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Pro Advice Gems for Your 2024 New Year’s Resolutions

Hard-earned wisdom to consider as you set business goals for the coming year

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As the year winds down, it’s only natural to look at ways to improve your business — and your life — in the coming months. And whether you’ve got a five-year plan in place or are taking things day by day, these gems of insight and advice from veteran designers and builders on a range of topics can help you set or clarify your intentions for 2024 and beyond.

Building Great Client Relationships

Keeping your word, being responsive, providing great quality and maintaining transparency are common themes among pros’ strategies. And personal touches can go a long way.

“It’s really [about] doing the project right, making sure that we’re really working with the client to get the best results,” landscape architect Bob Hursthouse says. “We try to be very consultive in our approach.”

“You have to be so open and honest with your clients,” designer and stager Alisha Garlie says. “When somebody has invested so much money into you, they deserve to know what they’re getting back in return.”

“Keeping the clients always updated and communicating better — that’s really helped our business a lot,” designer and builder Danny Wang says. “Because if bad things happen and you just communicate with the client versus you don’t, it’s a different story.”

“Setting realistic expectations from the get-go [is important],” interior designer Laurel Williamson says. “Like, ‘What time frame are you thinking?’ and then helping them recalibrate that.

“Building your reputation is the most important thing, and it’ll also develop client loyalty,” Sifford says. “When you build client loyalty, you’ll get referrals that way.”

Getting Support

Even pros who have years of success under their belt still reach out to business coaches, mentors, peer groups and friends for advice and support.

“You can’t do it on your own,” Garlic says. “You need a team, you need an accountant, you need an attorney. I need other professionals in my business to be able to set me on the right path and bounce ideas off of.”

“I was so afraid to put myself out there [to get help],” holistic designer Rachel Larraine says. “And it’s just like, you have nothing to lose. Put yourself out there — people want to help you. People want to connect.”

“I have a friend that’s a vice president of a really big construction company, and I pick her brain all the time,” builder Heidi Clark says. I’m like, ‘Something’s missing here. What are we doing?’” 

“I currently have two mentors,” interior designer Asisat Edu says. “One of the things that he’s told me is, if you’re really passionate about this, you won’t give up.”

“I’ve been a member of the Home Builders Association for probably 12 years,” interior designer Holley Pakora says, “and I’ve made some great, great, great connections.… It’s a really valuable way to establish some really long-term partnerships and friendships.” 

“With [my business coach] Mark [Richardson], we doubled my income a couple of years ago,” home remodeler John MacDougall says. “To this day, I know that there’s a whole lot more I could learn. I could turn my little $3 million business into a $10 million business.”

Tip: Check out Mark Richardson’s online course, Take Your Remodeling Business to the Next Level, included in all paid Houzz Pro subscriptions.

Keeping Your Team Happy

A final product is only as good as the team behind it. And pros have come up with a number of ways to not just retain staff but keep them motivated to do their best.

“I tell each and every one of my employees that I don’t hire them to tell them what to do; I hire them to make me better,” homebuilder Roy Maor says. “When a person has that level of confidence and that level of morale, they perform better than a person who’s just being told what to do all day long.” He also believes in the power of incentives: “When you tell them, ‘Hey, I appreciate your performance’ in the form of a vacation or a check or a Christmas gift, then that creates value as well,” he says. “You can show people they’re appreciated.”

“I’ve always made a point of doing well by my team,” interior designer Jonathan Gordon says. “It’s a generous operation. I don’t sleep well if I feel I’m taking advantage of an employee.” 

“We take responsibility for each person who comes to work with us,” builder Diego Meyer says. “Some people value time more than money. Some people want to set a schedule that allows them to spend more time with their family. If you can provide that, then it’s just about listening and saying, ‘If that’s what you want, then we can make it happen for sure.’"

Utilizing Tech

Keeping up with the times means adopting technology and having a good website and social media presence. Not only do clients expect these things, but the right technology can improve processes and reduce stress in every area of your business. 

“If you want to grow beyond having a job, whether it’s working for yourself or not, then you’re going to have to use some technology,” MacDougall says. “Once you’ve grown past being an hourly handyman, if you don’t subscribe to this, you’re going to be reinventing the wheel as you go.”

“When you want to come in at a higher level as a designer, not just like ‘I’ll take any job,’ you want to come in with those tools,” interior designer Katie Rainey says. “If you really want to progress and grow, just be open to it and adapt to it, and then you’re going to learn to actually love it once you figure it out, because it’s going to make your life easier in the long run.”

“A lot of the construction businesses are not really run efficiently,” Wang says. “That’s something that [all-in-one software] Houzz Pro really helps with — integrating technology into a traditional job. By increasing productivity, we can be more efficient and potentially make more money.”

“I think that regardless of how good you are, nowadays people want to see something visual to see how good you are, and so I think a website was huge for us,” builder Sarah Horst says. “Creating a logo that looked professional and represented our brand really well was important. Even just the quality of the business cards that we give out, that’s something that was important for us.”

Managing Your Business More Efficiently

Whether they’ve adopted software to aid in project management, invoicing, time tracking or anything else, pros point to what an incredible boon it is in terms of increasing efficiency and productivity. Many use Houzz Pro

“Every purchase order, I was typing up from scratch. Every invoice, I was typing up from scratch. There’s just no way to be productive doing that,” Pakora says. “Taking on [Houzz Pro] software has just ramped up my procurement profitability incredibly.”

“I love the time tracking of projects [in Houzz Pro],” Rainey says. “The project tracking management is unreal, because it’s kind of like everything is in one place and you also have time tracking.”

“[Houzz Pro is an] all-encompassing tool that saves some time…as far as invoicing goes, leads and managing contact information,” Horst says.

“Using Houzz Pro has cut our design and management time by half,” Edu says. “We’ve been able to dedicate that time to talking to our clients and being able to just put more time into creating a space that really reflects what our clients want.”

Finding Work-Life Balance

Concepts about what “balance” means can differ, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran designer or builder who doesn’t maintain boundaries — whether around working hours, communication, vacations, client requests or something else.

“For me, finding a healthy balance is all about starting my workday at a certain time, stopping at a certain time and managing to get it all done. It’s all about the timing,” interior designer Dee Hurford says.

“You have to carve out that place for you and do what makes you happy,” garden designer Jay Sifford says. “Whatever it is, you have to make time for that, and if you don’t, no one else will.” 

“Some days you need to protect your headspace, because you really could get swept away in all of the details,” interior designer Kate Roos says. “One thing that we’ve done to help that is, we don’t take any new jobs in August.… We just say, ‘You know what? August can be a catch-up month.’” 

“I keep [emails] in drafts, and then I’ll send them the next morning at nine o’clock so they’re not getting emails from me at ten o’clock at night, because then they think, ‘She just works all the time,’” interior designer Julienne Bull says.

To hear more from the pros quoted here, check out the Pro Success Stories. And if you’re curious about checking out Houzz Pro for yourself, try it free today!

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