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Ep 11: Managing Your Interior Design Business with Anastasia Casey

I'm walking you through who to hire first, what to outsource, what can be done remotely, and what’s needed in-person. Then, we’ll take it a step further and walk through a few sample org charts so you can focus on scaling your interior design business in the future.




Today's episode of The Interior Collective is all about Managing Your Interior Design Business - from the softwares we swear by to the intimate workings of hiring, benefits, company policies and managing HR. We’re covering a lot.


In full transparency, I spent the majority of 2021 hashing out every detail of my business, defining our company culture, putting new policies in place and building up industry leading benefits for my team. We were lucky enough to bring in a corporate strategist to help us research, define and implement the most useful practices of large companies, on a small scale. This year, we’ve put it all to paper and created a plug and play template for you to adapt in your own design firm.








An excerpt from the episode:


Key Softwares and Automations


I wish I could tell you there is one software program that we suggest for everything but that is just not the case, and I am ok with that. I would rather use a program that was really good at a couple things, than a program that tries to do so much, it doesn’t do anything well.


IDCO would not exist today without Dubsado and as I’ve learned more from our interior design clients and their process, I’ve figured out the best way to utilize Dubsado for interior designers. Before using Dubsado, I’d used Asana, Trello and Basecamp, but none of them offered the caliber of client experience I was looking for. Essentially, Dubsado is the legal project manager for your interior design business. From initial inquiry to final goodbye, every piece can be used for:

  • Sending invoices for consultations and e-design

  • Sending presentations

  • Revisions

  • Feedback forms

  • Contracts

  • Proposals

  • Scheduling

  • On-boarding and off-boarding clients

  • Project Management (lightly, not like construction management)

  • Canned emails

  • Forms like your lead inquiry form and client project homework. Legally Binding Signatures: imperative for time stamped signatures on every proof, even if it’s just a revision.

Automation:

  • Investment guides

  • Contract thank yous

  • Receipts

  • Welcome kits

  • Homework

  • Follow ups

  • Workflows

Canva is an online graphic design software that is super user friendly and cost effective. As professional graphic designers, we of course use the Adobe Creative Suite for all our client work. But we really believe in the productivity and abilities of Canva for an interior design studio.


All of our IDCO Studio client processes and marketing templates in the shop are designed in Canva. Some people say that Canva is not as “legit” as InDesign or Illustrator, which is true for professional graphic designers, but not in the ways that an interior design studio would use it. Our professionally designed templates are equally beautiful and easy to use.








Keeping an Organized File System


Here’s my #1 tip to keeping an organized file standard. Templated Client Folders: Create a template folder to work off of for all future projects. Or anything else you make more than once. Create a file in Google Drive titled 00_Client Template. The 00 puts it to the top of the folder automatically (assuming you filter your files in alphabetical order).


Within that folder, have pre-created subfolders with the following titles:

  • Measurements + Plans; Architect Plans

  • Project Photos; Before Photos (by room), Progress Photos, Accessories

  • In Progress Technical Drawings + Renderings; CAD Drawings, Photoshop drawings, 3D Renderings

  • Final Design Plans

  • Spec Book

  • Notes; Internal Notes, Meeting Notes (by date)


Then when you have a new project, simply right click that templated folder, hit “duplicate” and rename. You should also use Google Drive for all Internal Client Documentation:

  • Training Manuals (such as how to Studio Designer, Light Speed)

  • Overall Workflow chart

  • Vendor/Trades List

  • Tracking Hours Spreadsheets in Google Sheets

  • Custom furniture/pillow specifications sheets

  • Admin stuff

  • HR Documentation like Studio Handbooks, new hire checklist, etc (we’ll talk more about this later in this episode as I walk you through our HR Package)


By having 2 umbrella folders “internal” and “clients”, everything for your business can be stored here neatly without searching through thousands of folders




Establishing a Quality Company Culture


Now that you have the foundation in place, let’s chat growing your team and establishing a quality company culture.


This week, we just released our Human Resources Package at IDCO Studio. It’s something I’ve invested in over the last year as our team grew. We brought in a corporate strategic consultant to help walk me through my options as a small business owner when it came to benefits, health care, maternity leave, flex schedules, and company standards. We took everything we put into our company handbook, and made it into a template. Before digging in too deeply into what you should be including in your Studio Handbook, I want to say that this is a VERY important part of running your business, and sadly, it’s often the part that gets looked over.


The IDCO Human Resources Package also includes an internal onboarding checklist, an onboarding guide to be delivered directly to the new hire, a meet the team Canva template, and an employee review template. I’ve linked all the additional information and breakdowns in the show notes, but I wanted to wrap up with these final thoughts:


Hiring is a revenue stream, not a business expense. Hiring additional designers allows you to bill more hours, and those hours are marked up.


The single most important asset you have in your business is the people who work there. Taking the time to create a safe, creative, flexible environment that allows people to thrive, will pay for itself 10 fold.


It doesn’t have to be scary. Building a team is the greatest blessing as a business owner, ultimately allowing you more freedom to be creative, be present with clients, and have more time with your loved ones.


Thanks for reading a brief excerpt of The Interior Collective Season 1, Episode 11: Managing Your Interior Design Business. You can listen to our episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or access the full episode transcription.


Mentioned in the episode:


What to include in your new hire checklist:

  • What to Expect on Your First Day

  • Who You’ll be Reporting to

  • What Software or Apps to Download Before Arrival

  • How We Communicate

  • How We Use Different Apps & Softwares

  • Wifi Details

  • Office Details

  • Login Details

  • Office Utility Locations

  • Office Navigation

  • Office Kitchen Etiquette

  • Final Naming Conventions

What to include in your Studio Handbook:

  • Introduction

  • Employment-at-Will

  • Employee Classifications

  • Equal Employment Opportunity + Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Confidentiality

  • Personnel Records

  • Immigration Law Compliance

  • Pay Periods + Paydays

  • Overtime

  • Breaks + Meal Periods

  • Time Tracking

  • Hours of Work

  • Performance Reviews

  • Outside Employment

  • Open Door

  • Anti-Harassment + Discrimination

  • Diversity + Inclusion Policy

  • Names + Pronouns

  • Prohibited Conduct

  • Complaint Procedure

  • Discipline + Standards of Conduct

  • Dress Code

  • Safety

  • Use of Business Equipment

  • Internet, Email, Slack + Computer Use

  • Social Media

  • Travel

  • General Employee Benefits + Services

  • Wages

  • Worker’s Compensation

  • Social Security Benefits (FICA)

  • Unemployment Insurance

  • Bonuses

  • Charitable Donation Matching

  • Health, Life + Dental Insurance

  • 401(k) + Retirement Planning

  • Professional + Trade Associations

  • General Leaves of Absence + Time Off

  • Flextime

  • Holidays (we have 15 paid holidays)

  • Summer Fridays (we have every other friday off during the summer)

  • Vacation (IDCO has unlimited PTO)

  • Jury Duty

  • Voting Time (we close the office for half the day on election day)

  • Maternity + Paternity Leave

  • Continuing Education

  • Unpaid Personal Leave

  • Contract Workers Time Management

  • Contract Workers

  • Contract Workers Taxes

  • Personal Accounting

  • 401(k) + Retirement Planning

  • Acknowledgement of Receipt of Handbook




CREDITS:

Design by IDCO Studio, Photography by Madeline Harper

 

If you're enjoying season one of The Interior Collective podcast, we’d be so appreciative if you'd take a moment to share, subscribe, and leave us a review. Ratings help us reach a wider audience as we provide insight and inspiration to the design community. Your support truly means the world.




Episode Transcript


Hi! If you’re new to The Interior Collective- a podcast for the business of beautiful living, welcome! If you’re a loyal subscriber - I’m so glad you’re back for this one. I’m your host - Anastasia Casey. Today's episode of The Interior Collective is all about Managing Your Interior Design Business - from the softwares we swear by to the intimate workings of hiring, benefits, company policies and managing HR. We’re covering a lot.


In full transparency, I spent the majority of 2021 hashing out every detail of my business, defining our company culture, putting new policies in place and building up industry leading benefits for my team. We were lucky enough to bring in a corporate strategist to help us research, define and implement the most useful practices of large companies, on a small scale. This year, we’ve put it all to paper and created a plug and play template for you to adapt in your own design firm.


A quality company culture and smoothly operating business is key to profitability and longevity. Skip back to Episode 2 as I break down the perfect Client Experience for interior designers, but today we’ll pick up where that leaves off with automations and key softwares. I wish I could tell you there is one software program that we suggest for everything but that is just not the case, and I am ok with that. I would rather use a program that was really good at a couple things, than a program that tries to do so much, it doesn’t do anything well.


Before we dig in, just a reminder that today's full transcript, show notes, links and products are all available on our website at www.idco.studio/podcast. I encourage you to listen now, then go back and read to make notes.


Dubsado


That’s enough intro - let’s dig into our must have softwares, starting with my personal favorite, Dubsado.


IDCO would not exist today without Dubsado and as I’ve learned more from our interior design clients and their process, I’ve figured out the best way to utilize Dubsado for interior designers. Before using Dubsado, I’d used Asana, Trello and Basecamp, but none of them offered the caliber of client experience I was looking for. When I found Dubsado, I was one of their first users and have never been more loyal to a brand. Their customer service is incredible - founded by a husband and wife team who were previously wedding photographers needing a better system. Jake and Becca are wonderful people and incredibly inspiring business leaders. They have a culturally diverse staff, with kindness and equity at the heart of their brand. Essentially, Dubsado is the legal project manager for your interior design business. From initial inquiry to final goodbye, every piece

  • We both use it for:

    • Sending invoices for consultations and e-design

    • Sending presentations

    • Revisions

    • Feedback forms

    • Contracts

    • Proposals

    • Scheduling

    • On-boarding and off-boarding clients

    • Project Management (lightly, not like construction management)

    • Canned emails

    • Forms like your lead inquiry form and client project homework. Legally Binding Signatures: imperative for time stamped signatures on every proof, even if it’s just a revision.

Automation:

  • Investment guides

  • Contract thank yous

  • Receipts

  • Welcome kits

  • Homework

  • Follow ups

  • workflows

Dubsado is perfectly branded and professional looking throughout. Dubsado is entirely white glove - it can be set up to be your URL so it looks like an extension of your website. Integrated client portal with your logo, brand colors and fonts, not Dubsado’s branding. And I really love that it is your email when sending communications to your client. Send your emails through dubsado so they are logged and tracked in the client portal. Any emails sent via Dubsado, the responses will show up there, too.


The key to ensuring a successful client experience is automation + templates so make sure to go back to Episode 2 for my entire breakdown of the client process.

Email Templates


If you write an email more than once, it should be templated. IDCO studio has worked with dozens of designers to create 30 pre-written emails in our shop (also linked in the show notes for easy access). Use promo code PODCAST20 to save 20% off our client email bundle - exclusively offered to The Interior Collective listeners. These done-for-you, ready to copy and paste emails have proven to save our interior design clients as many as 12 hours a week. They provide polite, direct, and educational responses to your clients throughout the entire interior design process. Your email server, like Google, has canned emails and your client management software - like Dubsado (which we just covered), has them as well.


Google Drive


Here comes something pretty controversial - I am a firm believer in Google Drive instead of Dropbox. We moved everything over from Dropbox to Google Drive because it uses Drive Stream - this feature keeps files accessible on the desktop without taking up any storage space on your computer. Since we were already using Google for our company email, this service was already being paid for. It took some convincing, but we’ve converted the majority of our clients to convert to Google Drive now. It’s much cheaper than Dropbox. On average, it saves about $165/month.


All files are accessible from your desktop/laptop as long as you’re on wifi, BUT they aren’t actually stored on your computer. Saves TONS of space, keeps your computer running more efficiently and smoothly. If you’re going to be offline, but want access to files, just click the “make available offline” option when you right click the file from your computer. It’s also great for remote teams because everyone has access to the most final version of the document. Your Google Docs or Sheets can all be saved in Drive, making it quick to navigate to in an organized way.


Now that you’re using Google Drive, I want to walk you through how to make sure it’s properly organized for an expanding team. You should have a corporate filing naming convention, so every file is easily searchable, follows the same naming conventions and ensures the entire team knows what the standard is.


Here’s my #1 tip to keeping an organized file standard. Templated Client Folders: Create a template folder to work off of for all future projects. Or anything else you make more than once. Create a file in Google Drive titled 00_Client Template. The 00 puts it to the top of the folder automatically (assuming you filter your files in alphabetical order).


Within that folder, have pre-created subfolders with the following titles:

  • Measurements + Plans; Architect Plans

  • Project Photos; Before Photos (by room), Progress Photos, Accessories

  • In Progress Technical Drawings + Renderings; CAD Drawings, Photoshop drawings, 3D Renderings

  • Final Design Plans

  • Spec Book

  • Notes; Internal Notes, Meeting Notes (by date)

Then when you have a new project, simply right click that templated folder, hit “duplicate” and rename. You should also use Google Drive for all Internal Client Documentation:

  • Training Manuals (such as how to Studio Designer, Light Speed)

  • Overall Workflow chart

  • Vendor/Trades List

  • Tracking Hours Spreadsheets in Google Sheets

  • Custom furniture/pillow specifications sheets

  • Admin stuff

  • HR Documentation like Studio Handbooks, new hire checklist, etc (we’ll talk more about this later in this episode as I walk you through our HR Package)

By having 2 umbrella folders “internal” and “clients”, everything for your business can be stored here neatly without searching through thousands of folders


Slack


We DO NOT send internal emails. Our inbox is 100% reserved for client communication. Slack is dedicated to team communications - our team exclusively chats on Slack, we send no internal emails. We have 22 team members across the United States, London, Paris,and Croatia so keeping in close contact is super important.


It’s also become really important to my productivity in our Austin studio as our team has grown in person - everyone knows to send non-urgent questions via Slack so I can respond to them when I’m available, not interrupting key tasks. Slack keeps a really good company culture going. Great for project organization/brainstorming because it is easily searchable.


Slack also has options for video calls or “huddles'' instead of needing Zoom. Some of our team are contractors, and it's great if you’re outsourcing anything. We can add the contractor to their specific project channel at no additional cost, and keep all our communication in there. Bottom line, it frees up your email inbox for client/vendor communications only.


Canva

Canva is an online graphic design software that is super user friendly and cost effective. As professional graphic designers, we of course use the Adobe Creative Suite for all our client work. But we really believe in the productivity and abilities of Canva for an interior design studio.


All of our IDCO Studio client processes and marketing templates in the shop are designed in Canva. Some people say that Canva is not as “legit” as InDesign or Illustrator, which is true for professional graphic designers, but not in the ways that an interior design studio would use it. Our professionally designed templates are equally beautiful and easy to use.


And as a business owner, I am all for the easy to use option. I want full control over my marketing assets - and Canva allows you that


We recently got Lindsey Borchard of Lindsey Brooke Design to start creating her Design Presentations in Canva instead of Keynote and she says IT HAS MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE.


Having templated presentations saves you so much time, it's on brand, it's elevated, and really WOW’s your clients.


Lindsey was actually able to make three different types of design presentations from IDCO Interior Design Presentation. By pulling out different pages and making sub presentations.

  • Concept/Inspiration Presentation

  • Overall Construction Presentation

  • Overall Furnishing Presentation

In Canva, you can create shared folders with the team, we have one for each client and it works how Google Stream does but even better. If you’re remotely you can go into the client folder and see your team’s progress in real time, no need to download, no need to add a bunch of different versions to your Google Drive folder. Even as a professional design studio, our team has shifted MANY of our design projects to Canva. Anything that needs to be created by multiple people on staff could + should be made in Canva:

  • Social graphics

  • Proposals

  • Welcome Guides

  • Design Presentations

  • Revision Presentations

  • Goodbye Packets

  • Even stationery

It’s easy to use, can use custom branding + even upload your own fonts. It’s eliminated the need for 4 Adobe creative suite licenses in Canva


Growing Your Team


Now that you have the foundation in place, let’s chat growing your team and establishing a quality company culture.


This week, we just released our Human Resources Package at IDCO Studio. It’s something I’ve invested in over the last year as our team grew. We brought in a corporate strategic consultant to help walk me through my options as a small business owner when it came to benefits, health care, maternity leave, flex schedules, and company standards. We took everything we put into our company handbook, and made it into a template. Before digging in too deeply into what you should be including in your Studio Handbook, I want to say that this is a VERY important part of running your business, and sadly, it’s often the part that gets looked over.


I know that I personally felt like I could never afford full benefits or 401k plans for our employees. But after doing the legwork, I realized that in most cases, matching a 401k plan at 3% for our employees was usually an extra $200 a check. I could do an extra $200 a check.


I also learned that we didn’t have to provide our own healthcare plan until we had 50 employees, and we’re only about half that. Instead, you can do a health care reimbursement program known as QSEHRA. It allows you to reimburse an employee up to a certain amount as a single person, and a higher amount as a family. This let my team use their own health insurance provider, submit their insurance receipts, and have it automatically paid via their Paycheck.


This past year has shown me that I have the ability to be the kind of business owner I believe business owners should be. It’s shown me that I have the influence to create an industry standard that is not only equitable, it uplifts women and provides them the financial freedom and independence they deserve.


Now before I start blubbering, let’s go over what this HR Package includes, so you can either purchase on our website, or recreate it yourself at no cost.


Job Descriptions: We’ve outlined key responsibilities and differences for:

  • Senior interior designers

  • Junior interior designers

  • Procurement managers

  • Purchasing assistants

  • Marketing managers


Make sure to check out Episode 1 of The Interior Collective where Marie Flanigan walks us through her corporate structure and super fantastic way she builds career paths for her designers.


In addition to the job descriptions, the key piece of this HR Bundle is our Studio Handbook. I encourage your handbook to cover the following:

  • Introduction

  • Employment-at-Will

  • Employee Classifications

  • Equal Employment Opportunity + Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Confidentiality

  • Personnel Records

  • Immigration Law Compliance

  • Pay Periods + Paydays

  • Overtime

  • Breaks + Meal Periods

  • Time Tracking

  • Hours of Work

  • Performance Reviews

  • Outside Employment

  • Open Door

  • Anti-Harassment + Discrimination

  • Diversity + Inclusion Policy

  • Names + Pronouns

  • Prohibited Conduct

  • Complaint Procedure

  • Discipline + Standards of Conduct

  • Dress Code

  • Safety

  • Use of Business Equipment

  • Internet, Email, Slack + Computer Use

  • Social Media

  • Travel

  • General Employee Benefits + Services

  • Wages

  • Worker’s Compensation

  • Social Security Benefits (FICA)

  • Unemployment Insurance

  • Bonuses

  • Charitable Donation Matching

  • Health, Life + Dental Insurance

  • 401(k) + Retirement Planning

  • Professional + Trade Associations

  • General Leaves of Absence + Time Off

  • Flextime

  • Holidays (we have 15 paid holidays)

  • Summer Fridays (we have every other friday off during the summer)

  • Vacation (IDCO has unlimited PTO)

  • Jury Duty

  • Voting Time (we close the office for half the day on election day)

  • Maternity + Paternity Leave

  • Continuing Education

  • Unpaid Personal Leave

  • Contract Workers Time Management

  • Contract Workers

  • Contract Workers Taxes

  • Personal Accounting

  • 401(k) + Retirement Planning

  • Acknowledgement of Receipt of Handbook


Next, we’ve included a new hire checklist. This is a super handy way to make sure you’re providing that new hire what they actually need to start the job off on a great note:

  • What to Expect on Your First Day

  • Who You’ll be Reporting to

  • What Software or Apps to Download Before Arrival

  • How We Communicate

  • How We Use Different Apps & Softwares

  • Wifi Details

  • Office Details

  • Login Details

  • Office Utility Locations

  • Office Navigation

  • Office Kitchen Etiquette

  • Final Naming Conventions


The IDCO Human Resources Package also includes an internal onboarding checklist, an onboarding guide to be delivered directly to the new hire, a meet the team Canva template, and an employee review template. I’ve linked all the additional information and breakdowns in the show notes, but I wanted to wrap up with these final thoughts:


Hiring is a revenue stream, not a business expense. Hiring additional designers allows you to bill more hours, and those hours are marked up.


The single most important asset you have in your business is the people who work there. Taking the time to create a safe, creative, flexible environment that allows people to thrive, will pay for itself 10 fold.


It doesn’t have to be scary. Building a team is the greatest blessing as a business owner, ultimately allowing you more freedom to be creative, be present with clients, and have more time with your loved ones.


If you enjoyed this episode of The Interior Collective, make sure to check out Episode 1 with Marie Flanigan, Episode 2 where I walk you through the entire Client Process, Episode 4 with Clara Jung who teaches us how to maintain a client process as you hire, and Episode 10 with Shea McGee. If you weren’t able to write down everything you heard today, you can find all the links, promo codes and examples I referenced and other details from this episode of The Interior Collective on our website at idco.studio/podcast.


As Season 1 of The Interior Collective is wrapping up, I want to know what you’d like to hear next. If you have questions or topics you’d like to hear next season, email me at podcast@idco.studio, again that is podcast@idco.studio. Your support means so much to me - as I really didn’t think I wanted to do a podcast. This season proved me so wrong, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. If you listen on Apple Podcasts, leave us a review and share with your design friends. Until next time, take care!



1 ความคิดเห็น


Rick Sanchez
Rick Sanchez
08 ม.ค.

Simploud might offer eQMS solutions for various industries, but I lack details on their direct association with interior design or Anastasia Casey's insights. For tailored assistance or insights into how Simploud's eQMS could support interior design business management, contacting Simploud directly could provide specialized guidance or solutions for utilizing their eQMS in that context.

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