Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

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,







Why Confidence Is Critical to Business Success

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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 it may not be what you think. It’s not a financial issue. It’s not a time issue. It’s a CONFIDENCE issue.

And that lack of self-confidence keeps people from doing their best work in lieu of doing whatever work comes their way. It keeps them from reaching out to the perfect prospective client or partner to create their dream project or product. And it definitely keeps them from charging what they’re worth for their services. This confidence issue keeps them doing things because they think they “have to” instead of doing the work they want to. It holds them back from their passion and ultimately from success!

After all, how can you “sell yourself” to someone and convince them that you are the perfect person that they need to hire or partner with 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 find joy – with yourself and with your life – if you can’t stop worrying about what others think?

Part of getting into the confidence zone means you have to stop fearing failure. And trust me, we all struggle with this. ALL OF US…even me. It’s something you have to work on every day. I do that through meditation and celebrating my successes. But my most effective way to stay in the confidence zone is journaling, particularly keeping my gratitude journal.

To stay in the confidence zone, you also have to be willing to try new things and to take risks – even small ones. Because you will learn that even when you fall, you always get back up and usually you learned something amazing in the process. And when you try things, you won’t always fail. You will have successes too, and both the successes and the failures will give you more confidence!

Want to get on the confidence train immediately? Write down two things that will get you out of your comfort zone, either personally or professionally and then make a commitment to do those two things right now. Put them on the calendar today and take the first step.

Another big factor in low self confidence is perfectionism. We 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. And with ourselves. 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 start loving your results. That’s where the good stuff is – all the fun is on the other side of perfection.

Finally, and this is probably the biggest thing you can do, you have to get rid of your negative self talk. Even if you don’t think you have an inner mean girl, check again. I pride myself on being confident and guess what? I have that negative inner voice, too.  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 not the right weight or size, that you aren’t talented or smart enough, and that you are really not worthy of success. I have to quiet this mean girl inside me often. In fact one of my 2 resolutions for this year is loving myself more. My resolution was precisely in response to that inner critic that tells me I can only be happy when I am perfect.

That kind of thinking is the worst form of self-abuse and you have to commit to stopping it today. I am committing to that, too. I want you to write down three things – right now – that are fabulous about YOU! Then put that up somewhere where you can see it every day as a reminder. Or even better, start every morning by writing 3 new things that you love about yourself. Not loving yourself is too costly. It will keep you from your dreams and your purpose. So ask yourself, are you really willing for YOU to be the person keeping you from your best self?

Does your negative inner voice also whisper to you what others may be thinking of you? 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 I am sure there are a few out there who really do think or say negative things about you. According to Brene Brown in her fabulous book Daring Greatly, those people typically aren’t the ones “in the arena” working hard and taking risks themselves. They are just criticizing from the sidelines, too fearful to put themselves out there the way you are.  Of course I have people out there who may not like me or believe in me. We all do. And if you are leaning into your potential or taking risks to be your best, somebody is going to be intimidated or threatened by it. It may even be a lot of people and it may be people close to you like friends or family members. 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 keep these negative thoughts at bay.  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 or worse, your own negative thoughts, focus on your cheerleaders and supporters. Or even better, become your own cheerleader! It’ll help remind you of why you’re so special, unique, and fabulous every day. Because YOU ARE! Now get out there and show the world what you’ve got!








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!