A values-based business model for interior design firms
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Over my many years of business consulting, I have come to appreciate that the best interior design practices are values-based businesses. Please note that I wrote values with an "s," not value-based.
I am not talking about how you price your services to make clients feel that you are providing them with good value. I am talking about fundamental values of good business. The more successful interior design firms I have worked with create spaces and experiences that enhance families and communities by operating from integrity, harmony and excellent service — values that benefit the firm as well as the client.
For the clients, working with a values-based firm ensures they will get the result they are seeking. A firm that practices with integrity begins by listening carefully to clients to understand their needs, wants and concerns; creates a solution and a process to meet those needs and wants, and to address and manage those concerns; then delivers on that plan, doing what they said they would do, keeping as close as possible to the agreed-upon budget and schedule.
Harmony is achieved when the firm communicates clearly and transparently with the client. They know they are on the same page, understand one another, and want the same result. Problems are addressed quickly, and the client is kept up to date promptly on any changes to the plan.
Excellent service requires putting the interests of the client first. Clients may experience excellent service in different ways. The firm needs to take the time at the beginning of the project to determine the client's expectations then meet or exceed those expectations throughout the project — from the initial consultation to the final billing — and follow up on any last-minute issues or complaints.
The best firms practice these values internally as well. They demonstrate their integrity by living up to their brand, by treating employees fairly and with respect, by acknowledging the contributions of each member of the team, and by offering competitive and fair compensation and rewards.
Harmony among team members is achieved by having processes and technologies in place that allow for a smooth flow of communication and access to the most current information about the project's goals, plan and status. Principals and project managers provide constructive help, especially when deadlines must be met or solutions need to be found for disruptive situations, such as vendor problems or schedule delays.
Each member of the team understands his or her role, and how he or she is contributing to the desired result. They truly function as a team, not just a collection of individuals each focused only on his or her own tasks.
The payoff for the team for providing excellent service comes from their sense of accomplishment, pride and purpose for having done their job well and seeing the result in the faces and expressions of gratitude from happy clients.
Even though the client may not yet realize all the ways that their newly designed space will improve their quality of life and benefit their health and wellness, the team members do. They can be confident that by having done their best the client will enjoy the results for many years to come.
Some firms set out intentionally to be values-driven. Others arrive there more organically from a sense of wanting to do well by their clients and employees.
In either case, a values-based approach begins with leaders setting the example. Firms must live their values in order to convey them to their clients.
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