What Level is Your Design Business?

Setting Up Systems, Processes and Goals for your Interior Design Firm

Setting Up Systems, Processes and Goals for your Interior Design Firm

Get clear on how you want to run your own design business.

Stand in your space. What you track grows. A subjective ask leads to a subjective result.

These are the words Sandra Funk of House of Funk, used on Episode #2 of A Well-Designed Business® and honestly, I remember them as vividly as I did the day I heard them for the first time.

This episode was and always will be one of my favorites because it was the first time I’d ever heard the “inside voice” of someone from the design industry. Let’s recap and refresh your memory.

In this episode, Sandra talked about how she runs her business with an emphasis on systems, project management, and goal setting.

Some key bullet points I took away from her chat with LuAnn were:

  • Insights into her specific design process (this literally changed my life)
  • What you track, you achieve, so get clear on your goals
  • Being subjective in your direction must mean you’ll be subjective in your approval

As I said, this episode will always resonate with me. I remember it vividly… I was a #BabyDesigner, had just started my design firm and I had no idea what I was doing. Literally no idea.

A friend hired me to do her living room and I think I charged her for four hours at $75/hour and I was pretty pumped about this! I knew the pros did it differently, but I could not find anyone that I felt comfortable enough to ask how they did it.

Sara Lynn BrennanI was a #BabyDesigner and Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know!

Then one day in January 2018, I was outside taking down my Christmas decorations on my porch listening to a LuAnn podcast and Sandra started to talk about the beginning portion of her design process. The part where she takes a 20-hour retainer and “marinates” on the design for the client, pulling together a Design Plan with an estimated budget for both the furnishings and the design fee.

And at the end of it all, if the client “was not on the floor” she knew it was a good fit and that she should proceed with that client. And she even gave an example of a time where the client balked at the budget and she explained how she handled that!

Say what!? My heart stopped! She just told me about her design process! A 20-hour design retainer just to get started, wow! I ran into the house and jotted down notes from what she said so I could try to do something similar. I look back now and smile at this “Ah-Ha” moment because at this time I was charging a whole $300 for my spaces with zero retainer!

Sandra ignited a fire in me because I really started to understand the industry and the process and for the first time ever, I felt like I could really do this. From here I started building my processes and design packages (I’ll share more about that in posts to come) and now, for full-service design projects I collect a five-figure design fee before we press go!

I sometimes can’t believe how far I’ve come, but I share this with you to give you the motivation to figure it out and start charging your worth, even if you are a #BabyDesigner!

I am doing it and once you’re clear on your systems and processes you can too!

What you Pay Attention To, Grows!

Another thing I loved about this episode was that Sandra talked about how she set and tracked her goals each and every day. She reminded us what you pay attention to, grows.

So, guess what I did: I started tracking my time and hours spent on certain tasks, so I could start to build out my billing strategies and goals for my own firm. Her goals reminded her how often to be billable throughout the week, but they also reminded her and her team when it was time to celebrate for their hard work and enjoy their success; I loved that mentality!

A Subjective Ask Leads to a Subjective Result

The last takeaway I’ll share from this episode was when Sandra and LuAnn were talking about being very specific in how you communicate to your design team. LuAnn mentioned that “a little bit” is not measurable (especially in window treatments) and very hard to understand! Sandra said a phrase I still use quite often with my team and it’s this, “A subjective ask leads to a subjective result.”

This statement has served me well over the past few years, because, like many of us, I don’t have a degree in interior design and I don’t always know the right terminology to use when I am talking to the window treatment professionals, plumbers or other tradespeople.

However, I do know that I need to come prepared with photos, sketches, measurements, and images to get my point across to my team – if I want it done a specific way I need to find a specific way to ask for it! Amen, Sandra!

Own what you do, Stand in your Space!

To wrap things up here I’m going to advise you to listen to this episode if you haven’t in a while. Even though it was recorded several years ago, the advice on systemizing and the basic principals of LuAnn and Sandra’s conversation are still very relevant to our industry.

I love how Sandra so freely shares what she’s learned over the years and advises us to “Stand in our space” and own whatever choices we decide to make, whether that be our aesthetic, fee structure, processes, etc..

I doubt Sandra and LuAnn know the impact they’ve made on me and my design business from this one episode, but I most certainly do and I encourage you to take some of their advice and run with it!

And just like Sandra said, if you intentionally put in the work to be excellent and you track your progress, your business will most definitely grow. If anyone else has found something Sandra Funk has in this episode to be particularly life-changing or motivating? We’d love to hear from you!

Reach out to us with your own personal success stories with your design business and we’ll keep this very exciting and motivating conversation going. Have a great day, show up and be excellent!


(2) Comments
  • Katie
    (2 November 2019)

    Sara! This is so cool you wrote this, because YOU inspired my “Ah-Ha” moment! Your generous and enthusiastic spirit are contagious and have kept me inspired during the “rough” moments of being a #babydesigner. This podcast truly makes me a better business woman and designer every frickin’ episode. LOVE YOU LADIES Thank you. Sincerely.

    • Sara Brennan
      (8 November 2019)

      Katie! I love this so much, thank you for sharing with us! Keep listening, keep putting things to action and keep creating a killer business!! Go team!! xo

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What Level is Your Design Business?