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Pro Success Story: How Bicoastal Designer John McClain Brings the Team Together on Houzz Pro

Who: John McClain, principal designer, John McClain Design, a full-service interior design firm with offices in Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida.

Liza Hausman

JANUARY 28, 2021

With offices on both coasts and serving clients across the country, John’s growing business and team rely on Houzz Pro to help manage clients, keep projects on track and drive business growth. 

The Challenge

To ensure every client gets the attention to detail and high level of service he’s known for, John needed an efficient way to get everyone working together. He looked at many different software options but found that Houzz Pro was the only one that delivered on every need.

“As designers we love what we do, but we have to make money. Getting the right project management system was so important and critical for me as a business owner and as a designer and I will be totally honest – I checked out a lot of them.”

Getting the right project management system was so important and critical for me as a business owner and as a designer and I will be totally honest – I checked out a lot of them.”

John McClain, principal designer, John McClain Design

The Solution

John has been using Houzz Pro since 2015 to help him build and scale his firm. “When I found Houzz Pro, it was like the skies opened up and everything was right there in front of me. This actually does exist. There is something that can aid me as a business owner to grow my business, to manage my clients and to just keep projects on track.”

John uses Houzz Pro to support five key business functions:

Team Management

Houzz Pro gives John a lot of leverage, says John, “Houzz Pro is such an integral part of my company it’s like having another team member on my team without having to pay that team member an hourly wage."

"By having all information stored neatly and concisely inside of Houzz Pro, anyone at any point can go and find what they need to do their job. So whether you're the procurement leader and you're going in to find the orders, or you are the designer and you want to go to the project tracker, to find out where exactly in the process is that light fixture. You're going to find out that the proposal has been approved and the invoice has been paid and the PO is in process. It's this living breathing twenty four-hours-a-day system that’s really great for my team.”

Billing & Financial Reporting

Having all team members work in Houzz also helps John streamline billing and financial tracking, “My team tracks all of our hourly time within Houzz Pro, and every team member has a category that they apply to whatever they're working on, whether it's services  or project management or fulfillment."

"Even administrative time is tracked inside of Houzz Pro. It really makes it easy at the end of the month to go back and find out how much money I've made, which is also important as a business owner. I get not only a daily snapshot of where we are financially, but also at the end of the month how many hours we have invoiced for a particular project. Whether we lost money on that project or whether we made money on that project.”

Project Management & Sourcing

With all the custom work, John and his team rely heavily on Houzz Pro sourcing tools, including the Product Clipper and Proposal Builder.  “Putting a proposal together is very important to get right, and my team and I love Houzz Pro for so many reasons in this process. We adore the Product Clipper. It’s saved us so many times. We have trade accounts with many vendors, and I use the clipper to import products into Houzz Pro’s system. Everything that I find is saved into my library. I don't have to go and find another lamp again. I don't have to go and find another lamp or a chair again, it's right there.” 

John also likes that the Mood Board tool is fully integrated with the product library. “The Mood Board feature is something that I really value.  If I'm in a mood board I can go right to Houzz Pro and pull the product I sourced earlier right into my mood board. I've shaved off probably three minutes of my day and three minutes of my day is really really valuable.”

“Houzz Pro sourcing tools also help us get the right products ordered. Because we use an outside procurement company, Houzz Pro allows us to put all of the information directly from that product down to the SKU. down to the finish,  down to the exact dimensions. So when my procurement team is picking up that product to place the order and to start the purchase Order process they have all the details right there. Because if you're looking at a light fixture and it comes in 7 different shades of metal, how do they know they got the right one? So we really make sure that that information is in there for them to place the order – then there aren’t returns and there aren’t upset clients – because we've done the process correctly up front.”

Client Management

Houzz Pro Has taken lengthy conversations with clients about product choices and moved them online. “The rewards are honestly revolutionary for us because before all of our communication with clients used to be via email or phone call, and now we can place products right into a project room on Houzz Pro -- and some of our clients have 14 or 15 rooms in their home that we are designing -- and it starts this communication process with us. Do you like the direction that we're going with this piece? 

“We can then put all of those items into a nice clear proposal that the client can take and approve line by line. I particularly love the fact that clients can approve and decline each line item, because it allows them to feel that they have control over the project. We really want them to know we're on their side for design but also financially to stay within their budget. So if I'm giving them three or four options in the proposal of a coffee table, they can go in and approve which one they want.  From there it gets even easier because we just convert that proposal into an invoice and then that invoice is paid by the client and then the process of ordering all of the merchandise begins.

“So many times during the course of a project, there's a lot happening and clients may not hear from us more than once a week. But they're going into Houzz Pro and they're seeing we’ve added three new tables. Houzz Pro lets them know on a daily basis what we're doing and they can go on their own timeframe.”

Marketing & Lead Management

John invests in advertising as part of his Houzz Pro subscription, and for his business it’s delivered.  “I'm very picky who I align my firm with, and Houzz Pro has been this beautiful alignment of consistent results, great customer service and honestly great projects for my company. One of my favorite favorite projects ever came from Houzz Pro and it was not only great financially, but it was also great creatively and were some of the best homeowners that we have ever worked with.”

Houzz Pro also helps John win more projects and focus on what he believes is most important. “I'm still the person that is responsible for that initial contact with a client and that's important to me. I think we have 14 projects happening simultaneously, and what I love is I have created templates inside of Houzz Pro to address every client as they're reaching out, for example ‘Thank you so much for reaching out about your kitchen project'. 'Thank you so much for reaching out about your living room project'. 'Here are the next steps.’ So instead of having to stop and manually type an email every time, I have various templates in there that I can just click. Houzz Pro also sends reminders: 'don't forget to reach out to this client one more time to make sure that they're not going to lose interest'. It's almost like a personal assistant."

The Outcome

John’s business continues to thrive on Houzz Pro, which has become a trusted business partner for his firm.

“Simply put I trust Houzz Pro. I trust them with my client information. I trust Houzz Pro with my company information. My financials are all stored inside of Houzz Pro. Houzz Pro allowed me to grow my firm and my business. When daily tasks are managed in an efficient way, you can grow your company.” 

Simply put, I trust Houzz Pro. Houzz Pro allowed me to grow my firm and my business." - John McClain

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Liza H

VP of Industry Marketing at Houzz. Love design of all kinds and am a sometimes maker. Have worked with an architect, general contractor, interior designers and a landscape designer to create a special home for myself and my family.