The moment has come. You’ve begun to think about growing your small interior design firm. Maybe you’re looking to add to your solo practice, or simply making your small but mighty team even mightier. No matter your reason for expansion, growth is not easy. In fact, chances are the only time you’ll ever double your staff overnight is the day you make your first hire.
There are certain steps you can take to position your small interior design firm for the growth you envision and achieve your particular definition of success.
- Creating a sustainable system to manage work load
- Standardizing your firm’s operations and procedures
- Maintaining a reliable flow of new business opportunities
- Learning to say “no” to the wrong clients
- Pricing well and billing consistently
- Filling your team with the right people
As the head of your firm, are you ready to commit to treating your small interior design company as a business? If your answer is yes, here are the steps to help you achieve success.
Create a sustainable system to manage work load
First things first: you need some form of a practice management system. Whether you choose to set up a workable system on tools like Microsoft Outlook and OneNote or use more advanced software like Design Manager, be prepared to spend the time required to learn and set up it up.
If you really want to position your small interior design firm for growth, search out an option that addresses all areas of your operations, not just a few. Managing emails, documents and contacts is important, but also look for software that automatically tracks your activities without any manual time entry required from you or your staff, allowing you to get an accurate understanding of how you’re spending your days and recognize the true value of your time. Take time to evaluate exactly what your firm needs and find a system that solves your issues.
Standardizing your firm’s operations and procedures
Are you intimidated by the thought of standardizing your small interior design firm’s operations? Don’t be. The benefits well out-weigh the efforts and can cut down on the learning curve time for new employees as well as your time in training new hires.
Standardization of daily tasks makes it much easier for everyone at your firm to work with accuracy and complete tasks quickly.
Items that can be easily standardized:
- Firm-wide templates that you endorse. If you know each member of your team is using the same engagement letter and client memo template, you can rest assured that everything coming out of your firm is meeting your preapproved standards.
- How you manage your files. Having consistent rules about what gets scanned, put in binders or in files, and how documents and files get named, makes it easier for you and your staff to find what they need, when they need it.
- Consistent email practices. Set up and enforce consistent email management practices so that communication or a project doesn’t fall behind simply because one team member is out.
Event at Floor Styles
Maintain a reliable flow of new business opportunities
In order for your interior design firm to grow, you must have a steady and ideally, a progressively increasing, stream of new business opportunities even when you are busy.
So how can you ensure you have plenty of clients coming through your doors?
- Happy clients refer friends. If your clients are happy with the work you have done for them, they’ll are much more likely to refer friends to you.
- Develop referral networks with other professional offices. Other professionals often get requests for work in areas outside of their scope of work. If other professionals know you and believe in your work product, they’ll be more likely to confidently refer clients to you. You also return the favor for them. If you need to build up your referral network, consider attending events and using social media with that purpose.
- Don’t be afraid to market. Start by doing what you can do on your own like contribute to a blog, or if you have time, start your own. Or, speak at events likely to be attended by your target clients. Don’t forget about email marketing, it can have surprising results. Don’t hesitate to bring in a marketing expert if you need one. Marketing firms can help you create a strategy focused on building your reputation and growing your business.
- Ask for reviews. Soon after completing a project ask your clients to write a quick review on Google, or Yelp. A review on google can dramatically increase your search ranking; while also providing potential clients confidence in your work.
Just say “no” to the wrong clients
It may seem counter-intuitive to turn away clients, but defining your niche and sticking to it will ensure you grow intentionally and sustainably. If a potential client simply isn’t aligned with your expertise, just say no. Your firm will suffer if you are asked to constantly stretch outside of your comfort zone. When you turn away a client that doesn’t feel like a fit for your firm, consider referring them to someone better suited to their needs. You might end up with two happy people that may return the favor in the future.
Price well and bill consistently
Your time is valuable. Understand how you spend it, and then bill accordingly. Tracking time is no fun, but it’s the best way to make sure all of the work you do is accounted for and billed properly. If you are charging a client a flat fee, still track your time to help in pricing similar future work.
Don’t be afraid to bill for your time. Never sell yourself short. If you’re proud of the work you have done and believe in its value, your clients will as well.
With your tracking and pricing practices in place, get into the habit of sending invoices out each month. Clients not only prefer to receive smaller bills, but maintaining a regular rhythm for your billing will keep revenue coming in the door as well as allow you to accurately project profits and plan for growth.
Event at Kravet
Fill your team with the right people
How do you know who are the right people? Start by establishing your expertise and goals, and seek out the people who align with your principles. During interviews with prospective employees don’t forget to spend a little time discussing personal goals and work styles. Do the best you can. You’ll never truly know how well a person fits within your mission, culture, and goals until they come on-board and work with the rest of the team.
Do not feel obligated to make sacrifices for someone you discover is simply not the right fit. If you make a hiring mistake, let them go, and find the right person for the job. Hiring and training is a challenge, but your well-developed practice management and standardization methodology can take some of the pain out of the process.
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