We’ve all felt it in this business.
The pinch of the recession.
Luxuries are the first to go when you need to tighten your belt. And in this business, interior design, luxury is our lifeblood. If it can't be sold, we can't survive.
Since 2008 this entire industry has suffered a decline, and everyone, from designers, to contractors, to furniture manufacturers, and everyone in between has been hit.
As for myself, I’ve been lucky. I've been able to stay in business. But I definitely had to tighten my belt to keep from losing my pants. I did everything I could to make sure my new design studio stayed afloat, because I couldn't afford to fail, not for financial reasons or, more importantly, personal reasons. You see, I'm in this business to realize a dream and ... well ... I'm not getting any younger. Life only lasts so long, so I couldn't afford to wait out the recession. I had to make my move now, or die trying.
So here I am today. I've stayed away from the recession's reach and have managed to remain in business. But making it this far certainly hasn't been easy. Thankfully, I knew from the get-go that I was going to have to do things differently in order to dodge the bullets that were taking down so many others in this business. Because if I hadn't gone left when many others were going right, I might not be managing all the clients I'm blessed to have today.
I've reinvested every dollar I've earned back into this business in an effort to protect my future. Not only have I managed my money as best I can, but I've had to better manage my time more than anything else. And because there are only so many hours in a day, and most of them were spent with clients, I had to figure out how I could stretch myself even further and be many places at once.
While it has been a struggle, I have -- knock on wood again -- been able to do just that, with this blog and the connections I've made with new clients virtually. I believe being active online and in social media is probably the only way professionals will be able to gain and retain clients in the future.
I’ve been working with Brad, my VB, who has helped me build this site and blog into a vehicle that lets me share my thoughts on interior design and, in-turn, attract new business. He’s been my collaborator on all things virtual, and what we've done has worked.
The exposure I've received has brought me a flood of work, which I am so happy to have. Since my new website and blog opened last summer, my client list has grown tremendously, and it is so exciting to have these opportunities come my way.
But, of course, just as things seem to be too good to be true, you discover there's a catch: That catch being...
Great opportunities typically come along with even greater responsibilities.
My pared down studio, consisting of me and a part-time intern (when I had one), was becoming strained. I was overwhelmed. I'd work all the time, nights and weekends included, yet my waiting list of pending, patient clients kept growing as I struggled to finish my current clients' projects.
All the work caused me to often ask myself:
"Is it true? Can a person actually have too much of a good thing? Is THIS my new normal?"
I love surprises. Especially when they come from my husband!
Late one evening, getting home about 9:30 or so, my husband took one look at me and said:
“Maybe this is your new normal. Maybe you need to think about hiring some help.”
I was shocked. These words were coming from the same man who, at one time, never wanted me to move my business out of my home so I could develop it further. So for him encourage me in this way was HUGE.
Of course I had thought about hiring help long before he brought up the idea -- I thought about it every day. I knew I needed help I could rely on, train, and work in the studio. Help that would be more than just "help", but help that could really contribute in significant ways.
But I was afraid I’d get caught! Caught by a recession who plays by its own rules. Or, really, caught by anything that could cause me to not be able to pay for the people who would be depending on me. And I didn't want that to ever happen.
While I began considering my husband's comments, I waited. And so did my clients, because I was still very busy juggling all the existing and incoming jobs I had as best I could.
Ultimately though, I did make up my mind.
I decided to grow.
I have the most wonderful team of support I've been building and they are finally now all on board full time. Since we've all been together here in the studio, the synergy in this space has been electrifying! I am just so happy to have them all here.
We laugh, listen to music, and do lots of girly squealing when a design comes together or they find another amazing trick in Google SketchUp.
We just all work so well together! Oh, did it sound like I was describing work? Well, I was. And it's exciting and fun and creative......everything I always wanted my studio to be.
Needless to say, I’m glad I accepted my new normal. Because now I can move forward with the help and support I need to GROW.
And if a few squeals of delight happen along the way, then so be it ;-)
The Designing Women of Aston Design Studio
Jitka Mayorga was my intern last summer and has been working her way to full-time status since January. When her internship was up, she came on to work part-time and has been with me ever since. She is great at CAD and does a great job of keeping things organized around here. She loves a tidy workplace, which is wonderful for me! Most importantly, Jitka is a loyal and dedicated employee. I can't imagine moving forward without her support.
Kristen Finch interned with me last spring and has worked one day per week since last September. She, too, is great at CAD and creating digital boards, and has an outstanding sense of style. I’ve been waiting for Kristen to move back up this way for the longest time, and I’m so excited she’s back here at the studio full-time.
Christina Mamer, from Sam Houston State, is an intern here now. She's always enthusiastic about learning something new and will throw all of her energy into whatever task I put in front of her. I'm especially glad I asked her to learn the ins and outs of Google Sketchup. What she can do with it is amazing. Her technical / navigational expertise is blowing us all away! While she's here only a short time, her next chapter, pursuing a master's degree in interior design in Florence, Italy in the fall, is sure to be a success.
I’m so lucky to have these talented girls here to support me, and I’m thrilled to teach them the ropes of the business. I'm beyond proud of them and know they'll all grow to become great designers right before my eyes.