My personal story reveals my own challenge with finding the right business model for my lifestyle. I made lots of mistakes and always wished someone else was there to walk me through the minefields.
I learned a lot along the way, and those minefields brought wisdom and knowledge … and a new mission: to help designers like you transform their businesses.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the world stopped … and so did my business. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed with a cold cup of coffee … transfixed by the endless loop of TV coverage about the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. I called my seven employees, and told them not to come to work that day or the next or the next day after that. By Friday, I returned to the office feeling intense sadness and fear for the future.
In the wake of this life-changing event, my clients began to feel uncomfortable spending on design projects, and so … the phone rang less, projects wrapped up, and so did my business.And I began to doubt myself, my decision to be a designer, and all the time I’d invested building my company. The previous 6 years included marked ups and downs; I often felt frustrated by the business, stressed at managing a staff and always making sure they got paid even if I didn’t, and often unappreciated as the business owner.
Eventually, I made the excruciating decision to downsize my office. I laid off all but two employees, and for the next 12 months,
I operated my small firm out of a small space I shared with an architect. And though we finished the year 2000 at nearly $900,000 in revenue, my drive to build a large firm was completely gone.
Then came the day my “right-hand” employee of 6 years told me she was going to start her own firm. And you know what? I was actually OK with that. Because I was tired and I was disappointed and every day I was questioning the reality of my business. That part was happening because of the two epiphanies I’d recently had: First, about how much “paperwork” was involved with my work, and second, about how “overwhelmed and unprepared” I felt even with my business degree and the business practice class I took in interior design school.
If, at this point in the story, it looks like I was utterly ready to redesign my life, and utterly ready to accept whatever changes were needed to make it happen … I was.
First, I made the decision to move my office back home. Not long after that I let go of my last employee. I was working alone. Again. I was back to where I started. I was a solopreneur who was working as many as 36 hours in a row to meet project deadlines. And around this time, I realized something very important: working alone wasn’t a good option for me.
So I hired another assistant.
And within a year, I hired another one. And all of us were working out of my home. And I realized something else very important: I was much happier. I was a better manager at that time than during the earlier time. And I was making more money, too. I found out that adapting my business model to a Value Based Fee structure resulted in me spending more of my time doing what I loved… designing.
Over that period of time, something else interesting started to happen. 11 designer friends and I used to meet for a monthly dinner, and we spent hours talking about the changes in our
industry due to the Internet and “reality TV.” We all shared our struggles and frustrations over the new consumer behaviors we were experiencing – how the clients challenged designers now because they could find products on the Internet for less money, how clients felt they could do their own projects without the help of a professional because they saw how they could be a “DIY’er”, how they could “design on a dime” and how they could get an entire project done in a few days for $2,000 or less.
I saw the writing on the wall: Our industry was in crisis. And by 2006, I started investing in classes to figure out what could be done differently – I looked outside of our industry to find solutions for our industry.
On March 8, 2008, I felt the world shift again, this time in a positive direction. That was the day my assistant at the time (and now VP of Design Success University – our online education company with classes and tools for interior designers) Erin Weir and I attended an event, and there we were asked to “declare” our big plan.
We saw it as a way to help designers like you navigate the monumental changes that we were all experiencing and that we had resolved in our own business.
In October 2008, we hosted our first 14-expert tele-summit. At that time, only 25% of (interior) designers had a website, and few were tech-savvy. We were fighting more than a changing industry and a challenging business start-up, and we knew it. We first had to help our colleagues get up to speed with technology, so they could access our classes and coaching.
We had a mission, we had a desire to help our colleagues, and we had a new path we were 100% committed to. But what we didn’t have was a crystal ball. Because if we did, we would have used it to “read” the newest round of bad news, and the next monumental game-changer. We’d have see the economic meltdown coming down the pike. And we’d have made decisions accordingly.
But we didn’t have that crystal ball and today I’m glad we didn’t. Because we persevered.
Today, after a few challenging years, we now have more than 10,000 designers in 70 countries following us. So many of those designers who’ve been following our programs are today experiencing amazing results. And, equally important, we now also have clarity on what business models can work for you.
Our members with the “right stuff” are doubling and tripling their businesses, even in this slowly recovering economy. They are applying what they have been learning through Design Success University, our sister company.
Around 2010, I created a 6-month coaching program (Strategic Business Transformation – SBT) to teach interior designers the essential business skills they didn’t get when they went to design school. It was a pilot program, and as you’ll see on our Consulting Page, our designers achieved amazing results.
Even so, I felt that we could improve on the training we offered, and so soon developed the VIP Day for my clients. It’s a day-long, one-on-one consulting session in which I help design business owners identify their biggest challenges and roadblocks, and then develop the clarity and confidence necessary to begin living their new, powerful vision for their
business. It’s a jumpstart for business, and I sometimes refer to it as an “instant gratification” consulting day.
The VIP Day allowed me to dig deep with my clients and create amazing transformations. Some of my clients took the strategies and tactics and implemented without additional
coaching, but it soon became clear that many needed me to walk beside them and help them implement, stay on task and correct course, and that led to me offering the VIP Platinum Coaching program.
VIP Platinum is customized to each firm and owner, so we do what is most transformational for them whether it is on site coaching, leadership training, transition planning for growing teams, etc.
Once I started seeing how far these clients could go with the strategies we innovated for them, I was hooked!
Some of my clients needed more training on reading financial statements, budgeting, building strong teams and many other common challenges. Their stories and results are powerful, so be sure and check out the Consulting Page for more about the VIP Day and VIP Platinum programs.
Before long, I also realized that I “couldn’t do it all,” so I built our coaching team and added Drue Lawlor, FASID as our Director of Coaching. She and I “transformed” our morphing business coaching program into a 12-month online group coaching program – Strategic Business Transformation (SBT for short).
We launched the new pilot for SBT during the Fall of 2013, and now, today, our clients are getting great results through the group coaching program. This “Virtual MBA” for interior designers is unique, because we provide tools that no one else offers.
is my passion. I see it as transforming
the interior of designer’s businesses.
It’s heartwarming and powerful to see how these incredible entrepreneurs become clear, confident leaders in their markets. It’s not without a few tears along the way for some of them, and that’s always a good sign. They are changing and facing their fears and insecurities, and I’m here to support them every step of the way.
If you know me through our sister company, Design Success University, we’ve separated our coaching and consulting practice and created the brand that is GailDoby.com.
Our goal is to help boutique design firm owners build a more profitable and passion-filled interior design business.
Our ideal clients are unique, and driven. We work with designers that have been published in the top shelter magazines like House Beautiful and Architectural Digest, and we also work with emerging design firms that have achieved a minimum of $150,000 of revenue at a minimum and in the millions for some of our most financially successful clients.
It depends on you making the decision that you want to get there faster, more easily, with less stress, more support and confidence. That’s what we deliver.
Be sure to reach out to us so we can help you find the right path to achieve your dreams.