It takes a lot to run a successful interior design business. If you don’t have everything organized and on point, it can also be completely overwhelming! We talk about about “systems and processes” that you should have in place to make things run more smoothly (and to help you make more money!), but which ones are most important?! Here are my top 5 processes that make the biggest difference in how your business runs.
There are SO many steps in a design project, from the initial consult to the big reveal. And that means there is a lot to keep track of and a lot of places where things could go wrong. If you’re like most designers, you may even be winging it every time – and then wondering how a ball got dropped or a detail was completely overlooked. Having timelines written down – step by step – can keep you from reinventing the wheel and will help you avoid all of the things that can go wrong on a project. It will also save you time! And that means more money in your pocket because your time is one of your most valuable assets.
You need timelines for small projects (maybe a room or two and just decorating), medium-sized projects (full house decorating or maybe kitchen/bath renovations), and large-scale projects (full construction and design, aka soup to nuts). And of course you can adjust for each individual project, but knowing that you already have guidelines that help with timing and the steps that you need to remember will make all the difference for your peace of mind.
How do you find out what your client’s budget REALLY is? How do you help them understand why your design project costs what it does? You have to have a process for budgeting. I know. Sounds scary, but it is a must! The right process will help you get answers from your clients, explain budgets and spending to them, AND will help you stay on budget during the project, too. For example, I use a range of product costs to help nail down what my clients really have to spend on furnishings. I use a similar range to help them decide on what they want to splurge on and where they might want to save. And then I have a budget worksheet for myself that helps me keep it all on track. Coming in on budget or even maybe a bit under budget is going to keep your clients happy. And happy clients mean fabulous recommendations!
3. Customer Service
Speaking of keeping your customers happy – client care is the #1 priority for any service business like ours! We want to blow their minds with how we take care of them and their home during the project. So what kind of process can do that?! Well I have several, actually. First, I always keep a spreadsheet for each of my clients that lists family members (including the four-legged variety!), birthdays, anniversaries, favorite flowers and wines, and anything else I’ve learned about them. How did I get that? Through my client on-boarding process!
The process includes an in-depth client questionnaire, a face-to-face (or digital face-to-face!) interview, and lots of information. Then I have a customer care process that runs throughout a project’s timeline. For example, I have a specific set-up for client meetings – candles, branded notebooks, special touches like their favorite snacks. Those things elevate my meetings. Then, I have specific times that I give my clients gifts, or when I check in with them, or when I remember their special occasions and celebrations. If it’s already all marked down and in place, it’s all so much easier to keep track of! And trust me, your clients will love it.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – I LOOOVE to check things off a list! It makes me feel super accomplished – ha! Checklists keep our projects organized and help us keep everything under control. So they are critical to your design business. Here’s an example: How often have you been at a project installation only to realize you need to send an assistant out for light bulbs? And then 5 minutes later you realize you don’t have a rug pad. And then 10 minutes after that, you find out someone forgot the tape measure. Yeah, that’s not fun. I have an installation checklist that has EVERYTHING on it that we need. And it also reminds my team that we want to be sure there are full rolls of toilet paper in the bathrooms, and wine in the fridge, and gorgeous new long matches near the fireplace. Yes, I pay attention to ALL of those details. And my clients notice. But I would forget at least half of them without my checklists! That’s how critical they are.
This may be last on my list, but it probably the most important! Open and clear communication with your clients, with your subs, with the contractor/builder, and with your own team will head off almost every single major issue you could have! Everyone needs to be on the same page, and everyone needs to consistently hear from you. I have a communications process that include schedules for sending regular emails, ways to ensure that all of the spec binders are updated at the same time, and even when to send out birthday cards. You really want to over-communicate instead of under-communicate. And having a process for when and how to do that will keep it all under control.
I know that’s a lot, but you can see how those 5 processes will keep your business organized, efficient, and much more effective.
To get you started, I’ve even going to give you a head start! Just download my FREE Kitchen Remodel Schedule to kick off your all-important timelines! Click here and get started!
And remember that ALL of what I’ve described above – timelines, budgets, schedules, checklists, and more – is included in my Return on Interiors system. If you want to kickstart everything into high gear, click here to learn more! It’s like a shortcut to having the business you’ve always dreamed of!