Episode #0036 Discover why you are “Newsworthy” with Jennifer Singh, Media Pitch Coach

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with former journalist and CEO of She’s Newsworthy Media Jennifer Singh. 

Jennifer helps women entrepreneurs gain exposure in the media. As a journalist, she noticed that more men were getting tv spots and exposure than women. She believes part of this issue is related to a woman’s imposter syndrome that she often feels. Jennifer also coaches women to overcome their insecurities and find what makes them stand out. She helps women entrepreneurs on how to put their best foot forward on podcast interviews, presentations, and on-camera training.    

Jennifer offers many workshops to help others in their entrepreneur dreams. She includes one on one help as well as group activities. She offers a variety of options because she knows everyone needs something different in order to succeed. As we all have different learning styles.

Jennifer knows the key to success is reaching all different platforms. So it is important to her that women know how to land podcast interviews and tv spots.  

So, join Crystal and Jennifer as they discuss how to successfully start landing media spots. And then, do something today that your future self will thank you for and discover why you are “newsworthy”.

How to reach Jennifer:

Website – shesnewsworthy.com 

Instagram – @shesnewsworthy

Jennifer as guest on TPD episode Discover why you are “Newsworthy”
Recommended podcasts:

Abraham Hicks, BizChixs and Turning Point 

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

Welcome everyone to another episode of The Productive Designer I have a special guest today, Jennifer Singh, and she is from She’s Newsworthy Media welcome Jennifer.

Hi so thrilled to be here.

We’re happy to have you here a real professional. And when I asked you were you ready you’re like, Yep, good to go, but my guess is listeners a little bit about yourself, what you do, your background,

Give me the bio. Yeah, so

I actually started in the industry as a journalist, I’ve been a journalist for over 15 years and when you become a journalist, it’s not it’s a designation that you ever lose right once journalist, always a journalist I worked mostly in television in Ontario, at many of the stations I also moved to the east coast was really gung ho on becoming a reporter, and I transferred my skills from being reporter and producer and writer to helping women entrepreneurs land media spots, and the reason is because when I was booking those guests and doing interviews in the field for so many years, there was a real disconnect between the number of men being booked and the number of women being booked, and the narrative is really shifted towards the male voice so that’s why the company’s name she’s newsworthy right she’s giving that female perspective so that has always been my purpose and my passion and I work every day to help shift that narrative.

Thank you. If needed, a whole bunch of, that’s a whole other topic I’m sure we could get into but I think it’s great that you’re focusing on helping to move that along.

So do you have a. So who do you, would you say that you are working with, who is your like, you know, the term ideal client term but who would you say is your ideal client or who you’re working with currently

yeah you know what, when you become an entrepreneur you have to kind of figure it out, it takes some time. I know now my ideal client is a woman service space owner right she has a service based business she either has an expertise in anything from health and wellness to design, to I’m trying to go through who’s on my list right now to publishing to kids and mental health to lifestyle bloggers so anyone who has really stories that they can connect to the media’s new cycle that are newsworthy. I always say we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. what we’re trying to do is position, an entrepreneur in a unique way, with a fresh perspective. And I think that’s kind of the biggest hurdle for a lot of women entrepreneurs I work with, they just don’t think there’s they need to be special, or they need to hire or they’re they’re not newsworthy and it’s kind of goes back to the whole mention about men versus women, men just show up and they’re confident they have it so mostly that’s who I work with, I would say, Yeah, women service space owners, business owners,

and I think that the, you know, as a woman, owner of a service based business I think a lot of times we get so caught up in what we do and we think it’s just, it’s boring right it’s what we do and nobody really it but from, you know, we were so I guess insular and, you know, navel gazing at what we do all the time that we don’t think to your point, it’s newsworthy, what do they want to know about this and yet as we can see on half the stuff that’s on tick tock, and on, you know the reality shows. People want to know right like they’re interested in that. So I think that I can see why. We just don’t think it’s important

or interesting, for sure, and I think it’s, it’s more about, you know, when I work with women, like I realize I realize it took me years to realize but I do have a special skill of being able to figure out what is newsworthy and I can clearly tell within a five minute conversation, what is going to be newsworthy and appealing to the media we have this, you know we have a circle goes what kind of what I look at it, and the media is you’re at the top of the circle, you’re trying to appeal to the media, but in order to appeal to the media, you have to give them content that’s going to appeal to their audience. So it’s not just thinking about what’s going to make the news but what’s going to make the news that’s going to appeal to the media’s audience I had a client on CBC yesterday and she has a she actually is a product based business, rarely work with product based businesses but she has developed a book for helping kids to be more mindful and we know right now in the middle of the pandemic how needed that is. So, you know, listeners on CBC, you know the afternoon drive people are maybe not driving home with kids now but it’s that afternoon, people are getting ready for dinner, they’re finishing up school so that broadcast is going into home so that’s a perfect interview for that audience so I think people don’t really think about the two parts of it right so what is it the media want and what is their audience want, yeah. Is your clients right

that’s right and it’s kind of we look at it as, KY we want to get it to the media because they’re going to be the ones that gonna make it happen, but they’re the media, clients are, who we need to be appealing to

exactly and I think that, you know, one of the biggest things that I see the mistakes is that people always wonder why press releases never work in a press release is kind of a standard template it’s mass sent out to everybody and nobody picks it up, and that’s why because you haven’t considered the media’s audience, and you need to customize the pitches that you’re sending out. Makes sense. Makes total sense.

So what would you say is the misconception between PR versus marketing, or misconception or how I think a lot of people don’t, they think they think of PR as marketing.

This is interesting because I literally I know it’s gonna sound strange but I’m completely new to PR and marketing, because as a journalist, you try to get away from that you’re trying to tell the story. So if you’re an entrepreneur I think PR people think of PR, as things that are published right so that’s in a magazine or on TV or on the radio, and they think of marketing as maybe social media ads, or maybe something else. I look at it two completely different, I see that every entrepreneur needs to have a marketing machine, and that marketing machine includes media interviews, podcasts, interviews, and speaking gigs, push all that content out to social media, because that’s where people are going to be seeing your exposure and listening to your exposure you know you’re going to be posting an image or a link or sharing something and that’s how people are going to be able to connect to this podcast but I think it’s really like entrepreneurs need to think about the machine that you have and you have to do a little bit of each. You can’t just put all your eggs in one basket.

What do you mean by that. Exactly.

So you have to, you can’t just do podcasts you can’t just do speaking gigs, you can’t write Okay, media, maybe eventually you can write like maybe eventually you can like, maybe you just book really high paid speaking gigs but the way you’re gonna get those speaking gigs is if somebody’s seeing you on like a media interview, or somebody seeing, listening to you on a podcast, kind, it’s like a cycle, right, yeah.

There’s like, it’s like the chicken or the egg thing right it’s kind of, yeah,

I mean the golden end of the day, we’re busy. We’re busy right so it’s better to have inbound requests than us pushing out stuff all the time and I find when you have the marketing machine in place, you do start to get those inbound requests right so I mean I pitch myself I’m an entrepreneur as well I pitch. I mean, I want to do media interviews I did about 12 podcasts last year I didn’t pitch a single one media interviews on TV I think I did five didn’t pitch a single one, right, like that’s kind of how you want to be able to set yourself up but you can only do that if you’re putting yourself out there constantly,

right, and making people aware of you and why exactly, exactly. That makes sense. So when you say marketing machine can you just sort of give a little, I guess, explanation of because that might scare a lot of people, because you’re gonna watch I got somebody that I’m already up to here with stuff today and you’re telling me I gotta have a machine. So,

I mean, okay, I’m a solo entrepreneur I have VA and that’s it we this is my team right now and we’ll be growing my team later on but when I think about marketing machine I think it’s just about laying out at the beginning of the year, or, you know, in June had the half point, you know, six months, and what are my goals for the next six months, I keep track of how many podcasts interviews I do when I see okay maybe I need to add a little bit more. What, you know, Where can I be that part of the marketing machine up, you know have a target for how many speaking gigs that you want to do, whether that’s a virtual other all virtual now but whether that’s a virtual, whether that’s hosting a webinar, whether that’s doing a guest expert interview whether that’s doing a masterclass. And then the third part of it is like your PRP so, you know, looking to see how many media interviews can I do within the next three months or six months, I think the biggest problem is we don’t have targets, we don’t have targets on anything we do so, how are you going to see the results from any type of marketing, right, how are you going to see your results right

yeah we just kind of go okay let’s put it out there and Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn maybe and hope for the best.

Exactly right, but there’s no kind of strategy behind it so I think that this whole concept of the marketing machine I don’t even know if it’s coined or anything like that but that’s kind of how I view it that’s kind of how I see it I see that we have to market in a couple different ways. I personally have never done Facebook ads I’ve never done Instagram ads or paid for Google ads or anything like that. So this is kind of how I’ve been growing my business and teaching others to grow their businesses as well.

Well, because I think that that can get, I think almost a double edged sword with with doing paid ads, a, I mean if you’re a small business, maybe you can’t even afford those because they I understand can get costly. And secondly, I think there’s this is probably my personal opinion but what I sometimes see sponsored or, you know, there’s a little bit of a, like, I don’t know there’s something not as real about the the non paid or the more organic type of posts I guess,

yeah it’s it’s an interesting it’s very interesting because we know that the whole influencer marketing thing is huge right we know that that is huge and we know that people feel like that is superficial, but there are like everything there are legitimate influencers that do, you know, push out products and talk about products that they genuinely love and I think there has been kind of that shift in the last couple of years where people are being more outspoken about about that right and you’re just, you know, doing it for the money. At the same time I think the other part of that is that, you know, as entrepreneurs we really should be thinking of different ways to bring money into our businesses right and not be closed to different opportunities. It’s really just perspective and I’m trying to think like, even like when we think of like magazines right traditional magazines, you can open up a magazine and you see it’s kind of the same thing with influencer marketing you see an ad on or not an ad an article on one side, for whatever, you know how to get flawless skin in the winter and then I’ll write on the opposite page is, you know, very intentionally placed the product that they’re talking about right so it’s just a different type of marketing, I think, but we are becoming more media literate right we’re understanding what is genuine and what is, what is not. Yeah,

I think that’s, that’s a very valid point right there the whole, you know you might, you know I’ve teenage kids and everyone so I’m like you guys got to remember like specifically my daughter. That is a curated altered filtered image, and that’s selected out of the, whatever, like I’m like it’s not, it’s not real, right, like that’s not a real candid snapshot that is showing no this is all being staged and, you know, and just making sure that they as as our kids are understanding what is real and what’s not real and, you know, what’s so hard I mean it’s a hard space to be and I think as a kid growing up through all of this right now just, you know, how much is real and you know what is paid for and, you know, but I

think I think it’s a good thing, right, because our generation when we grew up we didn’t even know that like that was not even like a concept I remember when I was younger looking through magazines wanting to be looking like what whoever it was, not realizing how touched up they were and I think now that now the kids I’ve made we’re making ourselves sounds alright, I’m adding your age to to this but I’m 40 and I feel like it’s just a completely different generation and I’m able to be knowledgeable enough to tell I’ve two kids three and five and I’m, you know, able to tell my five year old who has lots of questions. You know what is real and what is not. And I don’t think my parents generation like was able to be educated in that way to inform us and that’s why it took so long for us to get to where we are,

yes to be okay you know what I’m okay. No I’m not. Yes, so I’m not, I can’t think of some of the models that I grew up with Naomi Campbell and I was like, whatever that pack of yeah we’re at that age and, yeah, I think, I think it’s right. I think the kids are learning to the access how easily it is to alter to right like some of these images and how they can figure it out yeah I can, you know I can, like I always joke with my daughter with Snapchat I’m like can you put that one that erases all my wrinkles.

not gonna hate on those filters at all.

You know we got to be real, gotta be real. So, what exactly is media success coaching. So how do you help women, like what what is, what are some of the things that you do to help women do this.

So, again, as an entrepreneur, I totally was baffled by the concept of how PR has been structured before because I’m coming from a storytelling background and a very authentic and genuine background, you know, knowing that what’s important is human interest story so you know for a little bit of context traditional PR as I know it in Canada and in most places is an agency, they usually write your pitches for you they book things behind the scene for you, they kind of just tell you where to go and how to show up right, right, and your job is to really just be on camera and do your interview and it’s kind of like a done for you.

and then huge price tag.

Exactly right, there’s usually a retainer fee retainer fees can be in, I mean we’re in Ontario retainer fees, I know it for Toronto, one of the bigger agencies may be five to 10k a month would be an average price. And that’s like a done for you and they have an entire team taking care of you right so when I developed meeting success coaching and trying to figure out how do I help entrepreneurs, how do I help people like myself, I tweaked until I came up with a formula which is kind of like a hybrid program where, you know, entrepreneurs still get that chance to have one on one time with me. We do your strategy session, I tell you what’s going to be unique and what the angle is that you have to stick with, you know, in order to craft newsworthy stories you draft your pitch, using the tools that I’m providing you, you know, all my successful pitch examples, you send out the pitch to the email, you know you email the media based on like my media contact list, you book your interview you organize all that stuff. And then we caught back on and we do an on camera session where I’m coaching you through, you know pace pitch your tone, you know what to include. So that part media success coaching has that part of it and the other part of it is a community that was amazing right now I have such a stellar team of women, inside the group right now of other service based entrepreneurs, you know, and we meet once a week and we have learning lessons so we know that interviews have shifted completely to the online space so that’s going to look different for every station, but the way new success coaching is set up, it’s so that I’m giving you the tools but also coaching you through it so that after we work together, you are self sufficient. The biggest you know feedback that I hear from people, I have a lot of people come to me after they worked with traditional agency and it didn’t work out was, they don’t know what happened to their pitch, they don’t know who it got sent to they don’t have any relationships they don’t know what to do. And I think I’m really feeling that Nisha, you know, women are go getters, you know that women are go getters we get, we get shit done. And it’s just kind of like we’d sometimes like if you need to get it done give it to a woman. Like, I literally like come on, right. That’s just how we are. That’s just kind of how we are right we have deadlines we’re motivated to do it so this program really is developed to coach you through the process giving like pull back the curtain to show you what it is, you know, sharing my media context with you, but also kind of sitting back and letting you take control so you’re building your relationships. It was designed that way as well because when I was inside the media, the last thing I wanted to do was go through a PR agency to book a guest that just, you know, not good for deadlines, that’s not, and then also it feels like it’s very packaged and very rehearsed, whereas we want real people. If I could just pick up the phone and call you and get you to come on my show. That’s fastest you know I’m going to keep going to you over and over again because of those types of things so the perspective I guess I bring as well is like the perspective of recorder and a journalist and, you know what they need to know it’s this unique program, only one of its kind, right now in Canada,

and so you’re saying this so this is like a group coaching kind of program and you meet once a week, And then is there, like is it. Obviously, each other. We help each other out and have some accountability with each other, like, and what else do and how long does this program for,

so there’s no it’s not like the group accountability when you think of business coaching because it’s a hybrid program. The they have, we meet group, like weekly as a group, and it’s more learning lessons so that everybody can share how their interviews went but the other part of it is the one on one time I have with clients, that’s why I say it’s a hybrid program. Yeah, I think a lot of people like even myself, I don’t love group programs right but I guess that’s in the traditional sense in terms of how people work because I still think I need my independent coaching my situation is going to be different. So it’s the one on one coaching me walking you through everything and editing your pitch, and you know prepping you for on camera, and the group component is more like learning lessons of the week and I also give updates, there’s been lots of changes in the media in the past year, lots of layoffs, lots of people moving stations, you know people we need to be up to date on that in order so that we send our pitches to the right people get blocked.

Yeah, absolutely, with I guess with kind of circling back to the PR agency and then being able to I mean, I guess being able to I was looking at that is. Yeah, so you’ve given your, it’s like you’ve handed everything over to the PR agency. And then there’s to your point, you don’t know what they’ve done with it you know they don’t, you don’t know who they’re talking to and then you’re almost handcuffed in a way to because if you want more of that, they have all the contacts and you know, whereas, doing it all, you know yourself or DIY however you want to. You are in control of keeping those relationships going indefinitely and like you say, you know somebody that ABC company does somewhere else, you still have that relationship with them and it’s it’s yeah I guess it’s, it’s much more personalized and I think that’s where all of our marketing is going right it’s becoming more personalized more, you know, real in the sense of, despite the fact that we’re talking about the filtered images but you know you see stuff on, on, whether it’s YouTube or whatever where people are okay to show the true right like, and then it’s less, I guess, contrived in a way and I think it’s more real or that’s becoming more acceptable for it to be real versus for sure, you know, being in the makeup room for the last hour and a half getting my hair done. Stepping on you know this, the set and having all the great lighting and all that and it’s like yeah, especially right now.

I know well we actually do coaching with like I you know I had to do my makeup myself for many many years when I was on live TV, and so I coach around that too, right, you know, bring me your makeup stash and let’s figure out what’s going to be the best look for you right now.

The other thing I was gonna say, so I actually watched, where I was first initially introduced to you was, you did a webinar for TI DC and international design and you were talking about the lighting and you know just about doing. I guess some all we want to say on camera but whether it’s posting videos online or whatever and I always wear my catheters that actually works perfectly in my office because I, I’m in the basement, but I have a huge big pretty deep window and so I can face the window and have the natural light like perfectly I want I’m like, makes a big difference in tone oh yeah well the big dark shadows under your eyes and you know, Lord knows I can use whatever. So, which is great. You know you’ve kind of touched a little bit of on about how women, we don’t typically, I mean I’m using a broad, sweeping statement here but we don’t typically show up, or typically come with confidence and we struggle a little bit with imposter syndrome. How do you help women get over this to,

I guess the thing.

So, this is so interesting because, as I grew my business and started developing it and working with different women, you know, I had the whole formula mapped out for how to, you know pitch the interview, how to land the interview how to book it do all that stuff, but the thing that was tripping women up constantly was their mindset so they were experiencing a lot of jitters before going to do an interview or just having that thought like they would say out loud, you know who am I call myself an expert who am I to say that I’m a thought leader in the space so some of the things that I do and I do it for myself as well is to just shift the perspective into reminding yourself why you started your business and what it is that you’re doing to show up and serve every day so when you focus off of your purpose, versus on yourself and how you’re going to look and if you’re going to make a mistake, then it shifts your energy so some of the things that I like to do in my business and for myself I actually keep a book, and it’s a book that I just have just for my wins I track my monthly winds and the winds could be anything from new clients to new opportunities to my kids going back to school that was a win at one point it was. It was at one point but then I look back and I see a bigger picture to see how far I’ve come, and the impact that I’ve made on other women, I’m like so proud to say that I’ve helped over 40 Women land media spots and I remind myself about all that I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and who I’m going to help with whatever interview I’m doing, and it calms me down, it literally calms me down. The other thing that we do is affirmations. Yeah, so literally have affirmations basically things like, I love how I look and sound on video, that’s hard for people to do, to do to show up and to feel it. We do affirmations and we just, you know, it’s more about being, you know, I hate to hate using that term in this context about like the self love and self care but it is really just helping us not be so critical, and also reminding ourselves that men are not waking up thinking all the stuff that we’re thinking about age makeup and they show up so we should be doing the same.

Totally, totally. I

always say it’s like giving yourself Grace right like give yourself some grace and and to sometimes be like, damn, I did all that or I can’t push that and link it to your point or like when we were talking about earlier was about, you know, why, why is my, like, they don’t want to listen to me you know I’m just doing that but others come in from a completely fresh perspective and don’t know about your business, whatever that is, in particular, and you will do have information that that other people want to hear and learn about and it is it’s a mindset shift in perspective to see that what you do have to talk about is interesting and

newsworthy, I think like staying in your lane as well right so when I worked in the TV industry you know the TV industry, of course, very competitive, you know, there’s always competition on who’s gonna get the next job. I felt way more insecure about myself and my confidence level because I was always comparing myself to the next person beside me, and I think entrepreneurs can get caught up in that do simple things like hit unfollow or you know stay early. I wake up in the morning and I always wondered about this like years ago I always wondered how do people do it but I wake up in my lane. And I think well what am I going to do to move myself forward I’m not waking up thinking about Susie or Brenda or you know, Frankie I’m not thinking about any of those people I’m thinking about myself and what I’m going to do to hit my goals so that’s also big, you know, from mindset I think that’s also you know just stay in your lane for a while and

I think interior design in particular is we’re, you know, it’s so easy to get caught in that trap right it’s so easy to go on Instagram and Facebook and go oh my god look at the project she’s working on Oh my God, look how great that is and it can it’s very hard I mean I’m 20 something years in the business and I can still find myself going, like, I don’t like it and it’s funny, I’ll be like oh my god that’s such a great project and I’m like, but I don’t actually desire to have a firm of 20 people plus like I don’t want that. Yeah, no and that’s what that’s what that requires so like to move on because that’s not where I want to be you know and yeah it’s it’s so easy to get caught up in it for sure.

It is yeah, everybody experiences that I totally still experienced it too, I’m not gonna sit here and say that I’m perfect, but it’s like don’t get caught up in it right don’t get caught up on it you see it. Okay, you feel a little bit of jealousy just yet.


Yeah, exactly.

I think those are those are very, very wise words because, yeah, it can it can it can totally derail you. Right, and especially if you’re if you’re trying to move forward in your mindset, it’s like that’s not gonna help you it’s gonna stall you for sure. Let’s see, did I have any other, was there anything that we didn’t talk about that you wanted to mention about what type of services that you offer for women, service providers because predominantly what this audience is,

uh Yeah so one of the things that I developed because I knew a lot of people are not ready for PR, I totally get this, this is something that I’ve heard over and over again and, ironically, the reason I started my business was when I was in my last position and reporting for CP 24 I had to coach some women, other women that were on my team to fill in for me for my morning hits and I was coaching them for their on camera so you know their pace their pitch their tone and all that kind of stuff and how they were showing up. So, I, that was kind of actually the like the seed that got planted to end up turning this into a PR service but what I’ve recently developed is a similar program a hybrid program that includes one on one time with myself as well as in a group setting where we just focused on on camera, and your presentation skills so those on camera presentation skills can be used in a discovery call could be used if you’re hosting a master class or a webinar, it could be used of course when we go back to in person, communications, but I think again it just goes back to the fact that women don’t have that competence to show up, and especially now, on camera like yeah how much pressure for us to look a certain way we know statistically that on camera men are less judged than women so I think now that we’re in the virtual space that felt like the right time for me to develop this so that we don’t know how much longer we’re going to be in this situation. And, you know, I think this is a massive shift that’s going to be here for a long time, you know we have a word for all of us if we haven’t already been online we’ve pivoted online,

you have to right, it’s. And you’re saying about on camera, I think, zoom, like zoom Yeah.


Yeah, predominantly what

people don’t realize like I’ve been in so many zoom meetings where, not necessarily with my clients but with other organizations and as soon as they show up on camera, it says a lot about them. And of course yes we’re going through a lot because we have kids at home and we’re tired and we’re exhausted, we’ve been in the pandemic forever but at the end of the day how you show up on camera says a lot about your brand and what it says about doing business with you. It’s a reflection, it’s a reflection, even if you’re a leader and you have a team, it’s going to be a reflection on how you assert, you know, whatever you have to assign to your team are they going to take you seriously or you know what I mean. So yeah, and there’s nothing more

frustrating than being on a zoom call or version of zoom call. Yeah, a video call, where you’re like, the cameras positioned wrong you’re getting like half their head cut off. You’re like, can you not see that like your point, you are showing up in a business setting, and you should be as if you were in person, right, like I mean, yes, you may have leggings on below. But you know like you got to show up like you wouldn’t have in a business media. I mean I just find a it’s been funny and I had a meeting last week where there was like a huge group of people on. And yeah, I’m like the one I’m like I can only see part of his head.

Like, yeah,

I mean, a lot of people just don’t know they just don’t know how to do things like really simple things that are intuitive to me because I work, you know when you work in TV, it’s not like you just get dressed and stand in front of a camera you’re actually in charge of editing shots and times I did some editing as well. So you know just learning the aesthetic for it, you know, it’s something that’s kind of a skill that people need to pick up or they learn over time or they’re taught right so especially if you’re in a business that’s not a

visual or creative business, you may not even. It’s not even in your wheelhouse or like yes, it’s not even there. Whereas I think somebody like designers were a little bit more aware of, yeah, yeah. So, for sure. Well, this is great, this is I have, I mean, there’s time we could talk about the Center for hours but I respect your time and I have my closing questions my interior Inquisition. Yes, and these are questions that can be about life for business or however you want to answer them. What is one thing you think every person should experience in their lives.

Going to the ocean, going to the ocean and spending a day at the ocean. I cannot tell you what a reset that can be, and now we’re now we can’t do that right now she lives somewhere warm. Yeah but spending a day at the ocean, or even better on a catamaran in the middle of the ocean, done that several times in the Caribbean. It is the most surreal spiritual experience that really is, yeah,

yeah, it’s like, I don’t know if you’ve ever done scuba diving, have you done scuba diving a little

bit not like, Yeah, a little I was in St Lucia, we, we did a little bit but right before they everybody was supposed to jump off the person who was like manning the ship said to us, you know, make sure like you don’t get bit by this like,

you know, poisonous

did it so I didn’t do much.

That’s not.

That’s but that’s, to me that’s one of those experiences when you’re under water and your world. It’s such a surreal experience. Not to say that I’m not super anxious before I do it every time.

I’m super nervous and I’m like oh

my god I don’t want to do it and then I’m like okay so


seemed totally it’s totally. So grounding, what is the wisest thing that you’ve ever heard someone say,

this is a hard one. This is a hard one. Okay, so here’s what I’ll tell you, not the wisest thing because that’s, you know, I’d have to go back through my catalog, but I think kids are so intuitive and there’s so great and they can really put things into perspective, I’ll tell you quickly we had a massive bug in our house and we freaked out. I freaked out, and my son just looked at me and he said, but it’s smaller than you, right, like Yes that is right. It’s small, but it was it was a quite a big bug but I’m like

it’s so big and he’s like No, but it does millipede things,

yes, yes,


I was like about

the only really big bug we get here. Yeah,

right. So, you know, just keeping that perspective like just any sort of wisdom around perspective,

right, they’re, they’re, you know basically what the out of the mouth of babes or something yeah it’s true, they’re just tell it like it is and see things, especially when they’re young, they say, I’m an unjaded perspective,

exactly, but I think it can apply to anything in life right, it can apply to the pandemic, it can apply to, you know, work it can apply to your personal life. Yeah, for

sure. Absolutely. See, wise words. What are three podcasts that you’re listening to, are more or less so

I love Abraham Hicks, I don’t know if you know, Joe, I listened to that every day I listen to a little bit every day. I love that it’s in short snippets,

I love podcasts that’s specific to them.

Yeah. So, look, there’s two, I don’t know which is the right one. But I listened to the I think the most current one, they do, it seems like they have conference and they’ve, you know,

Oh yeah,

definitely the book I have the book. Audio Book of it so yeah,

so maybe, but it’s a live concert, it’s like a Live, a live event that they seem to have chopped up, so that one’s really good. The other one that I listened to his base checks which is out of the

bay, I went to BizChixs live last year.

Okay, we have to talk a lot last year 2019

Right printing is so

crazy. I don’t think I didn’t think anybody knew who that was on.

Natalie Ekdahl fam. That is

hilarious so those, those two there and I will say, I actually okay like here’s my thing. I have a big pet peeve with how people sound on podcast so I don’t listen to me. No, yeah, you’re being judged and you actually you have a phenomenal voice who speak evenly you’re articulate, anybody who shows up with a valley girl voice, I check out so so those two are the ones that are my go to I don’t have a third, you know, it’s, it’s hard to get into business podcast because they’re not produced properly or with somebody who has the speaking skills, I’m a little judgy when it comes to that business. Right. It drives me bonkers because I can’t listen to their message all I can hear is the,

you know, whatever. Okay. Her tone is off.

Yeah, slowly Yeah,

that’s what I hear, so those

are my two favorites, Awesome, awesome. Well, I’ll give you some afterwards of my, my, go twos considering you like this check. So, yes, I think you’ll, there’s some other good ones that you might like so. Well, thank you again, Jennifer, I think this has been just such a wonderful chat and learning about what you do and I think what you’re doing is filling that, that niche that is definitely that is needed for sure for, and I think it’s educating to because there’s a lot of, I think there’s a lot of mystery about media and how do you get there and, you know, we know how to go on to social media we know how to post stuff that’s easy, but the, the next part of it is definitely coaching is needed because if you’re not in the industry, you have no idea what you’re doing so, if people want to find you. Where is the best place to find you.

So I am on social media. I’m very active on social media, more so in my DMs I feel like I don’t post as much but but I’m on Instagram at a@shesnewsworthy, and my website is shesnewsworthy.com There’s a free media pitch template there, this is the template that I use with all my clients to land interviews, and I also have all we talked about the marketing machine I have a set of master classes on there as well. So you know, speaking gigs, how to get paid as well as pitching to podcast and we just did an on camera masterclass so those are all accessible off my website. Awesome,

well thank you again, you know, put all this stuff in the show notes so people can, you know, because they’re probably walking or driving right now. They can find it all so thank you again and it was a pleasure chatting with you today.

It was so wonderful, thank you.

I feel so lucky that I get to interview such amazing women, and I’d love to taking with Jennifer, I think what she’s doing is really filling a void that is definitely needed. I think that pitching media. If it’s not something that you’ve done in the past or have sort of some sort of connection with I think it can be, can seem overwhelming, and can seem a bit, you know a bit daunting as to, you know, how do I get this out there. And, you know, we do not most of us small business owners don’t have the luxury of shelling out five to $10,000 a month for somebody to do this so I think she’s definitely found found a spot where there’s a definite need for. I love that she’s predominantly you know working with women because we do tend to look at ourselves as not maybe being having information that is quite as interesting and newsworthy, or don’t see it as being newsworthy when it really is and so having that outside perspective of somebody else looking in at what you do and pulling that stuff out that may be something that we totally take for granted. So I think Jennifer’s got got a great program and being able to do it in various methods whether you want by just a single one off program or course that she’s offered or being part of her group, I think that she’s offering a great opportunity and I hope you enjoyed this podcast, as much as I enjoyed interviewing Jennifer’s so do me a favor and go do something today that your future self will thank you for. Thanks again for listening and I hope you enjoy the show. And if you can rate and review us on Apple podcasts or iTunes or Spotify or Google, wherever you listen to the show. Thanks again.

Episode #0035 Creating Emotional Homes and Retail Environments, with Hollis Rendleman

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson is with interior designer Hollis Rendleman.   

Hollis creates an experience in the home that is purely based on how her clients want to feel when they are in their own space. She has advice for creating more soothing office spaces in the home by adding comfort items or scents. For example, if you find velvet to be soothing then perhaps a velvet throw pillow is a small item to add that will create a more soothing workplace in your home. Hollis elaborates on different ways to get clients to talk more about how they want to feel in their home instead of just explaining their likes & dislikes. 

Hollis has had experience as a social worker and a retail clerk which has created this desire to tune into people’s feelings. She has truly found her place in the market and is using these skills effectively to create custom interiors for each of her clients. However, getting into the interior design world and creating her own business has not always been easy. Like many, It was not always easy, and she had to push herself to pursue her dream of being her own boss. 

After a year of starting her own business, the pandemic hit. Like many, she struggled during that time, but thankfully, she was able to find ways to expand her business. She hosts workshops online to help people create more relaxing environments in their homes and helps others reach their full potential in their designs. The moral of the story is, there is no perfect time to start your own business, but once you found your calling, it’s time to dive in and just begin somewhere…the hardest part is starting. 

So, join Crystal and Hollis as they talk about Hollis’s journey to interior design and creating a wonderfully relaxing home. And then, do something today that your future self will thank you for and find what items you can add to your home that will make you more at peace in your home.

You may also want to check on episode 31 which is about Creating Your Happy Place

How to reach Hollis:

Website – hollisrendleman.com and hollisrendleman.com/workshops 

Facebook- HollisRendlemanInterior I Instagram- @hollisrendlemaninteriors  


Hollis Rendleman in TPD episode Creating Emotional Homes and Retail Environments,

Recommended podcasts:

Boom! LawyeredLovett or Leave it and Pod Save the World

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

Welcome everyone to another episode of The Productive Designer podcast. Thank you so much for joining me and my guest Hollis Rendleman today. Welcome Hollis.

Thank you. I’m very excited to be here.

First of all I love your name, it’s such a difficult is it what’s the nationality behind it.

It’s old English but my mom’s little sister when they were all little her sister had a friend named Hollis and my mom just was like, I love that name, it is in the memory banks.

I really like it. I think you get like do you get called Holly or anything like

I did as a kid me crazy because I was never a holly but yeah, by now. Yeah, in the last you know couple decades it’s been fine, but I love it it’s like that’s my last name that’s the big cat.

Oh really.


That’s such a stately name like, you know, Hollis Rendleman here.

I love it I love it has

a mouthful but thank you.

Yeah, no, it’s great. So tell us a little bit about what you do in the design world and who you do it for.

Yeah, so I am an interior architect, I have kind of two funnels to my business. One is working with custom clients where I focus mostly on remodels, so kitchen and bathrooms. Yeah, and I really like to work with custom clients who can be very clear about how they want to feel in their home, I am less tied to the aesthetics and more tied to kind of someone’s speaking, emotional language.

Okay and so would you say that that comes out in the form of more of a function, or how, how would you define this field is obviously a bit of a loose hearts 10 yard.

Yeah, I think, I mean it really helps shape the function, how they’re going to use it to kind of achieve those feelings, But then I think it actually makes aesthetic decisions. A lot easier because we, it’s so much less about this tile is pretty or this tile is trendy and much more about are all of these elements together going to really help solidify how you want to feel in this space.

Okay, yeah, I get that, that makes sense.

Yeah, so it’s, it leads to some very interesting introductory conversations, but it’s fun when I find clients who can really go there with me, which is great,

and that’s, and that would be, I’m guessing, sort of, I’m Canadian, so I’m going to say niche but your niche, would that would be what it would be right like that’s sort of how that differentiates you

yeah and it’s interesting because, you know, I’ve kind of wavered about saying this case but I also find that a lot of these clients also already have a really vast collection of artwork and again it’s not, it’s less about the aesthetic of the art to me also, but just the fact that they find these, you know, two dimensional pieces, evocative and they want to incorporate that in their space and that helps indicate you know some clients who are going to be able to have those kind of conversations with me, right, right. Wow.

Yeah, that’s definitely a different approach from what a lot of people I talked to in the design world. Yeah, so interior architect, I know that that’s, that’s more of a British term is it not like a UK thing, or how do you differentiate that.

Yeah, so basically I, you know, it was in the program I went to, it was enough about some of the system you know plumbing and HVAC and electrical systems that I felt like, you know remodels were in my wheelhouse in terms of kind of the scope of understanding, you know the costs implied in moving things and adjusting things and then really got to hone in on those skill sets, when I was working in corporate retail design, because that was a huge part of, we needed to design a great store and also not go crazy with the cost because we were flipping the whole store and changing all the plumbing or whatever,

right so I understanding more the structural and mechanical implications. Yeah, which is what you’re absolutely right because a lot of times I find my husband does renovations and there’s a lot of times where he’ll find he’ll get plans that have been drawn up by an architect, interestingly enough, and he’ll be like, cool, they’ve got the bathrooms over here and then again they’re on the opposite sides and he’s going okay from a cost standpoint, that’s really expensive like yeah, this this this and I can kind of gang it in one area, it’s going to you know make this much more usable budget and cost a lot less and, yes, less work so Yes. Interesting. So I know that this is not designed is not your first career so tell us how you ended up here because your website, it has the story but I want to hear from you so well and I have to say,

I have been loving listening to your podcast and especially people who have had a nonlinear path, their career, it makes me feel a little less alone and a little less weird. No,

it’s very common, though, I mean, I think in particular is one that people discover sometimes later on I felt like I discovered it later but I really didn’t I mean I, I went from high school into university and I studied kinesiology, for a semester. Yeah, and then I went okay this isn’t what I want to do so and then I you know, and then I figured out that I wanted to do design so

yeah, tell me your story. So I was in the social service social justice world for the first big part of my adulthood, specifically working with survivors of sexual and domestic violence. And a big part of my job was education so educating other service providers, you know crisis line or shelter or food so that they had a career responses to survivors that they may be working with who were coming to use their resources. So, including, you know, police and kind of city professionals, so the whole gamut, so I did a lot of the education around King County, which I loved, but, you know, honestly, I think I could have done the work forever. It was the. It was really hard to be in a profession that had this overlying scarcity mentality. Never enough people never enough money never enough resources. And just noticing how much that impacted my entire life, even when I wasn’t at work,

really. And I can imagine I mean, I think people don’t like you or I even think of we were talking about dogs earlier like veterinarians and all those people that, that have to deal with heart hurting issues and incidents and I mean I can’t even imagine how you could, you know, shut yourself off from that,

it’s, for me it was really interesting because I felt like working directly with clients, was hard, but you know you got to see all this resilience and power, and kind of, you know, so that really wasn’t. What kind of drew me in, it was, it was much more working with nonprofits, they just like yeah you know this kind of air of desperation all the time which I understand, like, that piece just got very hard for me to have that be kind of ruling my psyche all that yeah

yeah and I can understand that because you’re you’re knowing I guess what resources and things that could be done but there’s just no money to do it. Yes, is that we are kind of thing. Yeah, exactly,


yeah that’s frustrating,

so I made a 180, and went and worked at a feminist own sex toy store.

That is the one ad.

Yes it was. I have to say, you know, that was really a move on a solely like selfish level, but to get to work with people who were celebrating themselves and other people physically, sexually, was just like, such a sad for my, you know, little damaged system after doing that work for so long, and I ended up managing that store, and that is where I discovered retail design, and you know just the power of you change the display and you change the lighting, and you know maybe change the colors that are around that display and then suddenly those things are flying off the shelf, and just, you know is really fascinating to see kind of the psychology of retail design for sure. Yeah, I had always been the friend who I’m a really bossy person by nature, so I’d always been the friend would come over and be like, You should move that piece of art and those chairs and, you know, but I never considered career in design, until I was at that store and then I was like, this is like a superpower, change the display change a fixture change the lighting, change the graphic, and just like watch people be drawn like these two flowers, what you’re trying to sell and I was like, I’m into this, this is so cool.

I it’s funny I started my sort of design career and I worked for a retailer too. We have, you know, in the US you guys have Bed Bath and Beyond, yes, we so Canada, we brought in through the Hudson’s Bay Company called home Outfitters and it was literally a copy of that. And so I was doing all those while they were rolling out in Canada and they actually just closed them all, I think last year which was kind of sad but I understand the retail side of it, like speaking that language as well and yeah it is kind of interesting. So it’s

super fun.

Yeah, so okay so you get into retail design so sorry I can’t you just ever you want to do retail.

So then I started school, I started a program that was, you know, supposed to take me three years part time, because I was working full time. Yep. And this was the toothcomb trying blinking on the year 2009 Recession hit while I get in grad school. So, what was supposed to take three years took me six. At one point I had to like just earn money.

Yeah. Honey, you have to do that too.

So I had left that toy store and gone into the interior design world and then of course got laid off, and all the giant firms in Seattle, laid off hundreds of people with years more experience than me, and so I went back into retail and worked for another kind of really small business, and got to do their whole renovation and then got to open a pop up store with them so that was super fun, but, you know, retail, working directly for the retailer. I was still a store manager, yeah, yeah, making the design, and I just really wanted to be in the design world so wonderfully lefting got more into firms and all of that sort of stuff.

Right. And then, and then what happened so then you and then how did you start your own business. Well,

again not linear, I had started a few times and had you know a few good goes But, even though I had as a retail manager I had managed teams and big budgets and stuff like doing it on your own, it’s just such a different game. And so, you know feeling uncertain and not, not really finding the right structure and then life would happen, and a corporate job would show up with steady pay and insurance and I’m like, oh yes please. I’ll take that for another couple years so I kind of did that off and on for a few years and then honestly I just I had a couple years, 2016 and 17. My dad died, which he had early onset Alzheimer’s so was one of those, we knew it was coming but it was still pretty hard, but he was buried in the national, oh my gosh I’m totally blanking, the military in DC, the military Greenbrier Arlington alright yeah it’s just it takes, it’s a six month process, which you know, so we didn’t bury him for six months, which I don’t recommend.

There’s no closure,

no and it was really hard. I mean, again, because we knew he was dying, I didn’t think it was going to be that hard and it really ended up being very hard. So, and then I was diagnosed with cancer, right after that. Yeah, so I had surgery and treatment, and was all better. And, you know, was so grateful for my corporate retail design job that I had and yeah and you know grateful that they gave me space to take care of myself but also I could come into work and work on these really cool projects, and then, you know, after I was healthy again. I was like, What am I doing this is, I’ve wanted to have my own business. I just need to take the plunge. So I left that in the summer of 2019, and I was just going to pick up at the beginning of last year and then COVID hit, which I don’t recommend having a pandemic in your first year business oh no it’s not it’s not helpful.

No surprisingly Yes, it’s a little curveball that nobody is ever needed to plan for no business plan, No, no, my goodness. Oh my goodness.

So and I just wasn’t quite established enough to have, you know anything getting me through the beginning of COVID So that was yeah, he was hard.

I bet, I bet. So what are you are you doing your business, your own business now, like yes, yeah,

yeah, yeah. Yeah, so things feel like they’ve stabilized and I’m, you know the right kind of clients and projects are showing up right now and, and finally getting to really focus on the online side of things that I want to focus on. Yes, which is kind of a second funnel of my business,

and is that the workshops is that what Yes.

Yeah. Yeah. So

tell us a little bit about your workshops, I’d like to read a few of them but

yeah so basically in kind of all this murkiness, a friend of mine was, I was currently just working with some retail clients. This was one of the periods that I was trying to do my own business, in the last handful of years, and a friend of mine was working at a community college in the continuing ed department, so people who just kind of want to take one class at a time. So she was always looking for new classes and she’s like, why don’t you come in and teach people how to design a room and I was like, oh, that’s the most brilliant idea ever, because all of my jobs, prior to design had involve teaching

or training or you know,

exactly, and I really loved that element, and it had actually made me sad knowing going, I was going into design. And that wasn’t going to be a part of it. So I put this course together at the time it was three weeks it’s now evolved to three months, because all the feedback was like, can you design a house. And I taught it in person it was super fun because again, you know, someone’s individual style is less important to me and I’d have someone in the group who was doing this totally Zen office, and someone else in the group who was doing their living room with this whole Safari theme, you know, and just a how these projects evolved and these people who did not fancy themselves designers like really start to put some stuff together in a way that really was working and

no, that sounds great, I mean it’s a great idea and as we all know everything is virtual right now so yes

yeah yeah so I have some workshops that are just kind of, you know when 90 minutes being specific to a room or zone, and then I have a program that will be launching end of February, early March, that’s a three month, how to design one room from floor to ceiling, and we do you know we have the time to do all the space planning, and all the materials selection and all the furniture selection.

That’s great. Yeah, it’s like a, like a mid level I mean it’s a course and it’s but it’s, it’s more than I think more than a workshop. And yes, you know, not going in to a degree program. Yeah,

yeah, and it’s really it is all of this is really aimed towards the DIY and client folks. So, you know people who don’t think they can afford a designer or feel like they have enough vision that they don’t really want to design or they just want to figure out how to execute their vision.

Yeah I was gonna say cuz there’s a lot of, I think, like I’m just thinking about the sort of the market yeah there’s people that are di wires and are like, I can do myself I don’t need help. And then there’s probably like to your point where you’re finding people that are going cable I know what I like and look but I just and I want to do it properly because I always say the biggest thing is, you know, clients just sometimes don’t know what they don’t know

know exactly. So and I, it’s been interesting for me business wise, because those were a lot of my custom clients initially who like well I’ll just do this and I’ll just do that. And what’s great about offering these courses is I feel like I have a great place to funnel people who are inclined, so that my custom clients are the people who want to do, you know, the big projects with the professionals and all of that

with full service

yeah exactly yeah so it’s this nice kind of way to channel people are sure.

Yeah, cuz a lot of times you know they’ll if they come to you. I remember early in my, my, sort of independent days and I remember having a couple people hire me and I’d be like, Why did you hire me. Yeah, you want you’re basically just kind of, I don’t mean telling me what to do but like you had a vision, you had a hammer and, yeah, and that was yeah and I think a couple of them I had to just say like, we’re done because this like this isn’t working, I’m spinning my wheels you’re spinning your wheels like,


like there’s no satisfaction from either of us and so having something like that I think is, it’s great that they can learn some of the stuff that they don’t know that they

know exactly, and get some cheerleading which everybody needs Yeah.

Yeah that’s true and it’s not just a online course where there’s no, like, go through each module on your own.

There’s great feedback, like there’s absolutely, Yeah. Yeah, huge, which is huge.

Yeah and accountability, I’m sure, right.


you gotta get this done.

I think it’s a big piece and it’s that’s the interesting transition to online because when I taught it in person. You know people are committed to showing up and they’re having to bring something to show. So, yeah, every I mean everything has, like you said gone online so that’s the interesting kind of create accountability, but because it’s a virtual world it doesn’t feel the same. Yeah,

yeah, absolutely. So your tagline or mission statement on your website is that you’re I’m gonna just read it in your. I’m here because I believe everyone deserves a space that feeds their soul and elevates the way they live. I love love love this, so thank you I’ll dive a little bit more into that.

Yeah, I mean, I definitely have a deep philosophy one that everyone deserves a home, I feel like homes are a right not a privilege, and to everyone deserves a home that is beautiful to them. And that, I think when our homes are beautiful and functioning, they really allow us to rest and recuperate and connect with people that we cherish. And, you know, kind of as we were as it sounds I believe that when that happens, we can each walk back out our front door or these days, go back on our computer and do what it is that we do to make the world a better place, but if we’re exhausted, If you know we’re frustrated by our house if it doesn’t allow us to feed our souls, then we’re not stepping out into the world, being our best selves, and probably creating a little more chaos than good and so I just really, I mean I really have this belief that, you know, homes are made of organic materials they’re on the earth like they are these kind of organic living beings to a degree that need to kind of fluctuate and respond to who we are as we grow emotionally and spiritually and, and I just want that for everybody, You know, I just, like, imagine if everyone had a beautiful, you know, again, their term of beautiful right home to go home to each night, like when the world beautiful.

Their safety it’s, you know their their point their comfort their place to

fully relax fully be Converse their bodies and their bodies and, yeah, communion with other people, I mean it’s just, and again, I mean this year especially, all the new things we’ve had to do in our homes, like, no I know we’re all stir crazy but also what a way to discover what a kind of sanctuary your home can be from a world that feels really crazy and chaotic and scary and all of the things, and it’s it’s the ultimate safe place right

now. Yeah, like it’s yeah, yes, here in Toronto we just went into literally a state of emergency lockdown again, like, big time like they’re, you know you can go out to get groceries, you can go to exercise and go to your job. If you have to like if you don’t can’t work from home, right, like, That’s it, like, and they’re, they’re doing, you know, fines or you’re going to be fine if you’re like, wow, yeah. It’s hardcore like it’s, like, there’s no messing around because No, no, we’ve got to so that I mean, I think, more now than ever, what you’re talking about is people are going to understand and resonate with it more so now because it’s not even, to your point, it’s not even just the aesthetic like oh I don’t like the color or I don’t like the whatever it’s, it’s yeah, it’s how are you feeling in that space is it even from a, from a standpoint of, you know, are you able to work. Yes properly right yeah you’re in a busy household and, you know, you only have one space or something and now you’ve got four or five bodies there that all need to work and have quiet and, you know, it’s, yeah.

and are you getting good sleep during a pandemic which is creating great anxiety and, yeah, I mean it’s, yeah this year has been so interesting to really think of, I mean just to really drive home for everybody. The impact our homes have on us for sure,

for sure,

and with the additional discomfort they can cause if they’re not working right.

Yeah. Is there any tips or is there anything that you Yeah, especially from maybe some of your workshops and that that you have found as being a good kind of go to for for people living in people that say I want to do something I don’t know with my house like is there any bring plants in or something I

don’t know. I mean, mine is more, you know, I, one of the things I do with every workshop is have people kind of recall a time where they felt really good in a space that you know if we’re doing a home office in an office or if we’re doing a bedroom in a bedroom, and to really notice the senses and what the qualities were for taste and smell and light and temperature, and how, you know before they go buy a new desk and paint the wall and stuff, how can they create a similar quality of light or, you know, can they have a candle or a diffuser with a similar smell going or, you know, how can they create a similar sense of temperature, and just start to get our senses in a place that feels more soothing for whatever environment they’re working in,

and I bet you a lot of people have never looked at it that way right

I’ve never thought that way you know and and again it’s like not huge changes, and as you move forward to make the purchase of the new desk or paint the new wall, you’re kind of grounded in a better sense of how you want that space to feel, and, you know, part of that is going back to retail and, you know, there’s a few years ago, this kind of aha moment of small retailers or hotels or whatever having a signature scent. Again you know the power of smell to evoke a memory. And if you have a really great memory of a certain office, that can be brought back with a smell, why not use that, even if you don’t have control over having the desk size that you really want, like,

I totally agree with that we actually here in Toronto, we have a woman who’s become a center designer. And I think that’s so


I know I was like, she told me she does and she’s done some corporate, obviously you have to be careful because of people’s


and activities. But I was like, You’re, she’s so it’s so bang on we actually did a couple years ago and it came up on my seat the other day and I was looking at it, we did a scent pairing dinner. So, since it’s so good. It was so fun, and it just might have been like, I’m gonna call her and see if she wants to be on the podcast because, yeah, it was I thought what a brilliant concept, Just because that is one of our senses and smells. I think for a lot of people is like, you know, I smell a fragrance and like if I smell something that my mom used to wear it’s like yes, totally, yeah. So actually, that’s such a great, to your point small little thing that somebody can do, you know they weren’t maybe at some great hotel or they went to a spa they had some fantastic scent, you know, try to recreate that. Yeah.

Yeah, and it’s, it’s super fun to do that section in the workshops and just have people be like, Whoa, all I need is like some sort of soft velvety thing to touch, and I will be greatly soothe in this environment, like, there you go you know that could be just one throw pillow, and suddenly you’ve changed the game of how you feel in that space.

That’s amazing. I love, I absolutely love that concept and looking at that from more from like the five senses, I guess really yeah right trying to reach those and then getting those pulling those that extracting them from from the clients to get them to sort of really, you know, dig deep and figure out, oh it is that that I like or it’s that’s what caused why liked that feeling or room or whatever it was, yeah, that’s, that’s really interesting. I

love it. Yeah, I just did this with two new clients I’m working with and we’re remodeling their kitchen and then I had them each tell me their kind of favorite kitchens story, and to try to address the senses as they’re telling me this story and it just goes, I mean their stories were not did not involve each other they were pre having met each other but they were so evocative and I just felt like I was in the kitchen with them and, and then to see the overlap and similarities of what appealed to both of them about that, like how many people were in the kitchen and how many people were cooking and they both had a big fire element to their kitchens and I’m like, great, this is like, you know, suddenly becoming so clear what your kitchen needs to be based on these two fantastic stories where you told me, You know what the lighting was and what you were smelling and you were both sipping on wines and, you know. Yeah,

that’s awesome. That is this probably a dumb question, but do you think that your years of being in social work and social work that you’ve been able to know either how to hone in on people’s emotions or figure out how to get those answers out of them. Does that make sense.

Yes, I mean I think I’m pretty empathic to begin with, which probably is part of what drew me to the social service work, but yeah, I, I do think that honed a lot of it and I mean it’s kind of, you know, I just didn’t. I just did a q1 planning meeting with my team and I asked them all how they wanted to feel when they were doing work for this team and so we, in the slide deck we had one sheet with everyone’s three feeling words, and it’s just, I mean that is my go to for everything because I feel like that is its own language. Yeah, and obviously if I say I want if one of my rules for everyone I work with is they cannot use comfortable because that’s just a given.

You cannot do it very uncomfortable,

your living room. I will make it comfy. Put that aside, that’s an odd ask Go ahead. Moving on to other words, like, I just, to me, that helps. It’s just this real clarifier for me, it really helps me be able to visualize. And, you know, kind of put myself in their shoes so that I’m getting to the right place faster rather than I am not someone who can hear like I like blue tiles and gray slate floors, and get it right the first time but I’m

just gonna say, yeah, there’s this, I, when I present to clients I use what I call them look and feel bored, and it’s kind of like a mood board but it’s the same type of thing, you know, somebody will give me words and give me this and they’ll say we want it to be, you know, contemporary, which, again, like those words are such loose, so. So for you, for you, you’re, you’re pulling it out and I can see like, we just hear you talk about fire and you’re like oh, like you can just start to, You get the design direction starts to right like you start to feel like okay now I know where I’m going with this, and how to move forward.

Yeah, and I feel like it also helps me clarify where I can push them a little bit outside of their comfort zone to something new. Yep, which I don’t feel nearly as confident doing if, you know, again, we’re talking about blue tiles and slate floor,

yeah, yeah, that’s such a like it’s like a generic description, yes, you know, and even, you know Pinterest and showing me pictures of what you like. That would that’s helpful but then you’d have to go what do you like about

this like what exactly and then pulling up

to your sense like the, the emotions and the words and yes you know that out of it. Yeah. Yeah, that’s amazing.

I love it

I love it.

Yeah, I’m glad I’m finally here after such a like, you know, circuitous path, but

well I think everything happens for a reason and they’re, you know, you were meant to do that and me, you know, and just not that having, having illnesses and all that, or there’s a path but I think that there is sometimes the struggle is there’s some there’s a reason right there’s

something. Well, I mean it would have been so easy to stay comfortable in, where I was. Yeah, had I not had to kind of back to back things that were just like, What do you want to do with your life

like with life. Ultra basic Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s amazing. I love I love your story and I think it’s great and I love to hear how people end up, you know, in the design world and it’s great stories because a lot of people come from different, different backgrounds and, and a lot of the time it’s some sort of I don’t want to say hardship but there’s something that has pushed them a little. There’s that, you know, kick in the pants kind of thing that’s made them do it. Because to your point, it’s too easy to just sort of stay status quo and, yeah, you know, and there’s never a right time to start a business, no. There’s never a right perfect time to have a kid you just do

like there’s those exactly

like life events or there’s never a perfect time so, so I want to end this with my closing questions which is yes I call the interior Inquisition, and these are anything with regards to work or life or however you feel you want to answer them. So, what is the one thing that you think every person should experience in their lives.

Yeah, my answer is going to be really weird but it’s Greece. And I think, I mean, again, I obviously I’m, you know, very driven by emotions but this year in particular it’s been fascinating to watch people so actively avoid feelings of grief, with all the losses we’ve had, you know, from the very small thing of not being able to go get coffee for a while to death and all of that stuff and, and I just, I really think grief changes you if you let it just kind of make you feel. Yeah, if you feel it, there is something else on the other side of it that I think can be so liberating and powerful and I know it’s scary, but that is truly my wish for everyone is that they could just really let themselves feel it and then get to the other side.

Yeah, I think that’s so true that the feeling part of it because too many people try to push it down, ignore it, avoid it. Whatever, whatever avoidance mechanism is yes, it’s discomfort and we don’t

totally like to be there. We don’t have a ton of tools around it and we don’t talk about it well and all of those sorts of things, so you know it’s not an individual’s fault. I mean, that’s our culture. But yeah, we’re all going to face it at some point so learning to.

Yeah, for sure, absolutely, wisest thing you’ve ever heard someone say,

this is interesting because the first podcast I listened to of yours when you ask someone that sounds like, oh I know what it is. I think it was an article actually in a design magazine years and years ago but someone said something along the lines of a beautiful room can’t be designed, quickly or, you know, in a couple weeks or whatever they said and I just remember reading it and being like, no so frustrating. And then the more and this was way before an interior design career but the more I do it the more you know, again I want people’s homes to be representative of them and their experiences and our goals and unique to them and that takes time to put together and you know it’s it’s honestly part of why, like the home design shows there’s something about it that just like gets me. I can’t watch them. No I can’t. And everyone is really surprised but I’m like I cannot stay in those kinds of things, because it’s just like the reveal, I mean I love me a transformation. Oh yeah, like that’s super fun in such a like hit of whatever it is adrenaline or or Tonin or whatever but the lack of character to it. Got me and yeah, to have that character takes time, and I think, you know, I remember having a client, we had gotten to the furniture and finish stage of her big remodel, and she was ready to like disregard these chairs that she loved because it was going to take two months to get there. Yeah. Amazon has ruined us all.

Yeah. Instant instant instant I can get it tomorrow I want it right now right now right now. Yeah. Yeah. And I was into that exact point. You know I’ve had a couple jobs where they’re like, it’s gonna be and it’s like, you know what, it’s your first choice, and it’s your house. Yes. Wait. yes like you will be worth it, you exactly you won’t be disappointed, and like that you

wait enjoy the anticipation and then enjoy the arrival, and then enjoy that you got what you want it, like Yeah,

yeah, it’s so true. It’s so true and then even just the creative process of getting to the as the right solution. Right, totally not alone is yet we’re to instantaneous, where you can just do it up on cat, somebody behind that that has to sit exactly, then, think it through and, you know, sort of try to, you know, troubleshoot okay well what about this, what about that and does that work here and you know like there’s all these variables that we have to consider in in in rushing, you know causes errors and not the best work right. So, yeah, I love that that’s that’s absolutely true. And what are three podcasts that you’re currently listening to,

I mostly listened to political podcast is the truth I stopped listening to.

I bet you they’re very active right now. Yeah, breaking news. Yeah, yeah,

I stopped listening to any sort of business related ones, but then just in the last couple weeks I’ve discovered two highly entertaining podcasts, one is in strange woods. Okay, which I thought was gonna be one of those kind of like, like a serial type. Yeah, but it’s a musical. Oh my goodness, but it’s a, you know, kind of, dramatize missing person dead person story, but then everyone breaks out into song and I had no idea that was coming, and it’s delightful. I mean, it’s super good. And then the other one is from now, which is this sci fi story, the years, 2035, and a spaceship returns no the year has to be it’s different. This, I think the spaceship left in 2035, and he was gone for 30 years. According to everyone on earth but he came back minutes later, according to him. And so it’s this whole like what happened, but the sound effects are super good and it’s a couple actors I like who all have Scottish accent so that’s also quite nice and so it’s like a story, it is a story. Yeah, with episodes yeah to speak right yeah, and it’s been delightful, literally I just discovered both of those a couple of weeks ago and it’s been delightful to have something nice to listen to on walks and not just politics.

Yeah, I think, the is there we say like There’s certain times in your life where you just need certain types of podcasts like we’re where you want to do your point kind of check out, and not be you just be entertained, yes and not be learning or heated up by political stuff, or whatever, right. So I think that’s, that’s, yeah, that’s good because we’re definitely right now I think we could probably stay away from the news for

even a whole day would be life changing at this point.

Exactly, because there’s. Who knows what tomorrow. It’s yeah, yeah, I mean I guess you, you are living in the country where most of this is happening so I can I apologize on behalf

of all Americans, that we are seeing this chaos

right now so it’s it’s it’s a it’s an interesting study and and I’m sure you know 10 years from now when you know, students are studying this in school, they’re going to be just like, Wow, 2020 and 2021 Yeah, was so messed up. Yeah, what were people thinking. Yeah, crazy. Well thank you so much. He’s really nice chatting with you, delightful. Yeah, it was fun and I love I love your approach to to how you’re working with your, your clients and I think it’s great now more than ever it’s, it’s something that’s super relevant for people to sort of look, look around them and figure out how can we make the space, make them feel more safe and comfortable. Yeah. Well thank you so much.

Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Thank you. Wow,I feel so fortunate at times when I get to speak to such great guests and be able to hear their story and learn about how they ended up where they are today and holes is definitely no different. I love her approach to design as well. I love that she really tries to get to the essence of what people want in a space and it’s not just about the aesthetic and the beauty space but how is it going to function and, you know, how is it going to make you feel which I think is is such a great way to really go deep and I think, you know, finding this niche or this niche for her is, I think just, you know how lucky are her clients that get to work with her and you’ll do really get that sort of attention to detail in the sense of really going deep into figuring out what it is that will be the right space for them and and feed their soul if she says, and I love that she had a has a retail background, and then the social the social worker background.

Episode #0034 – Michelle Cooper’s Seven Key Points to Analyzing the Health of your Business

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with entrepreneur and owner of Alchemy Accounting and Bookkeeping Services, Michelle Cooper. 

Michelle is an author and business owner who helps businesses create profit and lift themselves out of poverty. She discusses how she went virtual in her work over the years, but especially when COVID hit. Shifting to work virtual has allowed her to work with people from all over the world and support others in all aspects of their bookkeeping and analyzing their business needs. QuickBooks has been instrumental in helping Michelle stay on top of her business in assisting others with their needs. 

Michelle also has her own blog with a multitude of advice for businesses. Some of her best advice is teaching others how to turn a profit instead of letting their bills and expenses take control. Michelle has seven key points to help you in your business endeavors. 

  1. She starts by taking a look at your mindset to find what you are truly saying about yourself and your business subconsciously. Start by clearing your mind of the negativity your subconsciously thinking about your business. 
  2. What is your profitability on your price point? 
  3. Where is your spending going? Who are you paying and what are you paying for? Must Haves? Convenience? What is this? 
  4. Where are you discounting your services to get clients? 
  5. What is your team doing and where are their hours going? 
  6. Developing important and better relationships with your vendors. 
  7. What is your client’s lifetime value? 

So, join Crystal and Michelle as they talk about how Michelle can improve the mindset of your business, and how you can turn a profit on your business. And then, do something today that your future self will thank you for and listen to this episode of The Productive Designer. 

How to reach Michelle:

Website – alchemyaccounting.ca 

LinkedIn- michellebcooper  I Facebook- businessamongmoms

Michelle Cooper as guest on TPD with episode Seven Key Points to Analyzing the Health of your Business

Recommended podcasts:

Mind Your Business, Run Like Clockwork and Real AF

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

Welcome everyone to another episode of The Productive Designer today I have Michelle Cooper, she is a powerhouse entrepreneur, CEO of Alchemy Accounting and Bookkeeping, author of Confessions of a Money Rockstar your money date journal and co author of the collaborative book Women Rising. Michelle supports the growth of her clients business with real strategic planning, while also addressing the mindset issues that arise with growth in order to bust through and rise up to levels. They never dreamed up. The team had alchemy, accounting and bookkeeping support clients across North America and into Mexico and South America, as so many entrepreneurs go virtual Michelle has helped many business owners climb out of entrepreneurial poverty and into the land of profit welcome Michelle,

thank you so much. I am very excited to talk to you guys today. And thank you for having me crystal,

well this is exciting I there’s so many I have so many things here I just I want to know how do you work with people in other countries like how does that work for you from I guess from, obviously there’s different tax laws and how has that developed because I know how I work with my bookkeeper in accounting and I think okay how can I make this 100% virtual so tell

me a little bit about that.

Yeah, well, you know, so many businesses are going virtual, And so many entrepreneurs are, you know, becoming kind of like digital nomads or, you know, that kind of like laptop lifestyle kind of thing. And what I noticed is that when I was speaking at entrepreneurial events in Canada and the United States. Quite a few people were like ex pats living in Mexico, or Costa Rica. Right, right. And so, what, what I ended up doing like, you know, they needed support, and I develop the team. Like I cultivated a team of professionals that can support them. So I don’t I can’t be the expert in every single situation, for sure, but I do have some really really great people on my team that can support people and know exactly the legislation or their situation what they should be filing in regards to supporting people with bookkeeping is pretty easy these days, right yeah with the use of QuickBooks Online or other software and Dropbox and firewalls, it’s pretty easy to to make that completely virtual,

right. So do people like just no like I’m thinking logistically like when I have all my invoices and my receipts and stuff and I have them like are they scanning them in and sending them to you is that kind of how it works. Yeah,

so, so QuickBooks has an app, which basically you can take a picture of a paper receipt. Okay. And then that records the receipt so we asked the client to do that, we’ll allocate it, but at least there we have a picture of it, and the IRS and the CRA, the two government authorities. They will now accept digital records they didn’t used to do that but they will know things like email receipts and stuff like that, we have a system in place where basically the client forwards the email,

and it’s recorded

by my staff saved into Dropbox for them and kind of like a little bit of a concierge kind of service, and, and that way it’s all taken care of.

That’s great. Yeah, cuz I was just thinking, I mean I know when I take my receipts I put them in a file like enough mental thing and I just collect them and then every quarter I give them to her and she lives very close to me but, no, that’s great, that’s what was, those are my questions I think you should do that with the receipts because it wouldn’t be labor intensive on being the client to have to scan them all in but with having an app like just to take a photo it’s much easier.

Yeah, yeah, I mean you know sometimes say somebody hasn’t kept their bookkeeping records up to date and they have a year or more of receipts. What we’ll often do is say, put them in the mail to us and we’ll figure that piece out. Like, I’ve got staff who can, you know, scan things at a kazillion miles an hour and we can take record of it right. Yeah. You know, like our goal for 2021 is to be paperless. Yeah, I don’t know if we’ll reach it,

but it is.

That’s our goal to be completely paperless, it makes me nervous because even for my own records I’m like printing stuff to myself or like I thought it was supposed to be paperless I’m like oh yeah just ignore that.


that’s me and my hang ups, not anybody else. No, I know I’m the same way I mean I still feel like I print stuff like I don’t know, is there something tangible that I go kids and it’s physically in that folder I know as opposed to it being digitally in a folder so yeah I get it I get it but, so you have a, I guess we’re gonna talk a little bit about seven, brilliant ways to increase profits without killing yourself. I thought this was a very appropriate topic for my audience who pretty much predominantly exists, solopreneurs small business owners, and as we know when we are those, we wear all the hats, and I’d love to hear your expertise on this.

Yeah, well, you know, one of the things I found was that business owners like we especially when we’re at the beginning stages are what I call this start phase which is kind of like

zero to about

350 $400,000. We’re wearing all the hats. Right. And so we can often just lose track of, like, the actual profit that’s in our business, and that’s the most important number right like that number is, what, what you get to keep as a business owner, right, like that’s your money. Yeah, and business owners can get really really caught up in, like in the top line revenue number. Right. And, and, you know I want a six figure business a seven figure business, all of that kind of talk, and there’s really no like there’s no point in having, you know, a million dollar business, if you’re making $1 in profit.

Exactly. Yeah, exactly. If you got a million dollar business, but you have 900 and something 1000 in expenses and costs, then, yeah,

you’re not like there’s no real point to it right. And, and what I found when I was working with more and more business owners is that they didn’t, they didn’t have a significant enough profit to sustainably support the business, and sometimes they had no profit at all, and often they weren’t paying themselves or paying themselves enough. And what can happen is that they start to build resentment towards the business. Oh yeah, absolutely.

You’re exhausted.

You know, like you’re putting in all this work. And what do you got to show for it.

Yeah, you’re like, I could go work at Starbucks and be checking checkout and probably take home the same. Yeah,

and I literally had in the early days of building my business I literally had a client who was in that position, and she was like, either you figure this out and tell me what to do, or I’m just going to go work at Starbucks. Yep, think about

this point. Yeah, exactly.

So is there is there seven steps, or seven items like let’s let’s, let’s bring this down.

Yeah, so one of the first thing I tell people to, you know, consider, is looking at your mindset like looking at your thinking. Right. And, really, like, what do you feel is your thoughts around creating a profit, your business. Do you are you are you operating from a place of, it’s really hard to create a profitable business I never have enough money. There always seems to be too many bills like what, what’s that dialogue that’s going on inside your mind because the mindset piece is like the foundational piece of where we start. Right, and clear that out. So whatever methodology you adhere to or you believe in, whoever you follow in regards to mindset. That’s the most basic place to start. And we can do this by either being still or silent or some people like to, I personally journal. And when I think about something like profit. I just listened to the internal dialogue that comes up. Right, so what is that subconscious talk that oh well you can’t have that much money, or, no, no. That’ll never happen, Or, or, that’s gonna be super easy like what happens,

right. It’s the money story right that they talk about,

yeah it’s total money story right clear that up, the other. The second piece is to look at your profitability on projects like what is your profitability on your price point. Right. So, especially, you know, for your clientele. They’re probably operating on a project by project basis, right, something like QuickBooks Online, you can enable projects, which is very useful because you’re able to allocate income and expenses directly to a project, and run a profitability report.

So you get the numbers very easily from QuickBooks, if you’re running project accounting. Okay. And, and that’s going to show you, like, you know, when you say you build out on a project to build in 100k, and your cost of fulfillment of that project like the, the costs that are directly involved with the fulfillment of the project are $50,000 I’m just making these numbers, universities, the math right, so you write a 50% profit, like gross profit margin, what I call that number that’s left that 50k that’s left, that’s your real revenue. And that’s what you have to pay yourself with,

and all of your overhead.

And it’s a really important number to understand. So looking at your pricing looking at the profitability of projects where a project’s perhaps going out of scope is another place to look at, right, and why, and really getting a firm handle on that. Usually, when we look at that, we see that there’s an capacity to a increased price point. Right. Often when people are in a start or grow scale phase of their business, they can bump their price up a little bit, and then the third one is really to look at your spending. So I talked about doing a spending audit. So this is examining where your money is going. Who are you paying. What are you paying for. I categorize expenses into three categories, when we do a spending audit with clients, and the first one is, I absolutely have to have this to do my business. Okay,

the must haves. Yeah,

right. So, must have could be something like zoom, could be something like, I don’t know some software you need to like AutoCAD or something like that. Right, have to have it. The second category is, it’s a convenience, so it might save me time. I could not use it, but I use it. And then the third category, which is always the one that gets people is, I don’t even know what this is.


yeah. Yeah, and when I say to people is if you’ve used this for three months that you need to get rid of it. Yeah, and you do a spending audit by just like you’re just gonna pull up your bank statement your credit card statement and go through it line by line for your past couple months, and you can take a highlighter or whatever works for you. And just look at your spending. And often, people can save 1000s of dollars, just by doing that, which is going to increase your profit margin.

Yeah, and when you’re talking about that it’s, like, right now there’s so many apps that we can have subscriptions to, and they can be $7, and $8 a month and you’re like, well, that’s nothing. But if you’ve got 10 of those, I mean, it can just those little things like where they call that the the coffee isn’t there like the latte factor or something where they’re talking about your spending. Yeah, yeah, like the $5 or whatever, but those 678 $10 $12 a month, apps, to your point, if you’re not using them, then they’re your absolute, you know, waste in an expense that is not needed. Yeah,

yeah, absolutely. So that can really help increase our profit margin. Right. Yeah, for sure. The fourth one is around discounts or kind of like deals, you know like, where are you discounting your services. In order to get the client.

Well and and designers decorators designers are notorious for this you know we are the people that are, You know, especially if you’re doing hourly, even if you are keeping meticulous hours. There’s so many of us, I don’t do hourly anymore but so many of us would be like, oh I can’t really charge them. I can’t, I can’t really invoice them for all the hours I’ll just take them off. Right and you because it’s you have a mindset issue with that right and then, yeah, you know, now that they’re older, they’re gonna freak out if they see that it was you know 35 hours last month. So yeah, big time on that for sure.

Yeah, and that to me is a, an indication that they need to move out of hourly pricing for sure, right, if you feel like you know I believe in value pricing for sure, but you know sometimes people, you know, it’s, it’s just inevitable you just have, you have to charge by the hour for some thing, but if you find yourself going, oh I can’t charge them the full, you know what we longed for time, then you need to move, that’s like firm indication need to hold value pricing, or at least set fee pricing, and you know I see that I remember years ago in my bookkeeping business where we were, you know at the beginning charging by hour, and, and it was like, Oh, that feels like a lot, Exactly, that’s what they weren’t, that’s just

it’s overinflated, it’s always under estimated for sure because we forget, you don’t necessarily keep, you know, you think you keep really good at but you’re never 100% accurate. And yeah, so it’s always underestimated for sure, and then you’re taking off that too.

Yeah, totally, totally. So, you know, looking at that, looking at, you know, perhaps, if you’ve got a team. There’s somebody working over time, like that’s that cuts into your profit margin, where you know you don’t scope for overtime, really, what is the expense, What’s going on, where are we, incongruent to what we had scoped to this project. Right.

So how do you how do you recommend with clients that are on projects like, like we are, how do you sort of get a handle on. I guess just making sure that that they are encouraged to, to what we’re charging, Is there any tips or tricks that you have on that.

Yeah, well, time tracking time tracking time tracking time tracking. One of the things that I do with my team, besides our time, you know like we have time, kind of logging software, right, because even though we don’t charge by the hour anymore. I still want to know what the team are working and how long it’s taking them right. And if we, it’s a good measure if we go out of scope. But besides that, having your team, track their time, even just on an Excel document or a Google doc like quite granular what are they working on, you’ll start to see where they’re working on things that aren’t relevant to a project, or they’re working on somebody else’s project. Now that’s out of scope right they weren’t, they weren’t included in that scope or like some anomaly will come up. And that’s a, it’s a really good thing we do quarterly time tracking as a team for three days out of the week, and we just use a Google Doc, and it tells us so much information. Yeah. And you know you’ll get senior staff who are working on things they shouldn’t be working on.

Yeah, exactly, like that’s not your best use of your time value is not there.

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, just measuring, right, measure, measure, measure of Penny thing

that makes sense. Absolutely.

So where are we We’re number five. Number five, looking at your team, this kind of leads into what you were saying, right, looking at your team who’s doing what. Is this the most valued use of their time. Do you have senior team members who are doing junior team members jobs, Or vice versa, right, like, what’s, what’s happening, doing an audit, as well, about, like, the people on your team. Are they revenue generating roles are they overhead roles, or how much of their role is revenue generating versus overhead. Yeah, He got it you really got to manage that, especially if you’re trying to grow a business in the growth phase of business, it’s very easy for your payroll to outpace your profit.

I can imagine.

So is there an zero magic favorite kill you, like that you would say what percentage that yeah,

30% should be your payroll, and that includes your admin, and your fulfillment, including all your taxes shouldn’t go over 30% as a really rough guideline. Okay, so if

you were looking at somebody as a staff member if you’re thinking of bringing somebody on how would you determine, like especially if it’s an admin person right that’s going to be maybe ordering, placing orders for several projects right so they’re they’re brought in for, you know, maybe four or five different clients, and so they’re doing some admin for for each client, they’re doing some correspondence there was You’re clearly not revenue generating How do you know when you have the, the income to do that or when, how do you know when it makes sense I guess what I’m trying to ask.

Yeah so, looking at your financials, looking at your profit margin, understanding how much you need out of the business as a business owner.


and what amount of revenue, do you need to bring in to support that person. So, you know if it’s a $60,000 a year role, I don’t know. What does that mean for your business, right, so what’s the total cost of that person do they get benefits, taxes, all that kind of jazz, right, and what would be the breakdown of their work, like are they 5050 overhead and project work. So you know, project work you know you’re charging them out. Right. Are you charging them out. What are you charging in the mode is it double is it triple what their what their salary is, if it’s, if you know that their charge out rate is 50% more and they’re doing 50% kind of admin overhead, you know, you, you broke even on that person. Yes, okay. By charging them out. Gotcha. So it’s a little bit of analysis and getting into more of the granular numbers of your business but totally doable, like, really easy to figure out,

Okay. Alrighty, and number six.

Oh my goodness. Number six, looking at your vendors, right, like where, where can you negotiate better pricing, reduce freight charges. Where can you consolidate vendors, you know, is there somebody if you did all of your business through one can you get a better deal kind of thing, really trying to develop important relationships. Totally. I call it kind of like relationship capital right like, for

sure. Yeah, exactly. I mean, even with even just from a sort of very basic level, it’s like okay well I’m trying you know I’m trying to outfit a house or something like I try to minimize the amount of vendors, because of just logistics, and then secondary if I’m, you know, shipping, just basic shipping charges because it’s coming from six or seven different vendors, whereas if I could narrow that down to half, then, yeah, so it’s the small changes. Sometimes it’s not easily done but, but you’re even negotiating better discounts with them, I’m sure.

Yeah, absolutely. Okay, number, number seven. The best one yet.

Hopefully the best for last.

Right, looking at your client lifetime value.

Okay, so

what is the client journey for you. Right, they come to you with this one project, is there a follow on service you can provide or. And how long does that take how long do clients normally stay within your business. Is it a one and done, or is it a lifetime or somewhere in between. Right Understanding your clients, kind of like habits and their journey with you. And what we call client lifetime value can substantially help you increase your profit margin, because you might identify a gap, and you could create a product or service that would fill that gap and extend the total value of that client to you. Right,

how would you determine that he’s like say, Most of the designers do typically residential so your, you know, besides doing Mr Mrs Jones his living room and kitchen, and then hoping in the next, you know, one or two years they’re gonna do it faster and, like, what are some, like, are you saying things like, offering. I know I wouldn’t say Landscape Services but in Canada we only compete that a few months a year but like what would be some of the examples.

Yeah, so you could think about like complimentary services that you could offer or or partner with to bring under the umbrella of your company, you could think about, like, like kind of like refresh packages or, you know, another great thing is, we have a couple of clients that are interior designers, and when I was last year, when I was chatting with one of them, I was like, have you checked in with these clients. I know they said they were going to do their home theater, and then COVID happen and you know blah blah blah. I was like, have you checked in. No, I just figured they call me.

I’m like no,

let’s build that relationship. Yeah, yeah right. Yeah, build that relationship stop by. See them ask, like, don’t be afraid to ask like hey and and make it relevant like no one’s going in the movie theater, have you decided to do your home theater now right like can we get started. Yeah, propose work to them.

Yeah, and I don’t think many, many would think of that right many would think to propose in its, but I think keeping in touch I think is crucial right just keeping top of mind, you know, staying in touch with them, because you never know, right, you just never know where the next job, or keeping in touch with them even if the Mr or Mrs Jones don’t necessarily have but maybe their friends do or their neighbors do are totally referral referral

referral. That’s like, I built my whole business off of referral. We’ve never advertised I still don’t advertise, and we have new clients coming all the time, but I think referral, it’s just such an easy way to expand your profit.

Yeah, it cost you X amount to get that client but it’s like a third or whatever it is to keep them so to speak, right.

Totally, totally. But the idea of proposing work like, Have you thought about doing this, or do you think it’s time to do that, or because what I find, it doesn’t matter what you do what industry you work in the client doesn’t really know what they need, what they can’t why they’re varying yeah like they don’t end up there like I don’t know, is it time to do that or not, right, like it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about renovating a bathroom or, I don’t know, getting a new furnace like,

I don’t know if you need that or not.

Right, but an expert will.

Right. And it’s planting the seed,

it’s totally planting seed and what, what often happens is people come back like you could be like, oh, you know I was seeing there’s, you know, we could totally pull your bathtub I would do this and that and whatever right I don’t know. And they might be like oh yeah no, I’m not really ready for that or whatever, and then they’re thinking about it. Yeah. Right, right.

We planted that little seed and then you’re just like let them go away and all of a sudden, you know, months later, they’re like, Yeah, you know, did you mention that, yeah. Yes, that’s a good way to do it. So, you’ve said you haven’t advertised, is there a certain like to get your to get clients is there certain niche that you work in. I know that you are a fellow Canadian on the West Coast right Yes, excellent. So I can say Nish to you and you

know what you’re talking.

Yeah, so how are you finding that like, what’s your clientele look like.

Well, I think that what we really excel at is supporting consultants. So people who are providing a high level of service and our specialties seems to be evolving, more and more into those businesses that perhaps need a little bit of catch up a little bit of cleanup sometimes a lot, they might have, you know, outstanding filings for taxes and things like that, like, will, will still take somebody who’s, you know, all up to date and current, but more and more we see people are deciding okay you know what this is going to be a priority in my business, and I’m going to get my shit together. Basically, and we’ve developed a great system of catching and cleaning up clients records, pretty quickly, while also getting them on a monthly service, because what I used to see out there in the marketplace or still see now, really, is that people will try to catch up and then not I’m not working on the current record keeping, right at the same time, which kind of makes any or sense right, but then you’re always kind of catching up.

Yeah, you’re never, you’re never proactive you’re just reactive.

Yeah, yeah, and it’s a long drawn out process, it feels really painful and gross. And we’ve managed to create this really amazing system where we can get a client caught up like current right now, and we’re still working on the old records. So, you know, it depends how much they got to catch up on.


that’s worked really well. What we really stand for is impact driven businesses. So, really an entrepreneur who cares about their impact in the world.

Okay, so, what type of services, yeah, yeah I was gonna say like how do you work with clients because obviously you do bookkeeping and accounting but is there is there different levels is there different, because everybody’s needs are going to be slightly different. So can you tell us a little bit Oh totally,

totally. We have some clients, you know their basic level where we’re just doing monthly bookkeeping and, you know, making sure the records are neat and tidy. Everything is allocated correctly, they get them up and report, and they’re all good

to go.

We have clients that were basically their accounting department. We pay bills for them. We chase receivables, you know, we do it all we are their virtual accounting department, which is really really useful when you get busy and then use that, like cash flow becomes as a whole nother podcast. Yeah the cash flow becomes a really important thing to manage right. So, and it can be really affordable to outsource an accounting department, and pretty easy to do. And then we also provide like I provide fractional CFO services so more kind of advising and consulting. Okay, looking at analysis projections, and that’s where the cash flow management comes in. Yeah, yeah, to make sure that you know there’s enough money for everything. And then, you know there’s taxes, right, obviously, taxes,

there is depth. What does it say the two guarantees whatever. Yeah, yeah,

yeah, so we’ll make sure that that’s our kind of compliance work where, you know, we’re, we’re making sure that everything is filed, it’s all up to date and accurate.

People all caught up.

So I read you are a your Profit First certified or whatever that you’ve done a profit first professional Yeah, professional Yeah, so I started reading the book or listening to the book the audio. The audio book and

tell me a little bit about that because that,

I just I get very excited about it and then I got to the implementing stage and I went, I don’t know what to do here and I stopped.

Yeah, yeah, you know, it’s funny, that’s what happens right and that’s why there was Profit First professionals for that exact your exact experience. Yeah, I read Mike’s book, probably, I don’t know maybe six or seven years ago, and I’ve made, like in growing my business or creating my business, whatever you want to call it. I feel like I made every mistake that there was to make, I pretty much did it, and one point, I was so busy growing my business and focusing on revenue and client generation that I lost track of my expenses, and I had a business that was costing me, just to keep the business open $22,000 a month. And I was like what is going on like, there’s no money for me, and I had lost track of my financials because I was so busy in the business, and I figured I gotta figure this out, like, Yeah, this is crazy. And there’s so much shame involved in that right out here I am and I’m accountant I own an accounting and bookkeeping company, and I felt like I was treading water. And I found Mike’s book it came as a recommendation from a coach that I know and who was actually a client. And so I read it, and I was like, well, this just seems so easy. Yeah, like, yeah, like I don’t Is this gonna work like seems too easy, but I was at the point where it was like, either. This works, or, I can’t keep doing this, I just got to close this business right yeah. And so I implemented it and like I saw an immediate benefit, like, immediate, like I did the spending audit. I like I cut down a whole bunch of expenses I looked at you know where my money was going where it was coming from. I also incorporated it with one of his other book called The Pumpkin Plan, right, which is about looking at, you know, your client categories. And then I was talking, I was at like a CPA. I don’t know, continuing education thing or something like that. And I was talking to some accountants and they were like,


you can’t, you can’t do that like it’s not really counting, and I was like this this book just saved my business like what are you talking about. Yeah. And so I looked further into, Mike, and what he was doing, and I saw that you could become a prophet first professional like you could become certified in this. Yeah. And so for me, I you know I do like to kind of, like, follow the rules, sometimes, and no you

don’t, I can see behind you. You can’t see but she has a, be legendary blank average

starts with an F and ends with the kicks.

I don’t like to use other people’s work without their permission, at least right. Yeah, and so I looked into I was like I’m gonna do this because I think it’s really useful. What I do find is that not a lot of accountants, like it because it is so simple, and it kind of leaves, sometimes alleviates the need for somebody to pay a whole lot of money to an accountant. Good, what can happen is people read the book they try to do it, there’s all these different accounts there’s money flying back and forth, they’re in high stress anyways. And they just can’t do it on their own and they can’t manage it, They can’t match that and

their business. And that’s so is that something that you offer as a, I don’t know if that’s doable like is there a separate like service that you could get somebody on that. Yeah, okay.

Yeah, absolutely. I call it like a profit first implementation. It includes like a profitability analysis, and we really get clear on cash flow, understanding projections for business as well. Yeah, and then working with a client like literally being on zoom with them, will they do the transfer of the percentages. Yeah, to make sure they get done, we can be great because what usually is the number one concern is, is there going to be enough money. Yeah. Like I just don’t believe there’s going to be enough money, and they need some hand holding. To show them there’s enough money. Right, so it’s quite intense at the beginning, you know it’s weekly calls and it’s a lot of hand holding a lot of support at the beginning, and then we scale it back every other week, and then, you know, after six months, it’s kind of like once a month. Some clients like to stay on. Yeah, and just have that once a month call and we’ll do quarterly check ins or maybe bi annual kind of like deep dive into stuff. It’s a really useful service. And if you’re a fan of the book and you haven’t been able to implement Profit First, working with a profit first professional will get you like it, you’ll get it implemented, and it will work.

Yeah, like,

I’ve never seen anyone who has fully implemented Profit First and it hasn’t saved their business. That’s

amazing. I mean that’s, that alone because, as I said I was reading, you know, listening to the book actually it’s very good to listen to it because He’s quite a character I have to hear Him speaking I did, and I was I was very jazzed about it I even bought the book and then as I got to that exact point where I went, oh I don’t even know like I started the spreadsheet and that was just Yeah, and then yeah, business you get too busy doing what it is that your business is. And, yeah, it’s just falls down the wayside like social media and all those other should be doings and, you know, unless you hire somebody.

Well yeah and you know like I call it with my clients, I call it a CEO date right it’s or, like, you know board meeting kind of thing like I’m your CFO we’re sitting down at the board table boardroom table, and we’re talking about the financials and that’s all it is, there’s no judgment here there’s no anything, there’s just as looking at the numbers and part of that is for us to look at cash flow would that’s the biggest part of

our business is this. Not that I’m by no means an expert in that but that’s always the story of what’s coming in and what’s going out right it’s just,

you know, it’s interesting writing books and there’s like this small business administration in the United States did a survey, two years ago and 90% of businesses that did close had significant revenue but they closed because of cashflow problems. And that should tell people how important cash flow is like I see businesses all the time, especially service based businesses where they’re giving people terms for payment. I see them have significant contract values and revenue coming in, but because their receivables are out of scope. They do not have the cash flow to support the business. Yeah.

No, and that’s just it, it’s it’s because it’s a service right I think people feel a service isn’t a tangible and and I haven’t shipped you the 100,000 widgets, but I’ve done all this work for you, it’s an intangible, right, right, no yeah, let’s do it that’s that’s pretty sad statistics, actually, it’s,

it’s not a good thing and, and it’s a real, it’s real. Like it really happens, and it’s,

It’s awful to see.

I had a clan, too, as a contractor, and he was, he gave his clients like residential clients not even commercial 60 day terms, and I’m like, do you understand that you have to pay your staff every two weeks.

What about all the materials and

supplies. So this might not get income from, like, but I need to give them this, these terms in order to get the business, I’m like, You’re gonna bankrupt yourself.

Do you need the business that much. Yeah. Because, again, we’re not a charity. Right.

Yeah, it’s, it’s, yeah, wow, so you don’t go into like Safeway and say oh I need two months to pay for my milk, like,

I’ll get it to you I promise I’m good for it, yeah. Yeah, but again you’re going to jail. Yeah, you pay for it now or you don’t have it. Yeah, and I think, again, like we’re saying but being a service based business, and if you’re doing, especially when you’re working with residential, there’s a difference when I find working with most of my clients are more commercial builders, so it’s a little more black and white, I mean it’s not any easier necessarily to get the money sometimes they have their terms that are different, but I think there’s something with us with working with homeowners and residential that more personal residential that there can be a lot of hang ups on asking for money, you know is that, oh I shouldn’t charge them the full 35 hours it took me to do it I’m only gonna charge them 25 Like no, no, we’re in a luxury business right like people, we are not in necessity right we are not in essential circus COVID language we are not essential right i mean you do not need our services you want our service, it’s a luxury. It’s a nice, it’s a nice city.

So you got to pay for it. Yeah, and I think that comes with, you know a lot of times comes with just competence and time in business too right that you realize that, wait a minute, you got to pay for this. So,

so at the end of every episode I’d like to ask my Interior Inquisition questions, and so this can be about business life, whatever. So what is the one thing you think every person should experience in their lives.

Oh my goodness. Well, I think adventure and adventure means whatever it means for you. For some people adventure might be whitewater rafting down this MBZ, for others it might be going to Edmonton. I don’t know.

It’s a really bad option, sorry I

yeah, I think adventure I think it pushes us outside our comfort zone, and it enables us to grow in so many different aspects.

For sure, for sure. What’s the wisest thing that you’ve ever heard someone say,

Oh, I love this.

My favorite quote which is by Raymond Charles Barker, who wrote the Power of Decision. He said true prosperity is having the money to do anything you want, and the time to do it whenever you want to do.

Episode #0033 – TPD Chats with “Sales Maven” Nikki Rausch on Selling Authentically

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with fellow podcaster and sales maven Nikki Rausch.  

Nikki is an expert on sales with more than 25 years of selling to such prestigious organizations as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, and NASA. Nikki is dedicated to teaching entrepreneurs and small business owners to sell successfully authentically, without being pushy or “salesy”. As Design professionals our job is not only to sell our services but our ideas and concepts too. Whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of being a Designer requires us to know how to communicate and convince our Clients to buy-aka “Sell”.

Nikki suggests asking a lot of questions, the more you get a potential client to talk the more you can learn about their particular needs. As you begin to build a rapport, you are establishing a relationship with them, so that they can get to “know, like and trust” you, because people will buy from people they “know”, they “like” and someone they can “trust”. 

So, join Crystal and Nikki as they talk about how to change your mindset on your sales approach. And then, do something today that your future self will thank you for, by listening to this episode. Grab Nikki’s free resource below. 

Free Resource: yoursalesmaven.com/designer

How to reach Nikki:

Website – yoursalesmaven.com/podcast/ 

Amazon- Nikki-Rausch  I LinkedIn- nicolerausch

Instagram- @your_sales_maven 

Sales maven Nikki Rausch as guest in TPD episode about selling authentically

Recommended podcasts:

Unlocking Us, The Brainy Business and Andy Stanley Leadership podcast

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

Do you think you hate sales, do you find that it can seem to be a key. Well it doesn’t have to be joining me today. Well I interviewed Nikki Rausch of Your Sales Maven, and she’s going to guide us through her framework called the Selling Staircase Nikki’s going to give us some tips, techniques, tools to help us get through some of these issues that we seem to have and learn that no is not necessarily a rejection, so stay tuned. Welcome everyone to another episode of The Productive Designer. I have yet another special guest with us today and I feel very honored actually to have this special guest, Your Sales Maven, Nikki Rausch, I have worked with Nikki, several times over the past taken many of her workshops, I’m part of her Sales Maden Society which is a fantastic group of women. And I’m honored that she’s on the podcast with us today so welcome Nikki.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m, I’m honored that you asked, Oh,

I just think this is great because I, you’ve got so much experience and I just, you know I was listening to your podcast this morning when I was getting ready and I just was sort of prepping for this thinking oh my gosh she’s got so many great, you know guests on here and so much great knowledge so I think this is going to be a great episode for my listeners to learn a little bit about the dreaded sales as we sometimes perceive sales to be as dreaded. So tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and sort of who you serve and what you do. Okay,

so my company Sales Maven I’m a Sales Coach and Trainer, also a podcaster now too. And I really specialize on the conversations side of saluting so my background is I have over 25 years of sales experience I also the master certified practitioner with over 1200 classroom hours in neuro linguistic programming. That’s a new term to anybody listening it’s really the study of communication. And I focus really on the language part of NLP, but also the processing part in your brain and all that good stuff that comes into it and so I teach people how to have more effective strategic conversations that isn’t about trying to sell like somebody else it’s really about using your own style, but just being more effective and strategic and understanding, where are you in the conversation and how do you easily and seamlessly move somebody to the next step, so that you get to the point where you exchange dollars for service or product.

And you have just when you’re talking about moving them seamlessly through this process, you have your coin die, I don’t know if it’s yours, particularly but your staircase right the either the. So,

actually my signature framework

is the signature okay can you just give a really high level on that one just so that you can sort of people can get a better I guess understanding of what that process looks like.

Yeah, so I came up with this concept of the selling staircase because it was really from working with my clients and trying to give them a structure that they could find themselves someplace in the structure and so I like the idea of a staircase, because it’s your job to move a client from step to step to step and it’s also your job to understand what step in my own in the conversation, and I teach it as a staircase, also because I teach my clients, you cannot skip steps in the selling process and in the sales conversation, the client can show up and be like hey here’s my money, I want to buy from you, they can skip steps, skip steps in the sales conversation you often leave people feeling confused or overwhelmed, or frankly sometimes irritated, right away that you come across. So the five steps in the zoning staircase. The first step is the introduction step in the idea there is to make a really powerful first impression. And then step two is curiosity, it’s learning how to create some curiosity, so that we start to have better conversations that it piques people’s interest want to know more. And then the next logical step three is the discovery process now. This often is referred to as your consultation call or you can call it whatever you want I call it discovery, mostly because your job in that step is to understand what’s the problem. What’s the need what’s the want, And then when you establish what that is decide, Do you have something that meets that need or solves that problem or addresses that warrant, then you can move to step four, which is the proposal, and for some people they think of it as like a formal proposal, but sometimes it’s just laying out next steps for us to work together. And then step five is to close, and the close is about really issuing very specific language to allow somebody to make a decision, yes I’m ready to move forward or no I’m not or I have a question or an objection or whatever comes in that closed step so once you can understand where you are in the process, which step you’re on. It’s really seamless then to go Okay, so my job is not to rush to the close. My job is to move from creating curiosity to discovery. So I can do that right or and then I know I’m in discovery. Now I moved to proposal, and all of those things can happen in one conversation, and sometimes they happen over an extended period of time, multiple conversations,

right. And I think especially with, with our profession being design professionals are kind of just looking at it going okay so do they. You know I look at it from how people would find out about us as designers and. And then, you know, so the curiosity part might be, you know, somebody referred a designer to their friend and then their friend says oh yeah you should check, check out crystals website and then they go and so that’s sort of the intro and the curiosity is they check out the website and then now they’re on social media may be following me or, or that kind of thing and then they say okay we’ve got a project now. So, so a lot of though like I say step one and two is probably already done for most of our profession in the sense of, you know by the time we’re speaking to them. We are now at the discovery,

oftentimes that is very true that that comes either from your website or on social media or from a referral from a friend. It can also happen frequently just when you’re out and about, and somebody, you know, gets into a conversation with you, you can learn how to create what I call Here kitty kitty statements which are curiosity creating statements that allows for somebody to go like, we know something or maybe you have something that I’d like to know more about so being able to do that also when you’re out and about is, is important and again back to your point, you’re right. A lot of those conversations you’re having with people, you’re probably to step. Step three, which is that discovery. However I will say it’s still your job to create a powerful first impression with the way you come across in that conversation. And you still do want to be planting some seeds around creating some curiosity. Because the idea in that consultation is to not give a bunch of free advice. The idea in that consultation is to understand what the problem, the need is and then see if you have a solution for them, it isn’t to like let me show you all that I know and how amazing I am so that you’re, you know, desperate to hire me, that’s actually doing you and

them a disservice. So I would see like, for a lot of designers what they will do is an actual consultation visit but prior to that they’re definitely going to have they’re going to get on the phone with them and find out about their project so I guess I kind of looked at we could almost do step two and three together, because really, once you get to a paid consultation, and that may be a one off and they come in for two hours and that’s it or it may be, kind of, that’s like the first intro and then they say oh my gosh look at all this knowledge you have, and all these great ideas we want to hire you to now implement and go to step, sort of three and a half, because it’s sort of like you’ve done, you’ve done sort of a mini, you know, a mini proposal, so I’m thinking, I’m just sort of thinking about how our industry works that way and a lot of a lot of designers will work out ways that they will do the paid consultation, but prior to that when you’re on the phone call with them and just finding out what are some things that you can sort of, how can you create curiosity, how can you get that for your client to have curiosity, what are some examples or conversations or that type of thing that can sort of pull that out of them.

Well there’s a couple ways to do it one in particular is the way you ask questions, How the question is framed. So want to plant some curiosity for them in the way that you would frame a question. And now, because I’m not an interior designer, you’re going to have a better question that I’m going to be able to come up with, but I’m going to give you an example address. So instead of saying like, let’s say you say to somebody, what do you not like about your bathroom. When you come in and do their bathroom okay so what do you not like about your bathroom. Well that doesn’t really create any curiosity that doesn’t really kind of plant any seeds about your expertise. So you might need to frame that question with. So when you’re thinking about what you want your, what you want to experience in your bathroom. Have you already thought about what you want the vibe to be or how you want to feel when you’re in there. That’s something that you know is heavy focus with my clients. Yep, to make sure that they don’t just love their space but there’s some functionality to it as well so have you already thought about those because they might be like functionality or loving my bathroom. Yeah. So you’re, you’re planting a little bit of seed there with them and again, I’m sure you come up with a better question than what I just laid out there,

it’s a great example of understanding because it’s just it’s two questions but the second question is so much different than the first question, like is there they’re gonna just go I hate this, this doesn’t work and then the impact is mold here and that you know whatever the complaints are they’re gonna kind of go off as opposed to flipping it and saying, What do you want to get, you know, what do you want to feel when you’re in here, what, what is the experience that you want. What do you, you know, Do you want to be able to have everything, you know, in your cabinets nicely organized whatever that, yeah, I’m not even asking

the other one I was thinking about because I just because I mostly because this feeds like what I would watch right bathroom is I would love for a designer to ask me like, how important is technology to you and you were like in your space, because I’m somebody who loves technology and I’m like the latest and greatest, coolest thing. And if you plant that seed for me, and I’m going to be curious about what type of technology could one have in their bathroom that maybe you didn’t have in bathrooms 1020 years ago,

right, which then allows the designer to now showcase all their knowledge and expertise and show the value that they’re, they can bring to this project. So, yeah, so now with, you know, we kind of go to the curiosity still staying on that with social media, how can you do that because I think we tend to want to go look at all these great projects we’re doing, like how great this is how can we do that on social media, create either curiosity or sort of talk with people as opposed to talking at them.

So one of the ways to do that is to learn how to ask questions, because one of the biggest mistakes that people make right now is that we talk at people, regular people are sick of being talked at talking at is making statements talking with involves asking questions. So one of the ways that you could do that is by, let’s say you’re going to post something about a new project that you did ask a question about project like ask, What’s one thing that really pops off the picture for you or what’s, what’s one thing that really stood out as being special in this photo, or something like that because now they get to engage, it also starts to plant some seeds for them about like, I’d like to have something special in my kitchen or I have something special in my house that I never really thought of. Oh man, look at the color combination that was used here and maybe that’s not my color palette but I wonder what you look like miss my color palette, no like, so ask some questions and see what happens is going to encourage engagement, and it starts to plant some seeds for people because our brains are actually thinking, I mean most of us walk around the whole world revolves around us right like nothing everything that happens is to us. For us, against us right like Yeah, so when you ask people questions they’re not thinking about it for the person who just did the project for they’re thinking about it as if it’s for them.

That’s right. How does, how could this affect me, what could, like, what can I pull out of this. You’re right. I mean, you know what sort of, when you step back and look at it you do, like you do think of that, how, how can that apply to my situation or how can apply to my bathroom or I think a lot of times, people that aren’t in the industry will look at an image or a picture and just go, I love it. But when you start saying well what do you love about, like, then they like. It lets them sort of look at things a little bit differently and go. That’s a great rangehood oh and I don’t have Oh I’d love. You know what I’d like any rangehood in my in my kitchen and whatever, whatever, right. The snowballing or the sprouting of the seeds that we’ve just planted. I always love that. I always I it’s such a good visual to write you just can see the little sprouts coming out of the ground and

the plants seeds.

Yes exactly, how does relationship selling differ from traditional sales methods like I think people as I said at the beginning of the show, you know, we all kind of, there’s, there’s been a very bad connotation to sales and some of us feel I can’t be salesy and in interior design and decorating, we have to sell. I mean, that’s our job is we’re selling our ideas, our thoughts, our concepts, how can we sort of flip that a little bit for to make it less scary.

Well the idea is sales isn’t something that you do to somebody and I think old kind of old style of selling is it feels like it’s something you’re doing to somebody. It’s actually something you do with somebody. And when you start thinking about that this is a collaborative experience this is a with type situation, that it isn’t about trying to get one over on somebody or make somebody do something and frankly it’s not even your job to convince anybody to buy from you. It’s your job to understand what’s the need, what’s the problem, what’s the word, and demonstrate how your solution that you’ve put in front of them your proposal your next steps hiring you, is going to meet that problem solve that need offer the solution for them. And then it’s about issuing the invitation, allowing for them to decide yes they’re in, and that happens through language. Yes, they’re in hire you or they’ve got some questions or maybe the answer is no and either like whatever the answer is, it’s okay, but we’ve got to get to that place with humans are so when you stop thinking about sales, it’s something you’re doing to somebody and you can make this is actually a conversation. This is something I’m doing with somebody, I’m meeting with clients today understand and that I can offer them a possible solution. And if it turns out that your solution is not the right fit for them. It’s totally okay. Right, I think I heard you talk about this on a podcast recently where I know you know you know I say this all the time like bless and release. Yeah, people were not a good fit like you, your job is not to convince anybody buy from me buy from me by for me. Your job is to make it really easy for somebody to understand what it is that you’re offering, and then put some language in front of them so they can make a decision, yes.

Yeah, I think what what happens a lot with our industry is, you know, you’ll go into meet with a client and you start understanding the scope of work and what they want done and whatever then you get to this budget discussion, and they, you know, so do you have a budget in mind, they kind of ever would need, you know, the money is always the heart, you know, it’s this line this border this sort of like invisible. We don’t want to cross that but obviously we have to, and I think a lot of times what happens is, you know you’re hearing from your client all their, their wish list and all the things that they want to get done. And then they either don’t want to give you a budget or, like, and a lot of times, in all honesty, they have no concept of what stuff costs right especially when it gets to renovations and where you’re getting labor and trade and all that involved. And I think a lot of us wants to, I guess, sort of as the people pleaser part of us that that want to just sort of smile and nod and and say, Yeah, this is, yeah, we can do that we can do that we can do that and there’s this struggle of not wanting to be honest with, with people with when it comes to money so saying okay, you what you want is, you know, whatever the list is, but we need to be honest and say what you’re asking for is going to cost a lot more than you think you are that you’ve budgeted for. So, looking at it from that perspective, that it’s, you’re not pushing that on them but you’re showing this is my job you’ve asked me to tell you what to help you with this project. This project it’s going to cost $100,000 And you’re just there it is, you’re laying it out, you’re letting them know this is what it’s going to cost, and I think a lot of us get stuck on that we feel bad, right, we feel like they said they only had a budget of 60,000 an hour come in with a 40,000, but it’s to your point, it’s not our job to sell the 100,000 It’s to let them know this is what it’s really going to cost and let them make the decision.

You are the expert, your job is to stand in your place of expertise, recommend what you know the client is saying they want a need, and then have some options available for them right so if somebody is coming in and they’ve got these list of saying like champagne taste on a beer budget. Okay, so if you are talking to somebody who has the champagne taste, and you just need to be. You need to be real, which, frankly, and it’s not doing them a disservice by showing up from an authentic place and saying, You know what you’re talking about sounds amazing. And that’s probably $100,000 project, you had mentioned that your budget was 60, you know, I’d be happy to design something that meets all of your needs at that $100,000 project, bandwidth, or if you would like for us to talk about ways that we could look for cost savings, or things that you’re willing to let go of that $60,000 budget, I can absolutely put something together for you in that range to, which is your preference. The only way that you just very kindly put the ball back in their court and let them choose because what will happen is, some people will find the extra 40,000 Yeah, that what they say they will really, really want. Whereas other people are going to go okay, I see this, okay, I get it and I can you know maybe I don’t need an expensive. This or that I’m willing to pare down here or maybe where we thought we were going to take out a wall, we need a wall and we come up with another solution because that’s going to cut some costs right. It’s about being real with the client, and when you do it from a place where you act like, Oh, I feel bad I feel bad. I always give this example, you have this piece in our human nature, which isn’t really that attractive, frankly, but it’s, it’s this thing that when people show up and they act like you know with me like, oh I feel bad you mean it’s bad news. It’s kind of like if your kid comes to you and they’re like, Mom, I got some bad news to you say, Oh, sweetheart. What is it, Or do you go, what, what is right and so if you approach a client with just like, oh I have a bad news, or this is gonna be hard to tell you, they are going to react, like, what, what did you do, instead of like, okay, but if you come to them and say I have some news. And I have some things to discuss with you, they’re gonna be like, Okay, let’s talk about it. It’s not like get the whip out and beat me or like, make some assumption that you’ve done something wrong because you have done nothing wrong. You’re, you’re not even the messenger, Here are the experts at your place of authority, talk from a place of authority, and you don’t have to do it from this like, I feel bad. Why should you feel bad you didn’t set the price. Yeah, like, it is what it is. So, just be honest, be real with people and they’ll appreciate that and frankly, if they want to blame you for not being able to deliver a $100,000 project and a $60,000 budget, do you really want that client, or no.

Exactly, exactly. And I think a lot of especially I mean, I’ve been in this business a long time now and but when I first started out, and I think this for a lot of new designers and I hear this from different groups that I’m in that they do there’s that there’s this almost a sense of responsibility, like it’s their fault. I’m using the term, air quotes fault, and it’s funny and it’s just I think, you know, looking at it like, Like, when you put it in the it’s our job to show them the options and it’s like our job to say here are the facts right here’s what you. This is what things cost, and I guess takeaway I think a lot of what happens with sales, in my experience and from what I’m talking to people is, there’s this personal right there’s this, you know, the rejection being in sales right is a personal rejection, how do we kind of like I know it’s a mindset thing but is there is there things that you can help, you know, maybe people that are slowly getting used to mark because it comes with time and confidence right.

He does. And the thing about sales, is when somebody declines, working with you. It isn’t normal very often it’s very very rare for it to be a personal rejection. I tell this story, you’ve probably heard me tell the story in the group where years ago a really close friend of mine had reached out and she wanted some advice she was interviewing for a sales position and she, she wanted me to give her kind of some sales, like type language to ask you never really had a sales position before. And so she said at one point in our discussion, she said, you know, you’re so good at in sales. And I love a compliment, so I was like all ears. I was like, what am I really good at going tell me like I can’t wait to hear. And she’s like, you’re so good at rejection, and I was driving at the time and I almost I like started to pull over to the side of the road and I like stomped on the brake and I was like, what,

what are they called, candid compliments or something I heard,

as well, we got in our family who’s rejecting me. What are you talking about like I was so thrown by this compliment that I was good at rejection, and, and then she goes you know when, when you put an offer out to somebody and they say no, you just you just go with the flow, it’s not that big of a deal to you and I was like, Oh, you think no is rejection. No, that’s actually not what it is in sales. So to give just for the listener out there to give you kind of an idea about this is, imagine that you go to a restaurant, we can all go to restaurants, yes. In the good old days yes to go to restaurants, and you have this like really lovely satisfying meal. And just as you were kind of finishing your meal, and the waiter came by to like take your plates away. The waiter says Now, can I bring you the dessert menu, and you say oh no, I couldn’t I couldn’t possibly I’m so full. I’m so satisfied but thank you so much. Maybe next time. The waiter does not go back into the kitchen and gather all of its like friends at the at the restaurant and go like, can you believe that lady, I offered her dessert and she rejected me like, oh my gosh, it’s just information,

I love that I actually that’s gonna be another one that is gonna sit in my back of my mind. I don’t want the dessert menu stuffed.

So if somebody declines your dessert menu. It’s not rejection of you personally it’s. Now, there are things that you could take it you could get really curious. I love being curious, and if you get to the point with somebody where you feel like man, I have just delivered them the proposal that is going to be the proposal of all proposals, it’s like, it’s so meets their needs and we are so insane and things are going really well and they say no. If you’re shocked by this, there are some information there that you need to like be really curious about, and it is absolutely okay to say to somebody when they say no to your proposal to save us. Is it okay to ask your reason for declining working. Now you have to say it in a soft kind voice, and you don’t want there to be any like inks or offense to the way you’re asking so that kind about it and be curious and see what they say because they may give you some insight into a place where maybe you missed a step somewhere or maybe there’s just other information going on like my husband just lost his job and so now we can’t do the project because we’re worried about money right there could be a myriad of reasons as to why somebody would say no, don’t like take it as personal rejection of you that you’re a bad person that you’ve done something wrong necessarily just be curious and see what happens. You might learn something about yourself or you might go like who dodged a bullet with that one. Yeah, yeah I didn’t take that money and on.

Yeah, that’s so true. And I, and I think that that applies also to when you’ve presented some ideas and some, you know concepts or whatever and they’re like, No, I don’t really don’t really like that I had I had this, just like a week and a half ago I presented something to a client and it was this herringbone kind of pattern and she’s like oh I really don’t like hearing about my. Okay. Note, you know like I mean I don’t go through every and ask everybody what patterns you like, whatever it was just like, okay, she’s like hearing about, okay, good, good to know anything else we pick. Stay away from hearing book but you know it’s sometimes that can be hard when somebody’s like, oh I don’t really like that and you’re okay. What don’t you like about it, what do you know in trying to so that you can solve the problem. So, or like solve the issue and figure out what it is that they don’t like about it so I think, I mean, a lot of this just summarizes up the point of ask a lot of questions.

Yeah. You know if somebody were to say to me, like, oh I just I just don’t really like the design, it’s not my, you know, it’s not my cup of tea or whatever. The way to reframe that a little bit with somebody, there’s even a hand gesture that is attached to this so this comes from my background in neuro linguistic programming. And so I know you as a listener you can’t see what I’m going to do something explain it. So you, you kind of put your hand down like palm facing down. And you go okay so you, so that’s not your style or you kind of, you backtrack their words or whatever they said if they go like, it’s just not really my style so my cup of tea. So you put your hand kind of down flat like level I guess I would say not level, what am I trying to say like horizontal. Yes, thank you to the floor or to whatever, maybe you are gesturing to the image or whatever, no okay so, so if that’s not your cup of tea, and then you flip your hand up softly, so now I’m facing up. And you know, he’s your cup of tea. What would you say is your cup of tea instead.

Yeah. And then,

now you have to say in a curious voice like, what is your cup of tea instead what would you say, be curious, and then pause and wait and see what they say because one of the ways that our brains love to. We love to associate and we love to dismiss things right so it’s sometimes it’s easier to say all the things we don’t like. Before we can start to say the things we do like it. So sometimes you have to give your clients the opportunity to say all the things that you don’t like. That’s true. This sometimes in coaching calls was when I noticed this is their pattern and I’m like okay, I’m gonna throw out some ideas and your job is to just shoot them down as fast as possible. Just to all the ideas that I’m going to throw at you as fast as possible, so that we can get to the ones that are really going to work for you. Now, even by giving people permission to do that, oftentimes what it does is, it slows them down, because now they’re like, Well, I don’t know if I want to dismiss this so fast, like I’m gonna maybe I want to wait, but sometimes they’ll be like, no, no, no. And then now we’re getting to someplace where their brain is starting to go. Know what would work for me. Yes. Yeah, right now we have something to work with and we have a solution and let’s move forward with that. So if somebody is like I don’t like your herringbone pattern. Okay, so if your remotes not your style like what is your preference. Yeah, and then you see what and you wait and you see what she says because it might be something that you can even though even thought of on your own. I don’t know whatever patterns are besides herringbone but it might be something else that you might not have been able to come up with on your own, but yet if you could come back with the pattern or maybe it’s not about her No no no, that is like so in sync with what she’s saying is like her style, she’s gonna feel like you get her at a deeper level.

Yeah, and sometimes I think what happens is that the client doesn’t even know how to articulate or express what it is that they want. So by going through what they don’t want that helps to sort of sift through and a way of finding because it can be hard sometimes to pull stuff on people because, you know, they don’t even, don’t even know what they want until they see it kind of thing.

Well, and also, you, you ask, you’re the expert and you have all this expertise like you don’t just show up like oh I know a little bit about like you know a lot about design, you know a lot of the industry like what works, what doesn’t work like you show up with so much information, and oftentimes when people are hiring you, they’re hiring you because of your expertise, and they don’t know they don’t even have the words, right, they didn’t know how to articulate, whatever this piece is, and your job is to help them without trying to make them feel like they don’t know anything like bring them along, you’re really in sales in my opinion is to keep the guide. Totally died.

That’s exactly it. That’s exactly I mean I think in any service based industry, you are the guide right you are leading your client through whatever this process is. Anyway, you’re, you’re,

you’re the guide. That’s why they’ve come to you. Yeah, and sometimes the guides, I mean the guides job is not always to discover everything, and tell people, all of the answers, the guides job sometimes is to just lead people so they can find their own answer because their own answer or frankly whatever the pattern is that she comes back and says her style will have way more impact and lead than anything you could suggest.

Yeah, but it’s helping her. See that or figure it out or, you know, sort of solidify what it is that she’s thinking. So when somebody books a discovery call like what is the best, like say you’ve had this discovery call you think you’ve got this great rapport with somebody, you know you’ve kind of moved on to the next, I guess sort of stage of the process. What is, I guess what I’m trying to say is like when you get to the proposal stage. How do you feel, because I’ve heard so many different experts say on the ways of delivering proposals, you never send one yet by email I mean right now we’re having some challenges. How do you find the best way to deliver a proposal, so that you’re going to get the most the most positive. The most yeses. Is there is there, like, things that people can do or not do you know if we’re looking at let’s remove the negative things. Okay.

I love this question now okay so when you’ve gotten to this place where it’s time to lay out the proposal. Now if it makes sense when you’re still in that discovery call to lay out a proposal in front of the client great, but I find sometimes with designers that you need time to go back yeah put together the numbers and so there actually is a physical proposal for them. And so in those cases, your job is to set up a time to review the proposal with them so I’m totally fine with sending the proposal to them. What you have to do is also have a time already scheduled on the calendar to review the proposal so do not say to somebody, I’m going to send you a proposal, and then I’ll call you next week and we’ll get a time schedule to review it, that’s an absolute no, and you’re going to miss out on working with clients is that so instead what I want you to do is to say, I’ll have this proposal to you by Friday or whatever it is. Let’s go ahead and schedule a circle. Call now to review the proposal, the answer additional questions that come to mind for you, and then we’ll talk about next steps for working together can we get that on our calendars now. And then you’re gonna pull out your calendar, you’re gonna get on their calendar, you’re going to schedule the time, and you’re going to send the proposal and you say you do and then you’re going to walk them through it so when you get back onto that call. Your job now is to start off that circle back call with. Have you had a chance to look at the proposal,

and hopefully they have in preparation for their meeting.

Hopefully they have that if they haven’t, then you can say okay great can you pull it up now let’s walk through it together. Okay, like that, is better than, Oh well, let’s just reschedule. All right, like, yeah, walk through together walk through it. Let those questions bubbled to the surface and so you say what questions have come to mind since we last spoke, is different than Do you have any questions. So, frame it as questions have come to mind since we last spoke, and then when you get to, you’ve answered their questions now you have to issue an invitation for them to move to the next step with you this is closed language. So is this something you’re ready to get started with a yes or no question close questions are typically Yes or No. Should we go ahead and schedule, start up the project. That’s a yes or no question often that question though elicit someone to actually schedule a time with you even though it’s a yes or no question. Yeah, it will getting that next step. So that’s how you move through the solving staircase, that’s how you get to the place where exchange dollars for services, is that you make it super easy for your client to review the information, ask any lingering questions, and you put the decision in front of them, essentially in the nicest kindest way as. Do you want to work together yes or no.

Yes, yes, maybe not those words but yeah,

those words. Exactly.

I think and what I one thing I really learned from you is that getting that next call the net like getting it on the calendar because we’re so guilty of sending the proposal going okay let me know if you have any questions, you know like this sort of loosey goosey, not definitive and I think that is be one of the biggest things that I’ve taken away is is like get the circle back on the calendar, and I was guilty of it just recently to have to say, I sent it out, and she’s like okay received it I’ll get back to you shortly and I was like, oh I just did the biggest full bother I was supposed to do. But funny enough when I followed up with her I said, Would it be helpful if we schedule a call to discuss, you know, I’ve worked with him before, so it wasn’t like, you know, a new client, and in the end I did get the job so it was all good. But yeah, that was one of those. Oh I gotta remember to do that because I think it really does it, it at least it gives you this closure to one way or the other and there’s not this sort of lingering it’s just sort of floating out there, you know, all three weeks have gone by and you know, hopefully you know you don’t leave three weeks in between proposals and not hearing, touching base with your client but you know what I’m saying, like,

yeah, definitely. It does take practice to get used to offering the circle, call getting it scheduled, but the idea behind this is your top really is to earn somebody’s business, and the way you earn somebody’s business is you make it easy for them to continue on the staff with you. And when you say let me know you’re actually making it really difficult for them because you’re saying like, at some point, stop what you’re doing, you know, abandon your to do list and look for my number or search email that I sent, give me a call or send me an email let me know you’re interested in next steps and then I’ll get back to you and maybe we’ll schedule a time or not, like, anytime you have all of this, expecting the client to do the work, they won’t. Yeah, because they’re busy, and because this is not their job and your job is to make it super easy and the easier you make it for people to hire you then much more likely to earn the business.

That’s so good. That’s such good advice because you’re really, you know, you probably don’t ever think of it that way but when you break it down like that, you’re absolutely right, you’re another thing on their to do list, right, is to call and get back to yourself, I think that’s great. So, I respect your time because this has been great. I could ask you 8 million questions on sales. So before I go to my interior Inquisition, I do want to just talk a little bit about your what you offer your sales Maven society. I know I think you have a free resource for our listeners as well.

Yeah, so for all the listeners anybody who would like a little bit more around the steps and language around it I have an ebook called closing the sale. You can download this resource by going to your sales Maven, and it’s nav and.com forward slash designer, and that will take you right to the page where you can download that resource and I’d be happy for you to have that and then as far as the Sales Event society. That is my monthly membership program that is a way for people to get access to sales training the fundamentals that I train around sale so everything from these discovery calls the questions that you should be asking, what you should how to frame your emails to be more impactful and get responses and kind of anything to do with sales conversations. And then there is a private group where people can post questions to me, they can also post in the sales Maven society I give my members the opportunity to post there. Here’s an email I’m about to send out to a client or here’s a conversation I had and here’s what I’m thinking about saying, will you give me some feedback on it and I do I’ll tweak people’s emails and offer suggestions on ways to rephrase things to have more impact. And then we do live calls a couple times a month, where sometimes I bring in a guest expert sometimes I teach a new concept, and or we do, Just open coaching calls for people to ask questions, so that’s what the sales Maven society, it really it’s such a great resource I

mean the amount of content I haven’t even like scratched the surface of what’s, what’s in there, I just basically a lot. There is a lot, there’s a ton, and I mean the, she’s You’re amazing with the the Facebook I always love seeing how people will tag you and you’ll, you know, help them tweak their, their emails and, you know, you do learn everybody comes from different industries, it’s in there but there’s always something that you can learn from it, to apply it to your business so it’s such a great value and you’re so good and so generous with your time with responding to those messages on Facebook so it’s it’s well well worth it for sure. So thank you for the book too that’s that’s going to be fantastic. So we’ll put all this obviously in the show notes so. So now I want to get to the interior Inquisition. And these are, you can answer these questions anyway it’s life, business, however you want to you want to answer them. So, what is one thing that you think every person should experience in their lives. I think

everybody should experience a comeback. Having failed at something and then found their way to turn it into fuel to come back from it in some way. Absolutely. Think one it builds empathy for you for other people who are in a place of struggle. I think it shows you inside yourself the resiliency that you have and the ability that you have to overcome challenges that life will continue to throw at you, your life and business Without you, so yeah, I think a comeback.

Episode #0032 – Adding Virtual Design Services with Ellen Smith

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson interviews fellow interior design professional Ellen Smith. She works in the New York and New Jersey area to help people find the perfect additions to design and decorate their homes.

Ellen has discovered a way to help others find the perfect furniture for their homes without having to be in their geographical area. Which has been an advantage in the current pandemic, adding virtual design services. 

Her services include selecting paint colors, fabrics, furniture options, and more. Ellen’s business model is such that the client then has to hire their own painters, movers, and contractors to complete the onsite work. She simply assists them to find what they are looking for, she does not participate in the process of installation. She prefers to meet on Zoom and assist her clients virtually.

 Ellen strongly believes you have to trust the process. The process may take numerous meetings. But the most important thing to remember is to not give up if you do not find the perfect options immediately. Sometimes it takes trusting the process and trusting the interior design professional to find what you are looking for.  

So, join Crystal and Ellen as they talk about adding virtual design services. And, see how working remotely is possible even for interior designers and decorators. Then, do something today that your future self will thank you for and think about how you could expand your business reach by working remotely. 

Suggested TPD episode: #0026 Economic Value of Furniture

How to get in touch with Ellen:

Website – ethanallen.com and ellen-smith-designer-ethan-allen 

Instagram- @misse.designs

Ellen Smith as TPG guest in the episode Episode #0032 - Adding Virtual Design Services

Recommended podcast:

A Well Designed Business

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

Welcome everyone to another episode of the productive designer I have a special guest with us today I have Ellen Smith and she is from New Jersey, New York, and I’m gonna let Ellen tell us a little better about herself so welcome on.

Thank you, thank you so much crystal for having me. I always tell people, you know, design was a second career. You know I spent 18 years in corporate America,

I’ve heard that more than one time,

yeah, yeah. Yes, I like to let people know because there’s chapter two, Like, certainly for me. I had reached that point where you know, I was downsized or suggested I don’t even know what the language is doing more, but I remember just having an epiphany saying, you know, what is it that I want to do when I grow up again, you know, exactly, you know, choose corporate and design was always a passion for me, but I just didn’t know how do you make a living out of doing right now. Can you make money from that, you know, and certainly for myself I can work, family, hard working family you know you go to school you learn you get college degree, blah, blah, blah. You know even saying you want to do something creative was a little outside the norm, you know, so to speak for yourself on that, but I had reached that point in my life I was about 32, you know, and I said, What do I really want to do, if I had to choose to do something, you know, and design was something that was always a passion of mine was always something that came. Not only was I interested in it but it was something that I was good at, you know, even as a little girl, I tell people this story, it’s so funny but even as a little girl you know I doll houses and I mean I love my dog, you

know, decorating your dollhouse

with my dogs and then I come and deer, my sister’s doll house you know so I was that girl. Switch to Roma, and you know so. Me too,

I was. Yeah, I

was that girl so how do you make a living. What kind of job is that, you know what I mean I know when I was younger I was like, What is this, is this a job that people actually do you know so took me a while, and again it was just kind of being, you know, I guess nudged or or looking at it as a, maybe a blessing in disguise, you know, what do I want to do when I grow up again and design was the thing so it also kind of coincided with the popularity of HGTV so it looked more like a job, you know any viable career you can make. So I started locally at first at a design center near my home that was real pretty well known. He had just opened a store in Manhattan. I started off in custom window treatments, which was really an excellent place to start. Things with certainly the attention to detail, you know, and I worked in New Jersey and I worked in Hatton for many many years, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the pace of it. I enjoy working physics different types of homes you know so, and then I wanted to branch out a little bit more to full design, and I had applied to no local Design Center. The first one I applied to. I didn’t really get any bites and I was like okay, but that wasn’t really like the location I wanted to be at so again once again right things just happen when asked what’s happening, right, right, so I got the location and it went to be at night. I’ve been there three years and I really loved it. I enjoy what I do, I find that having that window treatment background again the attention to detail, you know it’s really something that it works well for me and I know people think that you know when you’re in a creative business people think it’s all fun on, but you really do need a good balance of left brain right brain,

for sure. I always say you could come up with all these great ideas but if you can’t get it executed, you know, wrap in the right timeframe, with the right budget, like, then, is it

good, is it good is it if you can manage the project, you know, so I think I’m fortunate in that respect I did you know in between this site, you go back to school, you know something my father was something my father was pushing me to do I did finish my college degree in Marketing, and again it just it appealed to me because again I’m that left brain right brain, no I have the creative, but I also am extremely analytical, you know, so it works really well for me especially with managing my projects, following up with clients, you know, that kind of stuff that, you know, you just can’t let that fall by the wayside. Yeah, with referrals you know when to repeat business, you know, so I enjoy so much what I do I feel so fortunate to make a living out of something you love, is really, really, what they say you never work a day in your life, you know, but that’s not 100%. You work in but at least it’s a passion, you know you want to work you know what I mean it’s like you’re working and especially these last nine months or so, it’s been a constant wind is the constant work but at least you love it, you know, Amy,

getting out of bed to do something, you, you actually want to do is what you’re getting into bed, to do something you don’t want to do just to

my fortune and I’m certainly within the last five months and I think, you know, looking towards the future people’s focus is on the home, you know, home backyard, you know, all of that, we’ve been a beneficiary I know, right now I’m in New Jersey but I see a lot of, we see a lot of Manhattan knights, coming to the suburbs, we see a lot of, you know, northern New Jersey like Jersey City they own you know, we’re maybe they were a little more in North Jersey because they needed a shorter commute to the city right you know a lot of places now, people are home.

Well, people will virtually and functional. So they’re like, why am I in the city, why do I need to be here right.

A lot of places it’s indefinite right now,

for sure. I think especially, especially New York City being, you know what it is in the sense of real estate prices for rent and what you’re getting and like I couldn’t imagine being in a small tiny apartment 24 seven for the last nine months you start losing your mind and all those amenities of why you want to be in the big city are not available to

you are not available, like kids and pets and you know all that. So again, just being that part. I guess a little bit of luck, you know, just being in the right industry at the right time is yeah I mean, really I can’t really say I had anything to do with that. I’m just real fortunate like I could be working at a clothing retailer,

you know exactly, you just kind of I’ve, I’ve thought of that myself to just, you know, my husband does renovations and you know when that first hit, we were all kind of going, Oh, okay, what is this mean and then to see how our industry, to your point exactly has just, I mean every designer every run like Everybody I talked to that’s somehow related to the home, residential everyone’s just running off their feet because it’s going crazy people are taking the budgets that they usually had for travel or vacation and they’re like, Well, I can’t go anywhere. Let’s put it into the house let’s make our house. And so, yeah, and I can see how window treatments when you’re talking about that with AI because that’s a that is a specialty in itself, how the details and all of the, you know that because it’s not just about the beauty, it’s about the function of it too and you know how you have to think about all the different elements and aspects of, of what that window treatment is how is it going to look, how’s it going to function, which I think is a great foundation for the rest of design as well so that you’re, you were, you were right to, to start out on that is probably was a great foundation for you to have that yeah,

I definitely would agree with that. Definitely.

So you were saying when you and I were talking before that you’re doing a lot more, ie design, so yeah. Can you elaborate a little bit on. I know, I know you work out of a showroom, if you want to save the day or not but

I mean, okay, I work at Ethan now and it’s a great place to work. We do full design here. I love it and I will say this, what we’ve been able to do. We didn’t just start doing this, I think one of the things that I, there’s a lot of reasons I like working here but I used to work in corporate I worked in the training department, and I’ve had to tell you the training here is phenomenal. It is absolutely phenomenal where I work, so they are all about the technology and we always had our little maneuvers that we could take with us, we could always work from home, you know, sometimes you need to work from home for plans and not you know, that’s not always a nine to five, kind of thing so always kept up with the latest technologies, we had a really awesome 3d plan or we have an augmented reality app I mean, we had all that we had, you know, the opportunity to connect with clients from all over the country. So, that was always something that we had, and then mid March, when this hit. It was like the company itself, like we didn’t have to scramble to get things done. So, that was great, so it was a good foundation for a design by having, you know, because I live in New Jersey and we were kind of like the first ones kind of, you know, so to speak, yes, pandemic, we were home, but we were still able to connect with people all over the country. So that’s where the he designed for me really really picked up because I’m talking to people, people in Chicago, I had a woman, you know that I connected with honestly she was in Canada but when I tell you she was in Canada, she was in like the middle of Canada, like I mean she was like five hours away from like Toronto.

And so how did you find her, I’ve just I just find that interesting, how did that connection happen.

So, again, we have the technology to connect with people so you know we have a live chat, you know, off of our website you’re registered, and people are, you know, they have questions I’m going to order something this What about this does this come in this finish. Can you help me with paint colors to help me to my rugby you know like you never know what someone’s you know, going to ask. Yeah, and in her case, she wanted to purchase some leather chairs, and she, because she’s so far away from. I don’t want to say civilization, but certainly

any of them are major

yeah basically she was in literally, I mean if you took a dart in Canada and hit the middle she was there, you know, like literally, so it’s like okay well let me, you know, take some pictures, let me FaceTime with you, you know, That kind of thing. Even with the design, it’s not that there’s other ways to connect with people, you know, they still talk to them, you know, whether it’s female you still need to share, floor plans, you’re probably going to need to like FaceTime with someone because you do need, you still need a face to face, I feel like connection,

I still use your room, you know, yeah, for sure,

I need to ask you questions, send me pictures you know that kind of thing. I tried to, you know, when I was working in that, you know, kind of mode I was always people love to send you pictures or their space, they want their questions. Yeah, you know, they, they’re always, I don’t want to say like looking for free advice but people want

to know. So especially if that, you know, all of a sudden you’ve got, oh I’ve got somebody answering my question. Well I’ve got them

right I have a professional on the other you know, end of this computer might not take advantage of me so I think that was kind of, you know, kind of like a jumpstart and it has evolved by, I’ll tell you about future clothes that I had about a week ago which is when we swell so busy. It was young couple purchased a home out here in the suburbs, they actually changed from I believe Connecticut. Okay, but both work from home. They purchased a new home. I mean like a million dollar home in a suburb, local to our design center, and she’s pregnant and she’s high risk.

Yeah, so like I’m not going anywhere.

He’s not coming in. Yeah, so no problem. Not a problem at all. So, we FaceTimed, I did actually go out to the home so that I could do my own field measurements,

so just ask him, How do you manage that because yeah, you know, obviously there’s some disclaimers there if you’re not doing

exactly right, So here’s the deal. So, if I can do field measurements, I certainly want to do a couple window treatments right out of trust and vice versa. But there are times where you’re not able to do that. So, people have floorplan. No, you can, and this is where FaceTime is helpful because they have a measuring tape you can kind of guide them, putting on the window, let me say, you know, with furniture. The thing is, you know, it doesn’t have to be to the eighth of an inch. You know, so if you have a little bit you know a little bit more wiggle room, but as long as you kind of get the gist of the room and I’ve had success with actually people taking

their own measurement. I always wonder how that with, with the design how that can be. I would worry about, you know, somebody going okay well here’s my measurements. Okay. Are they accurate and, you know what I said before, I guess you have to say there’s some sort of onus on them, that they have to understand. Yeah,

absolutely and I think that I know certainly during a pandemic and when I was, you know, working with people you would have to put a disclaimer and I would have them sign off and say you know these are your own measurements, but again like it depends on what it is you know like if we’re talking about like a sectional, you know that’s something that we’re going to really have to tighten up these measurements at the top most often to chairs, you’ve been doing this long enough to know, you know, exactly some pieces that your room right, I can see the door swings. This way we should be okay. I know a room is probably about, you know, now if you tell me your room is 20 feet wide. Now, that automatically is going to be like. You tell them is 12 feet seven inches I’m like okay, it probably has to be seven into, you know, so I think experience, you know, helps with that as well, like, as many pictures as people can, if they have more plants and sometimes they do have four right

from the realtor or something. Yeah,

right from the realtor, so that certainly helps. If it’s someone in this particular case, they were lucky enough that I could come out and do measurements because we were talking about three rooms, you know, actually four homes. And I’m like, I’d like to come out and measure. You can be in another room, you know, while I’m doing practicing social distancing and that work but then the rest of it as far as the floor plan, the actual floor plan itself. All that I did with great 3d rendering tool, you know, you can email things to people, we can FaceTime, you know, the big screens in the Design Center we can take a look at fabrics, I think it worked out really well, you know,

yeah it’s I’m interested to hear like how you because there’s a lot of nuances in what we do and just trying to figure out how, so you would hold up a piece of fabric, basically to the camera and have them sort of look at it and

miso and have like a design board put together a presentation for yep okay, here’s the, here’s the concept of what it is that we’re trying to do, okay to get fine on the concept. Yeah, I have the actual pieces like wood pieces and actual case pieces in the Design Center. Yeah, I got my camera, I got to FaceTime, I’m like okay, I’m doing close ups we also, you know, we also have a website. Yeah, so there was something else to look at,

oh no, yeah.

And also I want to say this as well. So this is a couple that I’m going to say, you know, young is always relative right so I’m gonna say there are young couple somewhere between, maybe I mean she’s pregnant so I’m going to say like maybe 32, maybe 37 All right, somewhere around there. I think that they were tech savvy enough that they got it. I, it just depends on your client, you know any mean like whether or not they’re going to be comfortable with a design because you’re not going to be able to do that with everybody.

Did you say, like, were you able to physically well okay that location, because you were in within distance you could bring samples if you wanted to but like your, your client that was in candidate like do often send

actual finished, like exactly so in that case, you can mail sample, you know, fabric samples, samples are not so hard to get. You can mail it to people when you have a 3d rendering. And again, you’re going to, you know that everything’s funny. It’s not just one tool

right so there’s more yeah you’re using different tools for different applications, whatever

your rendering tool is sending the fabric so they can touch and feel because this is still, you know, interviewing people want to like say for sure.

Yeah, especially textural stuff like poster yeah you want it, yeah.


Now what about sitting on stuff because that’s another question.

Okay, so here’s the thing crystal again. Let’s look at this generationally right. And let me say this for myself, I am a perfect size seven shoe. I don’t need to try to, yeah, okay, because I know I’m a perfect size. Right, you have a generation, again, I work for reputable quality.

Oh yeah.

You have people that are comfortable with not suiting ones. Okay, I think because I work for quality retailers, the name is unknown is synonymous with falling. Also, I don’t think that this is such a big deal, but I do have people that need to sit on something, and I think we kind of talked a little bit about this before, I would suggest going with the retailer and checking out their return policy. And you know, because as you know, if you get something custom, you cannot return it. If there is a place for them to go if there’s a brick and mortar store for them to spin on things. Yeah, that’d be great, but again it just depends on budget, you know, you have people that will spend $3,000 for a sofa and then you have people that don’t want to spend more than 1000, you know,

so I’m just thinking with what I mean I know Ethan Allen here in Canada is up there in price, I mean it’s a quality. So, I would be concerned about somebody buying, let’s say, a sofa that they’re picking the upholstery they’re picking whatever so now it’s custom Brady, that’s something that, but it’s more for, I think, like, how tall are they does it, you know, how do they sit on a sofa. Yeah, right. But But to your point, like I do a lot of shopping even prior to the pandemic, I do a lot of sourcing, online, a time and I’m comfortable with it too. And I think to your point that the newer generation. It’s just I think that’s the one part where I go, you know, if you’re if it’s for somebody’s house, you kind of want them to sit on it but

exactly right. Right and I think you got to be careful with. So, what are we looking at here are we looking at a sofa yeah probably once you sit down our sofa. Yeah, you know, in this particular case with this couple, he was able to come in and sit on some pieces, perfect, we were able to come in early in the morning, he had the entire design center to himself, you know, and he was able to sit on things, you know, and he had her, you know on FaceTime okay yeah this is comfortable. Yeah, and again it’s really, there’s no one size fits all, you know,

yeah, no, you’re right. Yeah, no I was Wonder how with with a design but I think to your point, a lot of times, from what I understand what the designers is a lot of them will just, you know help pull things together at specify stuff. But there comes a point where it’s not full service right we’re not talking, full service so you have to get your, there’s,

Yeah, and there’s some onus on urine so the other thing so like I have my family members that are in North Carolina. So this is a great, you know, this is a good example. The retailer or I should say the retailer, but the source that we’re using is an online source. So, there’s no city, you know, there’s no setting, but it’s also returnable right so when I’m doing is I’m finding pieces that are going to work. Scale wise style wise. Okay, I’m providing you the links. Okay, and you do what you need to do with that.

You could look at it,

or you could buy it or

if you buy it, you buy it. But it’s your credit card, it’s your, you know it’s you having to return it in a case like that, I would be like, No, that’s a flat, because I don’t even want to get involved,

No, and you’re, you’re right not to, because that’s, that you don’t need and I mean, listen, yeah, sure, sofa, may be returnable but my God it’s not something you just throw in the backseat of your car, take it back to the store, item right so yeah, it’s a hassle, you’re getting somebody to deliver it.

Exactly. And I think it’s an again it’s not a one size fits all thing because I, unlike you like, maybe, the larger piece. I’m going to go with and where I happen to work as a national retailer, you know, so where are you located in Virginia. I got a dozen, you know places you can go to sit on something. But, and to your point, it’s not that easy to return a sofa, you know, so maybe, maybe that’s not the piece that you’re going to do online, but for some people, maybe it is yeah no to me, I feel a little bit for myself I know like case pieces yeah you could you know immediate unit, we can you know that that’s not hard, no line is basically it’s like, is it going to fit a little chess, you know, coffee tables, but I think with the upholstery, so you know, brick and mortar is and completely dead let’s put it like that.

No, I think I don’t think it ever will be.

I don’t think it can be, but some people really are going to need to just sit on something, you know, it’s like buying a mattress like who buys a mattress online. Yeah, I mean I guess somebody by delaying it

got, you know, even that I find okay well how long do I need to lay it out for how long. Well I don’t shoes too sometimes right and you’re like, can I think they’re comfortable, I’ve only tried the store. Yeah, there’s, there’s some, I guess, flexibility and in the statements, it’s not. Yeah, it’s not black and white and point it’s not one size fits all. So do window treatments as well with like through Ethan Allen do.

I do the window teammates as well to Ethan Allen, that is so little to us are so specific, like, that is, I mean Lester like draping panels, you know, cuz that’s easy. Yeah, it’s like, how, you know, on top of the window down, right, an idea to know. You know, cream, you know, sell for cream linen or whatever. That’s not, that’s not really difficult but anything more to me I would I call like the functional layer like the as far as like control as far as privacy. That is not something I would probably recommend doing, I mean you could provide certainly suggestions but that’s measuring, you know, and that to me is going to be relying on the client, you know to do. And then there’s a lot, you know, just like with upholstery, there’s a, there’s a range there like can you go to Home Depot and get a woven wood. Yeah. Yeah, can you get a customized welding work from Hunter Douglas, yeah, you can. We’re talking about $50 to $500 Yeah.

And then at that point you would probably call in a local window. You’ve guided them on the style

and the look you know, that’s where you want to go then, you know, let me at least put you in contact with the local person that can take that can execute. From here, so we’re back to, like, you know, left brain right brain because if you’re doing it. If you’re going to take this job, then I feel like you need to have some resources. Okay, to guide people to write, even if they are selecting, you know items for themselves, have a list of resources of, you know, reputable places that you would recommend people to know, places that if you are going to purchase a sofa, you know, online, let me just make sure that, let’s just check and make sure they have one let’s check the reviews. Okay, let’s check the return policy. Okay and then let me cover myself as a designer, and I need to put a disclaimer in there. Yeah, right, because everybody’s everything’s all good until something goes wrong, right, if it goes wrong, right until something goes wrong and it’s like, Oh, you didn’t tell me this, You didn’t tell me that so I rather be a little bit more detailed with people to know, I just think it’s smart like let them know what what the expectation is, if you provide a pink color. You need to connect with the local painter, you know, I’m not going to give you the amount of paint you need. The paper is going to do that, yes okay yeah, I’m giving you the color. Yeah, if we’re looking at doing walking for me to your hangar, to give you the right amount of walking, because I’m not, I don’t want to take responsibility for that because number one we’re doing this virtually, so I don’t know exactly. Now this is a good point about sizes right I don’t know exactly what your, you know, what your size is. And again, I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be drawn into that, you know like I don’t think that that’s, for me, I don’t think that’s part of the service that I want to be drawn in,

and smart especially, you can’t physically be there, I think you need to be a consultant, and that, you know, and although you know you’re not doing as we said before, you’re not doing full service. So you’d be a consultant you guide them on the selection these. Here’s the wallpaper I think that’d be great, your wallpaper that solid well look at it, no the repeat No, you know how many cuts Windows doorways whatever you know, stuff that, and I feel the same way with a lot of even just tile too sometimes I’m like oh yeah I can go into my drawing and calculate the square footage, but that’s not exactly you know like I always want my Tyler to say, I’d be like okay this is what I calculated. Here’s my here’s my overage, but I want you to confirm, right, because there’s nothing worse than they’re on site and they’re like oh we’re short.

Yeah, there’s nothing worse right there’s nothing I agree with. There’s nothing worse than that and you don’t want to be the person holding the bag because, quite frankly, I’m not the expert at that.

No no no,

so I’m not yes but I respect what you do, and I’m going to delegate that to you so that you can take ownership of that particular part of that piece, because I think we also when you’re doing it virtually because like you said, you can’t be there on site. Yeah, so I can’t exactly manage this, you know, the way that I would want to manage it, and because I can’t be on site. I don’t want to do it like, No,

I think it’s smart because you’re just opening up a huge can of worms to a lot of problems,

like, a lot of problems. Exactly, so you’re there you’re consulting, and also, here’s the thing, too, if you’re doing things you know virtually there’s no guarantee that they’re going to purchase anything. That’s what I’m suggesting

yeah here’s what I paid for is to give you a the loader

to do whatever it is that you need to do in mind. My job here is done, you know, you’ll manage the shipping, you’ll manage the Amazon deliveries or whatever, wherever there

are the shipping when somebody something arrives damaged and

exactly a day go because that’s not, I don’t want to be involved with that, you know, 2000 miles away. I don’t know.

I don’t think that’s a smart choice and, and, yeah, from what I understand most II designers that I’ve spoken to or have sort of learned about pretty much do the same thing right it’s more of a consultation or it’s more of a consulting type project where you’re picking everything for them. Here it is, you know, you guys, you know now the execution has to come from,

from someplace. Right, exactly, because if you were going to hire me, let’s say, you know 19 desire, let’s say you know we were locally you’re hiring me as a designer, not even, you know, to my day job. I’d be charging for all that stuff, you know, so obviously, for whatever reason and there’s no judgments if that’s not what your budget requires tonight, get it, then this is the value that I placed on this particular job I think that I’ve given you more than enough value. And at this point, there’s a part of you that, you know, I feel like some people are di wires, yes, no and so there’s a certain aspect of, or maybe they’re people that, you know, because believe it or not Christian, there’s people out there that can’t make up their mind.

That’s shocking.

Believe it or not, there are people out there that have to get everybody’s in.

Oh yeah, That the drive thru

family yeah, you know, yeah. And listen, if that’s what you need to feel comfortable making a decision if you if you need your girlfriend to tell you what’s good in your house Hey, yeah. So yeah, I don’t care but then you just hold on to that design until you’re ready to execute it, my again my work here is done. No, I think that’s, that’s the best way to look at real opinions, and say, that’s on you, you know, so, I think, setting. And I think see so I, I feel like this is where experiences on your side a little bit, you know because you kind of know you know where the gray area is, you know, we’ve been doing this for a while, so you kind of know like where your where your boundary is, you know, I guess, you know, so to speak, totally, totally, and you’re like okay this is, this is where my job starts and how to make it clear and how to skate with confidence. You know, so this is how I work. And this is what you should expect and and be clear about and be confident and don’t apologize. You

know I mean I think too many people don’t, I think too many consumers or clients don’t fully, you know, if you’ve never worked with a designer before they don’t really know, to your point, they don’t know where the boundaries are right so if you know they’re either contacting you through the, you know, through the internet and it’s now in a design that you know you have to spell it out to them, I’m gonna pick the stuff I’m going to specify, but I’m not purchasing it I’m not delivering it I’m not whatever. And, you know, it just I think it’s, it’s smart to any type of business and it took me a while to figure that out too. But you, you really do need to know what lane you’re in and you stay in that lane and to your point of having the confidence to explain that to your clients or prospective clients that you know I do this but I don’t do this, this and this and I’ll do this but I don’t, you know,

I think it’s right in a way. So first is you have a product that needs to be assembled, because that’s where you need to be as far as budget, again no judgment, but you have to assemble it, you know, Or you’re going to pay someone else to assembly, it I don’t care who was there, but I’m just gonna come on assembled and that’s why this is $300 Okay, so just know that. The other thing I had mentioned something that kind of triggered something in me, it’ll probably come back to you but it was really about like just the experience, and knowing, you know what you are responsible for and what you’re not responsible for it took me a little while to, oh I know what I was gonna say revision, you know, the amount of revisions that you’re going to give somebody, because we could be doing this all day and we’re not going to be doing this. You know what I mean yeah so you don’t know

that when you start first meet with a client, you don’t know if they’re gonna make a decision quickly or right now I

don’t know, I can I kind of play that by ear, but three is going to be my max

sort of I think Dan did or I was saying that rule but again, you need to sort of spell that out to

write exactly like three is going to be my max, I’ll probably start off with a couple of different choices. And then, you know, we need to make another you know revision or something from there and it depends on the vibe that I’m getting you know from Sunlight. Sunlight, you know I’m not that hard with people but you do get people that think this is an unlimited, you know,

desire on call

lifetimes, you know. Yeah, because it’s a business you know like, this isn’t a hobby for me, you know this isn’t, this isn’t a game that you know you’re playing on Facebook, this is, this is my livelihood, you know, so I’m going to put my best foot forward, based on what you’re telling me, based on budget to know because that’s the only thing

everybody has a budget

by everybody has a budget so if you’re telling me you want to spend 11 $100 for a sofa and again no judgment, that’s what you want to spend. We’re probably not gonna get a leather sofa, you know, we’re not going to get a customized purple sofa, you’re going to get a neutral color, sofa, that’s going to be the greater page, that’s where you’re at. Yeah, you know, and that’s fine, but just met and managing those expectations to 100% Now, you have to add

it and I think the more and if there’s any words of wisdom for people that are new to the industry is, is exactly that managing expectations, and setting the boundaries, that’s probably the two biggest things that you can do and it’s hard when you’re starting it’s really hard because you’re, you’re, you’re anxious you’re hungry, you’re excited you want to do whatever for people and

you’re underselling yourself I’m just trying to make a name for yourself. Yeah, that type of thing again this is, this is what this is because I’ve been I’ve been doing this now for, you know, just my second to second chapter of my life, but I’ve been doing this now for 18 years and I’ve also. I also know that it just, it takes confidence and it takes experience to be able to tell a client. No, and this, this is just my own personal thing. When I get a client that is, and you don’t know this when you first started out, you undersell yourself, you just want to get out there, you just want to do it. You want to try to make a name for yourself, and the other but I’ve noticed that people that clients that maybe are a little too many or maybe not the ideal clients. I don’t know if I want you to find people. I mean like are they going to be like you.

Yeah, it’s very true, right, you never know.

Yeah. And also, just for a new person too. If you undersell yourself. And again it takes, takes a spiritual takes confidence. If you undersell yourself, and this person refers you. You better believe that that person is going to think that they’re going to get the same price that the person exact day, you know, referred, again, is that the person,

and they don’t get that kind of

person won’t, you know, because you know they’re going to talk about price well you didn’t charge her that and blah blah blah. So, just you have to think long game and I get it, you know, just trying to build up your portfolio and all that and getting out of friends and families don’t I, I get it, I do get it, but just think about it I know the people that have given me especially when I first were starting out, the people that probably gave me. I don’t want to say the hardest time but you know you always get those people aren’t going to refer you, but they never do. Yeah, they want you to lower your want to diminish your value, and then say all without be frightened, you know, it took me a while to be like, I don’t, first of all think I want you to refer me, and I know that you’re not going to do when people do that to try to you know,

or I’ve got a lawyer I know we’re looking at buying a you know a cabin that furnished in your

area out here like that is like look, okay, you know, and again I understand, listen in the beginning you’re just trying to now, you know, we live in an Instagram world we need, you know, we need photos we need all we need followers. I get it, but just be careful, you know, be careful. And that’s the good thing with the design is just setting the boundaries, sticking to it, and knowing that I think there’s a part of it too that you can, you know, there’s a way to, you know, to have the strength.

Well I think there’s almost a bit of hate to use this word but there’s a, there’s a safety and being, not having to be face to face with people. If you don’t like confrontation, not people don’t like confrontation because I don’t think they do but you know I mean it’s that kind of, there’s a, you can you can hide behind your computer so to speak, and I mean that with all respect but what I’m saying.

No, I do know what you’re saying, I think, you know, providing a service and being clear about it also allows you to step out of it. When you need to, because, you know, as you mentioned full project is a lot. You know it is. It’s a lot it’s a lot FaceTiming to being at someone’s home, it’s a lot hand holding. No, and with, you know, virtual design, you don’t have to do all that respects you put the presentation together, you give them an option A, option B Don’t, don’t give them too many options, I would say option A option B then if you need to tweak one of those. Yeah, that’s your third right yeah, that’s your third time at that and after that, you’re done. Okay. All right,

so I can’t if I can’t, you know, you know, I guess, Satisfy your design requirements based on that then, clearly we’re not the right match, right, like

the right match or maybe you don’t need to do this virtually maybe you need something exactly wanting something more custom, you know, which is completely different, a different service there, you know, so and again we’re back to like having a confidence because you get people that want to pick your brain to, you know, we’d have to like just have the confidence to say, I’ve given you my best I know that I’ve given you my best, you know, you know, if they need to move on to someone else they need to move on with someone else, but these might be people that are just, you never know.

Yeah, there’s there’s certain plants that I’ve come across over the years that you’re just like, nothing is going to be, I don’t want to think good enough for them but they’re, they’re never, they can’t be confident a decision, and even though they’ve hired a professional to make that decision.

Episode #0031 – TPD chats with Rebecca West of Creating Your Happy Place

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with fellow interior designer and podcast host of Creating Your Happy place, Rebecca West. 

Rebecca had a multitude of jobs and experiences before stumbling upon interior design. Following her divorce, she looked around her home and decided she needed to change her space into something seriously happy. She is a successful interior designer located in the Seattle area, and she recently featured Crystal on her podcast with episode title Designing a Model Home.

Rebecca has been successful in her design endeavors and believes part of her success is knowing who she wanted to design for right away. She wants people to create a happy place in their homes that make them feel safe and happy. With that in mind, her business quickly grew, and she was very intentional in her hiring selections. Now she has seven people in total that work for her. These positions include someone to focus on the administrative part of the business and affiliated designers that she can refer clients to when they are out of their geographical area. Rebecca has lots of advice, great tips on hiring, and encouragement for fellow designers. 

So, join Crystal and Rebecca as they chat about how Rebecca decided to change her life, how she hired, and who she designs for. And then, do something today that your future self will thank you for and create a space in your home that makes you seriously happy. 

How to Get in Touch with Rebecca:

Website : podcast/creating-your-happy-place and happystartsathome.com 

Instagram- @seriouslyhappyhomes  

Facebook- seriouslyhappyhomes

Rebecca West as TPD guest in the episode TPD chats with Rebecca West of Creating Your Happy Place podcast

Recommended podcasts:

 The Hidden Brain, TED Radio Hour, Creating Your Happy Place

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

You are going to love it this episode what we have for you today. We are going to be speaking with Rebecca West, and she is the founder of Seriously Happy Homes, she is a coach, a speaker and an author, and she really does know what it means to have a happy home and we’re gonna hear about Rebecca’s story about how she came to to find this this sort of niche I guess it is that she really does want to provide a home that is feels warm and makes you feel happy. You’re going to learn about her partner affiliates, which I think is a fantastic idea. And we’re also going to learn about how she grew her business to starting, you know, from a one man show up to a staff of seven, she has quite an interesting background, you know, she taught ballroom dancing she studied geology, she was part of the Peace Corps and now she’s an interior designer so sit back and I hope you guys enjoy the show. Welcome everyone to another episode of the productive designer I have a another special guest with me today. Today we have a special guest, Rebecca West of Seriously Happy Homes, which is based out of Seattle, Washington. Design psychology coach, speaker and author Rebecca knows that happiness starts in your home. So welcome, Rebecca,

I’m so excited to be here today. Thank you. Well,

this is great, this is sort of part two, we’ve done two interviews I’ve been on her podcast, which is seriously happy homes, and she’s now on earth so this is going to be great. So Rebecca, tell us a little bit about your story, how you became to doing the type of design that you’re doing now. Absolutely, so

it was about 13 years ago, and I had no knowledge or no idea that I was going to become an interior designer I have a degree in geology and an environmental planning. I was in the Peace Corps and I got married and I was teaching ballroom dance, so none of those things were really, there’s

no there’s no, there’s no connection between

then marriages, as they do, they don’t always work out so I had to stop teaching ballroom dance cuz I wanted to be home to try and work on my marriage and it didn’t work out. And so then one day I found myself, I call it career and marriage free living in a house that I’ve once shared with my ex husband. And, you know, so I was really blessed to keep the house, but it felt like a haunted house, like I was looking around at that old story that colors we chose the artwork we had gotten the bed we’d shared right all this stuff. And I hated I felt so trapped. And so one day I just got tired of living that way and I got some old paint out of the garage and I just started painting things and it was bad because I was just old painting so it’s no intention. So painted the ceiling the vaulted ceilings, black, there was already a lime green accent wall from our previous decorating and then because it looked so bad, I was like, Well, I’m going to do a full finish wall on this other wall in turquoise I mean, wow hot mess. Yeah. But what was so great was that because it was so bad. It kind of forced me to take intentional action. So I bought paint on purpose I chose colors on purpose and I redid the whole thing. And I sold all my old furniture on Craigslist cuz I’m like, I don’t want this in my life anymore I wasn’t gonna move but I had to move on. Yeah, no, I like to say about a twin bed that that for one, no one for other another human. And the process of creating my now happy place I went, oh okay this interior design thing doesn’t just have to be about throw pillows for rich people in their third homes, it can actually help people, and since I didn’t have anything to lose. Like I said, career and marriage free. Yeah, it was like, oh, to start a business. And I, like I had no thought of like I didn’t go in with a plan I didn’t go into the business plan, I didn’t even go in with interior design training I just had a talent for color and a history of redesign because I grew up in the military. So, you know, setting up a home was comfortable. And then I just, I don’t know I got on the on the the treadmill of being an entrepreneur and the hustle of it, you just take it day after day after day and your clients come to start trusting you and asking you to start doing bigger projects. And next, next thing you know I put in quotes. 13 years later I got a team of seven people in a proper business like wow,

yeah. That is crazy. I mean it’s, it’s, It’s a lot of times how people get into this and it’s people in their second careers I find that so often, yeah it’s this sort of stumbled upon it, they, and to just want to sort of preface this with just because you can do, you know, pick nice paint colors, you can decorate nicely, it doesn’t mean you know how to run a business, I mean Oh my goodness. Now,

I have the learning curve was very steep.

So yeah, so tell me a bit about that like what did you do was it, I mean I know for me it was a little trial and error, some of this some of that like how did you how did you get,

I would say the first thing is that I was very clear on what I did and didn’t want my company to be so I wasn’t I didn’t have a business plan. I knew the values I was starting with so when I now work with interior design, coaching clients I’m like, what is it you’re about, what are those values because for me that was so clear from day one like I don’t want to work with a luxury market. And I want to be helping people with the work that I do and so if those two things weren’t being met. I would have been very unhappy in this industry so that was really clear for me really early on,

which is great because that gives you a definite focus right does yeah

and it means that no matter how your company grows up over time, You’re not, you’re staying true to something very fundamental I always, I’m not a parent, but I liken it to parenting where you don’t necessarily know if your kids going to be in the football or wrestling or ballet or whatever, right, but the values you hold as a family, they remain steady. No matter which hobbies or personality quirks or whatever show up as your kid grows up and the same thing was true with my business. I had no idea that I was going to end up doing full remodel designs and all the things that we do, but those values were there from day one. And then after that it’s just a lot of growing like your clients start to trust you, they ask you to do more work you get more referrals more references and I think that you at least for me, I hit this intersection where you have more work than you know what to do with So are you going to raise your prices. Are you going to turn clients down. Are you going to have a pipeline are you going to hire help. And so in my journey I realized I really wanted to help as many people as I could get happy at home. That was my whole mission, right, and if it’s a follow up question, then I had to hire help because I can’t do that on my own I can’t execute that mission by myself.

No. So, what was your first hire because I always find that that’s always like it’s a scary step right that first or second right like so where did you start because I’ve heard different different stories from different people as to where they started. So for

me it was a decision between do I hire a design assistant or designer, or do I hire an admin help kind of person, right. and because I’d gotten that glimpse of, okay, I want to help a lot of people, that means that this isn’t my only hire, I’m going to take this leap. Then there’s probably going to be more than one designer, and if I hire a designer now and then maybe I hire another designer, then the admin side is can be a hot mess. So I decided I needed to start with that infrastructure side of somebody who was going to set up the system so that as we grew, it was sustainable. And then I also recognized that a big place where my time was going was to admin stuff like onboarding a client takes so much time to do it right. And so to free myself up to take on more capacity, as I was growing, I’m like, I need somebody else doing this stuff that doesn’t take design knowledge, no.

You know and I think, as I say, I mean, our business is 20% creativity and 80% project management admin, so it’s so

true. I’m so glad you said that it

truly is because and I think there’s a misconception a lot of times that, oh my gosh must be so fun. What you guys get to do I mean, yeah, the creative part is such a small part of it I mean it’s important, I’m not saying it’s not, but if you can’t execute your ideas, and in a proper fashion and and logical schedule and all those things and timely and on budget and all that stuff. Like, you’re not going to last very long.

Exactly. And I think that’s one of the things I didn’t know it when I was getting started but it’s one of the things that allowed me to become successful is actually like having a science degree. I like having facts and evidence at organization right teaching ballroom dance. A huge part of what we were doing was helping people take on something that they’re terrified of taking on, and doing it with a partner, and trying to communicate with two humans at the same time as a dance instructor and that hugely informed my ability to do that as an interior designer. So yeah, the creativity and the talent is, obviously, but the skill sets that go into running a design business, far, far go beyond. Yeah, color and scale and texture and stuff.

Yeah and I think to your point about hiring an admin, I think that is so crucial because you’re hiring another designer, you know, because I’ve gone through my fair share of, you know, sort of junior designers and and that type of thing and then finally set up for this Yeah, to your point, it’s almost like an operations manager or somebody that can wear lots of hats because as we know projects go through phases right so there’s, there’s the research part where you’re sourcing and other than getting pricing and then there’s the ordering and then they’re you know all that stuff so I think that’s probably really wise words and I think people initially when they’re growing say oh I need to design a system, and I don’t think I agree that’s not the right choice. Yeah, that’s the first hire,

and as you said it is terrifying, and so when I did my first hire, I was just like, Okay, what’s the, what’s an amount of money that I could literally flushed down the toilet, still pay my bills. So that was my budget I’m like okay well I can hire somebody for three to four or five hours a week at minimum wage, and I wouldn’t be worried and I’m like nobody’s gonna answer that ad, but I’m gonna put it out there. And I got a lot of people that reached out to me because they were looking for some part time gig work to fit into their life. And the person who I hired was an absolute unicorn, and I told her, your job is figuring out your job, I don’t actually know what your job is. So you’re gonna be figuring it out with me and documenting it. And it was marvelous. That’s great. And is she still with you today or

she No.

She’s lovely. She’s a musician, and she was in her own career place where she was like I don’t really know where I’m going, I’m like some income from something else. And about two years into working together she saw me really following my own passions as a business owner and it inspired her to go back to what she wanted to do for her own career and so that’s what she’s pursuing,

that’s great, though I mean like, it’s, it’s a win win she helps you, you know, definitely get get that position defined because that’s part of it too and as solopreneurs when you’re first starting out, you’re doing everything, and everything is in your head, and you just know what you do and how you do it, but to get it out, is really hard,

and setting up those systems and processes so that you know when she first left, I cried,

I can’t imagine like, where are you going,

yeah, what am I gonna do there’s never going to be anybody as amazing as her, and I did go through a couple of assistants after her who weren’t as amazing, they were great but they weren’t as amazing, and then I got another unicorn so you go through phases, because the systems were there, I could hire, and replace, and, and it was okay. And then when I hired my first design person it was the same thing I was like, You’re my first one. Your job is to follow me around and tell me what I do because I don’t know.

I just didn’t do it. Yeah, it’s true, it’s so true. It’s so hard to get that in that can be part of the scary part is, you know, we’re all you get busy and then you’re like oh my god I can’t even imagine trying to explain what I need done to somebody else, I’ll just get

right and then it really does take more time than just doing a shelf but if you want to grow. You have to find a way through that journey.

Yeah, it’s the only way to do it and yes I’ve, I’ve got lots of bumps and bruises from from that experiment myself because of exactly that right and it’s, it’s hard but it’s as to your point, like, there’s 24 hours in a day and you can only do so much and it’s just not possible. Not possible at all. So you have a staff of seven other designers or seven including yourself, Seven humans

who live with our designers. So I’ve got three designers plus myself on the team and then I’ve got my coordinator, our marketing assistant and our bookkeeper. Okay, so

your coordinator. So with that, I’m assuming is a very admin heavy job.

Oh yeah.

Okay, so what does she or he, what does this human do.

My name is Carrie and her job is Fielding, all of the intake stuff so if somebody emails us or calls us and we tend to be very email heavy. Her job is to write back enthusiastically per our brand and figure out what the right service fit is and help them get on her calendar, and the calendar is our Bible because she is juggling four different designers schedules plus or affiliate designers because we actually have three partner relationships as well. So her, the majority of her job is the schedule. And then on top of that she’s also responsible for keeping the office tidy, and for celebrating milestones like Team birthdays and anniversaries and things like that.

Well it sounds fun and you’re, you’re speaking about your brand, your enthusiastic brand and I have to say every piece of communication that I received through you or through your I know if that was your, no it was your marketing person I think. Yeah, very much on brand and I love it right I mean everything fits it’s, and you could just like I didn’t even meet you until today and I was like, I just know what she’s going to be like happy and enthusiastic I think is probably the best way to describe your brand for sure. So what is, what is your partner affiliates what what are those that you’ve.

Yeah, so. Oh, what was it about three or four years ago, we were getting a lot of requests for people who are outside of our geographic zone so we really focused on trying to work with people within 10 miles of our office. Yeah, and that’s for a couple different reasons, one of which is the traffic and Seattle’s stupid. And so, you know, I don’t want to spend my life, we

know that Toronto has stupid traffic as well.

And then also the kinds of houses we like to work on are tend to be in the urban corridor I like working on smaller homes. So we were getting these requests for people outside of our zone, and you know when people finally reach out to an interior designer they’ve done some research, you know, I didn’t want to send them those wild goose chase trying to find somebody, like us, so I decided to reach out to some of my colleagues who work outside of that 10 mile zone and say, Okay I need to vet your knowledge, I need to vet how you express your knowledge because we have a very friendly practical way of going about this with our clients. So I did that with three of my designer colleagues, and we made an agreement we have expectations about how things are going to work and they’re basically contract employees that we can schedule directly so that they can help people outside of our main territory, and it’s something that we, we work out we revisit because it’s like okay well what if the client wants a bigger project, how do we handle that, but it’s really been something marvelous both for our colleagues as a referral source and for us so that we can help our clients even when we can’t technically help our clients.

Yeah, no, and I can imagine that that’s you know when you say the vetting I can only imagine because you know you’ve established this brand you’ve built up this business, you have a, you have a brand that needs to be maintained and, you know, yeah I can’t imagine the vetting has to be extremely diligent and making sure that these people are going to fulfill the duties that that fall within under your, your brand and your, your, your mission of, so do they go, are they, they’re just basically under your business name.

Yeah, they’re under our umbrella brand when they go out but we try to, we try to be really transparent about everything our pricing is transparent, everything so we, you know, it’s a funny balance when you’re trying to educate your clients on anything about giving them enough information but not so much that it’s confusing. And so with all the things including our affiliate partner programs, that’s a fine line to walk.

Yeah, I bet it is, and it’s probably almost on a, I don’t want to say, per job basis but I think you, you’re probably still figuring out there. Yeah, yeah, you probably still figuring it out. No I so your, your brand as we keep referring to this seriously happy homes. Where do you think that you know you made a statement about that you seem to be a current craving for simplicity and happiness. Why do you think that is like, I mean I think probably more, more so now than ever. Yeah,

I mean, I think it’s a response to a couple of things, even before the pandemic. Life is moving so quickly technology is changing so quickly that people I think look for things that are a little bit of stability and anchors in their life to be a antidote to all of the speed that is the rest of an American lifestyle at least because I know especially here in the United States. It’s always just such a rat race, everything is good, go

go go go.

Yeah and so that I think is, has been there for probably decades, or at

least a decade. Yeah,

and then now with the pandemic, you know, And then the, the political atmosphere of everything. People are looking for things that just feel a little less complicated a little less fraught, a little bit easier and that’s not just in the results that they get from say designing their home but it’s also in the process of working with people they want it to be as easy as possible, because everything else is hard. Right, so that’s going to show up in the kinds of services they buy the kind of surfaces they’re drawn to the kinds of colors they choose the lines of their furniture, and they may not always be aware that what they’re asking for is a little bit of calm and it doesn’t mean it’s the mean minimalistic no maximalists to. Yeah, but there’s something about it that feels like it was easy, and it’s taking some of that challenge that is everyday living

away. So how do you guys make the design process when you’re working with your clients. Easy. What would be sort of a, well,

yeah, like you we have worked really hard on developing our systems. So for example we all of our signs are flat feet, so people don’t have to worry about what they’re going to ultimately pay this is the cost of your design. And this scope base it depends on the size of the project. Then, in our design agreement we spell out exactly how many meetings, they’re going to have, so usually it’s a separate from the initial consultation. There’s a measurement meeting, there is a presentation meeting, a revisions meeting, and a review meeting, and that’s it. Right, very quick, it’s very efficient we know exactly what we’re going to end up with and how we’re going to get there. And then we also have a service called a collab so it’s the same thing but it’s very collaborative designing the same thing we spell it out we’re gonna have a measurement meeting, obviously you always start there. Yeah, and then we’re gonna have a layout meeting where we’re laying out the rooms together we’re gonna have a materials meeting where we go to tile store together but still it is laid out it is mapped out at the start of your project, you know, how often we’re going to meet and when so you can plan it on your calendar and you know when it’s going to be done so you can hand it off to your contractor.

Nice, so I can see why your coordinator with the calendars, very important in what you did. You seem like you have everything very down which is amazing and when we were talking about when I was on your podcast of, you know, just being organized as a designer, it’s just, it’s, it’s so incredibly crucial to what we do, which, because what we do is very complicated.

And what we’re doing is bringing organization to a complex thing that’s what design is in

mind totally I totally in and I think so many designers, you know I’m not have been known to have a reputation of being the complete opposite of that, right,

they think it’s all about the vision and the exciting target and that is only step one.

Oh my gosh, yeah that’s just getting you going, and then you got to execute on all that stuff. Have you always done flat fee or was that something that, that sort of developed over time.

Yeah, definitely developed because when I was a new designer I had no clue how to price my projects. So, when I was brand new I priced myself hourly but the way I wrote up my agreements was an expected not to exceed number of hours so that was a sense for the client of what they imagined getting themselves involved in, and then really early on I started tracking all of my time so that I could then compare how long did I think this was going to take versus how long did it take which I will tell you

the same thing.

We do. We absolutely do right you’re just sitting I was I should take such and such sigh and I should take for two hours and be like oh my gosh, never done.

Yeah, so I did that for about the first three to four years, And then I felt like I had enough data about how long things were taking me that I can convert that into a flat fee system, which I love and the clients love.

I think so. I mean I always say like, if you know, when I hire somebody to do something on my house or some sort of service, how long or how much is this going to cost we need to have some parameters. Yeah, you know, it’s very, I would not feel comfortable. If I didn’t know kind of roughly what the bottom line is going to be. I can’t, I can’t. You can’t not expect clients to want to know what that’s going to be right.

So, going back to the values I was talking about earlier, one of the things that I’ve always tried to do is simply build a business that I wouldn’t mind being a client of like how do I want to be treated as a client is a big part of informing the choices we’ve made over the years.

Yeah. And and I think you know the more and more designers that I speak with and I think this as you pointed out, comes with experience you know because you don’t. At the beginning, how long things are going to take, but I think we have to value our fees on, on, what, what is the value that we’re bringing, not the time that it’s going to take us today, afraid, actually, because we have knowledge that has been built up over the last 10 1520 years, that you can’t put a price tag on to know where and who and exactly what to go to and make that decision quickly so then you’re being penalized actually if you think about it,

exactly because in theory as you get better at your job, you should be getting faster at your job because you have all those resources so if you’re doing it really really well, sometimes you’re gonna if you’re doing flat fee, sometimes you’re gonna get it totally wrong and I just call that business school like okay I know some of this time, I guess I hope I learned from it, yeah. Other times, hopefully you actually go faster than you estimated and you get the reward of actually making more per hour if you end up breaking it down like that. Yeah, because of the benefit of all the work you’ve put in over the previous years,

well that’s just it right you know a plumber comes to your house and he fixes something he’s here half an hour and he charges you $300 It’s, that’s great. No, he has 25 years experience to know what to fix, so that you know, your leak is resolved type of ASL. Now play. Yeah, so that’s good I mean I, the more I hear people on hourly I just go

to a place where a lot of people will start now. And that’s okay, but just set up your time tracking systems. As soon as you start your business so that you can make strategic choices as soon as you can about how you want to move forward with your business.

And I think it’s just easier, it really is easier for everyone and I’ve heard a lot of people talk about, that the flat fee just kind of gets the dollar discussion out of the way at the beginning and, you know, move on type of anchors, exactly,

nobody really must choose to you can also then add at least a range to your website so that people when they get ahold of you, they’re already halfway sold because there is no surprises about how much you’re going to cost or how you work or anything.

Yeah, exactly. So at the end of every episode I have my Interior Inquisition where I like to ask questions just can be life can be business can be however you want to answer these. But I just think it’s great because I love to hear people’s answers to these. So, what is one thing you think that every person should experience in their lives.

Well alright, my answer is gonna be very US centric, but I think it’s travel specifically to someplace foreign and foreign can meet a lot of different things but what came to my mind was my time in the Peace Corps. When I was in Nicaragua, and then coming back to the United States specifically to our grocery stores, and seeing the ridiculous abundance that we take for granted in the United States, and I have felt the same thing when we’ve traveled over to Europe because Europe obviously is just as developed, but it’s just not so kind of excessively over abundant there’s not 17,000 Manny’s is, and every

now, I agree, right and you buy for two or three days versus buying for.

I think travel to give you some perspective on how easy and abundant our lives. This is something that everybody needs to experience,

absolutely could not agree more with you i I’ve made we’ve made our children have the travel bug too and they’re of course right now during this pandemic. So I just want to go somewhere. But it does, it does give you a perspective and appreciate, you know, luxuries that we really do have,

oh my gosh, it’s crazy.

What is the wisest thing that you’ve ever heard someone say

this was so tough because there’s so many things that I’ve learned from other people over the years, but I think I’m gonna pick my mother who is one of the wisest people I know, back when I was in high school, I would get myself all in a frenzy about getting a paper turned in, and you know I never had enough time it was never perfect enough. And she told me one day she’s like just sit down, write what you know and turn it in. And I have employed, that ever since in all things business and design at some point you’ve got to stop looking for the perfect lamp, At some point you’ve got to stop revising your website, get it done. Walk away know that it’s maybe it’s not perfect but not good enough, because you got to move on to the next thing

I absolutely it’s that what I was just reading something about this that it’s like Done is better than perfect or something to that expression where it does play in my mind a lot because to your point, you could continuously look for yet another lamp that might be just a little bit better right and I said you’re like four hours later going, this is

ridiculous, real, and of course when you’re working hourly you never charge the clients for all those hours and none of us do,

no charge for this lamp. Yeah, because that was the oil issue, not theirs. Right, exactly. Yeah, absolutely. And what three podcasts are you listening to right now, if you’re listening.

I am a public radio junkie so for me it’s so many of the classics like Hidden Brain, absolutely love it. The How I Built This one is amazing, that’s I’ve heard that one a lot. And then, yeah, because what I love about that one is you, it just helps you feel not so insane as an entrepreneur like yes like they get really transparent you’re like okay. Either I’m not crazy, or we’re all crazy but at least I’m not alone.

We can see there’s a process you have to go through and to get to where they’re at, okay good. Yeah,

exactly. And then whenever I’m just wanting a relief, it would be Wait, wait, don’t tell me love that game so, so much

fun. It’s a game show podcast. Yeah.

And it’s it’s about like things that are in the news, but it’s a really funny, take on it. It’s a wonderful

I’d love it. Okay, ready, let’s see if this is secretly it’s just I want to hear good podcasts, because you know there’s a million and something out there so Oh, Italy, don’t tell me okay awesome, I love that I can have to check that one out. Well this has been fabulous if people want to learn more about your design work or your I guess your interior design business coaching or just about you, where can they find you.

Well my favorite place to connect with people is on Instagram. They can find me @beseriouslyhappy. And then if they want to find my coaching site that’s seriously happy, calm, and if they want to find my design site that is seriouslyhappyhomes.com

Seriously, that’s where you find it.

Exactly. Sorry, I

was just like, This is awesome. So this is great, thank you so much about me, it’s been so much fun chatting with you and hope we could do this again.

Oh, I would absolutely love it and I hope that the stuff we’ve talked about helps our colleagues, find their own path to success too.

I think it will. Thank you again. So I hope you guys enjoyed that discussion that I had with Rebecca, you can just hear her voice how enthusiastic she is about what she’s doing. And I love that she’s really knew from the very beginning, or was able to focus in on who and what she wanted to do what type of business she wanted to create, knowing that she wanted to, you know, really make a difference in many people’s lives as opposed to doing these big massive projects so it really goes to show you that there’s just so many aspects of design, and you just have to find, I guess the lane that suits you and feels comfortable and feels feeds your soul as opposed to feeling like you should be wanting to do all these big glamorous houses because there’s you know there’s a spot for everybody and I just think you need to figure out which lane you want to stay in. I love that you know some of the quotes that Rebecca has that life is short and we should always be surrounded by stuff that we love and we can’t control everything in our lives so at least we can control what we put into our homes and how we create our homes so I hope you guys all enjoyed this, this episode, and as always if you have any thoughts or comments, I’d love to hear from you and you can reach out to me on Instagram at the productive designer podcast or send me an email contact at the productive designer.com and till next time, go do something today that your future self will thank you for.

Episode #0030 – Business Pricing Strategies and Fee Systems with Cori Halpern

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with fellow interior designer Cori Halpern. Cori has over 25 years of experience and is also a fellow Canadian based in Toronto.  Cori & her team specialize in completely custom-designed full-service residential interior design and renovation. Cori has developed a flat fee system and a business pricing strategy for her projects that works for both her and her Clients.

In this episode, we learn how Cori’s fee system has changed and evolved since the pandemic started. She will also discuss where she got the idea for a two-part flat fee system. The first part is for the design services up to the presentation, this is where all the sourcing and selections are  made. The second part is to manage the project, procuring all the furnishings & consulting on the project during the construction phase  

This system provides flexibility in the project, allowing her to pay her initial expenses for the designing phase of the project. Like most Designers, Cori aims to track her hours accurately, in order to gain data on how long projects actually take. This information is crucial for accurately pricing any future projects. Based on this information, Cori has learned that most Designers are underpricing their projects. 

So, join Crystal and Cori Halpern as they talk about how they set up their flat fee system. And how Cori is constantly learning how to improve her payment plan and pricing strategy for her business. Do something today that your future self will thank you for, review, and adjust your pricing system to get your full worth. 

How to reach Cori:

Website – corihalperninteriors.com  I LinkedIn- cori-halpern

Instagram- @corihalpern I Facebook – Cori Halpern

lady smiling in dark gray blouse with art painting at her back business pricing strategies

Recommended podcasts:

Business of Design, A well Designed Business, Mobituaries, The Book Review

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -


Welcome everyone to another episode of the Productive Designer and a special guest today. Corey Halpern, and she is an interior designer based in Toronto so close to me, and she specializes in completely custom designed a bespoke full service residential interior design and renovation. Welcome Cori,


Thank you. It’s great to be here.


I’m very excited to have you. I know I’ve told you this before but you have the same name as my sister so it’s always funny when I start typing your name I you know, it’s funny to see because I never knew any other quarries growing up.


So we are a very small club, very rare to hear. Yes, we’re very rare it’s always nice to find another fellow Korean for sure as you know


she or you just Cori or Korean or any of those


little known Phuntsok, I’m actually correct. Oh, you are correct. I am correct, but I, I’ve never been ever since Korea Yep.


My sister is Corina, but she’s Oh, Kareena. So, yeah, she’s


just going to so


fun fun. So I have asked Cori she’s graciously agreed to be here today to discuss the system. so I think this is going to be a popular show because this is a popular subject. whenever groups of us get together because you know our industry has no standard, there’s 8 million different ways of charging for your services. So, you and I and a bunch of fellow designers had a discussion about this couple month ago and I said Cori, you’ve got to come on because I really think that people need to hear, you’ve got your system so well, nailed down and so I think you’ve done it for a long time and I don’t know, was it something that sort of developed over time for you I’m


imagining you did. Yeah, I mean, I mean I tried everything. Yeah, like everybody I used to go by the hour. Yeah. and like everybody, I, you know, did the work first, and then build the client. And then even though I’d done the work I felt guilty about that number, that I was seeing for I would shave hours off. And it just, I was constantly in that constant loop of. If I’m not actually working that means I’m not making money. And like if I’m not billing for that hour that means I’m not making money so it means taking a vacation incredibly stressful because that would be like okay that’s oh my gosh that’s like two weeks in two weeks and I’m not working and it was, that was just so stressful for me right so this did develop over many years of trying, many different things.


Yeah and I and I found the same way too and I think it we’re all guilty of, you know, you know you spent 25 hours on that project for that week or two or whatever it is but you there’s this yeah there’s this guilt of kind of can’t really, you know, I can’t really put that I can invoice them for 25 hours like there’s a there’s a weird feeling about it, even though I have to you know constantly remind myself and others, you know, and be like, but this is a luxury service right this is not, this is not an essential service people are hiring you for your service. You know, you go to a lawyer, they I pretty sure don’t feel too guilty about charging you for each hour they work, but there’s just some stigma it I think it’s a mental mindset maybe what it is for us that they just feel. Yeah, or are you like that seems like a lot how could have taken me that long to do that, you know,


for me, game changer for me, and even this developed in and of itself so I’ve probably been doing flat fee on Dennis, say, for maybe about eight years now. That to me I was doing it right. I that has developed over time but the biggest sort of lightbulb moment that I had was, I didn’t want to. And I know that lots of like lawyers do it accounts do like lots of people do it, but because we’re not perceived at that kind of value. Like I don’t care how fabulous you are we’re still not perceived that that kind of value like you know lawyers can charge $425 an hour for photocopying something and none of us say, none of us question that, but I got sick of the questioning of, you know, oh did it take that long I got sick of chopping off hours, even though I knew I had done the work. And I got sick of Chase, I got sick of chasing the money. I got sick of doing the work first, and then having to chase clients for money and not that my clients were bad people. It wasn’t that I was you know had to call collections, it wasn’t like that but it’s still, I did all this work, and then I was feeling guilty about asking them for money and I didn’t like how that felt. So, once I realized the concept of Flexi where I could charge a fee. And then, then you get sort of, however you decide to break it up as a whole other than that we’ll talk about how to charge a flat fee you take that whole chasing the money off the table, you take that whole thing out of it, you take the whole thing about having to do the work first, you take the whole thing of, if I’m not working, this very hour that means I’m not making any money, all of that feeling goes away. Yeah, so, and I think.


Did you find I think even for I mean I I myself if I’m you know if you’re hiring somebody to do something at your house or you’re hiring somebody to do some sort of a service for you. There’s always that okay well, how much is it okay well I’m X amount per hour. Okay, well, how many hours, approximately is it going to take like we need to know, approximately what what the, the cost is going to be so and that I can imagine you know I know for myself too. I have not done. Our lean years I can remember last, but you’re trying to estimate well i think it should be, whatever, right, like, you know, so I think as a consumer or the client, they can’t they I mean I get it, they want to know how much it’s going to cost.


Absolutely. So, I always try to think of if the shoe was on the other foot like I am a consumer about a lot of things. Yeah. So, before, it’s, it’s perfectly acceptable for a client to want to know how much their project is because in most cases like in our case, they’re spending, 10s, if not hundreds of 1000s of dollars. And they’re giving it to you to you whatever they have a right to know, sort of, what the project is going to cost and rather than, you know the surprise. guesstimating because stuff happens and stuff goes wrong. So at first when I was charging flat fee, I would base, a course based on the scope of work, and then I would also take into consideration how long the project was supposed to last like by doing interior design for as long as I’ve been doing it like basically know how long the kitchen renovations going to take you know how long the bathroom I know from experience how long projects are going to take. However, then you know I was running into okay so I charged for a project that was supposed to last six months, and then you get that client who just can’t decide and how to do this and how to do that how to change their mind and I wasn’t intuitive enough to work on my contract got to be like a million miles long because I kept adding on every crazy situation that happened to me I would put it in my truck for the neck. I eventually sort of completely redid my contract a couple of years ago and it sort of does professionally all encompass all all sorts of crazy situations, but this six-month project ended up taking a year and a half. So, doing the math, you know that I stopped making money after month six. Well,


that’s a hard thing so how, so how, how would you guess maybe there’s a continuation of the story how has you there is a continuation so


what. So what I did what I used to do is I used to give a flat fee for the whole project. The whole project is going to cost. Yep. And that was where I was getting into trouble because if there was any kind of wiggle, there was no wiggle room. That was my problem is there was no wiggle room. And I did listen to a lot of Kimberley Seldon podcasts, I was a member of her business of design. I had met with her and got her books. And because I knew there had to be a better way to know what it was and she said something that all of a sudden like was like a light bulb. Yeah, she said, you need to break the flat fee into two parts. She said you do one flat fee. From the moment you find the project. Until a presentation, and you know that that period of time is going to be about six to eight weeks. So if you screw that up, you’ve only really screwed up six to eight weeks like you haven’t seen the whole thing


like that is the time that you can control as


one that I that I can control because I and I and I can base that number on the scope of work. So when I meet the client. During the consultation, which I built for separately like I built for my consultation. That’s a separate bill, and they pay that as a consultation, because I’m doing that work and stuff happens like maybe the project doesn’t end up going anywhere but I’m getting paid for. I’m getting paid for those two hours. Yeah, so, so I do the consultation, and I do get a very clear I spend that time developing what the scope of work is, and then I actually sort of go back to my student view and then I think about it and I think about, okay, how much work is involved for this project to develop the design concept and presented. That’s the only thing I really need to think about at that moment and I’m okay. It’s a whole House Renovation okay so this whole House Renovation is, you know, going to take me at least eight to 10 weeks to get everything together because that my presentation, back to the earlier point of wanting to know how much things cost. I priced out. absolutely every single item that I’m presenting so that the client knows, at the presentation, how much the project is going to cost, like, you know, we’re I do all the drawings I sourced everything. Something needs custom designing and we design it, the texture finishes so that at the presentation the client is getting a full view of what their project is whether it’s the whole house, whether it’s a kitchen, whether there’s no construction we’re decorating a living room like whatever it whatever that project is the client is getting a full picture of what it’s going to look like and so we base our fees on how much work it takes to get to that point. So that’s, that’s phase one phase one is the research design development, up to the presentation. We’re doing. I like to think it’s all the heavy lifting the designing of the project like that’s when the project gets designed right so that, to your point, that’s the part that I can control, I decide okay this is going to be 10 weeks, so I need to be able to pay myself. I need to pay my team for the work that I know how much they’re going to cost for that. I have rents, I have insurance I have all that stuff that I’m perfectly comfortable with.


So for. Absolutely, yeah.


So I factor that in, and I tell the client that design fees for phase one are going to be, I don’t know, let’s say let’s say it’s $15,000 Yep, I don’t know, whatever it is, whatever you’re depending on, let’s go. Yeah. And that’s how much they pay me until the presentation, and then that way if you know what stuff happens stuff has happened during COVID, and I’ve had clients where their project has had to be on hold because we’re. It’s a fabulous condo renovation that we’re doing and they’re kind of was not allowing anybody into the building. Yeah. So we’ve been paid. I’m not chasing them for money, they’re not saying Where’s your stuff like, yeah, and paid up until the presentation, they got everything priced out, and that serves two purposes it serves the client because they know exactly what their product is going to cost because they know how much the product is like how much the stuff that we’re putting into the space is going to cost. They also know how much their contractor is going to cost because I get the contractor to give me a number. And then, phase two of our fee structure is based on a percentage of the budget. So, the budget is the budget that budget is the product that we are procuring for them. That line items and the presentation so they know exactly what that number is. plus, the contractor because I’m coordinating the project with the contractor he’s executing my design so that it becomes a part of my budget. So those numbers, form the budget, the budget. So, yeah, so, uh, my, my percentages based on a sliding scale. So, the more you spend, the smaller the percentage


for phase one, because this is always a question and I know that there’s a lot of discussion on this. Maybe even controversy if you want to say that with regards to the budget so when you are meeting your initial consultation and you’re taking in the you know devising what the scope of work is going to be and understanding what the project is going to be. And you say to Mr. Mrs. Smith. So do you have, do you have a budget in mind. Do you have, how do you approach that subject because I find that that can be a challenging one and I’ve myself have done two different methods of this, you know, again, there’s all over and I’ve heard no Kimberley Seldon likes to say the budget is what the budget is and once you’ve you’ve done their wish list, they can then decide if they want to spend all that money but I find that that can be a bit of end up biting you in the butt in a way because I feel that if you can go too far and then they are like no no no no that’s way over budget or whatever. So, what is your,


what what are you. So I handle it a couple of different ways. Sometimes clients who maybe have not done the kind of renovation that they’re asking. First of all, I agree with always starting with the wish list, I always start with the wish list.


Absolutely, yeah,


I always start with a wish list, but we always discussed budget, it’s really important that the client understands that they might have all the money in the world. But it’s up to us to respect that. And it’s up to us to respect that. Even people who have all the money in the world, they still want to feel that they want to feel that their money isn’t being respected and that they’re not just you know going crazy and have no regard for it so I only thought about the budget, sometimes people just have no idea. They really have no idea what things cost Yeah, I had a client, two lovely, lovely, wonderful ladies. We had renovated her kitchen and her whole main floor. The following year she had us back, and we did her master bedroom, full like furniture window treatments, new carpet. We did the closet, like the whole shooting match master bedroom, we renovated her on suite and we renovated two other upstairs bathrooms and vanities like top tile like the works. Yeah. Anyways, so she, I said, So, got the wish list brother who down consultation and I said to what are you thinking budget. And she’s like, what about $50,000. Okay, you’re laughing. because. And so the thing is, $50,000 $50,000. It is a lot of money for sure a lot of money yeah she had no idea she just had no idea. And so I said okay here’s the thing, and I’m very upfront, but that’s the one thing I’ve learned is the more upfront and honest you can be and communicative with your clients, the better to say to everybody. Absolutely. So I said to my client I said okay we can approach this one of two ways we can do the wish list, and I’m happy to price that out for you. And I can tell you that it’s going to be significantly more than $50,000 like $50,000 would be maybe what the on suite will be. I said, but these are the things you have to consider and sometimes it’s simply education. I say you know you have the contractors to feed you want to do three bathrooms and the furniture for your bedroom and everything for the bedroom. Plus, I never include my fees in the budget so I always say, and then you have my fees on top of that. So I said, I’m going to price out the wish list for you, and then we can sort of see what you want to do, and you can prioritize and see where you want to go and I say, or we can let you know what your $50,000 will get for you. And we can, we can go that route and doing the work on your master on suite is the most important thing. Then let’s see where we can allocate that $50,000 and how we can best use it so I do give clients the options. Sometimes they just don’t know and they’re not educated if they have not done that kind of renovation for sure and Phil their budget is so unrealistic that you really just have to have a frank discussion with them and that’s where the experience comes in and you have to you have to say, you know, I know that, just the contractors labor on this is going to be more than $50,000. Like, I know that’s not that’s not putting a faucet in here. Just fill it so sometimes you end you know what the contractor and ended up being almost for like it ended up being between the contractor. And what she spent on product. It was probably about 180,000. And she went for absolutely everything. But we wondered what she wanted. She wanted what she wanted. And she just didn’t know how much something caught over line by line. And she’s like, No, I want it, that’s fine. We’ll go for all of it and so they they fund the money. Yep, that’s where we chop off the scope of work. Yeah, one


or the other. 60 is the limit and that’s kind of what they’re banking on that’s what they’ve got that to your point five. Great. All right, let’s, we’ll show you what we can do for that 50. We’ll make it happen but I think it’s a very, it’s a very valid point because it really people really don’t if they have not done a renovation, it just it’s just out of just pure lack of knowledge right they just don’t understand, and and sometimes it’s almost like where you start having to like break down ago you know the electrician, the plumber you’ve got you know the removal you’ve got the in there like oh yeah does that right so it is an education for sure and I think that’s a great way of handling it is, you have to have a discussion. You know, you have to say like, Listen, this is going to cost money but before any of us spin our wheels for no reason at all, let’s just be honest about like let’s have a realistic, you know, view of how that’s going to work,


and I always have that conversation at the consultation because there’s no point of saying going further because because they’ve paid for my consultation, so if they decide right then and there that this is not now hopefully I’ve been building my business in my brand for enough years, so that at the consultation on X, I’m actually getting qualified clients. Yes. Yeah, but COVID has changed in a lot of things a lot of people want to have stuff done and they don’t realize the cost of things. And so, sometimes people are calling and you know oh my god I have to renovate my kitchen and my whole main floor and it’s the same thing like they just don’t have the budget for the kinds of projects that I’m working on, and that’s fine so I you know I try and help them as best I can. But sometimes, it really is a lesson and, and to their credit like, yeah, renovations aren’t something people do regularly say no, no, no, not sorry i don’t know i mean i won’t have a client, like the last time she bought a self that was like $400. And so, you know, you have to explain to them but you know like things have changed in 30, like 30 years since she bought that sofa. So it was a very good one. Yeah. So yeah, so, you know, everything is about just communicating and educating them and that’s helpful why they do hire a professional so that you have somebody who’s willing to just be frank and honest and transparent with them and sort of lead them through the process


because it is a process for sure and guide them on the best way to spend whatever it is that their budget is like the best bang for their buck, and we we’ve had situations where my husband does renovations and he has a client right now, that is looking at


countertops for


his kitchen, and they’re going to be 60 grand. Just the countertops, and he’s going. This is crazy like your house. Yes, it’s a $2 million house which is, that’s not imagined by any means anymore. He’s like it just that doesn’t make sense, like if he wants to do that he can do it but, like, I’m going to advise him like, you know, like that’s not, then you’re spending you know if you were to look at that percentage of your kitchen. Then, then your appliances should be at 100,000 and you’re like you know you’re not talking like a 500,000


kitchen renovation like it’s crazy


right so you have to you have to educate and conversely, you’re not going to put $60,000 with a countertop on an Ikea kitchen,


you don’t exactly like exactly that’s right everything else needs to be that level to make it to justify it and, yes, you may plan on staying in the house for ever. But you know, 10 years 15 years I mean, our styles change and I think, you know, you, even if things aren’t really falling apart so to speak. I think people are, you know, your kind of get bored with stuff after 10 years or more you’re like,


Okay, you know, thanks for me I think the other thing. The other thing is, those $60,000 countertop clients might love them, might have some money, which is awesome. I just would hate to see that money come out of something else that might be really important like I don’t want them to not have furniture in their living room, because they decided to spend that money on the kitchen counters yes they’re, they’re like, I think you have to look at the project as a whole, to see where am I spending a lot of money and sometimes it is up to that you have to sort of take that lead from the client like they might be willing to spend money on something that might not be a priority for me, but it’s very important to them. And so listening is super important. And so, again, it all goes back to what is the budget and what’s the overall budget of the project and things change. So like for me because my face to feed on a sliding scale and I take portions of that from the duration of the project so


yeah let’s get into that when


it makes you do that


because that’s, that’s another question. A lot of people discuss okay so fine You’re going to give


her a second part of my video they paid me, they’ve paid me phase one they’ve paid me until the presentation presentation goes there. They’re gung ho with the second stage is basically to coordinate the whole project in order, everything is to manage the logistics, it’s to liaise with the contractor to coordinate everything we ask the contractor to facilitate the orders make sure stuff comes in


okay with all with all the admin it’s like the working part it’s the part difference of project to life. It’s the 80% of the, of the 2080 rule right it’s the 80%. That’s right. Yeah,


That’s right, yeah. So, it’s where it’s where stuff’s going to go wrong. Like it’s not Oh yeah,


it’s no no. Oh,


it’s going to go wrong in the second half. That’s right. So you need to make sure that you’re being paid adequately for it. And so, and because that’s where you have scope creep scope change. I don’t have really scope creep anymore because of this system. So what I do is, there’s a very defined scope of work, I review my contract, again, with the client, and they’re sign that contract to give me the go ahead for phase two. They give me so based on the budget as they approve it they literally go down the item they like yes yes yes, no, no, no. We have a number that has been agreed upon. So, then we take from whatever that number so we’ve got the contractors number. And we’ve got our numbers, we’ve got like our product number. If there’s no contract or, fine, we just have our product. That’s the number. We take the numbers, so far so far and we tell our clients that there’s a moving target. But right now, that number is $100,000. We take 45% of that right then in there on the spot. That’s basically, that’s basically the deposit, and I also take a retainer, and I take a retainer of 20 $500. If it’s a massive project. I’ll probably take more, but I take 20 $500. Number one, and I’ve learned this the hard way. Number one, is it covers any outstanding design fees. If there are any of that comes up, I’ll tell you about that later but anyway. If that covers design fees or at the end of the project if they’ve paid everything and it’s all good. We can just give them back their 20 $500. Yep, or we can, if they’ve paid all the design fees, and they don’t want to. They want us to credit it to their final disbursement invoice. Not a problem we’ll credit it to the front of dispersed and it’s just sort of, you know, it’s that safety net, and it’s not a very big no no no because I found that I don’t really need one because I get the money. Right. That’s the beauty of flat fee is you do get your fees, upfront so there is less risk on life, I have found that in my experience, Yep. Take this 45% and then by always do the 5% hold back for when we have completed the scope of work. I don’t say to the client. When you’re happy with the project because happy is an emotional word that cannot be measured. Concretely, so it’s not about happiness is about when we have fulfilled our contractual duty and consider the scope of work that we have agreed upon. That’s when you pay us the final 5%. So the remaining 50% gets chopped up into pieces to sustain us for the length of the project. And we we determined that sometimes it’s at work or sometimes it’s beginning of construction, we take it you know whatever before product is delivered if every project is a little bit unique so that can be finessed. If a project is three months, going to be three months long, it’s different than if a project is going to run for a year so we we sort of have to determine that. And what those numbers are. But the other thing we do is we have this last year with a project, the scope. It didn’t creep it’s a product change clients were completely renovating their house and they ended up having to do way more work because it was in 100-year-old house and they enterprise


choices that they didn’t think that they were going to do they ended up ripping off all the plaster and redraw wall and everything so their budget went from, you know, X number of dollars to y number of dollars, and that’s fine as these choices were made with their full consent and approval and and everything they didn’t have the views were things that they wanted to do because they want to stay in this house for another 25 years but they don’t want this is their forever house they’ve been in the house for 20 years they want to stay another 10 years. And so we were doing all of these things to update the house. And so in the end, all we do is we just calculate recalculate our numbers. So that if that 100,000 originals 100,000 changes 250,000, we just recalculate our numbers and that becomes, that becomes the budget in red and it’s reflected in the in the subsequent payments. So it all worked out in the end. And the clients understand that. And frankly, by fees, by the middle of phase two. They don’t mind paying us because they totally see how much work we’ve done, how we facilitate the project. How you know they couldn’t get to that stage without. Yeah, so it’s not it’s not it’s not an issue it’s not an issue and I think as long as you’re very clear and you let them know sort of like this is the process I think just be very clear up front, at least I do because like you said everyone’s different and it’s, It’s, you have to, they have to understand the concept because it’s not the same as being sold by the hour and this is the fee, and I like it because I don’t really have to have a money conversation, every single month, that I hold on to, which is also sort of nice it’s like, this is what we’ve discussed. This is how much it is, this is how much you’re going to owe me and they know that unless they increase the scope, that’s going to be what our cost is like, that’s what it’s going to be.


So how do you account for I guess assuming more in phase one How do you account for, let’s say you, I don’t know how you do your presentation because that’s another discussion as to like do you show, do you show one or two options of let’s just say it’s a living room just to keep things simple like do you show a couple sofa option. And like what happens if you get to the presentation and by no means do i mean this reflection of you because, but let’s just say for whatever reason, you didn’t hit the mark for them and they’re like yeah that’s not really what we were thinking we were you know whatever like how do you handle. What are your boundaries on I guess revisions and


alterations. It’s sort of a multi part question, you know, the first part is my tend to really only show. One thing I show them one so far. But I always preface it by saying, I don’t want to give you something you hate. Yes, and it has happened, it has happened where somebody has said you know what, I don’t love that. Or I changed my part my personal favorites. I’ve changed my mind. So where they’ve given us a brief, and then they’re like oh I thinking about it or my friend, or whatever and I think I’ve changed my mind which they, you know, don’t tell us and then we get to the presentation and it’s like yeah you know what, I think I really would like something else, right. So, what we so it has happened. Usually, we get way more right than we get. Yeah, I would imagine, I don’t even say wrong I’d say like, maybe it’s just the communication, or maybe the client isn’t as on board or whatever the situation is. I had one, you can believe either client to stop like animal prints. Oh my gosh,


like, Well,


I’m glad to hear. Sorry, sorry I can’t work for you.


So what we do is, and what we encourage our clients to because we don’t want the process to be dragged on and I don’t want to take the client to go look at 10,000 Yes, sofas, whatever it is. So, what, what I say is, I tell them that let’s use a sofa, for an example, I say okay let’s use this as our price marker. Let’s use this 30 $500. Yep, I’m just using that as No, let’s say the sofa 30 $500 let’s use that as our price Microsoft will still keep that in our budget. And because soap is a great example actually because before I placed an order. I insisted my clients. Go and sit on it. I was


just going to say, that is one of the best,


because I can think it’s the most fabulous sofa in the world, quite sits on it was like, Yeah, no, then I don’t want them to get them now because they’re so fun. You know, so, and that has happened, where if I had picked a chair I thought it was stunning so it was beautiful, gorgeous chair client loved it went and sat on it, it was not, it was not comfortable for them. And I don’t want them to have, I can’t imagine a chair showing up my client spent like $6,000 on it. And she’s like, yeah, this doesn’t work for me like I can’t imagine


that’s not doing your job right either right i mean this is


not it’s not serving anybody. no. So, they’re fine to pick it from a picture and say yeah I like it but don’t something that’s so personal something you’re going to sit on or be in your family room or your dining room chair that I insist that they sit on it. So, for something similar, sometimes like


you can’t always find the exact model on the dock,


so similar. Yeah, so, so sometimes so we use that as a price marker and sometimes the fabric changes or whatever we make those adjustments, but we use that as a price marker and saying, okay, it’s going to be approximately, 30 $500, if it’s $3,000, our software accounting system we will make that adjustment, and credit that $500 to something back to you, it’ll go towards something else. And if it’s 40 $500, you’ll be owing us more when we go to take the rest of the payment from you. So it’ll make that adjustment so no do that if something is not suitable. We will we select and we’re happy to re select for the client. What I have in my contract it’s interesting that you brought this up because no because the project manager about this. I have in my contract that I don’t do more than three revisions three minor revisions. Yeah. Before I start billing the client. Our from all the time that it takes. So, even though I do flat fee. So yes they’re allowed to do three minor revisions and then in my contract is to describe what a minor revision is. And it’s something that basically doesn’t affect the entire project and Heinz redo the whole project,


the snowball effect of changing sort of all


the interesting thing is, I had always thought of revisions. As drawing and pertaining to rain and on a project we recently were working on, I had the client. The client was like, flip flopping and going back and forth and we were like going back and forth and it was taking like months and months and months and it was like lightning or something I can’t remember what it was, but it was something, and I thought, who’s paying for all this time that we’re sourcing we’re finding we’re meeting with the client we’re going back we’re trying to figure out what, because there was no price marker she was like she was just flat out, no I don’t like it. What about this. What about this. And we were going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and it was a lot of time. And like I have to go into my contract, and tweak that revisions line. The other thing, it also pertains to is pricing and having to meet price, because that’s also the time so if they wait on something and now we COVID oh my


gosh it’s crazy.


And you can’t get anything like when we present something, I know I can get it all, like I checked and double checked and triple check so on the day of that presentation that quote is good, that pricing is good, the stock is good if they decide to start a hem and haw and wait for a month before they figure out if they’re going to proceed or not, which happens. Yeah. Like, they’re you know they need to think about it or where they’re going away, pre code, whatever. Whatever it is, yeah, ever the situation is so quick. Now, if they wait a month, I might not be able to get anything. I know, right. So, that means I have to spend the time or my team has to spend their time repricing that entire project, who’s paying for that, which is a huge right all right, so now I do have to retweet my contract to make sure that the client knows that revisions are not just for drawing for delays and accepting quotes, and we have to reprice it, they are going to get about I have this happening I have the company right now because I have a condo, this condo project that’s on hold. Like, we are going to have to reprice the whole project and that’s ours that I’m going to have to pay my team to do. And I’m going to build the client for it and call it a revision because she didn’t accept the quote at the time. So it’s sort of a double edged sword but it’s interesting that you said that because I think even with pricing and you have a system that’s working for you. There’s always ways to tweak it and improve it.


Oh, there always is because to your point, always COVID wasn’t just something that was in the books a few years ago one know when a pandemic hit you, this is what you just you don’t know and and no i everything I’m pricing right now. It’s crazy like, there’s just disclaimers constantly like that you know valid for like a week, like literally a week, you know, nobody can because it’s just there’s so many variables happening with exchanges and duties and it’s crazy. It really is crazy. Yeah, and it’s it’s something I always find that that’s a hard tangible to explain, like when you say revisions on a drawing and even then you’d be like well how much is, is, is, like, what, where does it start affecting things and it’s it’s very hard. It’s not a very finite definitive thing that you can say, you know, three revisions or iterations or whatever it is. So yeah, it is it’s a it’s a challenging thing to I have a client right now that I’ve been working on the showroom and it is, we started just as COVID hit 10 months ago, and we’re still not very far. And I’m going,


Oh my god,


I didn’t put anything in the contract about this and yeah, you know, because, how do you foresee that right you don’t you don’t foresee that happening so you don’t foresee it


and I think a lot of people are sort of learning from what what happened in the last half year and trying to adapt and, like if you can’t foresee stuff like I know in my contract. I had a force majeure clause. I still have a force majeure clause, but that doesn’t really address billing, like, it doesn’t really address these it’s just if it happens like basically the client, you know, can’t come after you and blame you for it. That’s basically all it means. You know, that’s all it means is that, like, just because I can’t get your tile will reflect something but you can’t come after Me, personally, because they can’t get your child because pandemic. But it doesn’t address how to change your fees for that and I think. So that’s why, in a sense, like for me flat fees, I still like I will myself not being a flat fee girl but there still, still occasions where you do have to invoke hourly billing and that’s when I think and definitely after that has to be very clear in your contract, this is going to happen when you go above and beyond. I have a fabulous client that we’re working with now we’ve got our scope of work we’re doing the project is fantastic. And she’s asking us to do a bunch of other things. So you can handle this one of two ways you can either create a whole new scope and address it as a separate project or what we might do, just because I think because it’s better for this particular instance is because it’s a bunch of random things for a bunch of random spaces. I think we will just filter by the hour because it’s almost like an add on purchase, it’s not related like one thing is not related It’s like she wants a piece of furniture for another property she owns and she wants to, you know, do this and do that and like stuff that’s not related to each other. So it’s hard to create a scope, when there’s not really a scope it’s sort of what I call the 15 pieces. She probably, you know,


today says she wants this and then in a week from now. And I also need this, so like there’s no end


to it. Right, right. Sorry. So when not when they’re when it’s not a defined space. And let’s be very clear, I do not need you projects like this this is for long term. Amazing.

Episode #0029 – Growing Your Design Business with Rebecca Hay

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with fellow interior designer and podcaster Rebecca Hay where she has found new ways to continuously grow her design business. She is an expert at marketing. A wiz at adapting to changes in life, including what to do when a pandemic takes over the world. 

Rebecca will talk about how she got the point in her life where she felt called to be an interior design professional. She now had over ten years of experience in the interior design world but she’s still learning to be encouraged by others, instead of comparing herself. Moreover, she discusses business and how she’s used time blocking to keep her focused. This idea of time blocking is one Crystal has talked about in a previous episode. 

Rebecca’s design business is also successful because she does not do it alone-you need to hire a team. She points out that the biggest lesson is learning to get help. And, have others do the work that takes too much time away from your important tasks. She still oversees the creation and content of her work. She continuously find ways to better her business has been her best decision. In her podcast, Resilient By Design, Rebecca finds immense success in teaching others online. She provide tools and motivation that Designers often need, to move the needle in their business.

So, join Crystal and Rebecca as they talk about starting a podcast and how they manage their time. Listen to this episode then head on over to Resilient by Design podcast to hear the other half of chat. And then, do something today that your future self will thank you for.

How to reach Rebecca:

Website : rebeccahay.com/podcast and rebeccahay.com 

Instagram : @rebeccahaydesigns and @msrebeccahay     

Private Facebook Group for Designers  – http://tiny.cc/designcommunity 

Twitter : @rhaydesigns 

lady design business owner in blue shirt smiling, sitting and holding a cup of coffee

Recommended Podcast:

Tobi Fairley, Amy Porterfield and Tim Ferris

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

When my first met my husband and I had just graduated from Metairie just i We when my first met, I we when we first met my husband and I had just arrived. Okay so you’re doing the design thing. And, and that’s you’re doing very well with that and that’s great but what I really want to talk to you today a little bit about more so is that you’ve got this really strong marketing. I guess I want to say just this extra strong marketing ability now maybe now to hearing more about your acting background and all that maybe that’s part and parcel to it but you’ve got so you’ve got all these extra like tools for the trade. So talk about that you’ve got a YouTube channel, you’ve got a super active social media campaign, How do you manage to do it all. And, I mean, obviously you’re not doing it all but I mean how do you manage to fit, because even, even if you have people helping you, you still need to be the creative eyes on it and approve it and have the direction and all that. So how do you manage to do that.

Yeah I mean I think you just said it right there, crystals that I don’t do it all myself. So I don’t think any successful entrepreneur out there can claim that they’ve done it all themselves, there’s always a team or a person or something backing up. I feel very fortunate I have a really dedicated and loyal team that’s been with me for several years. But, I mean first of all thank you for saying that it’s funny I never really thought I was thinking anything about marketing, but it turns out I’m really interested in it, and maybe the acting like I do enjoy communicating and pretty good there. And it is certainly one of the core strengths, I’ve come to recognize in myself, but to do what all requires passion requires organization specifically I’ll tell you time blocking, has been a big thing in my life as an affiliate, and making sure like right now when I’m doing Instagram stuff, because it gets to be a lot like I will tell her lately honest with you, like a year ago I was like, burning out. I was wanting to be everything to everyone, I was wanting to be like everything like given every publication, and like be like top, Instagram, and like keep my stories going every day and have a post every day, and we’re gonna design business which you know was not an easy feat.

Or maybe the family

was forget. I always forget that. I like I kind of compartmentalize, I to be honest with you, yeah. Yeah, and then there’s also like the little tiny children that I have, yes, I was burning out a little bit and that’s where I really leaned on my team and that’s when I started to get way better at delegating and just giving up a bit of control. And so having a zero has been working for me now for a couple of years, and her role has really grown and changed within my organization, but she helps me. I mean that’s kind of a long winded answer I have a lot of help. Yeah, I’m passionate about it. I, I, I tend to. I’m all about progress over perfection. So there’s no by me it’s like I’m a prophet, I’m a recovering perfectionist, but me it doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to start, I do end up wanting to find perfection which I’m working on, but it does just got to get it out there. And so that’s why I’ll just put my face on Instagram. And then people are like oh wow, like a year ago, two years ago I

remember somebody saying to me,

someone whose opinion I valued. Well, what are you doing without makeup on Instagram stories, and this was like two years ago so not many people were doing that. Yeah, now it’s like really trendy.

Behind the scenes kind of thing and that’s the real life whereas the the real like your your post is sorry not the real but your your feed is more your curated, you know, more finessed version. That’s what I heard that recently and I thought oh that’s a good that’s a good analogy of how to differentiate something.

Yeah. So yeah,

I I mean I to have somebody that does my social media, and, but, but even then, I still, you know there’s still stuff that you have to, you know, you have to give and give information and, you know, so it’s just an even then, I’m only posting three times a week right now or two times a week because I just was like, It’s too much. It’s too much like, and then you know throwing in a podcast too because why not add another

element yeah that’s a max,

which then. When did they started. Yeah, I started it in May, 2020, it was the pandemic kick in the pants, because I am thinking about it. Yeah, yeah, for a while and I was like okay I’ve got some time I have no excuse, I got to do it. And, and then I was my thought was to do it weekly, and then I was finding that was just too much and I just said I have to give myself Grace, I’m going to do it every two weeks and I just, like, just accept it. Again, right the progress over perfection, it’s out it’s not out every week, maybe I’ll go back to Week, weekly, I don’t know but anyways it’s no

I thought I think as long as you’re consistent, I think that’s what is key, whether it’s every day and we’re sure. Yeah,

yeah, exactly, because you got to show up exactly consistency is probably one of the big words I use too is just, you know, if you’re going to commit to it commit to it and be consistent and give yourself I’ve given myself a year, I said let’s see how it goes in a year, we’ll see. So, so okay so your team you’ve got sort of does your. I know her name is VR does she work, like, is she do just marketing for you like, that’s her single role or does she do some office, like I want to say ordering or any of that kind of stuff.

So, she does not do ordering she does do more than marketing though. So, she’s an interesting role in my company because it’s really grown as I’ve seen where her strength fly ship photographer by trade. Oh, which is interesting I met her she was writing a blog post about me for a vendor, and she came in to interview me and she was so professional, took her job so seriously she’d done her research she had questions and was thinking whoa, this girl is pretty cool. Yeah, helping me just like part time and it slowly grew, and now it’s full time, she helps me marketing so she’s kind of like my sounding board, when it comes to marketing ideas. And then she helps me implement all my crazy ideas so she doesn’t do anything entirely without my involvement. So she will help plan out my instagram visuals, and the feed and the graphics but and then sometimes help with captions. Sometimes I’m reading the captions depends. She is really great with editing so she used to edit my YouTube channel and videos for that. He has been instrumental in helping me launch my online courses which we can talk about today. Yeah, and then within my design, because she originally was hired to help me with my design. So she was helped me were hired to help me with Instagram maintain my website, and, and now, because she’s so good with people, and this is the thing I think as a business owner, you need to look at the people who are working for you and see what their strengths are, what their strengths are, and they may be hired to do one position, but perhaps they really have this hidden skill set and didn’t know. And so that position can morph. So now she actually she onboards, all of our design clients. So, I still do the discovery calls, But she is the one managing our CRM. So when someone inquires through the website, she is all automated, we’ve had all automated through a system program that we use, but she is the one who’s sending that follow up email, she’s the one who’s booking that initial call. She’s also the one sending out the contracts. She’s the one who is forwards over the invoice that is created by our accounting department, so she is really that first impression, right, that via email and via phone for our design clients, so it’s kind of a weird role because it’s not, it’s when you know when you run a small business, you can’t have these like tiny very specific oh gosh, no, no no no wear multiple hats. Yeah, I kinda have to be continuing continuing to evolve and change so that’s what her role is, we call her her Tippett her title is community manager and Marketing Manager,

which makes sense right yeah cuz she. That’s great. No, I mean I think that’s a it’s a, it’s an interesting, you know, because I was looking at the size of your team that does just marketing that seems like that’s like a big role


a small company right

like that seems like but to your point, I mean she’s obviously got lots of skill set and I heard recently that they say you know hire for personality and hire for sort of attitude as opposed, and then. And to your point, you kind of see like you think you’re bringing them in for this but then you’re like oh my god she’s selling it this so let’s like morpher into that and I always find that, you know, I always say doing drawings in AutoCAD like that’s, you know you can find somebody tomorrow to do that, right, like you can farm that out so easily. But that, those types of skill sets, you know, even skill sets, you don’t even know you need to hire for. I think those are sort of, they’re just kind of become like your unicorns if you find in the lab told us to do this and do this and you know you can all of a sudden you’re like, wow, I didn’t even know I needed this position or this, this role filled and yet, you know, I’ve got this person in front of me that can

do it so

sorry just hire for personality, that’s something that I’m working on still because I’ve done it. Obviously successfully in the past but yeah I have done the opposite where I’ve hired for skill set and overlooked personality. Yeah, every time I’ve done it, it didn’t work out. Yeah, because you,

you all of a sudden you’re like, you know like this is starting to drive me crazy whatever or they’re missing this, or whatever the nuances,

why aren’t they smiling when they’re with our clients, you know like, yes,

no, we had that we had that issue. Yeah we had clients say super organized really efficient, but she’s a little bit, your clients, didn’t she just didn’t like bedside manner, non existent.

It was like,

I need this.

Okay. Yeah, so you have to, you can’t teach that right, that’s something you can’t teach. So,

definitely have to have that. That’s like a whole podcast in itself. I hope

we could like just slot this into silos okay hiring and yesterday, you know, oh my gosh, tools, because that’s another one, I’d

love to talk about,

because you were mentioning about time blocking and like I did, I did an episode on time blocking because that’s like one of my big things and I’m still, I like to preach it, I’m still trying to practice it, because life gets in the way and you see things that shouldn’t be done and it’s like, oh, like to really stick to your guns, it’s, it’s, you know it’s discipline. So, my hat’s off to you that you can do.

Hey, I don’t do everything I say to do I say like, I’m in the process of learning, I know exactly what little wins. I don’t like not every day is perfect. Oh my god, far from it. Yeah, and I will time block and then fall off entirely like it happens, definitely happens but if I continually strive to do something well, then eventually becomes more ingrained as a habit, more ingrained as a habit, and that’s my,

that’s my progress right progress over perfection right so if you can, like, hit, you know, 60% of those time blocks in a day or something that’s huge compared, you know, whereas otherwise you’re just kind of going kid now. Now what what’s the next fire right and I find that sometimes I’m like, okay, I get a little bit, you know, as I like to preach it, I gotta practice it. So tell okay so you’ve got the, tell us a little bit about your other sort of side or arm of the business where you’re working with designers and your courses, and how did that come to be, obviously, now that I’ve learned about your teaching background that, you know, this makes sense. So how did that sort of come about, you know, I mean I’m sure a lot of people think about it, but what was it that sort of said, Okay, this this looks like something that I should be doing.

So, I mean the pandemic has really been a catalyst for a lot of things for me, but prior to the pandemic, I had started hosting designer meetups here in Toronto. So the first one I did at a pub, and it’s interesting story actually I just this just made me think of it when I lived in Vancouver as an actor, I had this idea that I was going to start a Facebook group for actors, other actors who were like me who are just starting out in the industry and wanting to get work and we would meet up, and it was meetup. And we would meet up at like a pub or whatever and like for me, it’s usually like social let’s have a beer. Yeah, and so I set it up I invited a few like friends, and then a few other actors that I knew within the industry. It was in Kitsilano, and we went, the plan was to go to a to this bar and so I set the date, and nobody came. One friend came, and he wasn’t even an actor. And I was like, devastated. I gave up after that one track. So, anyhow. Fast forward to, like, you two years ago now, I’m like, I’m gonna do it with designers, I feel like I can do it with designers, they’re a little bit more dependable. Yeah, and I knew more designers, right, like I already have my own little posse of designer friends and so I did the first meetup was at a pub by my house. I think like 70 people showed up, which oh my god, mind I was like more than 50 and I was like, Oh, this thing has legs like people really are desperate for intercommunication within the industry because we work in these silos, Actually, and like most people don’t have a team. People work alone, from their house and it was really successful so that I thought I better do this every month and I started doing them and we would have different vendors would hostess and I would have speakers come in and it was all free. I remember my business coach at the time was like you have to stop doing these things for free, because these people like to come and listen to me preach about something like who am I, yeah. And then the pandemic hit, and we couldn’t do them anymore, so then I started doing virtual designer meetups, which was on Zoom, and every month and I would have a great turnout was usually like 20 to 30 people would show up on Zoom and we just chit chat and what I started to see was that people wanted to come. But we’re a little bit shy to like actually share there’s always like those few really okay well that would talk and the onus was kind of on me to carry the conversation so I started carrying the conversation topic and I would say, well this is what I’m doing and people were like, Oh wow, that’s really good. That’s really good. And then it just kind of naturally grew out of that. And I always have had this passion for teaching right I didn’t just college, and following, you know Rachel Hollis, Amy Porterfield course creators down in the US and seeing what they were doing and I was really inspired by them and so the pandemic hit. And I’d always want just like you, I always wanted to do a podcast and I was dragging my feet. And remember, Michelle Burnett started her podcast I was like, Yeah and I will wait for me, which is an offer. And I was like, oh, and then finally you’re just like you I’m like well now I have the time. And I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna do the podcast, and I’m going to I’m going to develop a course, and I’m going to do a course on what and I started to pull my audience I’m like What do you guys want to learn from me and a lot of it came down to marketing which apparently people think I’m good at marketing, which, which to me was so funny I don’t see myself as good at marketing, but I’m interested in it so I’m constantly learning. And so I developed the momentum course which launched last summer, and I had we had like 18 or 19 students which was like amazing. And I did a live course where every week I went on Zoom live and I would talk about a topic and it was a huge success and after that I thought okay then from that people started saying what do you want, or sorry, people said, Oh, we want to know more about process process process. Yeah. And so I said to veer on like I think we’re gonna do a course on process, because like this has been a big game changer for me and my business and so we developed power of process and we launched it in the fall and it just completed, and we’re gonna launch it again it was so successful we had 50 students. And, yeah, it’s been, it’s been incredible. The community has been amazing. The students are just so collaborative and I think what’s nice about these online courses is it’s just a different way to learn. And there’s so many people you can learn from there’s so many memberships and courses that you can take and what I, what I’ve learned from the courses I’ve taken is a lot of people have similar information to share, but you need to sort of, you go and learn from the person who resonates with you, totally 100% Well it’s really cool to see people that like, I’m like, I want to be your friend, like yeah, let’s head out. Yeah, yeah, that’s kind of a long story but that’s how I ended up ended up becoming like this online course creator,

which is amazing because it to your point, I’ve seen a lot of you and I don’t know, a lot of the same, you know course creators out there in the interior design community and a lot of them are from the US, which I find there’s a lot of similarities but then there’s a lot of the stuff that I go, Yeah, candidates bit different, yeah and candidates but, I mean, generally speaking world with the very similar, but I think to your point, I think it’s who you resonate with who you just feel like exactly I could be friends with that person, you know, that kind of thing that you’ve just got it you got to connect right and if people will say that, you know, there’s, look at us there’s how many designers that are that are out there, and but we all bring something unique to our clients and that’s why our clients hire us right like it’s this, this, it’s you may have the same information but you’re gonna do something different.

So, and that’s what the power of process is all about. And it’s launching I mean I’m not sure when the podcast, or podcast to go live it might happen but it’s, it’s about creating a process that is unique to your business. Yes, idea that there is no cookie cutter one size fits all, because what I’ve started to see in the interesting industry story. Not everybody wants full service design, not everybody are to do it as a designer, I know people don’t want to do staging I just interviewed someone for my podcast who’s a student of the Course, and in during the course he had this like aha moment where he’s like, I’m gonna move into staging entirely and I’m going to leave the design behind. So I think it’s kind of neat that there is an opportunity yes to be unique and learn from someone else who feel that the same way as you.

Yeah, I think, I think our business in itself is just like there’s no cookie cutter there’s no cookie cutter with pricing, there’s no cookie cutter with a process because your your services are like it’s just a such

thing, sometimes it’s frustrating sometimes for sure it is, we just all do it the same way. Right,

I know it’s like you know lawyers, they’ve got this figured out right they just try the hour and charge a lot by the hour and everybody just accepts it and that’s just the way it goes. But yeah, I find it just that’s what they’re the conversations about,

you know, and

probably the two most talked about whenever I’ve been with groups of designers we just everybody does something different and apps, you know like software, like what are you using for you know like all that conversation. Yeah, that’s a whole other could be a podcast in itself. Right,

totally, because you

have to make it work for what you do. Right, so, you know, I mean, you’ve done some model homes as as I do and you know it’s a different, it’s

a totally different

beast than doing a residential, you know, clients for somebody whose home that they’re living in. It’s so I found a lot of the apps just didn’t work for me because I was like, it doesn’t work either because it’s too time to do, or whatever the issue was, but yeah, so anyways, that’s, that’s my little rant on our

business. Yeah,

and consistent and non systematic it is. So just getting back to the marketing a little bit. So, how do you, do you have an ability to measure your return on your investment because I invested in, you know, an employee who’s doing predominantly that but obviously other stuff has been discussed, but how do you find that because I find that social media is one of those beasts that. I mean, besides getting somebody that said hey I saw you on Instagram and I want to hire you. Okay, like that’s that’s a no brainer, but how do you how do you measure that, like, do you have some sort of metrics or are you just playing the game because you have to

know I really wish I had a good answer for this question. It’s really difficult to measure. I mean, like I used to work with a publicist, and you know she would say all the time that you know it’s not like you get published in one magazine, and then you get five clients. It’s a long term game. You know I worked with over three years and then it was only by year three, that it was like okay there’s some serious momentum happening we’re getting tons of publicity and clients are starting to come through the door, so it’s really hard. It’s not like product sales like I know my marketing so he does like Facebook ads right so he runs Facebook ads when we’re trying to grow our audience and grow our email list, if we’re trying to advertise like a masterclass free masterclass and so he can say this many people clicked and converted right. Yeah, he does that for pizza companies he’s done it for builders, it’s a lot more straightforward for a pizza company, this many people order pepperoni pizza from the ad, like you ran your conversion, it’s very different in a luxury service offering like design, because oftentimes people need to see. They need multiple touchpoints with you before they hire you. They may see you in a magazine, like, like what she did. I’ll follow her on Instagram, so then they start following me on Instagram, then they run into Suzy at the grocery store and Susie said she just worked with a designer and Rebecca should be like, oh that’s so fun. I just started following her. Oh and then all of a sudden it’s time to do the home run out, and they’re like nah girl that who was that girl right Rebecca, so it’s like it’s so many touch points. Yeah, that, I mean I hate to say like I don’t really have a way of tracking. i We are trying to get better at looking at, okay, this week on Instagram, this which posted Well, yeah, what type of content should we put forward holding our audience in our like we have a designer meetup Facebook group. And, you know polling that group like hey like what type what type of content do you want to see what are the issues that are facing, it gets. I don’t know, I’m sure somebody else has the answer I’ve never been very good at tracking how I do anything like ours, which is why I don’t charge hourly anymore. I’m terrible at that stuff.

Well it’s just interesting because that’s that’s sort of the same frustration but that’s how I felt about about social media in the sense to that it’s like, it’s I call it kind of the necessary evil, because you don’t know to your exact point you don’t know how that person came to you and they may be, but if they’re like they may be following you and love what you do but if they don’t actually have a project, then they’re not hiring you, because they don’t have any. It’s like, like you said, it’s not like they’re just going to buy a pizza. This is a big investment so I just always find it interesting, I just, I look at it as like staying top of mind staying in, you know like it top of wine in their face being just sort of oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah, and then, you know,

when they are ready. Hopefully, they think of you, so I mean one thing I tip I can, I don’t know if your audience is your audience mostly designers, yeah, yeah, okay. So a tip that I can offer to designers that we do more diligently now than before, is in every initial client intake form or discovery call we’d ask how they heard about us. Yeah, and they don’t always put it in the email intake because sometimes we’ll just email us direct, so I always ensure even if they’ve told me if they say social, I just had a call the other day and it said, How did you hear about us and someone puts social media. So then I dig a little deeper. I was like, oh it looks like you found us on social media, you know, what platform was like was it on Instagram and then sometimes people don’t want to say and they feel awkward or something but more often than not I can capture that information and we use a program that we able to capture all that information and so then what I do the second part of that is at the end of every year or in January. In this case, this year, I sit down and I look at all my projects from the past year, and I look at all my referral sources. So, I can see, and then I can track year to year and I can look back and be like, Okay, last year I had a ton of projects referred by my friend Jackie. But this past year, it’s not interesting, I have three projects that they say they found me in a magazine. And so you can start to see where potentially those marketing efforts are paying off now right, often they haven’t like I said, they haven’t just seen you in the magazine they probably also follow you on Instagram, maybe their best friend went to high school with you or who knows what. But at least it helps to give you some indication and also what I like about that exercise, and I learned this from Jenna Kutcher from listening to her podcast is, she said when she was a photographer. She did fantasize and she realized, like, all her photography jobs were coming from one wedding planner, she’s like, Oh man, I gotta like entertain this wedding planner. And so that’s when I started to realize, oh, shoot there was this one friend from high school referring me all these great jobs. I’m gonna send her a bottle of wine, I’m gonna hit, I want to try and make more of an effort, and it’s maybe sounds calculated but it’s marketing right, even though

it’s you people want to be recognized and it’s just nice to be, you know, to be referred to and thought of, right, like,

you know how grateful you are. Yeah, makes a difference,

because I think in our industry. We are so if there’s so much referral, right, like, I would say I don’t know if you’re, if you find the same but I think generally speaking, you know when you’re working in a certain area of a geographical area, you know, you’re going to be friends of friends and stuff. And who did you run out when you did this, you know, and it’s just, it’s a lot of word of mouth referral so that’s why I always think with those social media is necessary boys anything ever gonna come out of it but you got to be, you got to play the game. Either way you look at it right, you’ve got to be out there.

Yeah and I think if you look at it though as it being a necessary evil, Crystal, I will say it will feel like an it’ll feel like a laborious task yes so you need to find a way to make it enjoyable and fun and if you really don’t like it then that’s when you find someone to do it for you.

Yeah, and that’s and that’s what I have somebody doing it and we’re sort of streamlining because I was doing it for the podcast I’m doing it for my you know my interior design business, and then my husband does renovations and so I was doing for that I sort of get this insane, I’m like done we have like six different channels that we’re streamlining it’s we’re literally going through the process of redoing our website and we’re getting everything and I’m like, one because, exactly. That’s what I said is becoming too, just too much right like it’s too laborious, it’s not I’m not being consistent with the other ones because I’m just I got other things to do and it is a lot of work right so I’m you know I’m like okay I know it’s important, so I just need to streamline it a little bit more and and hopefully I won’t. It’s not a negative, it’s just like, oh my gosh it’s somewhere thing else on my to do list.

Yeah, yeah, but I would say like necessary evil makes you sound pretty negative.

Yeah, I know that’s true, that’s true, okay I can flip the switch and make it,

I’m calling you out on you.

So thank you. So I do need to do that, I need to I need to notice that. So, See that’s why you’re so much better at it than I am.

I just enjoy it, to be honest, I just wanted out. For me it’s fun, it’s like a platform, it’s like I get to be on stage. Yes, I like to be creative. I love strategy, it turns out like a strategy. So, I mean I didn’t know that about myself, like, shoot, I just turned 40 And I’m only now realizing what I’m good at, what is wrong with this world. Oh my gosh,

I know that’s what I say I don’t know how kids nowadays go okay I’m gonna be a whatever because maybe there’s jobs that we don’t even know like there’s there’s locations of things you can do and make money that you can’t even think of. So, yeah,

I couldn’t even imagine. If I taught my six year old son is convinced he wants to be a YouTuber. Like if I have to dress up as we’re reading these books in total sidebar. We’re reading these Junie B. Jones books, they’re like yeah, the books for like you know gardeners or whatever. Yeah, one of the books she has to get dressed up for like job day to dress up was what you want to be and she doesn’t know what she wants to be and my son’s like, well I would dress up as a YouTuber, but I don’t know what they would wear I think they would wear all black and headphones. I’m like okay buddy like I want to support his dreams but at the same time I’m thinking that didn’t exist when I was a kid. Exactly. How is that even a job.

Yeah, I mean, that’s just don’t even get me stuck, talking about gamers people that like make a living at gaming, what he’s

referring to because he loves Minecraft so he got those like YouTuber wasn’t as name. Anyways, yeah, yeah,

yeah, but that that just, that makes my head just go are influencers, you know, tick talkers,

like, don’t get me started. Honestly, that’s a full time job I’ve always said like my goals never been to be an influencer, people have said to me oh your Instagram account it’s like once you hit 10,000 followers and you can get back to them like that is very time consuming to be paid to then talk about a product like for me like again tracking number of Instagram posts I need to do. Did I do the Instagram stories to me I see Instagram, and social as a platform to grow my brand and my business, Right. But influencing just to be an influencer to me sounds like a really a lot of work which is so ironic because obviously we both do a lot of work and what we do but yeah

but your it just doesn’t sound like fun work right. Or, yeah. Or it’s like oh I got this product, I’m not really, you know, jazzed about it and now I got to promote it or talk about how great it is. And, yeah, yeah, I would never be good at that because I just, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’d be like,

I buy this

coffee. It’s really good. I’m like well I

don’t drink coffee but if I did, I don’t drink coffee. No, I do, I’m just joking. Okay, but I mean like, I don’t drink wine, Kim Crawford came out with this great arrival slider last year was like, Okay, I’m gonna get in trouble, but everybody better last year was like hugging cream Kim Crawford wines, I’m like, How come I didn’t get the invite, I actually drink Kim Crawford, why

are you selling your blog, that’s my why he did that or or survey.

Oh my god, I’m doing dry February though, so Okay, hopefully right now. Are you okay

yeah it is.

So, okay so the last little thing I want to talk about is and I think we sort of talked to everyone kind of talked about this but I mean I love, I think when I started my business I’ve been in this 20 years now. And I think, times have changed so much that you know were when I started, people did not want to talk about their sources didn’t want to talk about their process, didn’t want to talk about how they do things they didn’t want to talk about, Like everybody was so guarded and hush hush. And now I just think it’s such a you know a breath of fresh air that everybody is now so much more open and like you know, so many Facebook groups, you know what you’re doing, it’s just, I think it’s amazing. And yet, we still, we probably, you know we still fall into this comparison trap with you even though we’re collaborating so much but it’s still, how do you start, how do you find you deal with that in the sense of, you know, being on social media a lot because it’s sort of sideways to that, you know, and you’re seeing what you’re doing I think is fantastic but then you’re scrolling you go oh, look at that. Look at that. How do you like do you just sort of go okay I got to do what I got to do on social media and get off or do you find that you’re following others, like, like how do you how do you look at it from your perspective, not being an active poster but being a receiver of social media.

So I mean I go through ups and downs with that. To be completely honest with you. I am not immune to the social media trap, if any extra affected sometimes because I care so much, and I put so much of myself out there. When I first started really like doing makeup lists, Instagram Stories, a close, very close person to me. Basically over a glass of wine said, I don’t think you should be doing this. Nobody wants to hear a new mom complain about being tired. We’re all tired just shut the EFF up and suck it up and oh like this was me being this authentic version of myself that I hadn’t been in so long. And it was resonating I had all these moms. Oh my god, me too. Oh, that reminds me of when I had first had my kid they’re grown up and like all these comments like hold back. And I was like no you know what I think I should be this polished version. She’s right, I should be this polished version that I see everyone else doing right, and, and then like the engagement slowed down, and then I was like not feeling. I felt like I was constantly having dispenser of who I was on stories when I like I’ve just always been someone who’s an open book and shares to high school. And so now that I am so active on it. I find that in order to avoid the comparison trap where I judge myself, based on what I see others doing because let’s be honest, that’s really what it’s about. It’s like yeah, you’ve got it together. And then you start scrolling, and you’re like, oh, wow, that that projects, really awesome. I wish I had a project like that. And then you scroll a little further, you’re like oh my god I would never thought of doing real like that oh my god I was like so much work I’ll never have time for that. And then you scroll and then you go deeper and deeper into this pit of despair and I know everyone who’s listening knows exactly what I’m talking about. Yeah, like you have. I mean, I have all speak up to myself but I have like a physical reaction like I have a physical like, yes. Yeah, but I feel less than. I feel not good enough, and I’ve done it to myself, and that breaks my own heart, and I know that others and I feel so sorry for our younger generation, like I didn’t even grow up with social media, and it’s affecting me. And so there are times where I just like you said, we’re still, I literally have what I need, what I want to put on Instagram. And then I don’t look. I will tell you I do not. I do not consume Instagram as much as I used to. It’s just it I can’t. Yeah, I’m too susceptible to self judgment. I’m too susceptible and too insecure in some ways, I can’t, like I would rather put myself out there, check all my posts, engage with my community, the people that I know have my back and I will maybe do one or two scrolls, and, and, and I won’t even tap like you know the little stories that go. Yeah, I stopped tapping on people that I know that I might feel envy, if I see their story. I might feel like let’s say you like maybe this hasn’t happened to you but like maybe I see you and you’re like working with a big builder or doing this incredible project and I’m like, I’m so jealous. I want to do that. And I start thinking well why am I not getting projects like that, how do I get in front of these builders, how do I do this thing, right, as opposed to being so happy that like this base I just did was featured on the cover of our freakin magazine. Yeah, each, and probably other people are looking at me and feeling bad about themselves I click critical party, my friends, you could add in this third goal of like self hatred and judgment and envy and jealousy and we just want to collaborate, but it’s like, hard to do it is,

I find it this is just like struggle right like it’s this constant sort of internal struggle, struggle up. I look at somebody post and go, Oh, she’s done that’s great, or oh wow she’s got a staff of tech and then they go, hold on, I actually don’t I really don’t want that, like, I don’t. I love working from home, I have an office. I love I have virtual like might all my team members for virtual, we have one that comes in but you know that she can work from

home. Like, it’s just like, Hey,

why do I, why am I envious of that when I actually in deep doubt don’t even want that, but it’s like, that’s what I that’s what I think I’m supposed to want,

I think is maybe what it is. And it’s like, you have to check yourself. Yeah, all the time, Lisa canning says this and she said, it’s always resonated with me. I’ve had this on the podcast before, but she talks about when she was a designer in China, and she. All she did was like kept trying to like get the purse and have the car to be like that level maybe she needs a team like that, like the people that work within her peer group in that sort of you know we all have our little peer group in our own cities in our industry. And then she realizes like this isn’t even what I want. This isn’t even my dream, but this what the industry is, I guess, the word is, it’s the it’s the level of success that success benchmark that we’re going to meet it’s like I look at designers and all the time like, oh man, they’re working, they did that condo complex or like they did, like, I’m trying to think of something that’s like recently happened where I’m like, yeah, and then I just feel shitty doing is wonderful and what I’m doing is great, and my aspirations and dreams are different and with the coaching I’ll tell you, Crystal it’s been, it’s definitely been a struggle for me, because I’m trying to balance this like desire and passion for teaching and online courses and the podcast, but then also this traditional design business, and I don’t want to like rock the boat, or like I don’t want to screw it up, but I really want to follow this one passion without sacrificing another one and what are people gonna think like I had a lot of imposter syndrome going into creating a course, but I think I honestly believe the only reason I was able to do it so quickly, without so much self judgment was because we were in a pandemic. And I had less exposure to those people. Yeah,

that’s your kind of isolated and said I’m just gonna do what I want to do and get it out there and just Yeah, put the blinders on and, you know, and obviously it’s been very well received. So, yeah, doing something right, you know. Yeah, I think that it’s funny that you say it’s this internal struggle of, I think what success of your business success is supposed to look like when we all have a different perspective of what that’s supposed to be. And, but, but we do look at, you know the industry in itself I mean, I’m graduating for schools like, Oh, you got to work the big design firms and oh yeah I’m working at whatever, you know, and it’s like, you know you get there and it’s like a sweatshop and it’s horrible and, you know like, you’re working ridiculous hours and you’re thinking, well yeah this is, this is great, this is a lot of fun you know this is what I want to do.

Episode #0028 – TPD chats with Financial Education Specialist Ashley Fox

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson interviews financial education specialist Ashley Fox. Ashley is the owner of Empify which is a social enterprise created to change the perspective of the role of money on people’s lives. 

Ashley graduated from Howard University and worked as a Wall Street analyst. While working on Wall Street, she was inspired to teach others how they could be doing more with their money and make money while they are sleeping. She explains that it’s not always about working hard to make more, but instead, it’s about working smarter. 

Whether you’re a small business or just a middle schooler wanting to learn, Ashley has some good tips and tricks to get started right away on investing.  She has several programs to help all ages learn how their money could be doing more for them. In this episode, she will give a few tips specifically for small business owners. 

So, join Crystal and Ashley as they discuss financial tips, her programs, and different mindsets to better your life. And then, do something today that your future self will thank you for and find out more about how you could take your business to the next level.   

How to Get in Touch with Ashley:

Website : empify.com Facebook: empify 

Twitter: @Empify Instagram: empify  

financial education specialist Ashley Fox

Recommended podcasts:

How I built this podcast, Abraham Hicks podcast

[- - Here is the RAW, unedited transcript - -


Welcome everyone to another episode of the productive designer, and I have another guest with me today. I love having these conversations because I think we get to get some insight and learn some knowledge from others. I have Ashley Fox with us today, and I’m going to let Ashley tell us a little bit about herself and her business welcome Ashley.


Hi, how are you thank you for having me.


Oh it’s it’s great to have you.


All right, so I’m actually fast I’m from Philadelphia I went to Howard University graduated high school with the intent to work on Wall Street that was ultimately my goal. When I graduated I worked for a large Wall Street investment bank where my job was essentially individuals that had $25 million or more. My dad was to keep them away. So we managed money for millionaires and billionaires. So I thought that would be the ins and outs of what they do with their money on the investment how they travel, everything. They after about eight months of me being on Wall Street, I felt like I didn’t have to be like the client.


No matter how hard I work. I was never going to be in a position where I could have $25 million in revenue ever make it to figure that a young age people, you know I was making good amount of money but people that I had a lot of money and that’s when I realized that there was a disconnect between how wealthy people manage and invest and think about their money and how the everyday person just decided to leave them on Wall Street career with the intent to build a company that educated the world that wall street did not talk to them so I became a financial adviser targeting low to moderate income people, and I created a company called emphasize, and empathize the word empower and modify merged together where we create financial education tools and resources for both adults and children so in the midst of me coming up with this idea of wanting to change the world. As an entrepreneur, we don’t make money every two weeks like a job so actually ends up losing everything I’m fixing from apartment in Harlem and I had to start building my people from my parent’s couch, when they want to educate adults, then we started to put programs in the school system. So ultimately we have programs for both middle school and high school students all the colleges. We’ve been in the prison system and now we have an app where we are pretty much an ed tech startup focusing on providing financial education in the palm of your hand. So just imagine the Netflix of finance in your hand, where we get the tools and resources that you don’t learn in a school system that you may not have learned growing up, and ultimately getting people to a point where they’re learning how to build wealth, starting with what they have, understanding and growing into the person that they want to become.


That is a lot to I mean you’ve done a lot in your young life and I think it’s amazing what you’ve done I mean to, to see the as you say like the ultimate wealthy, you know segment of society which is not a lot, and to see how they’re managing their money and then to see how everyday people like us are managing our money and just to see the, I guess the, the major differences and what would you say those in a nutshell and how could you if just to simplify what would you say the major, I guess, what is it that makes people that have a lot of money, invest differently than people that don’t besides the amount of money.


The amount of money keeping matters right the thought process behind the person getting the money. So they focus on investing, they focus on generational wealth they focus on having a legacy. And I think it’s also a belief factor I think for me personally I didn’t, I’ve never seen myself at that time, having millions of dollars but when you’re around millions of dollars every day. The belief in you and the possibility around having laid it out so I really think it’s the mindset I think the everyday person when it’s I think they’re not taught you know you’re taught to go to school, get a job and then you get a job to pay for school you’re taught to always work hard for your money. Yeah, when in all actuality, we know a lot of people that work hard, but they aren’t wealthy and so I think it’s more than just working hard, it’s understanding that in order to build wealth in this country I honestly believe you either have to invest in someone else’s idea, or you have to invest in your own idea we can now work our way to wealth, we can spend our way to wealth, we cannot save our way to wealth and in order for us to create something that lives longer than what we can we can pass it down so that we’re not passing down generational poverty or generational debt. It’s about shifting the mindset from ownership to consumption and I think we all love to shop. But who is teaching us how to own how to invest and how to build wealth and make money well and speaker. And I think that was a mental shift that I think wealthy people have these things different they see different they look at value they look at ownership, a little bit more than what the everyday person actually thinks about their lives.


I could not agree with you more I totally agree on that I think it’s completely a mindset. Like I loved how you said you can’t save yourself to wealth, you can’t work yourself to Well, I mean, we only have so many hours in the day we you know we as one person can only do so much, there’s just no possible way that you can make that type of wealth, without, to your point investing in something, I think to exponentially grow your money. Definitely. So who would you say like I know you said that you’ve been you’ve got programs for the school system which I think is such a needed resource I’m in Canada, and we don’t even, you know, I’ve heard of different programs but the I guess we would need a Canadian version because we have some different tax laws and that type of thing but I think it’s so important that I think to your point, it’s getting the mindset in younger generation and getting out of that cycle of the, you know, work hard, make enough just to pay your bills and it’s just, you know, that’s what you’re living, and that’s what you’re learning and that’s what your mindsets programming I guess is really what it is. So who are you working with I mean it sounds like you’re working with a lot but if you can sort of dissect that a little bit.


Divide and define the entity, the first the first half will be we’re focused on children so we start at eight probably eight to eight but within the school system that we start around the sixth grade where we go from middle school on up. The other half of number five we focus on adults. And so I I’ve had clients when I was a previously a financial advisor I have clients who make millions of dollars, but still didn’t know what to do with their money also have clients who are making $30,000 a year. So I would say my focus is targeting the people who aspire to build wealth and just don’t know how or where to do it. So that can be individually because there’s a lot of athletes and celebrities that make millions of dollars, and they don’t know what to do with their money so it’s about financially, educating people who want to be financially educated, who’ve gotten to a point where they’ve tried they’ve made mistakes. They’ve taken classes and exhausted all options and they don’t know where to turn. And so we focus on the people who want to help work focusing on those working professionals, entrepreneurs, know that they deserve more they want to have more they’re just not 100% sure of how to get there.


Yeah I yeah I feel, I feel that myself sometimes because I think you talk about the athletes that are making tons of money and if they’re if they’re misguided and don’t manage their money well, they can lose that quickly, or we’ll go for them whatever but it’s just a different amount right it’s still the same process of taking what it is that you have to invest, and then doing something, you know, investing it properly. So, as our listeners are pretty much solopreneurs and small business owners, what’s your advice on someone that is, you know, new to investing, or maybe doesn’t have obviously doesn’t have millions of dollars to invest but what are some of the initial baby steps that that we can do.


I would definitely the easiest way to start when it comes to investing is to invest in what you know us and believe it, because when you think about in particular for thought my own stock right if you’re starting a company you own a piece of the business and don’t actually well you don’t have to build a business but you’re owning a piece of business. And a lot of these multimillion dollar billion dollar businesses that we know us and our loyal customers to on a daily basis, have made their billions, because of our consumption. And so the easiest way to start and I always recommend people do this is literally make a list of where you spend your time and your money so literally when you wake up so for example, when I woke up, I went to my cell phone I have an apple iPhone, I have arrived at my provider. I checked my email which is Google I went on social media which was Instagram and Facebook and that’s owned by Facebook. I woke up and took a shower I used. So, that Unilever right. I came in I use my computer, I got my computer for Best Buy like. So, when you really start to think about where your money’s going where your time is going what TV shows are you watching what foods are you eating. What do you do for fun, who’s getting your time right and all of these companies, they’re making money off of you so when you make a list, start to ask yourself if I could just choose the top five companies that I know using believe in. Who would I actually want to go into business with right, we all love to get packages from Amazon not realizing that Amazon is literally changing the world right Apple is a $2 trillion business right so really understanding that some of these large reputable companies, they’re less than $200 for you to invest. Right. So understanding that if you just start with companies you know because it’s a lot easier to research a company, and you actually know what they do, right, it is easier to invest in a company when you know that you’re loyal to the brand when you’re giving them your money. It’s one thing to give your money and spend money with these companies by doing that you’re decreasing your network, when you actually take time and invest in a company now put yourself in a position to increase your net worth, versus decreasing it by spending and so I definitely would say start to make a list of who you’re giving your money to and your time and your energy too, because chances are there’s a high probability that their multimillion dollar billion dollar business, and they’ve been that way for years. Therefore, without shoes, they wouldn’t be able to exist so why not go into business with them and own stock in this company,


right. So would you suggest, if somebody only has, let’s say, I only want to pull out a number of mail but is it better to invest more in one or two, say, when we’re talking about companies that guess we’re talking about buying stocks to them. Would it be better to invest one or two or do you say, you know, take whatever your amount is and divided by investing in five?


It really depends. Right, so I definitely understand that the first thing you have to do is before you make any money you pay yourself. I think we have this thought process around when I make money I have to pay bills well in all actuality, you are the one that worked 40 plus hours a week to make this money when we give our money away to everyone else we have nothing at the end of the month, and we feel empty inside. So first we have to make ourselves a higher priority so whatever that amount is I don’t care if it’s $50 if it’s $10, you have to develop the habit of a wealth building, because building wealth isn’t just about the dollar No, actually it has nothing to do with the data, it has to do with the habit behind the person who’s building wealth because if you add to $10 your way every week to a million dollars. You can ultimately get there but I can guarantee you won’t. Don’t do that right so understanding that starting small matters, one of these also finds too is the more options you have the harder it is to make a decision. So I always say to pick the top five. Now it is possible you can say, I want to invest in these five businesses, and I’m going to divide it into pieces. And that’s how you do it right, me personally when it comes to buying stock, I have to share goals. So for me, one of my biggest goals is to own 20 shares of every company that I own right. So if I only have $100 right now one of my favorite companies that I like to invest in is AT&T. AT&T is like $30 a share. So if I have $100 if I know my goal is to make sure I get to 20 shares before the end of the year. I’m going to focus and put that 100, until I hit that goal of for AT&T to hit the 20 here. So I personally do that, but you can also say I’m going to focus just on Apple stock today I’m just going to focus on chip only stocks today, or this month. And so, focusing on what companies you think no use and believe in, because the more you put into the company, and the more the company grows the higher your return can get so you can divide it, or you can say, I’m going to focus on this company, because I truly believe in this company the direction that this company is going, you can go that direction as well.


Okay, that’s I mean that’s good because I think that can be overwhelming to is to figure out, you know, with the limited amount I have is you say $100 where what’s the best way to use it, how would somebody I guess research, other than, you know, to your point of no use and believe in what would be another way to confirm a company’s financial stability speaking from a person who’s pretty, pretty much a layman as far as reading you know financial reports, what would be a best way is there is there a website’s is there like what’s a very simple simplified version, I’d say a couple


things you can do the first thing you need to do is go to Wikipedia. Okay. Wikipedia you research the company; you’ll then know what the company is because a lot of the companies we use are not the main parent company right for example we can use Instagram but Instagram is actually the child. Facebook is the parent company right we can eat Doritos. But Pepsi is the parent company so you’ll be investing in Pepsi, so I go on Wikipedia, you can see the structure of their business. You can see who owns the business and on the right side of the screen you can see how much revenue, the company generates. Well, right. Okay. Another thing you can do is then look at the stock chart, you can simply go to Google type in the company’s name and then if it is a publicly traded company, there’s a nine out of 10 chance that it’ll pop up right on Google and click the five year mark and look at the trend of the stuff, right, as a company, you will this think about this being entrepreneur, you’re not, you don’t just shoot up real fast and then shoot like you want to slowly walk the company steadily grow like if you invested in Amazon, years ago, Amazon has just started taking off right yeah that’s usually the trajectory of a company so you want to see steady growth, you don’t want to see it go up and go down and go up and go down because that’s about to stop, especially just starting out you want stress in the company you want stability. You want companies to be profitable consistently, so you can look at the stock chart and just look at what the line at the five year does because it’ll give you a clear depiction of how the company has been performing over the past five years. That’s another good indicator. I definitely would recommend going to the company’s Investor Relations page so you can go to the company’s main website but that’s typically where the consumer of their products or services will go but if you go to the investor relations so you would just type in a company name Investor Relations. That is the website where you’ll see everything about the company that is for investors. So you’ll see the numbers of the company you want to make sure that company is profitable. You want to make sure that company is growing, you want to see if the company pays a dividend. If a company pays a dividend dividends are essentially the company’s take their profit, and they give a certain amount of money to all their shareholders. So for example ATC for every share of AT&T you only get $2.08. You can put the ATC $30 you put $30 in your bank account in your savings account, you’re getting 30,000 AT&T goes into 2008 cents every year for every share you vote. So if you want to share, they’re going to give you $4.16, and it continues on so you can start to create cash flow by investing in dividend paying companies, but a company that pays a dividend is actually a good sign because remember that dividends is money that’s given to shareholders. After the company is profitable company like AT&T have the same dividends for years, which means that they’re consistently profitable. So you want to make sure the company’s making money. You want to know the products and services that they’re that they’re using, and most importantly understand the vision of the company. You want to make sure you believe that that company is going, and that their goals and their numbers are aligned with that. Again, this look at like owning a company, what would you want to know about a company if your friend to ask you to invest the company. You want to make sure you trust the team. Make sure you believe in where they’re going and that they’re profitable knowledge these things you can definitely find on the investor relations page.


Oh that’s great that’s great information I would never thought of Wikipedia. And I think I, you know, again the dividends is amazing to just, it’s such a great way to if you’re if you’re thinking of, like, say you make your top five but you’re like okay I’m going to just do three, you know, to look at those so those are great points I think that’s, I mean, I’m learning stuff right now this is amazing. So do you offer is it programs are you working one on one with people how what’s sort of the setup of Empify.


So when it comes to adults in particular. So, my biggest. My biggest biggest biggest recommendation is my Wealth Builders community, so you can literally go to Wealth Builders community, calm and there’s tons of tools or resources because we have individuals who are able to attend our weekly classes live there’s some people who can’t so they’re able to watch the replay so within our app, we have tons of dynamic discussion, we have tons of classes, we have tons of tools, resources and guides that are literally housed in our app for all of our members. But what’s most important about our community is you’re not just learning financial education, you’re on a journey through financial education with individuals just like you literally over 800 people in our community, that you just talk to every single bit of imagine like a social media platform that you’d use like in the palm of your hand, still learn but also interact with people who are investing in dividend stocks individuals who are learning what accounts to open individuals who are saving and investing for their kids, because sometimes it’s really hard to have those photos and conversations with your friends and family if they’re not on the same wavelength.


Oh, for sure. Yeah,


so having that resource at all the individual have like an annual membership we have a private beginner method room where we do weekly group coaching we have discussions, and it’s more it’s more intimate because it’s over 800 people and we’re growing really fast, our app is only been out for the past two months, we started to create separate routes, so that when you’re just joining you’re trying to find out what brokerage accounts to open you’re trying to find out Hey, what is the stock and that’s what that room is for our big our big namespace where you have all the conversations. The news about everything. We also offer different guides so we just released the guide, literally last week of the top stuff to consider during the election, during a time where everyone is focused on the election, right are people that are going to monetize and make money as to who potentially gets elected to make money, no matter who gets elected is really starting to think, Wow, the world is so emotional. We’re going through a pandemic, like, still think about how we can build wealth, how can we still be solution oriented, no matter who’s in office right so we have different guides and resources. I personally do do coaching, I only take a couple of clients per month and because I’m really focused on building education I want to literally build a financial education institute that both brick and mortar and online that we can reach maximum massive amount when I see a lot of individuals from Canada from Canada to Caribbean Africa, Europe and people from all over the world, but everyone I think the commonality is just ready to get financially educated, they want to change, and we help them start with what they have, right where they are,


which is amazing because it really is a daunting for somebody who isn’t in that and as small business owners we’ve you know we kind of know the basics of what we need to know to run our business but investment is not in part of our wheelhouse. So, you know, to be able to go into, you know, a safe space so to speak and ask, what would be considered, you know, quote unquote, a dumb question which I know they’re not dumb questions but you know as a, as a new investor you’d be like okay so what does that mean and what do I do with that and, whereas I think so many, even when you meet with your financial advisor it’s like a lot of times the talk is completely going over your head because you’re like I don’t even really I don’t even understand the fundamentals of investing so to be able to start and learn. Like any new skill right at the beginning, understand the language. Understand, just the nuances because a lot of it is about language, a lot of it is about just we’re sometimes afraid to ask those questions because you don’t want to appear, dumb, because you don’t know the answer to that stuff. So you’re working with people from obviously you just said that different countries so that’s great because I always worried about you know we have different tax laws and, but I think to what you’re speaking to is the fundamentals and understanding about investing and. So you mentioned the panda back how, what have you seen that has really shifted besides the obvious Amazons and Netflix stocks going crazy. What have you seen from your perspective, from that that the financial perspective has changed immensely because of the pandemic.


Well I think there’s, there’s two sides to the pandemic you have the people who have suffered drastically. Yeah, there’s millions of people who have lost their jobs, however, that the wealth gap has gotten wider yeah people are making millions of dollars like my portfolio is up over 100%, but the reason it is because when I saw everyone panic when I saw these companies in the world did not notice I’m talking like around March 23 early April, no one knew what was happening with the market. Yeah, suddenly, people were afraid and so in my mind while all these companies are drafting and all actuality you know everyone’s miserable in my mind, no matter what happened to defend them it’s still going to be around, who’s still going to make money right so it’s kind of like, are we going to cut off our cell phones because we’re on the house, we actually probably use it more. Are we going to stop buying online well actually I thought we ended up watching TV so under active pandemic was involved and then more news coming out is actually looking at it from an office perspective my deepest oh my god the world is falling apart I’m scared. Honestly first turning off the news because that is literally conditioning within itself right oh yeah for sure.


I think focusing on who’s winning right now, just like think about airlines. Airlines was a huge hit. Because of the pandemic cars, we never about the fly anymore at one day This will soon be over airlines are going to bounce back so in my mind, I want to invest in the number one airline I want to invest in a company that’s number one in their safety, even if they took a hit, either hit, even if they’re even if they’re winning, but you’ve got to look like look at it when everyone is panicking, that’s when you look for opportunities, right away the stock market is the only time, everything goes on sale and everyone gets scared when you walk into a store you see a sale, you’re ready to buy you walk into a store you see bread, you want to go Bible reading the stock market. We just think the whole world is falling apart when in all actuality, that’s when you should go look for opportunity. And if you really sit and think, oh you know grocery stores selling toilet paper companies, food and beverages. There are a lot of companies that are winning right now yeah but the news is the news is telling you the cases are on the news is telling you. Oh, it’s all bad news. Right, yeah. There’s always another side but that news is what drives revenue for the media, and the more the more you’re consuming the more these, these companies are making money you’ll never always see good stuff on the news, because nobody cares about it, you can


no it’s not exciting. Right. People don’t turn into hear about Oh little Suzy celebrated her eighth birthday, you know they want to know. Absolutely.


You have to think that but you have to think okay everyone’s panicking, but the whole world is about to fall apart all the companies that have to go out of business. I still want to build wealth I still want to put my children through college, I still don’t want to have to work every day in my life I still don’t want to have to run my business all day every day like I do like, at some point, we want to live the life that we dream of and we definitely deserve to do that, but in order to live that life, and focus on your life being greater later you have to start today.


Yeah, and I think and your point is you know, I know this is a cliché term but it’s making your money work for you so whatever it is that you’re making, put that to work, so that you know you can increase your wealth through investing as opposed to just, well I’ll just work harder and I’ll work longer now like that’s that’s a way to the, you know, to burnout for sure so. So, I guess two to three pieces of financial advice for small business owners, if you could just sum up two to three pieces.


First one, I would say, if you met. Right. As a business owner, especially if you have a team, you’re focusing on making sure bills are paid and making sure your team is taking care of you, making sure you’re generating revenue and satisfy your customer, and sometimes you lose sight of yours. So you have to be your shoulders, you have to be your best so you have to take care of yourself I always say pay yourself first. The moment you make money, make sure you’re setting money aside and in all honesty to be a very very very very very very low to pay myself. Even when I have money in the back into my business. But again, psychologically you’re telling the world I don’t matter. Right, yeah versus you taking care of yourself now you’re telling the world I matter. I love myself and I’m going to take care of myself so in paying yourself can mean setting money aside for that vacation. That means setting money aside for investments setting money aside for the house you would have I say money aside for the new clothes you want to go either way. Treat yourself and make yourself just as much of a priority as you do your business. The other thing that I would say when it when it comes to being a business owner, and your money. I would say you have a big vision for your business. You wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if you don’t, you’d have to have a big vision for yourself. So what does life look like for you five years from now. And when you do that, you got to dream of that, you have to meditate on that you have to constantly surround yourself around that because you don’t attract what you want you attract who you are, your money grows when you grow. So as you grow as a person and your level of belief gets stronger, you’ll start to see the things you’ve been dreaming that the problem is gone What things we don’t believe you deserve right now so you can leave that you deserve to make a million dollars that you actually start to make a million dollars because we can say you want something, but the identity behind what we want doesn’t exist. We’re never going to obtain it. So start to think big, start to write yourself that complete on your mirror start to put on wealthy around the house, start to read those books that mentally obsessing you because it’s not that we don’t have the ability to make money. It’s we have an identity, issue around money. We don’t feel like we deserve to have money we’re not accustomed to having money so you have to set yourself aside, it takes time for you to just strengthen your mindset around money because when you really start to believe and you start to put yourself in those big rooms, and you start to put yourself in spaces and in reading the things that frighten you. That’s how you know there’s work to be done but the more you immerse yourself in the lifestyle of money. Immerse yourself in the language of money, you’ll start to become fluent in having money and I think that’s the most important,


it’s like, tapping into your, you know in bed, training, and tapping into reprogramming your subconscious so that you actually firmly honestly believe it right because if, to your point, if you can say all the positive things but if you if you deep down don’t feel that your worth it right, it’s not going to happen. That’s amazing, I think, so how If so, you if somebody wants to look into your programs, what is the best way to find your programs. So I know you mentioned wealth builders.com,


you can go to amplify.com and through that you’ll see all our shirt with a little bit of community development community is a strictly for the app you’ll see everything about the community, you can still browse the website from that site, yet literally from start to finish, tells you who we are, what we do and why this app exists, but definitely and then also welcome to community on Instagram, and I am underscore active it’s not for Instagram.


Okay, we’ll put this all in the show notes as well. So at the end of every episode I’d like to ask my guests three questions and it’s I call it my interior Inquisition and this can be about investing it can be just about life. So, what is the one thing you think every person should experience in their lives.


Well I would say freedom. And I think it’s not freedom financially it’s freedom from this book. I think we get to a point where we can’t turn our brains off. We can’t turn that other voice off and I think when you have the level of peace to hear the voice, but not listen to the voice. I think it’s a special space to be in and sometimes you have to be really quiet to get there sometimes it’s really challenging to be there like literally for the entire day. Yeah, you can turn that voice off and you can have that inner peace. I think that’s the most amazing feeling in the world because now you’re not judging the guy you’re not afraid of you now you are you in that moment, and you’re free of the thoughts that you have I think it’s even if you can get that for two seconds and can recognize it. It’s a blessing because if you can do it for two seconds you can do it for the rest of us.


That’s great. I love that that’s I’ve never had anyone say that and I think that’s very it’s very true, like it’s Yeah, to calm the mind is a challenging thing, what’s the wisest thing you’ve ever heard someone say


that I remember a time where when I’m building my business, I didn’t have a lot of money but I had this big vision because of what I saw when I got it. And I remember I was featured on Jim Cramer the street, literally that right after I quit my job I was going through my eviction process like how can I teach the world about money. When I don’t even have it right, but I’m starting to get publicity and that wasn’t really what I signed up for. And I remember talking to my mentor and he said it’s not fair for you to hide who you are from the world. And that has always stuck with me because if this is who you are and the value that you bring. It’s not fair for you to hide behind a curtain when your worth being seen. your worth being heard and it’s like, so for me, who wants to change well who wants to make an impact. Who wants to be a service that people look good if I don’t even feel good enough to be seen. And I think for all of us. We all have a story. We all have a narrative we all have goals dreams that can inspire and grow someone else, and it’s not fair to the world for you to hide who you are because you don’t think you’re good enough. And I think we also get to a point where it’s just like hey world, lot of money, because I want to make a movie right hey God use me for what I am and allow me to walk in my true path, because I am grateful for who I am and I’m becoming stronger and everything that’s coming our way.


That’s amazing. That’s great, but I guess it’s just being authentic right and it really boils down to just be who you are and, and that can in especially in the interior design world, I’ve had many conversations with, you know, sort of designers that have started and we all kind of come in thinking okay I have to dress this way I have to speak this way. I have to like, come in like and then, you know, your kind of go. Wait a minute. That’s not me, I got to be who I am, and my people will connect with me, because of you know who I really am as opposed to I’m pretending to be so what are three podcasts that you are currently listening to and I’m sure you have more than three but if you can narrow it down.


I’m very I’m very conscious of what I put into my brain so I love that How I Built This podcast. Yeah, this is an entrepreneur. I love and my podcast. I think he’s a phenomenal, phenomenal business owner, but he has some nominal people on his podcast. And I’m also like an Abraham Hicks junkie listening for videos which are clips of all the talks away It’s like an obsession with her on YouTube. Yeah, we’re able to listen to a podcast. I definitely been like an Abrahamic junkie every single morning.


Oh yeah. Well that’s part of changing the mindset right trying to sort of get into that, you know, believing in it and getting deep down into, you know, changing your mindset so that’s great. Well thank you so much Ashley this has been a really, I mean educational for me and I think what you are doing and offering is is so so so so needed, and in both I look at it with having you know kids that are in their early teens, I think, oh my god I’ve got to educate them now so to be able to speak to, you know, having it in the school system is amazing. And then, you know, it’s never too late for us adults to pick up and learn some financial literacy so I think what you’re doing is amazing. You should be really proud of what you’ve accomplished and what you’re, you’re going to build. Yeah, this has been great. So thank you again and we have all your contact stuff we’ll put that in the show notes, and that would be it for now. So thanks so much.

Well that was a great chat with Ashley I really appreciate her taking the time today and I think there was some great takeaways her program sounds amazing especially when you can. It’s something that we can get our kids to learn about early on, and just get them educated from a younger age as to what it means to you know be profitable and have profit and pay ourselves first and all those types of, you know, even just setting the small goals and starting small is a habit that I think is going to be, you know, going to benefit them for years and years to come for sure.

I loved Ashley’s tip on how to find out about a company and find the parent company by going to Wikipedia and never would have thought that what a great, great tip I’d say, you know, something I’m definitely going to take away from today’s talk and looking just at the trend, I guess, and looking for a company that pays dividends, again, you know not super knowledgeable myself in the in the stocks and finances, but I think if we just, you know, use her, her advice is something that we know we use and believe in, then you know that’s a great, great place to start as opposed to trying to, you know, research, or get tips and ideas from other friends that say that you know this is going to be a great stock so hopefully that this is some ideas or at least gets your minds, you know your wheels turning on ways of maybe looking to make your money, do more for you than it is doing right now.

So, I hope everyone enjoyed this episode and again, I appreciate you listening, and if there’s somebody you think that would benefit from this episode or any of the other episodes please share it, as it helps to get the word out and share the content and hopefully continue to do more episodes and if there’s anything that you guys are looking to hear more about or topics that I haven’t covered that you’d like covered, please reach out, you can send me a message at contact@theproductivedesigner.com, or you can DMs, @theproductivedesignerpodcast on Instagram or on Facebook. Thanks again, and remember to, “Do something today that your future self will thank you for”, have a great day.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Productive Designer, please like and subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more information, please visit theproductivedesigner.com  , or find us on Facebook  and Instagram  at The Productive Designer and Pinterest Crystal Collinson Interiors. Join crystal again next time for more motivation, tangible tips, and support for your interior design business. Thanks for listening.

Episode #0027 – My interview with “Business Talk-Sister Gawk” podcast hosts

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with fellow podcasters Ruthie and Bekkah. They are the hosts of Business Talk Sister Gawk where they focus on learning about entrepreneurship and putting things to the test. They love business and specialize in helping entrepreneurs reach their full potential. 

Bekkah is the owner of Wise Elephant Consulting, and she aspires to assist others to succeed in their entrepreneurial dreams. She first focuses on marketing and then dives into other important aspects of the business. Bekkah is always learning and growing. She is constantly finding new methods, objects, technology, and more to help her in the workplace. Hence, she discovers all the important aspects and will learn the ins and outs. In addition, she is a pro at researching and guiding others to the right tools to help them. Check out their free resources here Entrepreneur Tools & Tips 

Ruthie is a certified Dave Ramsey financial coach, and she focuses on how to help others financially. Whether it be to pay off student loans or save more for retirement. She helps people plan their financial future in a way that will help them reach all their hopes and dreams.  She’s helped others pay off over $140,000 of student loans, and she continues to help people become debt-free. 

So, join Crystal, Ruthie, and Bekkah as they talk about their business podcast, and how these two sisters are constantly helping others. Do something today that your future self will thank you for and listen to Business Talk Sister Gawk to see how you could push your business to its fullest potential.  

How to reach Ruthie and Bekkah:

Website – businesstalksistergawk.com 

Apple podcast – business-talk-sister-gawk/id1499391038 

Facebook- businesstalksistergawk

Instagram- @business_talk_sister_gawk 

two ladies sitting on table with mic, laptop, headphone and tumbler

Recommended podcasts:

Ruthie – How I Built This, Vacation Rental Machine, The Leadership Vision
Bekkah – Planet Money, Screw the Commute