Photographed by Alan Barnett
Great advice from a foremost design-business authority
Viteri Style Management founder, Barbara Viteri owns and runs one of the fastest growing interior design management firms in New York. Her customizable one on one service provides practical business management solutions for the modern day working interior designer. She has an unfiltered, straight shooting unique approach that helps her interior design clients navigate a successful design business in an overly crowed industry. Here she shares 8 of her best tips for small-business interior design owners:
1. Keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind. Interior design is a passionate gift to have. Like an artist, it’s easy to blur the lines when taking your passion from hobby to business. Successful interior designers know if you are not making money you are not in business. Money keeps score and should not be ignored. Make time to understand your bookkeeping or hire someone who can explain your financial health every month. Being in the red should only be a mindset for a design concept and not your company’s bottom line.
2. The brains of your operation should be software. You are only human. It’s impossible to run and manage a business on memory alone. You need to setup your business on a practical project management and accounting software to run the day to day. Personally I like Design Manager Cloud. It works on any mobile device and is user friendly for both Mac and PC users. I make sure my clients can run their entire operation from their cell phones if they had to. This is my go to software to do that.
3. Don’t forget where your bread is buttered. A paying client is a treasured client, especially the ones that refer you more business. It’s okay to be selective with whom you work with. But having wonderful clients you enjoy working for makes your job a lot easier and lessens the toll on your sanity. So treat them like royalty. Pay special attention to offering them high quality customer service. Never forget their birthday and always go that extra mile when unexpected. These clients are keeping your business alive and allowing you to live your dream. Always remember this.
4. Leverage your opportunities, but don’t be an Opportunist. Many interior designers won’t admit taking on high profile projects for free to get their business to the next level, but most have done it. There should be no shame in that game. Learn to leverage your opportunities with a specific goal in mind. If you want to raise your pricing or work with fewer clients, but larger projects, look to negotiate in that area and highlight your capabilities via press, portfolio work or client referrals. Never take advantage of someone’s kindness. If you want to pick their brain, be conscious of their time and make sure you ask the right questions.
5. Take full advantage of FREE. Don’t be too quick to spend your hard earn profits, on advertising, marketing, publicists or coaching. Capitalize on the free online access that leads you directly to your customers. Social media is a huge benefactor in this and will cost you little to nothing to build your visibility. Time and money is your biggest commodity so use it wisely. Connect directly with publishers, bloggers or media outlets you are interested in for press. They would much rather speak with you directly then from a second rate PR flake. Also stay in the know with up coming market or seminar events that are specific to your needs for knowledge. Don’t pay for one size fits all coaching programs when you can be strategic by getting the goods straight from the pros for free in many cases. The site Editor’s at Large is a fantastic source to find these no to low costs events and networking parties that are time worthy to attend. When you’re racking in the dough, then look into hiring the right Public Relations people to be part of your team.
6. Avoid “B*tch Stole My Look” peeps out there. Watermark your photos if you plan to share them on any platform. We all know the stories of designer’s getting no credit for their work and naughty people “posing” it as their own. There are loads of free apps you can use to avoid this. Even if you are sharing proud shots from your phone on a completed project, it takes seconds to put a watermark on it. I recommend “Add Watermark Free” to my clients with Android devices, but there are plenty of others for Apple users.
7. Stay current. If your website has not been update with new photos, recent events you attend or client testimonials you will appear out of touch. Try to keep it manageable and learn to update it yourself. If this seems complex, create a simple website and hire a website designer to make those updates for you at least once a month. You should always have news to share and you should inspire others to contact you. Stay current on your social media platforms as well and be courteous to others that take the time to comment or show interests in you. I know designers that get clients from interacting on Twitter and Facebook. Acknowledge as much as you can with honest appreciation.
8. God is in the details. If you want to have a successful design business, learn to sweat the details. Every aspect of your company should be a representation of you and your signature style. From your branding, marketing, design aesthetic, product line and in retrospect your personal attitude, it all should be YOU. Do not look to emulate others. Stay focus with every decision you make. Listen to your gut for answers and always ask ”Am I that person?” for an honest response. Don’t overlook passion and drive when hiring your dream team. They represent you when you may not be available to represent yourself. Be selective with your support group, friends and even peers. All this are details to pay close attention to and help you stay on track to build and grow a successful interior design business.
Barbara has created and will host an event at the Decoration and Design Building on May 15th at the Robert Allen Showroom. She hopes you will join her and her selective team of designers that are changing the game and sharing insights on how you can too.
To learn more about Viteri Style Management:
Twitter Handle: @ViteriStyle