What Level is Your Design Business?

Are you Operating Your Design Business Out of Faith or Fear?

Are you Operating Your Design Business Out of Faith or Fear?

One Little Phrase

After listening to A Well-Designed Business® for the past couple of years, I’ve found that one little phrase can inspire a thought that absolutely changes everything. It’s happened to me (and probably many of you) many times and examples include “What’s your ‘only’?” by Fred Berns, “Oh that’s the designer who…” by Nicole Heymer, “Do I want to be right or get what I want?” by LuAnn herself, “Stand in your space” from Sandra Funk and “They called you” by Lori Paranjape.

Honestly, if I sit and really think about it, the list goes on and on, but one phrase I want to talk about today is from Episode 279, titled “Practical Advice on How To Grow, Launch and Sustain your Interior Design Firm” with Candy Scott.

In this episode Candy, while in conversation with LuAnn, causally mentions that in her years of experience she’s learned that defensive behavior comes from the mentality that “we are all scared” and this comment stemmed from a conversation LuAnn and Candy were having about “drama” in our profession.

Drama can stem from lack of communication, expectation, mistakes, personalities, etc., and it’s not really the drama that matters so much, it’s how you handle it.

Candy goes on to say that most people basically live in a world of drama and it can lead to finger-pointing, blame, and arguments which don’t actually lead to solving any of our problems.

She talks about it takes a great deal of confidence and good consciousness to look at a situation, find common ground with the people you’re dealing with, handle it and do it with dignity.

Candy Scott

“We Are All Scared”

Listening to Candy and LuAnn talk got me thinking about the real reason drama usually happens in the first place and it aligned exactly with what Candy said, “We are all scared”!

We are scared of looking bad, feeling stupid, and making mistakes and in dramatic situations (like they discussed), the gut reaction to blame someone else comes from fear; Candy is right!

If you think about it, it makes total sense too – if you’re not confident in your systems, processes, pricing, and people you won’t be sure that you can fix or address any issues as they arise, thus you operate out of a “fear” mentality that if something goes wrong you won’t know how to fix it.

You get defensive and aggressive because deep down you know you don’t know what to do about what’s happened and that’s scary. It’s scary because it could cost you money, your pride, your ego and you might have to admit you’re not perfect, so we deflect.

Handle The Drama

But what if you did know that your team will have your back, what if you did know you budgeted enough to cover the cost of mistakes as they arose, and what if you did have the confidence to admit that you sometimes make mistakes, wouldn’t that be so much more productive than the drama-filled “grandstand” alternative? So do that.

Have faith in your team, your process, yourself and know that something will go wrong, anticipate it, better yet, plan for it, and handle it like a boss.

Handle drama with the casual confidence you know you have within, identify where the breakdown occurred and make sure something like this never happens again.

Apologize to the client, thank them for their patience and assure them you will make it right. Tantrums, crying, screaming and yelling won’t solve the problem, but actionable people do.

We Don’t Get A Discount

But this led me to think of one more point I just have to say because I’ve been asked these questions often by my coaching clients in the last few weeks. Yes, mistakes can be VERY costly in our world of design, especially regarding furniture.

The wrong fabric or detail can cost you thousands, but this is the EXACT reason we don’t “share our discount” with clients. We don’t get a “discount” and I wish people would stop saying that. We (designers and home professionals) are able to purchase at our “Designer” or wholesale pricing because we run a business where furniture sales are a source of revenue.

It’s All About the Margins

It is because of this margin that I can employ the team and provide the level of service that we do, design fees alone would never cover these costs. So, yes, my design business has more than one source of revenue, we make money from the sale of furnishings, what a genius idea!

The reason we are offered a margin is so that we can pull together a SERVICE model that supports our vendors in providing an amazing customer service experience.

If something goes wrong, we are able to step in and fix it BECAUSE of this margin – it’s not a discount that we should “share” with anyone. Our “discount” is basically “insurance” to make sure we are able to have the client’s back, should any “drama” arise.

Why You Need Buffers

See my point here? If you know you have that buffer, you can approach situations calmly and confidently because it won’t be a freak-out moment, you will simply do what you know is right fix and the mistake by providing the client with exactly what they ordered or requested the first time.

We hope with each project that buffer or margin remains as a reward and constant to be able to hire and afford a solid team of design professionals to offer amazing service to our clients, but if something does come up, we know we have the funds to cover it built into the project.

How are you going to do that if you give away or “share” that margin? It’s very difficult and can lead to very uncomfortable conversations when you have to ask the client for more money or pull that money out of your own bank account to cover costs. 

Are You Operating Out of Faith or Fear?

So, the ultimate question of this blog post is this, are you operating your design business based on faith or is it fear? Really think about this and how it will shape everything you do from this point on. Firm up your processes, know your margins and pinpoint the mistakes as they arise so you can pivot and ensure they never happen again.

Also, listen to the whole episode with Candy Scott to hear her perspective based on many years in the industry. Her professionalism, poise, and real talk make this episode a must-listen for all!

Show up with confidence and be excellent, friends.



(2) Comments
  • Rebecca
    (17 February 2020)

    Great insight! This was a good one. Definitely a good one to listen to again.

    • Sara Brennan
      (19 February 2020)

      Awesome, Rebecca!!! Candy’s episode was so great!!!

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What Level is Your Design Business?