Tag Archives: Drue Lawlor

“Action Always Beats Intention”

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Having just returned from our 2016 IDS (Interior Design Summit), I thought that the advice and encouragement shared throughout the Summit was worth reinforcing and sharing with everyone – as action does always beat intention.

Ask yourself how many notes you have filed away from seminars and/or conferences you attended – intending to set the world on fire with what you learned – and those notes have remained filed away ever since that event.  Personally I have been there!  I have cleaned out files and come across great information 10+ years after the event, having never looked at it since that event!  I remember having such great intentions and thoughts of how I would apply whatever I learned, without ever setting a plan of action and identifying priorities.  Consequently as soon as I returned to the office I set those notes on a shelf or put them into a file and let myself get caught up in OPP’s (other people’s priorities) and nothing changed.

A number of years ago I decided I needed to replace intentions with actions.  I hate waste and I was wasting time and money.  It is a waste of time and money to invest in attending events without putting the key nuggets you identify into action, and similarly it is a waste to attend and then ignore the possibilities to make positive changes in your business. Another plus to being proactive is that usually those changes you make in your business will transfer into your personal life.

So, to all of you, whether you attended IDS or not, I want to challenge you to replace intentions with action!  If you are serious about making some changes, then let’s set up a plan of action.  Remember if you fly to events, you can use the time flying home to start on your plan of action and if any team members are with you, all the better to be able to use that time away from the office.

1.    Make the decision to turn intentions into action.

2.    Immediately calendar at least 2 hours per week for planning/thinking time – then use the first

3.    Use bullet points to make a quick list of all that you learned that you want to apply in your business

4.    Quickly prioritize that list – you may think you need it all immediately but you need to identify an order in which you can make changes.

5.    As we always encourage – identify just 3 items that you will address immediately.

6.    Calendar/schedule action!

7.    Remember, you must energize your team to “own” and accelerate those actions/changes and be sure those changes become rooted into your business to be sure they do not become a “flash in the pan”.

Finally, once you have set these 3 changes in motion, move down the list, identify the next 3 items you want to address and follow the same process to continue to drive your business forward.

To paraphrase from Gandhi:  “Be the change you wish to see”

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How Decisive Are You?

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

There is a wonderful quote I found that states:  “Be decisive.  Right or wrong, make a decision.  The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” (Author unknown).   How quickly do you make decisions?

Too often we see designers who get so frustrated with clients who can’t make decisions (a quick decision maker might be something to add to your “ideal client profile”!), and yet those same designers may not have stopped to realize that they are not quick decision makers for their own business.  They may be plagued by what we often refer to as “analysis paralysis” – or overanalyzing and over researching the situation.

In an article by John Whittaker, marketing director of information management solutions at Dell Software, he states: “There’s a growing tendency in business today, from seasoned executives and newly minted MBAs alike, to overanalyze things. Because we’re in a digital age where there’s so much information available, we tend to think that, regardless of where we are in the decision-making process, there’s always more information out there that could help us better determine the right course of action ….”.  Does that sound like you?

One way to speed up the process is to do a quick SWOT analysis.  This process is something I learned a number of years ago when first introduced to strategic planning and I have found it one of the most valuable tools to use.  SWOT is the acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  When using the SWOT analysis, you are identifying your firm’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as the external opportunities and threats.  Make a quick list for each of the 4 categories.  It will help you focus on your firm’s strengths, minimize threats and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to your firm.

Whether the decision relates to taking on a challenging client/job, restructure your business or make adjustments to your model, expand your business or solidify what you have but increase profits — whatever the decision you are grappling with, calendar the time and then gather the information, do a SWOT analysis and then move forward!

There is so much information available that it’s easy for leaders to get caught up in what we call “analysis paralysis” and become unable to make a decision.  But remember, the most important quality a leader, and CEO of a firm can have is decisiveness.

You can’t be afraid to make a mistake.  After all, you can always make a course correction if needed, but more importantly is the fact that you cannot make up for failing to take action when that action was needed.  So keep reminding yourself that making the wrong decision is not the end of the world and as actress Keri Russell states, “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.”

So do that SWOT analysis, make that decision, and take action.

Actions prove who someone is.  Words prove who they want to be.


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Avoiding Contract Controversies

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Do you get frustrated because you feel your client has not read your contract?  Are you sometimes left wondering why a client has not responded once they received the contract?  Or worse, they decide not to hire your firm and you feel it was something in “the contract” that did it!

There are two key issues that I feel will solve these problems.  First is having a well-developed contract (reviewed by your attorney), and second is how you deliver it.

So having a great contract is extremely important – but there is no “one size fits all”.  The legal parts of the contract can be the same for every contract, but the “meat” of the agreement is the Scope of Services and what each party’s responsibilities will be.  If you have done your homework and effectively interviewed the prospective clients you should be very clear as to what services they want you to cover.  Along with that you want to clarify the responsibilities of each party so there are no misunderstandings later.  Communication is most often the culprit in any dispute and having it in writing is critical.  I like to say, when in doubt, write it down.

Having said that, verbal communication is also important as so many problems are solved, or avoided by clarifying that what you heard/read is truly what the other person said/meant.  So this leads us to the second issue which is how you deliver the contract. I recommend that you never just send off a contract to a client – whether by “snail mail” or electronically.

In a perfect world you would personally deliver the contract to the client and sit down and go over it with them – and as you do so, you periodically stop to ask if they would like anything clarified, do they have any questions, are there any adjustments needed, have you captured everything they want your firm to handle and basically making sure that they understand what is written and it meets their expectations.

But in today’s world your client may not live in your area or even in the same country, so you move to Plan B.  What that involves is arranging a and set a phone appointment with the client and using a service like Go To Meeting.  This type of service allows you to talk to the client while sharing your screen where you have pulled up the document.  You can then review it with your client, make any adjustments necessary, and then send it off to them at the end of the call.

Taking the time to always review the contract “in person” with the client gives you the opportunity to address any misunderstandings immediately.   Learn to send effective messages while being an effective listener – and never forget the value of feedback.   As George Bernard Shaw put it, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.


  1. Roberta Martin
    In doing this I have felt a bit awkward. Does one of us read it out loud to the other, or do we both sit together reading silence? I am never sure what is the “comfortable” thing to do. If I read it aloud, it feels like I am treating my client as if they are a kindergartner.

    What do you think is best?


  2. Larry N. Deutsch, ASID
    I read my Letter of Agreement (so titled to remove the harshness of the contract’s formality). I pause at each paragraph to see, and ask, if there is further clarification needed. Often a client will state that all is understood. At that time I bring up one or two issues that others have questioned and I ask again if there is any further clarification needed. Usually there is additional discussion at that time.

  3. Ray-Lee
    As opposed to reafing the agreement verbatim, I often go through the agreement explaining the paragraphs. I would say something like ” The next 3 paragraphs covers our fees. Our first billing of $$$ covers ABC, which is due today. Then if you would like us to handle XYZ, that will additional charge of $$$” At the end of discussing those paragraphs, I would ask a question pertaining to what was covered to make sure they understand and is paying attention. I may ask something like ” Would you like to set-up recurring payments on a designated card? I make this more a discusion than just reading which can be very uncomfortable for both of us. I never allow them to brush it aside saying they will read it later. I respond with ” Oh, oh I wanted to point out something”


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5 Suggestions to Find and Attract Your Ideal Client

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Have you clearly defined who you are?  Hopefully you will admit that you can’t be one-size-fits-all taking any clients who will hire you.  But you won’t be able to attract those ideal clients if you can’t define your business and what you do best.  What do you answer when someone asks about your business?  Before you begin searching for your firm’s ideal clients, you need to clearly identify your tagline and your unique selling proposition.  Everyone on your team needs to be able to have a powerful and concise answer that quickly identifies what makes your firm stand out from your competitors.

Do you really know your competitors? How can you share what sets you apart from those competitors if you know little to nothing about them?  Study them thoroughly and regularly and understand where they succeed and where they fail.  This knowledge will help you find openings for your firm to find more ideal clients and possibly understand what you need to improve to find and attract more of your ideal clients.

Do you regularly educate yourself?  This includes reading the material related to our industry and focusing on what leaders in the industry are saying about the future of our industry.  Just set aside a short time each week to keep up on this type of news.  If you have alerts set up for key terms in our industry, have them delivered just once a week – you don’t want this to take too much time away from your billable activities

Do you mix and mingle with your peers to get their input to more clearly understand who would be interested in your services?  You can also take advantage of the opportunity created to gather information from those ideal clients whom you wish to attract – or those directly connected to those ideal clients.  You can connect with them by conducting interviews or surveys which can offer a way to reach people you might either hesitate to approach or with whom you do not normally mingle.

And the last question is, how visible are you in the community where your ideal clients are active?  If this “community” is not in your geographical area then this visibility will need to be through articles printed in their local news media, blogs, etc. But if you are trying to attract ideal clients in your general geographic area then first identify where they spend time (chamber events, children’s events, specific non-profit groups, etc.) and take advantage of opportunities presented.  If you have a chance to give a short talk to one or more of these groups, that can be very effective.  Keep it short and focused on a topic of interest to them and related to your expertise.

If you are prepared with a plan, you will find that you will be able to attract your ideal clients as they understand that you have the knowledge and expertise to be a resource for them.

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Know Your Value & Charge What You’re Worth

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Photo by Dana McGrath

Are you truly charging what you’re worth? Do you ever find yourself questioning whether to cut your fee to “capture” a client/job?

I’m sure you have heard the advice before to focus on value, not on price. But do your actions show that you are acting on this advice or just nodding your head and then retreating to a fear mentality – what if I’m charging too much?

As in so many areas of life, changing mindset is the key to changing behavior. But first examine if you really want to change – or would you rather be the “poor me” character? After all, there are those who really don’t want any help to change, they just want someone to listen to them whine. You may need to be honest with yourself and admit if this is you.

So, first ask yourself what are your goals when you engage in fear mentality? What do you get out of that type of behavior?

Then ask yourself what you can do to stop this behavior – and are you really serious about stopping it?

Now, if you’re truly serious about learning how to charge what you’re worth, you can do so, and to help, here are 3 key things to practice.

1. Don’t be the designer offering your services/products for less. It’s really as simple as making that decision and adhering to it. Congratulations – you’re on
your way!

2. Understand your value. Set time aside to spend with someone who will be honest with you and help you understand the true value you provide to your
clients. This can be a friend, ideal client, or one of the resources with whom you work, but it helps to have that outside view when brainstorming. This activity
needs to be top priority and will greatly help change your mindset. Ask yourself some questions such as how long it took you to acquire your expertise? How
much have you invested in improving your proficiency? How long have you been in design? On a scale of 1 to 10 where was your expertise when you first
started and where are you now? What new information, tools, etc. have you added to your business in the past year? How has this added to your value?

3. Identify and then work with your ideal clients. Often the clients who are so price-focused will be the ones who are the most challenging. They are the ones
who often create self-doubt and who leave you feeling frustrated and undervalued. If you want to charge what you’re worth you must market to those clients
who will value your services and will therefore pay you accordingly.

The change may not happen overnight, but eliminate those negative beliefs and surround yourself with those who will support you on this journey. Make it a habit for your team to start each day posting a positive quote or statement and don’t let negativity get hold. Make it fun – and be sure to celebrate the successes!

Continue reading Know Your Value & Charge What You’re Worth

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