7 Steps on the Path to Running a Luxury Interior Design Firm – Julia Molloy

7 Steps on the Path to Running a Luxury Interior Design Firm

7 Steps on the Path to Running a Luxury Interior Design Firm

Hi there!  I hope you have been well. I’ve been so busy, but great. I just got back from speaking at ASID NYC Design Education Summit last week and I wanted to share with you a point that I made during my presentation last week.  It is about the growth trajectory of a luxury design firm.

As I mentioned to the group, I see 7 distinct steps or keys involved with establishing or refining your firm. What you want is fewer, higher value projects. Projects that give you the freedom to pay attention to every last detail and anticipate every client need. Projects that are innovative, that photograph beautifully, and that get great press.  Projects that elevate your staff as thought leaders in your field.  Projects, in other words, which allow you to create luxury for your clients and develop your market position as a luxury service provider.

 

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You may be new to the design business, and trying to find a framework that works best for you. You may be well-established in your field, and possibly are shaking your head at the idea of consistently finding work that embodies the qualities I’ve listed above.  You may be thinking: of course that sounds ideal, but we don’t have the time or resources to devote to becoming luxury. Believe it or not, this doesn’t have to be very expensive. It takes a lot of intention and clarity, but not necessarily money. What you have to do is relatively straightforward and can be expressed as a series of interrelated steps:

  1. Find Your Gift. This is the truly memorable thing that sets you apart from your competitors, and surprise – it is often not what you think it is.  You may, for example, be striving to become the go-to designer for tech startups in the Pacific Northwest.  But that’s aspirational – it’s not who you are as a firm now, in the critical period before you get your first tech client.  Do you have a signature that transcends any one project?  Or a way of approaching your design concepts that is uniquely relatable to clients?  Whatever it is for you, find it because your business will never be optimized if you do not understand and market your unique strengths.               
  1. Cultivate an Abundance Mentality. In business, we make choices every day. The path we choose on a daily basis is a direct reflection of our belief system. What do you bet on in your business? Do you believe there is not enough to do what it takes to expand? Or do you have a belief in the inevitability of your own success, given hard work and appropriate risks?  Are your choices guided by fear, or do you make strategic choices to invest in creating and sustaining a state of abundance?  Strengthen your stance and ground your beliefs in abundance…. for as I often say, “One becomes luxury from the inside out.”

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  1. Streamline Your Company’s Structure and Processes.  From hiring the right fit for your unique gift to streamlining the way you interact with clients, from the Initial meeting to the final handshake,master the practical tools and techniques you need to succeed.  However, if you skip the first two steps, utilizing these tools will be much more difficult. You will find yourself constantly reinventing the wheel if you haven’t taken the time to point your vehicle in the right direction.
  1. Lead with Purpose. Once you understand what makes you unique, have adopted an attitude that invites high performance, and have instituted the smartest corporate structure and processes, you are still left with the often messy task of leadership.  It is not enough to have vision; you need to communicate it effectively and often to develop a truly engaged team.
  1. Make Your Branding 100% Congruent with Your Gift. It does very little good to know what truly differentiates you from competitors if your corporate logo, palette, or other collateral is doing a poor job of communicating your gift.  The key to getting work that is the best fit for your organization is complete transparency in all of the ways you transact with potential clients.  This is a proactive process that may require thoughtful re-branding if you are an established company, or briefly pressing pause if you are a new designer eager to jump into the marketplace.  Remember, each and every item from or through your company that a client will see, touch, or hear reflects on you and can make or break their confidence in your authenticity and your value.
  1. Walk That Talk with PR and Networking. When we’re constantly chasing low-value, misaligned projects, proactive public relations can seem like a chore and networking is often the furthest thing from our minds.  Once you are armed with a solid sense of who you are as a firm and what you can offer, as well as messaging and collateral to back it up, PR and networking become much easier.  While it may never be second nature to certain members of your organization, presenting a consistent and positive snapshot of your service offering and your completed work is a must if you wish to become luxury.  You want to be published in Luxe, Veranda, Trad Home, AD, or Interior Design and the like?  It can and should happen.  All that is required is a great project and the tools to talk about it thoughtfully.  Moreover, you have a whole squadron of potential brand ambassadors, and chances are they already work for you! Deputize each and every member of your firm and your referral network so that they are not just willing, but eager to “talk you up.”

 

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  1. Every Contact Counts. Think of the multitude of opportunities you have to make yourself memorable with your clients. From the initial meeting to phone calls, to on-site meetings to the final unveiling, every point of contact with your client should reinforce your brand and reassure your client that they are getting a quality design experience, not just a quality design.  I encourage you to consider all the intrinsic milestones in the design process that can be the foundation for an exceptional experience. Use them as an opportunity to intentionally craft their experience and take them on a journey.

Becoming a design firm that reliably creates a particular state of mind for its clients is multi-faceted.  At its core, it is really a variation on that old adage: work smarter, not harder. Master the fundamentals of your business so you can set your sights on the stars. Elevate your mind, your energy, your language and your clients will pay you handsomely to take them with you!

Let me know your thoughts on this. How are you incorporating these 7 steps in your own strategy?  It is hard work to align our businesses in all of these areas. I am continually refining all of these for my business as well.

I am really working on refining my points of contact. In fact, I just ordered custom wrapping paper for when we send out our Business Blueprints. Here’s a little peek. Now that I have a new logo and brand colors that I love, its been so fun, and surprisingly easy to customize and refine so many things. I just love the look of the fuschia with the black and gold!  What do you think?

 

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You are amazing. I adore you more than you know…

xo-

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Julia Molloy

Interior Design Business Expert

COMMENTS (11)
Reply

I think every point you make is valid. I am still a lone designer, my jobs are picking up – even got a guy on an Oil rig somewhere btw the UK and Norway, who contacted me to a kitchen remodel of a home he’s buying locally! Weirdest yet. I thought I had my ideal client in my two year long client, then we had a simple misunderstanding and it was Kaput, she cut me off like that, even after I had done other things for her that had nothing to do with the project, but enhanced her QOF. Then I realized she was only half my ideal client, though she owned a 450 million company, she was too involved in the process. I am making an effort to narrow down my focus on where I need to network. Branding is important. I am my brand, and also make a point to tweet things out to Robb Report, and sometimes they respond, now also looking daily at James Edition online. The Washington Metro Area is number 5 as far as having the most large mansions. I would gladly expand my team in order to do a few large projects a year! I am fearless and trying to think abundantly. Trying to tamp down my processes more now that I’ve worked with them for awhile. I know what I offer, will not suit everyone – as most people seem to like what I term “Snoring Beige”, in fact, even on Houzz the majority of the photos I’ve put up (no where near a lot of what I have) do not get put in other’s boards. I’m ok with that. I wrote a long form post on my biz page a few weeks back, and one of my followers told me she read areas of the post that felt exactly like what she was going through, so asked me to be their designer, for the home they will build in October on three acres! First time I got that kind of response. And yet, even with Facebook groups i’m in, I still feel a tad lost in my way sometimes, as I have no mentor to bounce things off of. Again, this was a great post, Julia, and i love your new colors. I believe magenta goes with just about everything. Only suggestion I have is to enlarge the type a tad. I’m reading this on a 24 inch screen and still have to lean in 🙂

    Thanks, Heather! Love your story. I’ll look at my font too. xo – Julia

Reply

Julia,
I loved this post and sent it to my assistant to read. And of course, I love the fuchsia, black and white as I have used that combo in my branding for years!

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Thanks for another great post, Julia! I’m not yet in the interior design business (still studying interior design) but I feel like I’m learning so much from your posts, things I will definitely try and incorporate in my own business when time comes. Thanks! Love your new colors!

    Wonderful, Eva! Love your passion. You’re going to make a great designer! xo

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Hi Julia,
I found you via Lauren Liess, who’s business savvy and style I greatly admire. This was a great “first post” for me to read. I have a very small design business, and have a lot to consider and process to implement these steps, and I’m looking forward to stretching myself towards my goals.
Great post!

    Great, Alison! I love Lauren Liess too. She is amazing and such a lovely soul. Congratulations on your new firm! Glad to hear you are working on your infrastructure. Reach out when you’re ready to put in place some tried and true business practices. I will gladly walk you through your next steps and get you well on your way. xo

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Good post thank you

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I love this comment “Remember, each and every item from or through your company that a client will see, touch, or hear reflects on you and can make or break their confidence in your authenticity and your value.” I’ve been photographing interior design for many years . I believe the images used in any marketing especially on websites directly reflect your professionalism but more that that they create a connection to the type of client you want to work with. Be sure to eliminate any images that don’t represent your best work.

    Thank you, Patricia. You are spot on! 🙂

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