“It all starts with you; The overworked, enigmatic, visionary, often reluctant, supposedly fearless…leader. Without you, the dreams of human kind would fall to the ground without structure, and never given a chance to fly!” – J. Molloy
Getting your team to handle delegated tasks effectively is like a mufti-faceted art form.
It all does start with you and being a leader can be tough! It requires a nimble mind, boundless energy, an unwavering focus and guts of steel. There are many facets to effective leadership and I am going to discuss one today that I find most Principal Designers have had to master increasingly over the last few years – Delegation.
Delegation sounds so simple but is, in fact, a tough task. The truth is, it’s a real challenge to do well especially for predominantly creative personalities. As the Principal Interior Designer, you need to be extremely good at delegating which is quite different from abdication. To compound this challenge, is the emerging prevalence of remote team members. This adds an additional layer of demand for seamless delegation.
What you put in is what you get out. Delegation is different than abdication. To delegate effectively is to empower.
Let’s first define what delegation is and then I will share with you the steps to effective delegation.
There are seven elements of delegation. A delegated task is:
- Has measurable results
- Is agreed upon by both parties
- Time bound
Using a centralized information system in your interior design business, like STUDIO WEBWARE will help with delegation a lot, as will standard operating procedures.
Each of these elements is reflected in the steps to effective delegation. Pay attention here because these will help you.
Specific – You must first define the task. This is before you even delegate it. Be clear about what it is you need done so you can effectively communicate that task.
Have measurable results – Be exacting about what you want done.
Realistic – Figure out what is needed in order to accomplish the task. Determine what resources are required. That includes information. If you don’t know the back story on this fabric or this upholstery piece that got returned and there’s a lot of complexity to that task that your junior is just not going to know then that might not be the best thing to delegate because it requires a very specific knowledge-base. There’s an art to that.
Is agreed upon by both parties – Decide who is the best suited for that task. Hopefully it’s not you. Have faith in your team and know when to pass-off on tasks. Once you have decided who will complete this task, have a discussion. Explain the reason, if it’s not already clear. This is not about justifying yourself; it is about inspiring them by letting them know how this task fits into the big picture. Give them a little bit of meaning, so it’s not just a task. Who wants to just do tasks all day? That’s boring. Give the task meaning and it becomes a mission.
Time bound – State the required results. Agree on a deadline and get them to say it. If you need check-in points, mark those dates on an office calendar.
Recorded – Don’t just tell them, get them to say or write what they need to have done and the date(s) of completion. This is an excellent example of how to utilize your office master task list.
Furthermore, it is important that you support and communicate throughout the process as well as give empowering feedback. Let them know specifically what worked well, what didn’t and provide guidance on what modifications to make going forward.
If you are looking for ways to get your team working more effectively for you, give me a call. We can help you!
Expecting Great Things-
I recently interviewed Interior Design Industry Attorney, William Joseph at Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue, LLP, for our last monthly webinar. He had fantastic guidance on the legalities associated with the business of design. He answered questions about contracts, 1099 contractors and insurance coverage. He was also kind enough to offer to answer the slew of questions that came through at the end of the webinar. There were a ton of great questions and I want to highlight one of them here, as I think many of you will find it helpful. Thanks again to Willam (Bill) for being my guest and being so generous with his time! I recommend him to designers on the west coast that need legal assistance. He is a good guy and extremely good at what he does.
Having some strong contracts for your business will give you confidence and will present your company more professionally.
Below is his answer to the question: CAN AN EMAIL LEGALLY BIND AN INTERIOR DESIGN CONTRACT?
To answer your question regarding whether an email can form a legally binding contract, the answer is yes, an email agreement can form legally binding agreement under certain circumstances.
Even though the internet and electronic communication is fairly new, the ingredients for a binding agreement—a contract—are well established: an offer, an acceptance, consideration (e.g., money in exchange for services) and a meeting of the minds (e.g., an agreement regarding the terms). Your question is whether an email can take the place of a signature for purposes of the acceptance.
In the US, federal and state law allow for the enforceability of electronic signatures. For transactions affecting interstate commerce, a federal statute called the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN), 15 U.S.C. 7001 et seq. protects such dealings. Under this legislation, a signature can’t be denied validity or enforceability merely because it is in electronic form. 15 U.S.C. 7001(a)(1). The legislation defines an electronic signature as an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically connected with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record. 15 U.S.C. 7006(5). There are no additional demands for electronic signatures under the legislation. Therefore, the legislation is quite broad and allows a generous mix of electronic identifiers to be counted as signatures.
Additionally, most states have passed the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). Only New York, Washington State, and Illinois have not enacted UETA, but each of those states has adopted its own electronic signatures statute. UETA allows for the enforceability of electronic signatures once the parties to a transaction have decided to carry on dealings by electronic means. UETA 5(b). The parties’ arrangement to transact electronic dealings is verified from the context and surrounding circumstances, including the parties’ demeanor. Id. After the parties’ intent is evidenced, UETA provides that electronic signatures are enforceable. There are no specific requirements regulating the form of an electronic signature. The UETA defines electronic signature similarly to E-SIGN. UETA 2(8). Note, however, that the UETA only applies after the parties have agreed to conduct business electronically.
The topic of an email signature creating a binding contract has been dealt with in several court opinions. In those opinions, the courts have consistently held that email signatures are comparable to manual signatures and produce a binding contractual responsibility on the person signing the email. Therefore, provided there is no conflict of opinion as to the writer and authenticity of the email, the email is presumed signed for the purpose of making an enforceable contract.
As such, while an electronic signature (e.g., an email) can form a binding contract, the question is whether the signatory (writer of the email) challenges the authenticity of the signature. The law essentially says that the signature is not invalid simply because it is electronic. However, that does not stop the signing party from arguing the signature is invalid because they didn’t send or mean to send it (e.g., their email was hacked, or their two-year-old sent the email by mistake, etc.).
The real question is how important is it for you to avoid arguments regarding the authenticity of a signature. Based on the above, I always recommend getting an actual signature on your initial contract and any high value proposals, purchase orders and the like. Moreover, put a provision in your contract stating the parties’ agree that their emails can act as acceptances so as to bind the parties, if that’s the way you anticipate conducting business. Or, if you don’t want to conduct business that way, put a provision in your contract stating email is not a valid method of acceptance.
I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you need more information.
In the meantime, my law firm has an email newsletter it sends out sporadically on matters of interest to business owners, including those in the design industry. Please let me know if you want to be added to the distribution list.
William R. Joseph
Direct 503-417-5376 | Fax 503-224-7324 | www.dunncarney.com
Be cautious of golf or local magazines that want you to advertise!
I want to make you all aware of an advertising scam that has hit many interior designers, including two of my clients; one in Las Vegas and the other in Hawaii. When my clients were at the Las Vegas Market a few weeks ago, they also came across a few other designers that had fallen for the same scam.
Be very cautious if you are being approached by a magazine that wants you to advertise with them. They change their name often, but have gone by several different names, including:
Platinum Publishing – Golf Almanac
ABC Marketing – Golf Luxury Living
Teed Off Publication – Sports and Leisure Guide
Their method goes something like this:
They call asking for the owner of the firm . If they have to leave a message, they make it sound like they are looking to become a high-end client, so you respond. Then when you talk with them, they say that they’ve seen your work and would like to include you in their local luxury oriented magazine. They generally say they distribute to local golf clubs or hotels and restaurants where your luxury clients are likely to be.
The fraudulent lifestyle magazines say they distribute to luxury clientele via golf courses and other luxury oriented locations.
They also offer to include a feature of your firm or some editorial piece Their pricing is very affordable, like $800 – $1,500 per year. They sound very professional and provide you with full documentation as well as proofs of your article and ad. Talking about high-end luxury clients is the way they earn your trust.
There are many designers nationwide who have lost thousands of dollars to this fraudulent company, so I want to advise you all to be very cautious.
Here are a two things you can do to protect yourselves:
- Call the places that they say they distribute to and ask them if they carry that magazine. My client called one of the golf courses that were supposedly carrying that magazine and they had never heard of it!
- If you do feel confident the publication is legit, still pay them with a credit card. One of my clients paid with a check and the money is gone for good. The other paid with her credit card and she was able to report the fraud and get her money credited back to her account.
Sorry to post on such an unfortunate topic, but hopefully this saves at least a few of you from becoming a victim of this nationwide scheme. Be careful and be sure to verify distribution for any publication that approaches you for advertising!
Julia A. Molloy
President | Molloy Management Group
It’s all about the client experience. How do you differentiate your firm from the others and provide a distinctly better experience for your clientele? Utilizing this project management tool for designers will put your firm on a whole new level; professional, profitable and polished.
I am so excited about this new feature in Studio Designer! Studio Webware is the creator of the leading interior design business software, and for good reason. It is a real game changer for you interior designers and this feature now takes it to a whole new level. Online collaboration is the future of this business and a wonderful way for you to streamline your interior design business as well as differentiate yourself from the pack.
As the Operations Specialist for the interior design industry, it is my responsibility to advise you on the best practices, methods and tools to streamline your interior design business. I do not sell this software, but I recommend it highly.
If you are on Studio Webware, you may want to join Lance for this complementary presentation on this incredible new feature!
Click here to register.
I’ll be there as well, so I hope to see you there!
And if you’d like to learn more about how we help ambitious interior design firms use Studio Webware to streamline their businesses for increased profits, and a higher level of polish, please be in touch. I’d love to hear from you!
Expecting Great Things!
Julia A. Molloy
President | Molloy Management Group
firstname.lastname@example.org | 503-208-2757
As many of you are building your teams to handle the new wave of business this year, you are faced with the challenges associated with getting your team to do what they are supposed to do. As the Principal Interior Designer, it is your job to not only be an amazing designer, but to also manage and lead your team. This is a tall order and getting your employees efficient and keeping the quality of work high is incredibly challenging!
I know this is how you feel when they don’t do what you asked and you spend more time getting them to do it right than it would have taken you to just do it yourself. No, you are not alone!
I want to share with you my thoughts on the power of effective communication, as it relates to team development. The smaller your firm, the more important each employee’s productivity is. How do you maximize your return on investment as it relates to your team members?
One of the keys to successful management is feedback. Not just feedback though, ‘empowering feedback.’ Empowering feedback is guidance that is given that truly hones your team members’ skills, methods and clarity. It is important to share with them what they are doing well and what needs improvement. Here are some tips on doing this effectively.
Empowering feedback, does just that. It empowers the employee to be more effective and take more personal accountability for their performance.
First and foremost, it is important to remember that this is not about you. Come from the perspective of the company and what it needs to fulfill its purpose and run really well. (As always, refer back to your Company Vision and Key Characteristics). Phrase your feedback in terms of the company’s needs and their role within the company. Try not to start your comments with “I like/ don’t like”.
Conversely, do not make the feedback about them either. Everyone has intrinsic value and you are judging their work, not them as a person. You are providing feedback on the ROLE they play and the work they DO. Phrase your feedback in terms of the task or objective. It is about their work. Tie in how their work impacts the company and/or the client’s experience. After all, that is what it is really about; the outcome of their actions and choices.
Get them to evaluate their own work and then provide your input. Train them to be more accountable for the quality of their work and their decision-making.
Use the power of ‘self-referral’. Brain science now tells us that people more often modify their behavior based on their own self assessment, versus the words of others. A very powerful technique for inspiring change is to ask questions. Lead them to the conclusion you are looking to get and then expound on it. For example, a Jr. Designer turned in a CAD drawing that was sloppy, incomplete and did not follow your company standards for line weights and file set up… AGAIN! A knee jerk response would be to pick it apart and tell them all the things wrong with it. Or for some of you less confrontational or exhausted designers, just not say anything at all and fix it yourself (and internally give up on them.)
Here’s an alternative approach. Ask them a series of questions that puts the onus on them:
Have you reviewed this CAD Drawing and made sure it includes all details? Do you understand our guidelines for line weights and file structure? Do you understand how this drawing impacts the project? Are you willing to verify that it’s perfect? Do you want to review it again before you submit something as an example of your work?
In another situation, you may ask them what they feel they could have done better and then agree with them and expand on the idea. Ask them if they think their work is congruent with the company’s standards for excellence and so on.
You get the idea. Ask them a question or a series of questions that lead them to the right answer. In addition, refer them to your operations manual. If you don’t have a well developed manual, you’re in for a rough road. Without it, upholding quality standards and procedures is an ongoing battle. If this is the case for you, be in touch. I have a template you can purchase that will save you about 5 years of ops manual development time.
Being specific gives them a framework for evaluating their work. It indirectly lets them know what the important details are and how to assess the quality of their work.
Finally, be sure to be specific in your feedback. Make it clear exactly what it is that could have been done better. If they did a really good job, let them know what it was about what they did, that was so effective. Be very specific about what didn’t work, or what did work.
Utilizing these techniques really helps to hone in their skills. That’s important because you invest a lot in your team and you need that to start coming back. You invest time, energy, and money in these people. At a certain point, you need it to start coming back to you. Empowering feedback is a great method to boost your team’s value to the firm and keep them on the right track. In reality, your team will make or break your design firm. Getting it right is a huge challenge and is of paramount importance.
If you would like assistance with leadership techniques and team development, please don’t hesitate to be in touch! We’ve got programs that address these issues and we’d love to help!
Expecting Great Things-
Julia A. Molloy
CHANGE – We’ve had a lot of it these last couple years and I know it’s been a bit unsettling. It’s important for you to know however, that these changes are just a natural phase of a company’s life-cycle. I think for many of you out there, you are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and this year beacons new hope. Take some time to consider the life cycle of your business and look at it from a holistic point of view. There are four general development cycles in any business. If we do a good enough job, they will cycle around like seasons. What season is your firm in?
You’ll need a very clear mission and key characteristics for your firm to help you navigate through all of your options.
There is a formative phase. This is the phase in which external factors or internal forces are creating a need for change. This is where adaptation and development take place. Lots of moving parts, strategy and decision making will comprise a part of this period. (Time for a strategy session , or two!)
Systematize as much as you can so you increase capacity and control the quality of service you provide your clients. you can’t be there for every decision so you must have documented procedures and standards established.
The next phase is heavy growth. During this phase, you will be concerned with team development, capacity issues and the scalability of your company. There will be money concerns to address here. Make sure you have a budget and that you include projections for bringing on new team members. (If you are in this phase or approaching it, you will find our services particularly helpful.)
time to hone your systems and groom your staff for the next steps. Be looking at different business and industries for indicators for new needs and opportunities arising.
This is followed by a mature phase where you’ve seen it all. It’s not new anymore. Business is pretty consistent and stable. All systems are in place and efficiency and profitability will hit their peak. It is important in this period to not lose the communication and team sync habits that have brought you here. (Take a deep breath and a vacation while you can!)
Most of you have been here for the last couple years and are finally rebounding. Get ready to revamp your model, develop better systems and get ready to run!
Then finally the declining phase. What was working well is no longer as effective. What you were doing before does not produce the same results, so we see a decline. It’s your job to detect when it starts to happen and think, “Ha, we must be adaptive to survive. Who are we? Who are we now? What can we do differently? Who needs this? How do they need it? There have been changes in the environment and your clientele that you need to detect. You will need to change and adapt in order to circle around to the formative period again. Many of you went through this over the last couple years and are finally honing in your business model to the new era. (Time for another strategy session!)
In order to best adapt, you will need to identify the sources of change, sources of new emerging opportunities and identify possible strategies for capitalizing on these changes. The better you handle the declining period, the more likely your firm will thrive once again. This means you need to step up as a leader to ensure your firm grows as it should.
It is a brand new world out there for interior design businesses. New tools, cloud based software, remote team members, less paper, online interaction with your clients, Studio Webware, iPad, Revit, Houzz and the list goes on. Time to adapt with the best choices for your firm and start running. The wave of new business is already starting!
Also, learn from other businesses that have been successful, in the same and in different industries. Seek out case studies and apply lessons to your own business. That expanded frame of reference will help tremendously with decisiveness and confidence.
So what phase of growth is your firm currently in? What tools and lessons do you bring with you into this new year? What tools and resources will save you time and money in the long run? If you need to streamline your business and get best practices and procedures documented and established for your firm, we can definitely facilitate that for you. If this is the case for you, we’d love to hear from you! Visit us at Molloy Management Group or give us a call at 503-208-2757.
Expecting Great Things-
Julia A. Molloy
“Becoming a luxury interior design firm is not about putting on a façade or charging exorbitant fees. It is about functioning on such a high level that you are able to go beyond the ordinary and sufficient. It is about elevating the focus from mere necessity to that of delight and inspiration. Becoming a luxury design firm is hard won and not for the faint of heart, for one must become luxury from the inside out.” -Julia Molloy
What is your interior design firm’s unique style of luxury?
Refining all points of contact with your clientele is a form of expression. It is also a key differentiation between mid-range design firms and the truly “high-end”. The idea is that once you have developed an efficiently running firm, you will have the bandwidth to actually think about how to refine your company’s presentation. Most firms will never truly get to this point, as they are too occupied with meeting deadlines and putting out fires. In this, the luxury touch is unique.
I want you to think about every method by which your company makes contact with your clientele. Here’s a list of typical points of contact. Do you have any to add to this?
- Initial in-person meeting
- On-site meetings
- In-office meetings
- Shopping trips
- Phone calls
Now, I want you to think creatively about how you can “create” opportunities for contact or special moments. Let’s list the moments or milestones that you could potentially transform into a memorable experience for your client.
- Initial call
- Initial in-person meeting
- In-office experience
- On-site experience
- Shopping experience
- Project commencement
- Concept completion
- Construction completion
- Purchasing completion
- Project closure
Think of all the ways your interior design business interacts with clients and potential clients. You have many opportunities to incorporate luxury into your business
Next, think about your key characteristics. Ask yourself if your logo, business cards, website, social media presence, letterhead and print materials authentically express or are consistent with your key characteristics. If not, you need to make a plan for updating your look. I find that often companies find the need for a makeover around the five year mark and also, when they have had to adapt to new business conditions, which is the case for most of you.
Finally, I want you to think about all your points of contact. They all need to be consistent, with the same version of your logo, company colors, font etc. They also need to express or be consistent with your key characteristics.
Here are a few suggestions for branding consistency:
- All email signatures and font are to be standardized throughout the office
- Outgoing voice-mails are to meet certain requirements or format.
- All staff communication style is to be consistent with your key characteristics
- All printed materials are to have consistent branding and formatting
Draw inspiration from the luxury brands you and your clients love.
Finally, I want you to consider all the opportunities for creating a branded experience during the life cycle of a project. Ask yourself how you can go the extra step and make them memorable and uniquely you.
- Do you give out a special [project commencement package?
- Do you bring a branded water bottle with you on your shopping trips with your client?
- Are your in office meetings special and authentic to your firm?
When designing your clients’ experience, keep this in mind. Whatever you choose to do, you have to be consistent with it. Your clients will come to anticipate it and you do not want to disappoint them.
Remember, you create your own unique flavor of luxury. It is about creating a unique and special experience for your client. Be creative and have fun with it!
If you’d like to learn about creating an Elevated Experience for your interior design clients, please give us a call. We have a special program that helps interior designers Become Luxury.
Expecting Great Things-
Julia A. Molloy
As the economy continues to improve and we see movement again in our industry, we all take a big sigh of relief. We are seeing however, that soon after, many of you are then taking a breath of exasperation as you are now working on ramping up your capacity to take on the increased workload.
Interviewing is an important skill for a Principal Interior Designer
We always stress the importance of streamlining your processes so you can do more with fewer team members, however, there does come a time when you must bring in more resources and this often means hiring new staff. The hiring and orientation process is incredibly important; it impacts your company’s bottom line as well as affects your ability to attract and service clients. For successful results, it is critical that you select the right person/approach and conduct the process efficiently as well as effectively. Thus, a skillfully executed process is imperative and is your job as the business owner.
In order to do this, you need to clearly understand your company’s needs. Review your current structure and ability to meet all of your business and client needs, and consider a variety of approaches. The best path may be a redistribution of current roles and responsibilities, bringing on temporary, part time or intern assistance, a virtual team member, a new hire or some combination of these.
Next, you’ll need to attract and hire the best possible talent for your pay rate. You must make sure your firm is healthy enough operationally to attract a high quality candidate. If you need help in this regard, you may want to take a look at our Business Blueprint. It is the solution to this very issue. Once you’ve got a solid foundation in the works, you’ll want to enter the hiring process with confidence and an effective approach.
Building a healthy team is one of your biggest challenges in your interior design business
For the hiring process, you will need to have a detailed job description and know when and where to advertise for applicants. We encourage you to pre-screen all respondents to identify the best candidates, and then conduct meaningful interviews only with a select few. This means being prepared with interview questions that will allow you to determine if a candidate is the right fit. And remember, assessing the personality fit with the culture of your organization is as important as assessing knowledge and experience for job duties.
Here are a few sample questions to consider asking:
- If they did get chosen for the position, what would their priorities be for the first 90 days?
- On a scale of 1-10 how would their former employer rate them in regards to personal stability and reliability?
A few things to consider when interviewing:
- What are your company’s key characteristics and values and is the candidate’s personality and energy consistent with these values?
- Do you sense fear or anxiety in them? Are they too eager to please? If you sense this is the case, try throwing out a statement that you would expect they’d clearly disagree with. Do they tactfully challenge that statement or offer disingenuous agreement or acquiescence?
Once you have chosen a candidate and successfully navigated the offer process with all of the appropriate documentation, it is key that you follow up with an Employee Orientation process. Quality training and materials will integrate your new hire into the fold and quickly allow them to be a valuable, contributing team member.
Providing Interior Designers guidance such as this is just one of the many ways Molloy Management Group Empowers Designers and Advances the Industry. For more information on what MMG can do for you, contact us at 503-208-2757.
Molloy Management Founder