Wow, what a month it’s been, right? It’s no secret that all the changes we have endured in our day to day lives recently feels a bit… unsettling. As a small business owner, this challenging time has led me to develop some new services and systems in order to provide support for my team and our clients, while continuing to grow the business. Whether you are reading this as a fellow designer or business owner, as one of our clients, or just one of our loyal readers, I want to give you a transparent view about how I am managing my interior design business during COVID-19.
HOW WE’RE MANAGING OUR PROJECTS
We currently have 10 projects in progress, all at varying points in the design process. One of our projects was scheduled to be installed during the last week of March. This client has had to deal with significant construction for a couple of months, therefore they were not able to quarantine in comfort like the rest of us. Despite the closure of our drapery work room, and a few other items that were held up, we moved forward with the installation at our client’s request. Typically, we have our whole team on site for an installation, but this time I limited it to just myself and the project manager (we maintained a safe social distance… and used lots of sanitizer!) It wasn’t a full installation because of some of the delays, but man… our clients were so grateful for a partial installation because that meant they could stay home and finally relax comfortably. I felt like we did our part in creating a sense of normalcy for them during this really challenging time.
For many of the other projects, we worked hard to complete our procurement phase just prior to the stay at home orders. Our goal was to get all the orders in and processed before factories closed and product could no longer be shipped. We were knee deep in placing orders for one of our larger projects when we decided to work from home 5 weeks ago, so if you read last week’s blog post, now you will understand all the stacks of papers in Meridith’s home office!
Nearly all of our projects have items that are in limbo right now, and each week we are receiving notices from companies and factories that are shutting down for the safety of their workers, understandably so. As a client, I am sure this is unnerving, so we’ve been diligent on keeping everyone up to date as things progress and how closures could impact their upcoming installation. Internally, we’ve been keeping lists for each project on which manufacturers (and therefore client items) are impacted as well as what is currently still being received by our warehouse.
The unfortunate reality is that all three of our installations that were previously scheduled for May will be impacted. Instances like these that are out of control are just as disappointing to us as they are to our clients! We’re still currently assessing if they’ll need to move altogether, or if we can do a partial installation. We don’t typically recommend partial installations but in these uncertain circumstances, we may change our tune…only time will tell!
HOW I’M MANAGING MY TEAM
If you read last week’s post, you are aware that we’re all working remotely. Our Zoom account used to be reserved for our out-of-state client meetings, but it sure has gotten its use the last few weeks! We have maintained all of our regularly scheduled meetings, just virtually, and to be honest, it’s not so bad! We really miss the camaraderie (and laughs) of being in the office, but at least we are still getting some face time together.
We’ve begun to use SLACK (I’m secretly obsessed) to keep the communication flowing and it’s been a game-changer. I was hesitant to bring in one more ‘tool’ to have our team integrate, but it’s been very well received because it allows us to have real-time conversations by topic/project instead of jumbled in one long text or a million emails. Dropbox and Asana have always been tools we’ve used for efficiency, but we’ve learned how to truly operate virtually using these tools even more than we did before. I think some of these new practices will continue post-quarantine. #silverlinings
On top of everything else, we are currently expanding our studio. While we originally were planning to stay put and deal with the construction phase, working remotely has actually been a blessing in disguise. There is so much happening each day, from construction to electrical work to flooring updates that it would have been near impossible to conduct business as usual. Not to mention, we experienced a flood on Friday. Luckily there was no major damage, but if it’s not one thing, it’s another, right?!
We post weekly updates on our Instagram page of the expansion progress, so be sure to follow along! We plan to be 100% complete and moved in in about a month, but again, only time will tell.
HOW I’M MANAGING MY INTERIOR DESIGN BUSINESS
Being a business owner is one of the most challenging things, maybe next to raising children. If you own a business, then you know it’s a passion, not a job. It consumes my thoughts – how I can improve it, how I can offer better services for our clients, how I can create a better work environment for my team (I’m a self-development nut and feel there’s room for improvement in nearly everything). This time is so unique for so many of us business owners. It’s complete uncertainty, and I’m sure there will be some sort of inevitable impact on future business.
The momentum we had coming out of our first quarter has most certainly slowed to some degree. If you’re a small business owner, I’m sure you’ve already applied for the funding options through the SBA – if not, act quickly as it is designed to keep our businesses operating during this challenging time.
While we have projects that are continuing, many of the projects we would have started in the next few weeks have been put on pause. We are still keeping busy for now, and in order to keep the projects coming in, we’ve shifted some of our offerings to still address the needs of our clients while staying safe.
We’ve introduced shorter, online consultations – 45 minutes for $200 – where we virtually walk through your home and discuss design challenges and solutions. You might think that these are difficult virtually, but it’s actually quite the contrary. They don’t replace the in-person consultation, especially to kick-off a design project, but they are a great tool for those who still desire professional design guidance. If you’re interested, you can book one online here. I am still conducting in-home consultations with some modification, so if you’re considering a design project, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
We’ve also introduced a Design Direction service which provides professional design for those who want to execute it on their own. We do all of the design work remotely and hand off a package including a space plan, design concepts with style direction, color story, list of items to be sourced with dimensions and a resource list of local and online retailers.
We’re anxious to get back to business as usual but for now, we’re happy to be contributing in any way we can to making this world a more beautiful (and healthier) place. Of course I want to emphasize the importance of staying safe and healthy to reduce the spread of the virus, but it’s also so important to pay attention to our mental and emotional health. Living in an environment that brings us joy and support can have a significant impact on all areas of our lives right now. We’ve seen the transformations in our clients’ lives of having a home that nurtures and energizes their souls, and provides a safe, comforting place to live. Just last week we received this message from a previous client that brightened our day:
If there is a project that we can support you in during this uncomfortable time, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are all in this together!