What Corporate Life Taught Me About Running an Interior Design Project
You may or may not know that I spent 18 years in Corporate Management working for one of the largest financial institutions in the world. I started my way as a customer service rep back in 2000 and wound up running various teams across the organisation. Although I tired of the 9-5 grind, It taught me a great deal about why we have systems and processes and why a project management strategy makes or breaks the success of any project. That principle pertains to both the Corporate environment or designing a home.
Interior Design is its own wonderful beast. It’s true that 20% is creative and 80% of it is business. Once the 20% is over, it’s the business section that realises the vision successfully, or as a disaster. With the right amount of experience and planning, everything should go well- but not perfectly. Perfect is a word that eludes any project that relies on multiple stakeholders who are also being human in the process. Things go wrong. People make mistakes. But people that have experience in working with projects have an infrared detector and assumption that anything can and will go wrong. Rather than being a rude shock to the layman, an experienced project manager expects problems and is manned with the tools to navigate through them quickly and effectively. They will anticipate them as a given, bake in buffers and then shuffle and produce as close to perfection as anyone will ever get.
Being in Corporate [specifically credit cards], there was forever a marketing project on the go that required a project lead, a line optimisation person to make sure the right emails and messages went out at the right times as well as people on the ground helping manage the staff to deliver on the dream. There’s a scheduled launch date. It usually has a launch party and involves a celebration for all the hard work it took to get it done by the launch. This should be the same for an Interior Design project. The best outcomes are brought about when there is an experienced team [or person] running the project through a series of tried and true processes, and the communication skills to ensure everyone involved is working cohesively. There should always be a final install date. Builders should always have a readily available schedule so that you know when they start and when they anticipate ending. The final furnishings should be bought in when any construction is over, and the site is cleaned up. The money invested in the gorgeous new furnishings enhanced with styling and a proper project ‘reveal’. Much like a Corporate product launch, it will be a fizzer if not managed correctly and without a project timeline that allows the powers that be to deliver to the very best of their ability and talent.
What is the message here? The message is that like the Corporate product launches, unless we have a skilled & experienced person running the installation process our clients will have a less than stellar service experience. I can’t blame my clients in the past for wanting to save money by project managing my design plan. Fortunately, I recently put a red cross through ever letting my client manage an installation again. For my clients to save money, I allowed them to receive deliveries and hope that the delivery people would lay rugs, place furniture and basically make the room look beautiful. You probably already know that this didn’t happen, and that the client was only left with anxiety and frustration over what should be an exciting project finale. After groundhog day set in more than a few times, I knew I needed to instigate my ‘Turnkey’ only Installation Process.
Before I introduced my Turnkey Installation Process [and ruled out the client managing any deliveries and layout of furniture], I would receive phone calls. ‘Adam, I think the chaise you custom made is a little too big, but don’t worry I am ok for you to return it’. Oh no! I thought! I can’t just return custom pieces. What will I do now? Although I had agreed to forfeit my role in working with the delivery staff to position my pieces properly, I was still called on to assess each of these ‘little problems’. The last incident was that the delivery person had simply put the ‘too big ‘chaise too close to other pieces of furniture, as well as laid the floor rug underneath the furniture in an odd position, making the furniture look as if it was too cluttered. The chaise looked too big because the rugs and furniture were not installed in the right places as per the original plan.
What did I learn from this? To initiate a new term that I would only order furniture and fittings if I was allowed to handle the installation. Sharing my trade discounts also buffered much of the cost for me to handle the hard stuff and provide my well deserving client with a beautiful reveal. A little like TV! Now, there is no other option. I find that when I mention these examples to new clients, most would rather pay for an experienced professional to make sure the installation happens as perfectly [or as close to excellent] as possible., as opposed to having to be home around the clock dealing with what were frequently headaches.
Here’s to the celebration of the Turnkey Project!