Why Don’t More Interior Designers Merge?

Here’s a test question for you. Which is more, $100,000 or half of $100,000?

The answer might seem straight forward, but week after week as I work with interior designers, many of whom are the only one billing time in their firms, I have to wonder. When I consider a random set of these designers, say fifty of them, and realize that in that random set there are:

  • Fifty installations of QB or Studio
  • Fifty part-time bookkeepers
  • Fifty CPAs
  • Fifty installations of AutoCAD, Photoshop, Excel, or whatever software tools are used
  • Fifty sample rooms (including the trunks of cars)
  • Fifty times the number of vendors used in terms of accounts
  • Fifty websites

Why? Why does every interior designer out there, especially sole practitioners and principals of small firms want to bear 100% of all possible overhead costs, when they could be splitting it?

Why don’t more interior designers (or any, for that matter) go to each other and say, “Hey, why don’t we share an office? Why don’t we split the overhead so that we can each make more money?”

Why don’t interior designers go to each other and say, ‘Hey, why don’t we share an office? Why don’t we split the overhead so that we can each make more money?’

I’ve made this point in a variety of different ways over the years, including some years ago when I presented the idea at a conference under the title, “The Hair Salon Model Comes to Interior Design.”

Think about it. That’s how hair salons work. One ambitious and entrepreneurial stylist rents a space and puts in multiple chairs or cubicles. He or she then carries on with their own business, while leasing those spaces to other stylists.

There is only one rent payment, one utility bill, one receptionist, and one cleaning service at the end of each day. There is only one website and yet no shared marketing expense—each stylist is generally responsible for generating their own business, and of course the impresario imposes no stylistic standards on the independent contractor.

I’ve seen this concept work on a large scale, a retail furniture store that had first class cubicles for more than a dozen interior designers, as well as the sample room, receptionist, and software necessary to support them.

And one long-time Edge member offices with another designer but keep their projects separate.

Please comment on this post if you know of others who are doing this successfully. If the business side of design is the side that most principals dislike, why do they all seem so intent on doing it themselves?

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