June 13, 2024

In her words: Running a successful design firm

In her words: Running a successful design firm

This week we’re continuing our SideDoor superstar series where we highlight some of the amazing things you all have accomplished utilizing the platform. 

Last week we introduced Palm Desert, California based designer, Patricia Lockwood, founder of the award winning design firm Design Vision Studio. If you missed that conversation, you can see it on the blog here

Today, we have the special treat of tapping Patricia’s brain for all sorts of great business process knowledge that she’s gained in her 24 years of experience. 

Let’s get to the good stuff!


SideDoor: Welcome, Patricia! Last week we talked a little about who you are, what makes you unique, and the kinds of clients you work with. 

As someone who has been in the business for 24 years, I know our designers would covet some of your expertise on the business side of things. For example, can you walk us through what it looks like starting from the point a client reaches out to your team? 
Patricia: So, we have this process that if anyone calls in or emails, even if we have time, we say, “Oh, we’re so sorry, can we schedule a time?” Design takes time, and I think that people want it NOW. And those aren’t my clients, it is a process. If anyone is so anxious that they need to see or talk to me ASAP, we’re not a good fit. 
SideDoor: That’s amazing, it’s like a natural filtering process to make sure they’re a fit. What happens next? 
Patricia: So I send this introductory email, and I attach [an intro to the designer], like a get to know me. Then we schedule a time to talk, usually 20-30 minutes. It’s not my sales pitch call, but it’s all about letting them know, we’ve got this, there’s so many solutions for this. You know, it’s like saying come into my restaurant, sit down and we're gonna have a meal. You're invited into this process, and you talk about them, not about us. 

Then we send a PowerPoint via canva about how to work with us—we call it an invitation to work with Design Vision Studio. Meaning, it's an invitation. 
SideDoor: Wow, this will be so informative for other designers, especially those who are just starting off and still getting their processes ironed out. Can you share about how you onboard clients, or what it looks like to sign someone up to start?
Patricia: So along with the invitation, I send my letter of agreement. I use template letters of agreement—which drives a lot of designers crazy—because I was spending so much time including all the things that were specific to that job—but it’s all about efficiency for me. Time is money. So I have a template letter of agreement, I send it off, they sign it. Then I invoice them, and after they pay they get on my calendar. That’s just my process and it works SO well, so steal it from me! It is so efficient, I can't tell you. 

And this process doesn’t have people calling my cell phone, the office line, constantly interrupting—it’s just very very efficient, and especially if you don’t have employees, you need a super great process like that.
SideDoor: That’s incredibly helpful. I know that I personally am going to tweak some of my own process based on what you shared! You shared with me earlier, but for our readers, can you share a little about your move from focusing on construction to moving into your concept only design package format? 
Patricia: So I had never done cost plus with furniture. I was moving walls, raising roofs, changing layouts—heavy construction—and furniture was just a bother. You know, as a one person show for many years, construction took all my focus. 

It’s not that I would buy retail, but I couldn’t make the minimums [for manufacturers]. But remember, when I started, in order to get into a design center you almost had to give your blood type, your first born, all your credentials. Now they’re like, “Come on in! We sell to the public!”
Patricia: Then the internet exploded and everyone was shopping everyone. So I just said, if you can find it better, go right ahead! I was completely transparent with what I could purchase, and again,  I closed so many deals because there were no surprise bills. 

So when I wanted to get into consulting and more of a concept only platform, I bumped up my hourly and figured out these packages, and the next thing you know, I am now shifting my business to where SideDoor was just a perfect fit.

I’ll do these concept only packages and I use SideDoor probably for 30-70% of what's within a given design. I don't have any control over whether they purchase it or not, or if they find it somewhere else, but it's been a fantastic platform. You know, clients can do bite-size, and often they will hire me for the concept and then say, “no, no, I need you to put it all together.” It's like, okay, we’ll take the finish line! 
SideDoor: What a great way to gain trust, and also build that added sales funnel of clients wanting you to finish the projects out for them. Your insights have been invaluable, Patricia! Thank you so much for speaking with us, and we’ll be back again next week to talk more about how you specifically have integrated SideDoor into your business.

Next week we’ll be talking with Patricia again specifically about how she’s found success with the platform—process, sales, oh my! So stay tuned for that.

If you want to follow along with Patricia’s design work, you can find her website here, as well as her social media profiles on Instagram, Houzz profile, and Facebook.

And watch out for our schedule announcement of the SideDoor University episode with our very own featured designer for this month, Patricia Lockwood. We can’t wait to learn together!

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