to rock your world and your business!

My Word of the Year for 2016

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It’s the month for my annual tradition of selecting a word of the year – a word that will help guide my intentions and goals all year long. I have been doing this for four years and it has been really powerful. 2016 will be year #5 and I couldn’t be more excited about this year and my word.


Just to recap, last year’s word was Significance. My goal was to only do things in 2015 that had real significance to me. I was certain that 2015 would be a pivotal year, and if you saw my Year in Review on New Year’s Eve and my 4 new product lines, I think you may agree that a pivotal year it was! So what did I get right last year? Well, 3 biggies: I realized some significant dreams with my 4 product launches. I also spent some really meaningful and significant time with family last year, particularly my daughter. And we had our most profitable year in business in 16 years. So to say I am thrilled with my results is an understatement. I am definitely closer to my dream life today than I was 12 months ago!


My intention in 2015 was to say No to the “good” so I could say YES to the “best” and in many ways I accomplished that. Where I fell short was letting more “good” things creep in than I should have. And I fell short at saying yes to my health – or at least I didn’t make my health as “significant” part of my schedule as I had planned. Thankfully I didn’t lose ALL the work that I’ve accomplished in the last 5 years getting healthy, but I did lose some ground. That saying of “You can have it all, just not all at the same time” was so true for me last year. And launching 4 product lines and taking care of some of my biggest projects was about all I could handle and still allow me to be the best mom I could be.

So if I was going to give myself a grade on last year, what would it be? I’d say A-.  2015 was definitely a year of significance for me! But some of my top priorities, primarily my self care, suffered a bit in the process. The good news is that every day is a new page and I can make better choices each day this year.


It’s important to me that I improve and grow more each year. So when I started pondering back in October or November what word might best lead me to my goals and dreams in 2016 and make sure that I put myself and my health first, I decided to look back on what other words I had picked in the past. Before Significance, I chose Action in 2014 and I took a ton of action that year including, launching a new website, launching my first info products, launching my Tobi TV video series, teaching classes with CreativeLive, landing the April cover of Traditional Home and announcing my partnership with CR Laine. In fact, it was the year I sealed the deal for all my product partnerships and more. In 2013 my word was Inspire and I was definitely inspired to take some big leaps with a key new team member that upleveled my firm more than ever before, with a new Dallas office, and my husband and I bought our new house.  All very inspiring things.


Then back in 2012 my word was Discipline and that was the year I became most disciplined about my finances, meeting with my accountant every single week of that year. I also really tightened up our business systems so I could live my dreams AND make more money with less stress. Believe it or not, 2012 might have been the most important work of all because it set the foundation so I could accomplish so much more in the years since. So each of these 4 years were really important and have done so much to bring me to where I am today.



And where I am is this…

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2016 will be a year of FOCUS for me. Similar to 2012 when I turned inward and became extremely disciplined about what needed to be done to make a huge leap, 2016 will be a hyper-focused year of upleveling all over again. I think every few years you have to have a head-down approach to business and to life. So this year is it!


So what will I focus on in 2016?

I will forgo the good and Focus on the GREAT.

I will say no to many things that seem urgent and Focus on What Matters.

I will travel less so I can Focus on My Family more.

I will Focus on what I REALLY Want.

I will Focus on Change.

I will Focus on what I can Control.

I will Focus on what Excites me.

I will Focus on being Healthy.

I will Focus on finding Joy.

The Number 1 thing I will do in 2016 is Say NO! I will say no to so much more this year, so I can FOCUS on creating my best year yet. 

And I’ve noticed something funny. Focus seems to already be an underlying theme for this year.

I recently had to get glasses. I have hit that magical age of forty-something that most everyone hits where I need a bit of help reading those tiny words on the pages of my favorite books. So no-line bifocals made my avid reading habit much easier. I am thankful Warby Parker helped bring so much back into FOCUS while looking stylish, too.

It’s also interesting that I have been talking about taking some photography classes for years and last month, my husband gave me a series of them for Christmas. So I am about to leap into learning to really use my great Cannon EOS camera and hone my amateurish photography skills. So I will also be bringing the world into FOCUS with my camera in a whole new way.


In my consulting business, in my Mastermind group, and in my Designer MBA class, I consistently teach designers and creatives that I mentor to FOCUS on their Finances and to FOCUS their businesses on their Niche Strategy. I say it so much they probably get tired of hearing it. But I firmly believe this type of focus is the difference in a profitable small business and a not-so-profitable one!

So to make my word of the year come full-circle for all parts of my business this year, FOCUS is the theme for my Mastermind Group and my Consulting Business all year long. We’re going to help our members FOCUS our their original Point of View in Marketing and Social Media to make them stand out to their ideal clients. We’re going to put our Mastermind members’ businesses under the microscope and help them focus on their client experiences, design processes, project management, business systems and customer service to make their businesses great this year. And we’re going to help them FOCUS on new and exciting revenue streams, their finances, and particularly their cash flow for creating their most profitable year yet.

So I am looking forward to a year of focus my business, my clients and for me. 2016 is going to be a great year. Now tell me, do you pick a word of the year to guide you over the next 12 months? If so, tell me your word in the comments below. I love this inspiring exercise and I hope it inspires you to have your best year too!


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If you’re interested in joining my Mastermind members to focus on your business this year, let me know! You can learn more about the program here, or you can email me at!

The Art of Truly Listening

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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 seem to be turning into people who want to showcase ourselves, but never really invest the time in learning about others. That can really hurt us in our personal lives and in our professional careers. If you are thinking that it’s a new year, and you 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, this is 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. Over my 17 years in business, 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 so 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 LISTEN, taking 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 instead of 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!







The Real Health of Your Company

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As we move into the new year, with our new list of goals and intentions (I’ll be sharing some of mine soon), let me ask you something. How is your health? I’m not talking about your financial health, I’m talking about your personal health, something that I really want you to think about as you read this blog.

If you think this is about Tobi’s “woo woo” ideas, think again. Business magazines like Forbes and Inc. are focusing on the direct correlation between healthy executives and healthy company bottom lines. Top businesses are realizing that they have to protect their #1 asset, and that is their CEO.

So what is your company’s biggest asset? That’s right – it’s YOU. How are you protecting your investment and your company?


I promise you this job is hard when you’re healthy. When you’re tired and dragging, it is doubly hard (or likely exponentially so). It takes huge amounts of energy to travel, have client meetings, be creative, and run a business while keeping erratic hours – and then do those all over again the next day. There are so many demands of the job and company that we often put ourselves on the back burner and that doesn’t even take into account all the family and other obligations that happen when our workday is done.

Add to that the fact that technology allows us to have constant contact with our jobs and makes it difficult to unplug. That means we can end up in pretty bad shape because we have no time to replenish our energy – mental or physical.  Yes, we often end up on a hamster wheel with no stopping point in sight. Stress also compounds the problems of our inconsistent exercise and diet. And there is PLENTY of stress in our jobs, isn’t there? It takes a strong effort, especially for those of us who own our own companies, to protect our own health.


Beyond the obvious benefits of being active and eating healthy, taking care of yourself is a sound business decision. With owning your own company comes intense pressure to succeed and to make more money. What we often forget is that the more fit we are, the better our job performance. These two things are linked – personal health absolutely influences professional performance. Let me say that again (it’s tweet-worthy)…personal health ABSOLUTELY influences professional performance!  Getting fit can help us excel at work, to be better leaders, and to perform with more energy, focus, and creativity.

What it comes down to is that the fitness of a company’s owner, leader, and CEO can determine the success of a company. Think about how costly it would be if you were out of commission for an extended time – could your company survive? Your health and your day-to-day productivity has the biggest impact on your company’s success. The ability to physically keep up with the fast pace and long hours that our industry requires is absolutely critical.

Celebrate every tiny victory! (6)

In other words, the simple benefit of being healthy and having more energy should be enough to keep anyone eating right and exercising, but if that’s not enough, remember your entire company is at stake. An unhealthy, disengaged CEO makes for an unhealthy, disengaged company.

So here is some advice as we enter this new year: You should put exercise sessions on your appointment calendars, give exercise equal billing with a client meeting! When you think you can’t afford to workout because you have to get to the office, THINK AGAIN! And you should think about how to have healthier meals on the go – maybe have someone prepare them for you, or get them ready and packed on the weekend. And while you’re at it, put a meditation app on your phone so you can settle your mind for 5 minutes every day or longer if you can commit to it. Even if it’s in your parked car outside the design center, meditation could change your life and your business. And don’t even get me started on yoga. It’s a game-changer for sure!

Remember you will be a better designer, and a better CEO, if you take care of yourself. You will be more productive and emotionally stable, and your mental, emotional and physical performance will improve. Let’s keep ourselves (and our companies) happy and productive this year! It’s my top priority for 2016. Will you join me? Let’s be the healthiest part of our companies in 2016!