5 Must-Have Processes for Your Design Business
Why did you start your business in the first place? I'm sure you loved the creativity of it and the beauty of what you have to work with. But you also wanted to have a successful and thriving business that makes money, right?!?! That's what we ALL want. And the one thing that can hold you back from that goal is a business that is inefficient, one where you and your employees keep making mistakes. That's the exact opposite of what you wanted. And it causes so. much. stress. Right?! A business that runs like that can make you crazy and cause you to just leave the industry altogether. But WAIT! We can fix that! And we can even retool a business that's running ok, so that it's a great money-making machine. It's all about having the right systems and processes that will make your business more effective, more efficient, and more profitable. Here are the five processes you HAVE to have!
1. Project Management
It's critical to have your projects run smoothly, not just for your sanity but because you'll have a happy client. And we all know that happy client can bring in more clients for your business in the future. You need to ensure that your projects run on time, without any hiccups or big mistakes, and that they are on budget with no surprises for your clients. The only way you can do that is with a project process that you follow every single time! There should be checklists, questionnaires, templates, timelines and, most importantly, accountability, that keep you and your team on task and on time. I use a special template Asana to help me out! Having processes saves you money in the long run because you'll have to deal with fewer mistakes.
2. Client Onboarding
I saw a recent article that revealed the top reason that clients are frustrated with service providers. Can you guess what it is? It's that they have NO idea what's going on or who is on your team. The onboarding process for clients is critical. They just want to know how things will progress – especially if they're investing so much money with your company. You need to have an onboarding process that helps answer questions before your clients even think to ask them! That includes a step-by-step breakdown of your project process (see above!!) and how you and your team work. You need to introduce any team members that will be in their home or that they will hear from. And you want to get as much information from them as you can to guarantee that they're going to be thrilled with the finished home. The more information your clients have, the better they're going to feel about the project and the more trust they'll have in you!
3. Team Communication
Communication is critical for your clients (see point #2), but it's also important for other team members. You want to have a specific process for when and how you'll communicate with everyone involved in a project. I like to send regular Friday morning emails to all of my clients, detailing where we are, celebrating any successes so far, and making them feel that we have it all under control. I also have regular meeting with my in-house team to be sure we're all on the same page about what we're each doing, AND I meet regularly with contractors, architects, and subs. We all need to be on the same page or we are definitely going to have issues. As part of my project processes, we have everything (tasks, key steps, communications) all set up in Asana. That project management software keeps our communications open and moving right along. It lets me see where any project is at any given moment, and it gives ALLLL of us accountability for our part in the project.
4. Determine Client Needs
I talked a bit about this in the onboarding process, but I would say this is one of the most underrated processes for interior designers ... but also one of the most important! Without the proper questionnaires and information, you are never going to be as successful in a project. You need to also truly listen to what your clients want and need. It isn't just about the way a project looks - the house needs to function to support how your clients live in that home, too. You are going to deliver the perfect home to them, but only if you have all the information you need before you even start the project.
5. Analyzing Financials
How often do you meet with your accountant or bookkeeper? If you say only at tax time, then you are definitely running your business like a hobby. How in the world can you head off issues or make more money if you aren't regularly analyzing your financial reports? You can't. You should know every number from your P&L, where your cash flow stands, and where you may have holes in your income in the coming months. You can only find solutions and head off problems if you have a complete understanding of your financial picture. I suggest meeting with your team weekly, or at least monthly. During this meeting, you want to know exactly where you stand, where there could be improvement, and what your cash situation is. This is NOT the most fun part of your job, but it is definitely going to help you stay afloat during uncertain economic situations - and be more profitable!
To help you implement and keep up with these systems for your business, download my FREE Guide to 5 Essential Business Processes.