Great Design v. Great Designer?

I’m not an interior designer; I’m just a business guy. Business school professor, entrepreneur, and coach and consultant to successful interior designers all across the country.

So I’m sometimes amused when I scour magazines and blogs and websites and see what other people think are “great designs.” Whether it’s a sleek and gorgeous ultra-modern home where one would least expect, or a warm and toasty mountain lodge, most designers think they know “great design” when they see it.

But my experience suggests that they may be confusing a great design with a great designer. Or perhaps it’s just that I have a different definition. You see, in my world, the only way to determine whether a designer is truly great, is by examining their financial statements. And their 401K. And their investment portfolio.

You see, in my world, the only way to determine whether a designer is truly great, is by examining their financial statements. And their 401K. And their investment portfolio.

I do that almost every week, and I can share with you one thing that is 100% correlated to those designers who are actually in the process of creating wealth, rather than just working themselves to death: They are very serious business men and women.

In fact, the most successful designers I work with are incredible business men and women. Over the years, they have committed to mastering the business skills necessary to run an incredibly complex business.

In fact, they consider themselves at least as much business manager as designer, and more than a few have moved to the point of ranking business management as the most important thing they do, with design being bumped down to second place.

The complexity of running a time billing business, a merchandise resale business, and a project management business…complete with hiring and training, business development, IT, and on and on and on would make the manager of a Fortune 500 division gag. Their jobs are nowhere near that complex.

Debbie Baxter of Baxter Design Group in San Antonio grew her firm from two to twenty employees during a boom period by being a very serious businesswoman. She hired me and other business experts and listened to our advice, even as she alone made the crucial decisions.

Phil Norman of LA  moved his 8-person-team into gleaming new office space in southern California, in part because he consumes business training like a hungry dog consumes bacon. Phil has been coming to my conferences for over a decade and can never get enough learning.

Diane Gote of Summit, NJ never misses a webinar or newsletter, or opportunity to learn. Corinne Brown of Mammoth Lakes, CA has documented every process involved in her business from how to create proposals in Studio Webware, to how to set the thermostat.

Carol Little of Roseville, CA couldn’t find a software solution that she found ideal for managing projects and purchases in her commercial niche, so she had one built just for her.

Serious business men and women with a 100% correlation to their financial success as designers.

How do you see yourself? Designer? Business manager? Or both…

Leave a Comment