Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

3 Ways to Build Future Business

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As small business owners, sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day running of the business and we forget to look forward and plan for the future. There are just too many things to do and not enough hours in the day. But if you’ve ever gotten a knot in your stomach when you think about your future income and where it’s going to come from, that’s where business development comes in.

We all as designers get so excited when we’re working with a current client – it’s fun and it’s making money for our business! But we tend to forget that once a project ends, the money ends, too. And we can be left with bills to pay and no income coming in. That’s why this is so important to your business. You have to look FAR into the future, past any current clients that are keeping you busy and putting money in your bank account in the short term.


Business development is completely different from sales, though. It’s the process and strategy that you have in place to produce long-term growth and profitability. So here are my tips for getting your business development plan in place:

1.  Think quantity over quality. You want to send out hundreds and hundreds of hooks to try to catch fish, so to speak. Once they’re on land you can decide if you want to keep them or you want to throw them back. It’s the person who has many poles in the water that’s going to catch the most fish – that’s just logic. I once sent 100 emails in a month to prospective clients, asking if we could meet for lunch. And out of that outreach, I got 10 solid clients! It’s worth the effort, but you have to reach out. Your first outreach should be to your easiest targets. That would be your best former clients and prospective clients who never took the bait the first time around. So reach out to the people closest to you who may know (or may be) that great new client!

2. Look for partners. The next group to reach out to would be those businesses who have the clients that you want – it be could a realtor, builders, or maybe even luxury spa or jewelry store owners. Don’t just think about the obvious people like contractors – although they are a perfect resource for you. I want you to also think outside of the home arena. My one word of warning, though, is that you have to reach out with the idea of how YOU can help THEM. Let me say that again – how can YOU help THEM? It will never work for you if you are constantly showing up with your hand out and asking for something. Imagine how you would react to that from a prospective partner. You want to be sure there is a win-win for both of you so that you both benefit.


3. Build relationships. Remember, none of this is meant to be a “hard sell.” A big bulk of your outreach should be emails that just check in with the person. Ask how they are, what’s going on in their lives. Send gifts that you think they will like. Ask them to lunch and do not discuss business. Why? Because you are building relationships. You are creating goodwill between the two of you, and you are looking long-term. And you are going to do this without any expectation of a payoff for you. I really mean that! You have to say to yourself that this is just the cost of doing business. That whatever you spend on gifts or materials is going to be done without getting emotional if the other person doesn’t immediately hire you or give you their entire client list!

And you have to remember that it could take a long time before you see any concrete results. You may court a client, a builder, or a partner for months, even years, before it pays off. That’s why business development is a long-term strategy, because if you make it a part of your normal work week, just sending a few emails and having a few lunches, it will bring you business in a much more consistent way!

So get off that income roller coaster! Instead enjoy smooth sailing by building business for your future!








4 Tips for Finding Your Next Big Idea

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It’s the time of year to think about how our business has gone over the last 12 months, and how we want to change or improve for next year. One thing that I like to do is sift through my “big ideas” to see what I want to revisit for the upcoming year – some of my best new revenue streams have come from that list!

If you’re having trouble coming up with those big ideas for your company, I’ve got 4 tips that will help you spark your idea generator!

1. Go small to think big. People often want to come up with the “Next Big Thing” by focusing on grand schemes instead of looking at the small details. So think about this: Where have you said NO before? How could you have said YES? Think about how you could change up your services, or how you work, to create something new that your customers want. List all the norms of interior design – standard operating, how the design process goes, how we work with clients, how we bill – and then consider if you could break that idea entirely or change something radically. How would you do it? What would it take?


2. Write ideas down. And I mean all the time! Put them on your phone, carry a notebook, put a notebook by your bed. It’s important to always be thinking, always writing down your ideas, reviewing them, analyzing them, and seeing what new ideas come from them. I journal thousands of ideas. They don’t have to be BIG when I first think of them – and they don’t even have to make complete sense when I write them down. They just need to go in my journal. Sometimes a little kernel of an idea will grow into something that will change everything!

3. Look outside. I don’t mean outside your window. If you want to come up with a new idea, something that really shakes things up, look outside of what we do every single day. How is the luxury car business changing? How is the fashion industry changing? What new ideas are being generated for electronics? You never know where that big idea will come from. Take another industry, pros and cons, and apply them in your industry and in every aspect of how you run your business.


4. Don’t think. Sounds odd right? But it’s called zero thinking. You might think of it as meditation or as clearing your mind, but most inventors and big thinkers agree that you have to have periods where you let your brain rest. It’s almost like you have to sweep out the room inside your head, getting rid of clutter, so you can allow the great ideas to come in later. That’s why we tend to have great ideas in the shower or when we are just about to fall asleep. There’s less “noise” distracting us from ideas.

So how do you sift through all of those ideas once you have them written down? Where do you find the one that will really work? Trial and error. I have tried TONS of things and failed, or had them fail before launch. It’s what you have to do to finally hit on the one good one. That allows you to do some sifting. You have to be committed to the long-term of getting to a big idea. It doesn’t always happen overnight. And maybe one of the “failures” can be tweaked or changed to be the one idea that really works and hits big for you!

Finally, and I’ve said this before, you have to take ACTION. You can have a million ideas, but then you have to take action on at least one of them. Or there’s no point. I don’t want you to be the one six months from now who sees a great new product or service and says “But I had that idea first!” If you don’t get going and take action, someone else will!








5 Ways to Win at Time Management

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I’m asked all the time: “How in the world do you do everything?” And on some days, I wonder how I’m going to get it all done, too. But to be your most effective, you have to have a great plan for time management. That’s the only way to juggle it all – and it’s how I keep everything moving day to day.

So what’s the one thing that’s really holding you back from making the most of the time you have? It’s YOU! That’s right, it really is you. You can be your own worst enemy when it comes to managing your time. It’s just human nature and we all do it. So let’s talk about some ideas to get you back on track:

1. Keep 2 to-do lists. Yes, I know it’s hard enough to keep up with one. But this really works. I have one long list with everything on it that I need to get done, categorized by project. That helps me avoid dropping the ball on anything that I need to do. But my second list is just for things that have to be done today, and it only includes 3-4 things. Because it can be really intimidating to have to look at a 15-page to-do list every single day – and really discouraging, too. Being able to cross things off a list, and actually finish a list each day, keeps you on time and on task.


2. Block your time. This was the game changer for me. I was forever getting distracted by whoever or whatever happened to interrupt me next. And that is a major time waster. Instead of just taking on whatever hits my desk next, or allowing anyone and everyone to bring me yet another task or issue whenever they want, I now block my time each day. This allows me to set aside blocks of hours that are exclusively and only for design, for example. Or I have several hours blocked out just to work on client outreach or financials. The understanding in my office – and the promise I keep to myself – is that I won’t take on anything else during that block other than what I’ve set it aside to accomplish. It really keeps me focused and it helps me better manage my time.

3. Delegate tasks. What tasks in your business are doing that you should not be doing? Come on – you know there are things like that! Are you taking out the trash instead of setting your financial goals? Are you running errands instead of focusing on client outreach? That needs to stop! As business owners we have the tendency to try to be in control of everything. But you cannot and should not do everything. The only things that should “live” on your schedule are tasks that make you money. Everything else on your task list is costing you money. Who can you outsource some of those things to?


4. Revisit your systems and processes. Remember those processes you defined for your business? The ones that you were going to follow to the letter? Well cutting corners and dropping steps will really eat into your time management. That’s because you usually end up having to take 15 more steps to fix problems you created when you didn’t follow your process. If you don’t have processes and systems – and these can be for client experience, for client outreach, for project management – then create them now! They really do act as a reminder of all the things that need to get done for a smooth and efficient project.

5. Turn off all distractions. You have to really commit to this to have any effective time management. You have to stay focused on the business things that matter. Distractions happen to all of us. Some of us are parents who get nonstop texts from our kids about homework, friends coming over, or thing that they think are important at that moment. Top performers can deal with these distractions while maintaining focus on the things that matter. Maybe it’s learning to turn off the phone, or letting someone else in the family deal with the distraction, or setting rules about when you can be “bothered.” Whatever it is, keep your focus. That will allow you to get things done in the time you have to do them. But there are other distractions that will destroy your schedule. Your phone. Social media. Watching a puppy video. We all do it, but those things will completely eat up all of your time and will keep you from doing what you need to do. Put your head down and stick to it – and get out of your own way!

But what ONE thing is common to those 5 tips? DISCIPLINE. You have to be disciplined to get things done when you say you will, to keep distractions away, to focus on what you need to get done. If you can’t do that, then no amount of time management tips are going to help you. So buckle down and get serious about your time – it’s your most precious resource!








5 Ways to Reset Your Creativity

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I have a question for you: Why did you get into the business of being a designer in the first place? It was because you’re a creative, right?! Too often, all of those things that are critical for running a business can keep us from flexing our creativity muscles – and that creativity is actually key to our business. That can seem like a vicious circle because day-to-day business can be a creativity killer, but without being creative, you aren’t going to have any business.

Being more creative, really delivering the best designs that you possibly can, is going to prove that you’re worth what you charge. It’s going to bring you new clients, it will get you published, and it will help you expand your business so you can hire more people, which then allows you more time to be creative.

Designers at ALL levels still work at this. You don’t just wake up one day and realize that you’ve peaked creatively and so you no longer have to push yourself! People at the top of their game really have to work even harder to continuously deliver something that is fresh and inspired!


So how do you kick your creativity into high gear when you’re super-stressed and overwhelmed with the business side of your company? Well I’ve got 5 tips to get you going:

1. Seek out inspiration. To be creative, you have to be INSPIRED. That can be different for every one of you, but set aside time to find your inspiration! That can be going to a museum, traveling, going to a fashion show, or looking at art books and magazines that are not the usual shelter publications. But set aside time for this – don’t let it be negotiable.

2. Schedule creative time. Yes, I am aware that sometimes you aren’t going to “feel like” being creative, but if you don’t block out time to focus on creativity, it’s never going to happen. You have to set aside time to let the right side of your brain, the creative side, take over.  Once the left side of your brain – that’s the analytical side – is engaged – it takes about 15 minutes of a break to get the creative side of your brain to kick back in! So you can’t switch back and forth. That’s why I set a specific time to go into my workroom and create designs. My team knows that I cannot be interrupted! And I turn off my phone and my email – that keeps me from switching from one side of the brain to the other, which really prevents me from creating my best and most creative work!


3. Trick yourself. Science is on your side here! Research has shown that you can stimulate that right side, or creative side, of your brain. Laughing triggers that side of your brain and makes it more active, and looking at the sky blue color does the same thing. It stimulates the creative center of your brain. Here’s a crazy trick that works, too: Squeeze a ball in your left hand for 45 seconds, and then repeat that 3 times. That creates a reaction in the right side of your brain and gets it all woken up and firing off ideas.

4. Get outside. Getting fresh air – a great hit of oxygen – does two things for you. First, studies show that it will fire up that creativity center in your brain. Second, it’s also a fabulous place to find inspiration!

5. Don’t lose focus! But here’s a warning – do not ever look at your email while you’re trying to be creative. Reading makes the left side of the brain take over, and you don’t want that to happen when you want the right side of your brain to be at its best! So keep your email closed, don’t try to text, and don’t start surfing Facebook. Stay focused!

Use these 5 tips to fire up your creativity and rediscover your passion for this business. I want you to exercise your creative muscle just like you get exercise for your body. So get out there and hit your creative zone!







4 Ways to Survive the Holiday Chaos

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This time of year can be magical and special, but if you’re a small business owner like me, it can also be stressful, frustrating, and insane. Interior designers especially know what I mean because half of our clients want us to transform their homes into a showpiece in the 2 weeks before their guests arrive for Christmas.

It can be hard enough to balance your work and your personal life on the best of days, but it is incredibly hard to do during the holiday season when everyone wants something from you right now. What can you do? I have 4 ways for you to keep the crazy at a minimum so you can enjoy the best of the holiday season!


1. Remember to say no. You can’t say yes to every client request and you shouldn’t say yes to every event or party that comes along, too. There’s only so many hours in the day, and only so much of YOU. Say no to the good to make room for the great! Choose wisely so you can give your very best to everything that you say YES to.

2. Buckle down early. Put your head down and focus on your work in the first two weeks of December, so you can really let go and enjoy yourself with family and friends during the weeks of Christmas and the New Year. You don’t want to be the one at the office on Christmas Eve, so keep your eye firmly on work so you can get all of the tasks on your list completed and checked off. If you aren’t an early planner, make it your goal next year to do your client gifts and cards in October so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.


3. Schedule some ME time. Find one hour here and there to get a massage, meditate, take a yoga class, anything to calm your mind and help you relax and recharge. It will make you better able to deal with clients and to enjoy your family!

4. Check out completely. On those days that you’re supposed to be off with your family, turn off your phone and be present with your family. The world won’t end if someone can’t get in touch with you. Take a deep breath and enjoy the season.

I hope these tips help you keep the magic of the season first and foremost as your goal! Let me know what you love about the holidays in the comments section below!