Command your business in 2023
Designing Your Business
From Contributing Editor, Andrew Mitchell, director of MR. MITCHELL, Interior designer and founder of The Design Coach.
Start your year on a solid foundation with a Design Process that ensures happy clients, successful project outcomes and greater profitability.
The Design Coach
The start of a new year is always a good opportunity to reset habits, getting clear on what we want to do more of, and relinquish what we want to do less of. It’s at these pivotal moments in our business calendar that we get to set a new path forward. One that can deliver better project outcomes, happier clients, and greater profitability. Who doesn’t want more of that?
By far, the most common question I’m getting asked by designers is, “What’s the most important thing I need to focus on this year?”
My answer is simple. Start the new year with a solid Design Process. One that delivers outstanding results on an ongoing basis.
If you already have a Design Process, now is the time to reflect on the effectiveness of each part of the process and make necessary improvements. It’s important to review what’s been working well for you (let’s do more of that), and where have you repeatedly experienced challenges (it’s time to find a better way of working).
No business system is ever perfect and change in the industry is inevitable. Technology is always making the output we can offer our clients better, but it needs to be properly integrated into our Design Process to ensure we access the full benefits. Client expectations are continuously getting higher, and (if we’re staying ahead of the curve) we need to adapt and update to meet these expectations.
Andrew Mitchell of The Design Coach & MR MITCHELL
Why is a process important?
Firstly, it helps to manage expectations from the outset. A well-documented, clear and consistent process helps communicate to the clients what happens and when. Consider that it’s like a road map for us, our clients and our team. (Have you ever tried navigating your way through a new city without a map to guide you?)
Our Design Process will also form the foundation of our Scope of Work, which should then inform our Design Fees. This Scope of Work and the related Design Fees ultimately form the most important part of our Client Contract or Design Proposal – a legally binding agreement that helps set clear boundaries with clients and protects us from potential litigation.
Importantly, a Design Process can help to establish a good fee payment structure, with progress payments ideally being attached to the commencement of each stage, and signifying approval of the previous stage.
A solid and reliable Design Process allows us to take control of the project and minimize micromanagement from clients. Nervous, indecisive or interfering client behaviour is an indication of lack of trust, which most often stems from a lack of clear and well-executed systems. Systems that aid communication and manage expectations, including those around project costs and timelines.
What Process is Best?
There’s no “1 size fits all” ideal process, as every business is different, with different types of clients and (hopefully) unique service offerings. For example, you might specialise in downsizing retirees who need help integrating new decorative items with their existing furniture and artwork. There are all kinds of considerations to take on board when creating a process to manage this type of project.
You can choose to create your own Design Process (see our tips below), or you can adopt someone else’s process. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Creating your own can produce something that is totally customised to you and your method of operation but can leave you exposed to learning about inefficiencies through trial and error, with the potential for costly mistakes. Adopting an established process can help short-cut years of this type of learning, but can feel less personalised to you and the way you run your business. Either way, there is no escaping the fact that a Design Process is the most important part of your business structure.
If you’re currently operating without a process, or feel that your current process is underperforming, there’s no better time than now to make a change for the better! Start your year on a solid foundation with a Design Process that ensures happy clients, successful project outcomes and greater profitability. To make it easier, we’ve created a process for creating a process!
The Process for Creating a Design Process
1. Write down how you currently work.
You’re most likely already following some form of process. List all of the tasks associated with your projects that help you communicate and execute your design vision. Consider how you plan to address the clients expectations around design, cost and time requirements.
2. Formalise the tasks into clearly defined stages.
A stage should include groups of tasks that are all interrelated and culminate in a presentation that helps communicate the outcomes of that particular part of the design journey.
3. Sort the stages into chronological order.
Each stage should follow the previous one in a logical sequence. By arranging stages in a progressive order, we can ensure we are getting sign off from clients for one stage before proceeding to the next. This also helps with planning and scheduling of timelines.
4. Number and name the stages.
Give each stage a numerical and descriptive title, to help communicate effectively with the clients, team members and trades. For example: Stage 1: Concept and Schematic
5. Consider what meetings you need to include in each stage.
Meetings can include client briefings, stage presentations, site visits, specialist consultations, etc. Listing the required meetings helps you estimate your time on the project and communicates clearly to the clients when they can expect to be involved.
6. List the deliverables.
Deliverables are what the client can expect to receive at the end of each stage. It could include documentation, presentations, materials trays, renders, etc. By listing the deliverables, we’re again managing the clients expectations about what they will receive as the project progresses. It’s also a great checklist for you to keep track of what you need to produce at each stage.
7. Review and Refine.
Schedule time in your calendar to review your process on a regular basis to assess areas for improvement. Consider any project challenges that have consistently arisen, and update your process to minimise these situations in the future.
I’ve developed and refined my design process over more than 25 years of working in the industry. If you’re looking for ways to improve the experience for you and your clients, I recommend giving this part of your business the attention it deserves!
To access the process I utilise in my successful design business, download our Free E-Book “TDC 9 Stage Design Process”. For help setting up systems for all aspects of your business, consider joining our Business Bootcamp in March 2023.
To find out how we’ve helped transform the businesses of many designers like you, book a Discovery Call today.
Stay well and believe in you!
To find out more about Andrew and The Design Coach:
Book a Discovery Call here .
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