What Level is Your Design Business?

Reply To: What’s on your mind, yogis?


I’m with Olga, pulled in too many directions, and there is so much to reflect on after each class I am planning to rewatch each one also.

Vita, I am continually impressed with your vulnerability, so I am going to try and do the same 🙂

Finding good finance help was critical for me, and one of the first things I invested in after purchasing my business. I pay my firm $300 per month for bookkeeping, managing sales tax, and financial reporting. They provide a very thorough 8-10 page monthly performance report with an exec summary, M/M, Y/Y and YTD financials, KPI’s, cash flow reports, etc. I was doubting that the time spent entering so much data into QBO was paying off, but I am now seeing the value because they pull from QBO.

This side of the business is not my strong point… I still am learning how to read and understand these reports, much less use them to make informed decisions. To this end, I have just entered into a new relationship with one of the partners at my accounting firm to provide monthly COO / CFO guidance so I can begin setting goals and budgets, forecasting, and using the data to make decisions. This was a scary investment, at $1500 per month, but I recognise that I need help in this area.

From a process standpoint, my office manager enters all vendor invoices into QBO, and connects them to projects. This allows us to analyse profitability on a project by project basis. Sometimes a project is a single room, sometimes a whole house. We have been doing this for one year come January, and I look forward to having a solid year of data to compare. We also use QBO to analyse client and designer spend. I’m thinking to send holiday floral arrangements to my top designers and clients as a nice end of year thank you.

This part of being a business owner has been another big challenge for me. I struggled so much with the people aspect. When I bought my business last year, I kept on the existing team. I felt so blessed to have their experience as I learned a completely new industry. Unfortunately, the admin did not work out as he was not willing to grow into the expanded role I needed from an office manager, and expressed his frustration and anger at me until I had to let him go. Two weeks later, my window treatment specialist put in her notice. She had been with the business for nine years, and managed the entire hard treatment and installation side of things. The previous owner taught me the soft treatment side of the business, so now I had to learn crash course in hard treatments. While also taking on all admin responsibilities.

Two weeks ago I had to cut ties with my installer as he was becoming more and more unreliable, making lots of mistakes, and had a bad attitude with clients. I am now in the process of “testing the waters” with several new installers, who I am paying to fix mistakes at my cost. I was late to class yesterday because I had to do an install myself to keep an excellent client happy. This is a very hard lesson on having the right people in place that do good work and hold to the values we set as business owners. I let his bad behaviour slide for too long because I felt I had no other options, and now have lots of client relationships to make right. The good news is, new installers are so far very conscientious and reliable. Hopefully the fixing will be over soon and I can begin accounting for their (much!) higher install cost on new estimates.

Hearing your troubles hiring a general manager made me tear up. I am continually blown away by your willingness to be so vulnerable about your hard lessons and share with us ways to avoid those same mistakes ourselves. Which brings me to the brightest point in my people journey… my office manager is a freaking rock star. She is very close family friend (more of an aunt to me) who moved from NC to help me. I called her this morning to thank her (again!) for the great work she is doing, despite her being hard on herself. I shared with her what you said about the steep learning curve in this industry, which reinforced what I’ve been telling her all along. I was really telling myself too, because I too get overwhelmed with how much there is to learn, and feel like I make mistakes all too often.

My new goal is to create an SOP doc for my business, inspired by yours.

Ok, enough rambling!

What Level is Your Design Business?