More Design Business Stuff...

WARNING: Design Business Post.  Run away family!!

Last week was a great first week back for us in the office!  I'm feeling so ready to rock and am so excited about how things are going...  we're continuing to work on some amazing projects with our existing clients and we have some really exciting new projects too.  As you probably remember (from my super-long post from about a week or so ago)  we're really trying to focus on being the best we can be and making our clients as happy as possible, and to do that, we're starting out by focusing on streamlining our processes.

{The work table in the office at our old house.. photo by Helen Norman}

For those of you that aren't in the design business (and who are still reading...  Mom, I know you checked out at the warning ;) ;) it might help to give you a quick outline of how our design process generally works:

1. Client Inquiry -typically through our website or by phone
2. Client Phone Consultation with me to mutually decide if we want to work together
3. Client Meeting/Project Survey- we go meet our clients and check out their home
4. Create the plan for the home over time
5. Design Presentation- I present the plans to our clients
6. Edits/Tweaks to Design Plan- we make changes and come up with new things where needed
7. Design Approved- Clients give us the go ahead
8. Goods ordered & work is Scheduled... Shopping for accessories & art & one-of-a-kinds
9. Manage goods/ contractors
10. Installation of Goods :)
11. Project is complete

{the office at our old house...  The new office contains pretty much all of the same stuff}

(BTW...  Does anyone notice how little "designing" is actually involved in this entire process??  You hear all the time that it's 80% business/ 20% designing and I've never actually wanted to know the true breakdown but you can definitely get an idea from this.)

{The "fun" part of a design business}

Currently, so much of what we do is done manually.  We use a combination of Quickbooks, Word docs and excel spreadsheets to create design projects and manage them from start to finish.  We spend an incredible amount of time doing this.  (My husband came on full-time recently to do this and his entire job focuses on implementing design plans & managing projects. )  Even with him now (3 of us in total) there still don't seem to be enough hours in the week to get everything done!!

So when I was browsing around on the Molloy Management Blog last week & started reading Julia Molloy's posts (some of them referring to Studiowebware) I finally decided to make the switch over from Quickbooks to Studiowebware.  Studio webware is an online program where you can create, edit and implement a project from start to finish without having to enter all of your information in a million places.   (Right now we must write information for a product down at least 5 times.  (not exaggerating- I write it in my plans, then the budget, then for quote requests, then for purchasing, and then again to track...  with studiowebware, it's in there once and you can do whatever you need to with it- share with clients, get quote requests, place POs, etc.)

{Studiowebware Example}

 ...And to my understanding, that's just the beginning of what the program does.  eeeeeeeek!!  I can't wait to get our projects into Studiowebware and salivating at the thought of having more time in the day.(!!)

So after my post went up, I got a call from Julia Molloy, owner of Molloy Management Group, thanking me for the blog mention.  Julia has worked/works with some of the country's top interior designers like Michael Smith and Jeffrey Allen Marks.  (I was so excited to talk to Julia because after reading her blog, I'm definitely drinking her Kool-Aid!)

Julia was super-sweet and offered me a complimentary one-hour consultation.  I was so excited!!  Before our chat, she had me get to work on a few things and do a little branding soul-searching.

{Photo by Maya Hoffman for Piccola Mag}

This past Friday we had a "Go To Meeting" (where you can see one person's (Julia's) computer screen and also see each other - should have realized I'd be on video and have done something with my hair ;) ;)   and talking to Julia was one of the most worthwhile hours I've ever spent.  I could tell right away that she's such a genuinely kind and caring person, which when you're sharing such personal information, is really important to me.  She's so savvy & with it and is also gorgeous & charismatic.  (Jealous yet? ;) ;).

The hour flew by and my head was swimming with ideas- both from Julia and from what the conversation had spurred.  At the end of our conversation, Julia offered to let me take her Business Blueprint Course -which should whip us into serious shape- and so I'm starting this Thursday!! (To read all about it & what is it, click here.)   I also signed us up for her Studiowebware introduction (I'm not sure there's any way we'd figure out the program without help... I'm not tech-savvy & although Dave & Meghan are, we don't have the time to learn the program on our own.)  and purchased more of her one-on-one time.

I want to be really clear that I've never hired anyone to help me with my business before and I seriously believe the benefits will crush the expense.  (or I wouldn't have made this decision.)  Every time we make a financial move in our company or in our lives my husband and I both weigh the potential benefits against the expense and only make the move if we're fairly certain the expense is worth it and will help us get to where we want to go.

{Like our new house}

In exchange for the Business Blueprint, I'll be posting a bit about my experience with it.  Just to keep it real, Julia wanted me to be sure to post only when I feel like it & am truly excited about something (like today.)  Right there, that shows how "with it" she is because, as most bloggers know, there's nothing worse than feeling like you have to post on something you don't have any interest in and there's nothing worse for readers than to feel like they're being sold to  (BTW- This is why I never do product reviews or book reviews unless I'm so crazy over something that I have to mention it.)  SO, because I know a lot of you are designers/decorators/whatever you want to call us, I'll be sure to share how the process is going.

In the last business post I wrote, there were so many great comments about this topic and there was also a lot of interest (both in comments & emails) on some sort of design business round table...  I have to be completely honest that I'm unfortunately not up for any type of organization that it might require time-wise on my part (I'm up to my eyeballs in commitments I can barely make) but that I love the idea of it.  I would love to be able to bounce ideas off one another & share in our processes.  I've always wanted to go to one of the Business of Design Conferences but timing hasn't ever seemed to work out for me.  I'm sure there are lots of these types of discussions there.  I think Julia has also done and does webinars on various design business topics so that might be something to look into too.

Anyway, I'm off (to a presentation) but will be sure to share my experiences with the Business Blueprint!!

ps- Thank you so much for the sweet words about the luxe magazine feature!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.


A Delightful Design said...

Lauren- You are such an inspiration. All of my resolutions/goals for 2013 revolve around my business and I'm so thankful for these last two posts. I bookmarked Julia's website after your last post and I'm really looking forward to hearing about your experience.

As far as the business round table--what about a *private* Facebook group? That way we could all bounce ideas around without clients and friends being able to see our conversations. Just a thought.

Thank you for all you do!

Jen Gilday said...

I'm excited to follow your journey with studiowebware! I'm just starting my own design business and am currently taking the Sheffield Int. Design course as well. You're an inspiration!


Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...


You are certainly an inspiration to many even those of us not in the design world. Your spirit, kindness and willingness to follow your dreams is something to aspire to.

I am happy to see that you are continuing to live and work in such a beautiful manner.

Have a wonderful week, Elizabeth

P.S. So sorry to hear about your mothers friend Linda, she seems like a beautiful spirit.

Also, congratulations on Luxe.

Holly Phillips @ The English Room said...

Thank you for sharing. I have been considering a switch to Studio Webware from QB for years. Moving 15 years of info seems so daunting!
Headed to check out Malloy management.

So true I bet 10% is design 90% hand holding and bookkeeping.

Lisa LoJacono said...

I'm the opposite of your mom because when I see the "All Business" warning on your posts, I can't wait to devour everything you've written. Thank you so much for all that you share about your business. I wonder how you find the time to be so thorough with all that you do share, but I am truly grateful. Don't stop! I go back to your business posts constantly to redirect myself, learn, and reflect about my business. Thank you for taking the time; you really are inspiring and so helpful. I deeply hope that you reap the rewards for everything you're willing to share. I hope it comes back to you in excess! :) Lisa @ cook street interiors

Amanda said...

ok so this is the 3rd time Ive come across a designer recommending this software. hmmmm must be a sign. I guess my reasons for not moving forward with it -is the size of my business- Ive only been full time with this for a little over a year and of course running myself ragged trying to keep up. After reading your post I most definitely will be looking into this further.
And please keep us posted on how you like it as you move forward.

Marianne said...

Looking forward to hearing more about your experience with Julia. I have Studiowebware and still have a hard time figuring it out! May have to look into her services as well. Thanks for sharing, Lauren!

Dandy said...

I haven't used this software, but I have used something similar. Such a time saver. Ours transposed info for proposals and po's and client letters, etc. And figured tax and all that stuff. Design Manager. That was the name of it. You will love havig software, and it is an investment that will pay for itself in the time you save.

Anonymous said...

I use studiowebware and LOVE it!! Ofcourse it'll take some getting used to but once you get the hang of it it's so user friendly. And clients are always impressed with my estimates, invoices, etc. You'll love it!! Can't wait to hear what else you learn.

Vashti said...

Would love to have an update of how the house renovation is going!!

Jenny Castle Design said...

Truly love your advice on the business side of things Lauren...finding the right set up for keeping things organized is tricky, hope we'll hear more about this new bit! Hope all is well!

Tawna said...

I, too, love seeing how you work through business issues. I love the phone consultation to see if you can work with the client. In the beginning, we're so hungry for work that we take anything, and while I've been very lucky with my clients, I've also been on the verge of "not being the right fit" I guess you could say. I'm writing these steps down and going to check through them when the next project comes along. I'll also be attending Design Camp in Atlanta with Traci, and they will be talking about software there. I'm beginning to think this will be the year of "learning business" for me. And why not? I'm basically just starting out, so it could be the perfect time to switch to software other than QB.
Have a great day!

Tawna said...

Oh, also @ Design Camp. We're learning how to work with contractors! A designer/contractor will be there to show us her point of view. Should be so enlightening! I'll have to share what I came away with.

Rebecca Gibbs @ gibbgabb said...

Lauren - Anything to help streamline and simplify the process to free up more of our time is invaluable! I love when you post about how you run your business...Thank you for sharing with us!
xo- rebecca

Ira Kharchenko said...

Awesome post! And I love your blog:)
Check out my blog:)

Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) said...

Lauren- My jewelry and design studio does not have as many steps as yours. Quickbooks manages me well.

There is a lot of complexity in interiors work, and it so interesting to hear about! Interiors seems a twin to when I was in architecture, which gets complex crazy easily with all the different people involved...

Looking forward to what you will be writing!


traci zeller designs said...

Ummm, for the record, do you remember me telling you about Studio Webware?? ;-) Just kidding, Lauren! I'm excited that you are excited about making the switch! I've been talking off and on to Molloy as well, so I may be right there with you ...

A Lifestyle Thing said...

Thanks for sharing Lauren. Would love to hear how fast and easy the learning process goes. I'm so not a techy either, and the stigma that 'creatives' tend to be poor book keepers rings very true for me. My muscles just tense up at the thought of a changeover, so I'll be curious to see how it goes for you. It sounds really good. Would be curious to know how much time you devote to it each week or day.

katiedid said...

Hi Lauren! I always love to check in and see how your business is going! I have been using Studio IT software for my busniess for years, but it was a PC based software and I had changed to MAC for everything else a long time inconvenient to have to use two different computer formats! So I was thrilled when Studio IT came out with Studio Webware last year! Now I can use the software from ANY MAC desktop, my laptop, mu iPhone, name it! I could, in theory, also have employees or outside consultants access the program from their own office or from home. A whole new way of doing business! NOW....I just have to learn how to DO everything! It is a bit different than the previous software, but same concept....enter data once for everything from specification to invoicing and reports. SO cool.

Thanks for the intro to Julia. I am going to look her up and see if there are things I could use some help with.

I do have one questions for you! I would love to learn the process you went through to start your textile product line. Your textiles are great and I would also love to know how to get samples! I will check your website to see if there is info there.

Love your aesthetic and look forward to lots more inspiration!



Michelle said...

Great post Lauren! I have actually taken Kimberley's BoD's really informative. I think Design Blogging is an education in itself!!


Linda Merrill said...

Considering moving to Studio Webware. Glad to hear Katie D has been using it!