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5 Ways to Manage Rapid Growth While Keeping Employees, Clients and Yourself Happy

Tips to help you navigate high demand with ease as an interior designer

Stephan Rabimov

Following tempered expectations in 2021, interior designers have now increased their expectations for business activity significantly in 2022 according to the Houzz Renovation Barometer. And while any business owner is happy to open the door to prosperity, rapid growth can certainly present challenges. Here, a few experienced interior design pros share their tried-and-true strategies and tips for managing work, employees, clients and your own stress level when demand for your services is high.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No 

Business growth usually is the goal of any design professional, but growth needs to be sustainable to be successful. Growing quickly can cause financial problems, supply-chain issues and depleted resources, not to mention overworked and unhappy employees. 

One of the biggest mistakes that new business owners make is taking on every opportunity that comes their way. This can be just as dangerous as not taking on any at all. “Try not to bite off more than you can chew,” advises Jena Bula of Delphinium Design in Charlotte, North Carolina. Overpromising and under-delivering can easily leave clients underwhelmed.

“The most important thing is to not overleverage yourself,” agrees Deana Duffek of Duffek Design & Development based in Laguna Beach, California. “I think that slow and steady wins the race.” This will also help ensure that you don’t overwhelm your employees with an unmanageable workload, causing top talent to leave your business for one with a less stressful work culture.

It’s also important to say no to projects that don’t align with your business goals. “You have to go to the school of hard knocks and learn that oftentimes saying yes means that it’s not efficient, not effective and doesn’t result in high-quality design,” Duffek says. “I think that’s where you start to carve out your niche and figure out where you belong in the design industry.” When you set clear company goals and values and stick to them, you’ll be able to find and retain employees who align with your mission and are dedicated to helping you achieve it.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is essential to keeping both your clients and team members satisfied. Making sure everyone is informed will help them feel confident in your business. Houzz Pro facilitates efficient communication through its collaboration toolbox, which delivers meeting reminders, tells you when it’s time to follow up with a prospective client, displays project timelines and allows you to send messages to team members and clients. 

“The key for us is organization and communication straight down the line with the client, with architects, contractors, engineers — everyone on our team,” Bula says. “We use our Houzz Pro tools to stay organized [and] streamline information, automating as much of the information as we can and streamlining that communication to our clients.” 

Again, communication is also vital to manage client expectations. With the Houzz Pro’s client collaboration tools, you can allow clients to view and pay your invoices online, share mood boards and project timelines, and other information as you want. All documents can be customized to fit your needs and appear seamlessly as your brand’s experience for a client. "I love that I have created templates inside of Houzz Pro to address every client as they're reaching out. I also love that Houzz Pro reminds me to follow up. It's almost like a personal assistant," says John McClain, John McClain Design.

Keeping clients up to date on project deadlines, milestones, delays and more will prevent them from overwhelming you and your employees with update requests or angry feedback. “They have one place they can go for all of their documents,” Bula says. “Everything’s pretty transparent. I think that they appreciate that.” 

3. Foster Positive Relationships

Any designer will tell you the importance of nurturing relationships with clients, but it’s equally as important to be on good terms with your employees, team members and other industry professionals. Duffek advises taking a genuine interest in their lives. “I think it’s important to say, ‘How are the kids? How have you been? How are you making it through this crazy COVID time? I know your mom was in the hospital. How is she doing?’” she says. One survey found that 40% of employees say the most common cause of a bad day at work is an unsupportive, unhelpful boss. Make sure you’re there to offer guidance, feedback and support. 

The more you know and understand your employees, the better you can position them for success. “I think as far as using our internal resources, it’s knowing how to tap into the strengths of your team members and positioning them in a way that they are able to really succeed,” Duffek says, “not just for your company but for themselves, [so they can] reach their ultimate goals.”

4. Automate Your Workflow 

The benefits of streamlining your work processes with interior design management software like Houzz Pro are twofold: It helps you attract and retain top employees, and it lets your business expand with minimal growing pains.

First, it reduces the time employees need to spend on tedious tasks and paperwork, and creates a more professional, smooth-running business overall. “I don’t even know how much time that [software] saves me, but it [makes the process] cleaner, easier and less confusing for everyone,” Bula says. “Especially as I build my team, having everything accessible in one place, it’s a big deal.” Minimizing admin tasks also leaves more room for designing, which can help employees feel more satisfied in their work.

Second, an automated workflow will help you grow and scale your business by giving you time and energy to take on more projects. “Before, it was a lot of juggling, so I would get very overwhelmed by all the little things in each project,” Bula says. “Now that our workload is growing, it enables me to take on more work, because I don’t have so many things to manage on the back end. It’s being managed for me, and I know that nothing’s falling through the cracks.”

Which feature is she most grateful for? “Invoicing is the biggest one, because that was extremely time-consuming. I was always double-checking myself,” Bula says. “It does all the math for me, populates taxes, all that stuff.”

5. Embrace  Working From Home

When the pandemic shutdown ushered in a wave of remote working, the benefits were undeniable: better work-life balance, less time spent commuting, increased comfort and flexibility, and lower levels of certain kinds of stress. And despite early fears that remote working would hinder productivity, the opposite was true.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, and there’s no putting it back in. With 54% of employees saying they would change jobs for one that offered them more flexibility, it’s clear that companies need to adapt to this new working model to retain them. “Business isn’t run like it used to be,” Duffek says. “You used to want an office with 20, 30 or 40 people, but it’s not that way anymore. COVID has proven that you can get just as much out of employees that work from home. We have people that work for us that live in another country. We can get results.”

Yes, it’s true that business isn’t run like it used to be, but all signs point to its being even better than before if you have the right attitude, approach and support in place. Putting these five ideas into practice and adopting the right tools are great first steps in making that happen.

To continue learning how to keep your team feeling motivated and fulfilled, check out our next article on How to Attract and Retain Interior Design Employees.

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Stephan Rabimov

Stephan Rabimov leads Content Marketing at Houzz. Portland resident. Global citizen. Nature loving.

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