High Point Market is fertile ground for introductions….and at last market I met Rich Schell through Corey Damen Jenkins. I toured several showrooms and enjoyed the market libations and celebrations with these two gentlemen. It was a lot of fun and they were very generous with me and my incessant questions about style, projects, business and the future of design. Rich has two successful businesses – interior design and floral design. I am delighted that he is our Featured Designer this month and I get to share his wit and wisdom with you. Enjoy!1. What are the biggest changes I have seen to the industry and to your business in the last five years?Certainly, since the turn in the economy, it seems that the “bargain dealers” are the only ones with money, and they were furiously spending it, developing websites to direct the global population to the best deals…Every day the media has found the need to persuade and direct every DIY decorator to the “Deal of the Day”! I am amazed at how educated everyone has become regarding product lines. Pricing that’s available online and the consumers’ craze for licensed designer products has allowed every “wanna be” to polish their craft and access a lot of great items and bargains from the comfort of shopping at home!In my business, I continue to mark items on the floor at a typical retail pricing structure. A price less than that can still be up to negotiation. It seems today, customers are rarely willing to pay MSRP, and they will almost always ask for the best deal. This is a challenge, as we are always considering our “bottom line”.Since opening my store in 1987, I have seen many factors contribute to the highs and lows of our economy. Rich Designs has transformed, grown and evolved in response to these ever-present economic highs and lows. In 2001, the purchase of a beautiful building for our retail sales location has proved to be the single most sound business decision we’ve made. The property is certainly our nest egg for retirement! We feel very fortunate to have more than just a filing cabinet filled with rent receipts!! We did that for fourteen years in our first Rich Designs location.Now our business is twofold, two independently run stores under one roof. Along with the new furnishings and accessories of Rich Designs Home, my partner, Greg Wragge, and I also own I Saw It First, which carries high-end consignments for the home. This creates a very complex and diversified business: A complete interior design business, a showroom of 6000 square feet to furnish and maintain, including new furnishings and case goods, as well as our consignment furniture, which takes up approximately 75% of floor space. Rich Designs Home is also a high-end florist offering daily floral deliveries, and creating beautiful floral arrangements for home, events and weddings. Let’s say I wear a lot of hats!2. What have you done in your business to respond to those changes and how is that working for you?This is a great question, as I wake daily wondering what more to do. One thing we have done is we are reaching out and working more with our local designers. We have become in essence a “mini” design center in which they can utilize. We encourage local designers to bring their clients into our beautiful environment and make use of our library of fabrics, as well as catalogs and our open line of products. Not every designer has the ability to get the best pricing, and we offer two pricing structures-discounts for both floor items and for special orders.I struggle with the great time it takes to keep with social media, but I certainly understand the need for this. I hired an outside agency to help, but quickly realized that no one understood my businesses enough to do them justice and create postings that really showcased our business platform. For us, it’s all about wonderful service, and creating relationships in an environment that makes our clients feel at home here. Even when things got a bit tough, we just changed up our “game”- continuing to become more polished and always having fresh flowers around the shop. People continuously comment on those extra touches-What’s not to love?
3. What do you predict for the interior design industry? And how will you prepare for it?
I feel that the interior design industry will continue to take center stage. With the current selection of design shows on television and websites directing minds to a consciousness about their own surroundings, designers need to remain vigilant, arming themselves with as much information and exposure as the customer…
I will continue to provide more “one of a kinds” for our customer, which will encourage them to realize what a great shopping destination we are. We also will re-purpose what’s old while giving those pieces a new twist, which also help to keep costs down. Forty percent of the furniture that I put into a job is custom designed and built locally. I am lucky to have a couple of furniture craftsman that can build a custom item for my client and keep my work quite distinct!
One of my greatest challenges is the development of a contract that can please both the client and myself, along with keeping the budget intact. Colorado Springs is very diverse economically. My goal is to work with each client’s budget and to keep each job, whatever the budget, as important as the other…Being able to share in a forum like this, as a designer, is also very important, no matter what levels of interior design we create. Open eyes and ears are essential!
Rich Designs Home
1731 Mt.Washington Ave
Colorado Springs,Colorado 80905
1. Aim high. Make your goals worthwhile and BIG – ‘breaking even’ isn’t big enough nor is it inspiring to those who are participating and to those you wish to attract.2. Make your goals measurable and put dates for achievement on them.3. Set an action plan that includes a marketing plan – of which social media is a part but not all. It also includes maximizing your database and partnering with others in your ‘community’ to broaden your reach and appeal.4. There are only 3 ways to increase revenue: Increase opportunities (contacts, traffic, phone calls, etc), increase your close ratio (the number of sales divided by the number of opportunities), increase average sale (either sell more expensive products/services or sell multiple items).5. Create an action plan with time frame and communication structure at every meeting, so that there are take away actions that move you forward to your goal.
Laurie Bullard- www.lauriebullardphoto.com
Pat Warwick- www.patwarwick.com
Nancy Alexander- www.bluemayadesigns.com
Gallery 65- www.gallery65onwilliam.com
Our clients’ expectations are higher than ever (a consequence of the proliferation of HGTV make-over shows). Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses, I use the initial meeting with a prospective client to determine whether the client’s project and personality are a good fit with me and my strengths. If I determine that we are not, I will refer this person to one of my peers who might be a better fit. Walking away from projects or clients where I don’t see a good fit is just as important for the success of my business as going after projects or clients where I believe I can add value through a collaborative relationship. This approach makes for a lot of happy clients, who are eager to refer my firm to their friends and colleagues.
My focus on providing excellent client service has resulted in numerous referrals; most of my new business comes via referrals from past clients. I don’t advertise broadly in magazines or online. Instead, I focus my marketing dollars on a monthly eNewsletter (using Constant Contact as my platform). I use the newsletter to highlight my previous projects and to educate readers about the need for working with an interior designer to get a project done right the first time. In terms of social media, I don’t spend much time on Facebook or Twitter because most of my clients are not active social media users. Houzz.com is the one website that appears to resonate with my clientele, so I have established a business page there.
3. What do you predict for the future of the interior design industry – and how can designers prepare for that?
I predict a healthy future for those of us who consistently put the needs of our clients first and run our businesses in a professional manner (signed letters of agreement, staying on budget, responding in timely manner, adhering to timelines, under-promising, and over-delivering). Transparency in pricing (no unreasonable markups) and using our clients’ money efficiently (which means different things to different clients) will remain crucial to a successful interior design business. Even wealthy clients want a good return for their money, i.e., quality product selection and responsive, professional service. They are happy to pay for our expertise in designing spaces, helping them to avoid costly mistakes, and freeing up their time.
My firm’s motto is “Let Tassels take the hassles out of creating your dream home.” While it may strike some as a bit cheesy, it accurately describes my role as a design consultant and problem solver for my clients.
❧ Let Tassels take the hassles out of creating your dream home ❧