Tag Archives: Gail Doby

“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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Should You Expand Your Business?

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

You’ve grown your business to a point where you have a steady stream of clients and projects.  Now you’re thinking what your next move should be.  You have several options.  You can add capacity by hiring staff, outsourcing, or partnering with another designer.  You can diversify by offering new services or developing a line of products. Or, you can expand your business by setting up shop in a new market, moving into another design specialty, or merging with or acquiring another firm.  Which to choose depends on your long-term goals and tolerance for risk.

Adding capacity offers the most flexibility with the least amount of risk.  It allows you to do more of what you are already doing well, and if business slows down, you can adjust by cutting back or downsizing.  If you’re looking for a new challenge, then diversifying may be the way to go, provided you have the marketing and sales skills to promote your new services or products.  Diversifying also involves more of a financial commitment and will take time away from your current business to grow the new one.  You may need to add capacity before taking steps to diversify.

Expanding a business involves the greatest amount of risk and commitment of finances and time.  However, it can be highly rewarding both professionally and financially.  Before deciding to expand, you’ll need to do some market research to determine if there is sufficient demand to support the expansion and, if so, create a marketing plan and budget.  You may also need to develop a personal and business financial plan and secure financing to cover the cost of the expansion and keep the business afloat until it becomes profitable.  If your expansion involves entering into a new area of design, you will want to consider whether to build the firm from scratch or capitalize on an existing firm by executing a partnership, merger or acquisition.

Also, consider whether you want to get further from design work since expansion means hiring and managing more people which entails additional time and often greater stress.

Growth is a natural part of any business’ evolution.  Consider carefully, though, how you want to grow.  Do you want to be spending your time managing two businesses or would you rather be designing?  If the latter, then expansion probably is not a good option for you, unless you partner or merge with someone who will run the business while you direct the design.  Challenge yourself, explore new areas, but keep in mind that your strengths are the foundation of your success, and your first venture needs to be on sound financial footing.


  1. Patricia
    I find your advice to be aware of the big WHY in deciding a direction for growth expansion is honoring the core values of why I am in business in the first place. Thanks for reminding us.


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Design Today: Influence of interior designers is on the rise

Made for the Trade: Latest Issue of Design Today Explores Products, Programs and Profitability for Designers

Design Today Summer 2015

“Everyone knows that we’re in the era of the designer.”

So said a long-time furniture industry veteran at the April High Point Market, and many manufacturers and dealers agree. Fueled by the demands of a consumer market seeking a personalized aesthetic at just about every price point, the rising status of interior designers in the home furnishings industry is dictating a new approach for many companies, and participants on both sides of the trade equation are revising their business strategies in response.

In the latest issue of Design Today (click here to read), Progressive Business Media’s quarterly magazine for interior designers, Universal’s new To the Trade program is profiled along with some of the products that debuted for the line at High Point Market in April. Noteworthy for many reasons, To the Trade is an exciting addition to the supply-side landscape because it offers accessibility to a curated product line that wasn’t previously available from the manufacturer and also because it’s likely to herald the development of similar programs in the future.


Passion and Profit is a new series that will offer practical strategies designers can use to improve their client roster, list of projects and profitability. According to a recent salary survey conducted by Gail Doby and associates, most interior designers don’t feel like they are paid enough for their professional expertise, and Doby is going to highlight strategies and best practices that designers can take to correct substandard salaries.

Product introductions from markets around the world highlight international trends and a recap of some of the best items seen at High Point Market showcase ongoing and future style preferences in upholstery, case goods and accents. Traveling PBM editors also explored the origins of some iconic furniture designs while they were out and about, as well as new interpretations of favored classics.

Additional new features include Street Scene, a snapshot of happening retail destinations and Build the Room, an ongoing segment that will address specific design projects for different rooms in the home. For summer, kitchen product options at multiple price points are front and center.

Technology supports it — and the overwhelming preference for personalized spaces demand it — this era of the designer. Take a look at some of the resources that are going to help interior designers maximize the potential of the shift.

To see the latest issue, click here.

Cindy Hodnett


As the Upholstery/Style Editor for Furniture/Today, I spend my work hours studying the sloping curves of sofa frames, the intricacies of fabric and the nail head trim and button accents that function as jewelry on a piece of upholstery. I research the companies that bring these things together for retailers, and ultimately consumers, and interview industry leaders about their business strategies and where they think furniture is heading in the future. And when traveling, I provide a sneak peek at what I’m seeing, whether at international markets or in High Point or Las Vegas.

I look forward to sharing what I see and I hope you’ll feel free to do the same. Email me at or follow me on Twitter @CynthiaWHodnett.



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Brush Up on Business Etiquette

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

My more experienced clients sometimes confide in me how shocked they are by their junior designers’ lack of proper business etiquette. You could chalk it up to differences in age or generational values. It has occurred to me, though, that there might be more to it than that. If this is their first job in a design firm, they may not know any better. In that case, you need to explain to them the facts of business life.

Part of becoming a professional is learning how to conduct oneself in various business situations. The young designers I meet understand the importance of social etiquette. They have learned from an early age how to get along and tend to be friendly and respectful. While you need social skills to succeed in any profession, business etiquette has its own set of rules that must be learned and mastered. Even in today’s more casual business environment, a certain amount of formality and propriety is still required.

When onboarding new hires, take time to review with them your expectations regarding business etiquette. At minimum, you should discuss your firm’s policies on the following:

  • Punctuality – Arriving to work, meetings, installations, etc. on time is an essential trait of professionalism. Tardiness is not only disrespectful; it is a waste of others’ valuable time.
  • Dress – Clothing should be suitable to the workplace, not sports or leisure wear nor too revealing. For business meetings, dress should be more formal, in keeping with the client’s or business associate’s norms.
  • Communications – External emails and other forms of communication should be clear, coherent, contain sufficient detail to solicit or provide the needed response, and be free of informal slang, abbreviations, misspellings, grammatical errors, etc.
  • Technology – Maintain separate accounts for business and personal communications, data sharing, social networking, etc. Adhere to the firm’s policy on use of devices during meetings. Never put in writing something you would not want another coworker, client or business associate to see.
  • Meetings – Arrive on time and come prepared to contribute. Stay engaged and show respect when others are speaking and for differences of opinion. Participate but do not dominate the conversation.

Whether an inexperienced designer or a frazzled professional, it pays to be mindful of proper business etiquette. Like all good manners, it is most noticed when it’s not followed.

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Creating Your Budget

By Gail Doby, ASID

CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Many designers want to know how to earn more money from their business. I tell them it starts with establishing a budget. It’s a lesson new business owners often learn the hard way after years of bringing in a lot of revenue and realizing less profit than they had hoped. It does not matter how much work you are getting. If you are spending more to do business than you are earning, you can’t make a profit. A budget helps you to anticipate and control expenses so you don’t find yourself in a hole at the end of the year.

In creating your budget, start with the biggest expenses first. I recommend beginning with marketing, as these are sunk costs that can quickly add up. Think about the categories that are the most expensive, such as photography, website design, social media portfolios, branding, and possibly PR or content development. Some of these may be annual costs and some may incur monthly or quarterly. Don’t underestimate what you will need for marketing. There is a lot of competition out there.

Next, determine payroll expenses. Unless you are working strictly solo, this is always the biggest portion of your expense budget—salaries, taxes, insurance and other compensation or benefits, and professional development. Include any anticipated outsourced or freelance services, as well. It is essential that you budget properly for employee expenses, especially if you are considering adding staff sometime during the year (in which case, be sure to budget for the cost of recruiting and training, too).

Don’t forget to pay yourself! That may sound obvious, but many owners do not include their own compensation when compiling their budget. They assume it will come from whatever is “left over” at the end of the year. That’s when they start to fret about how little they are making. Whether it’s in the form of a salary or a draw, calculate your worth to your business and budget to compensate yourself appropriately. Include your own professional development expenses.

These three categories along with your overhead expenses (rent or lease, utilities, supplies, professional services, transportation, travel, dues and fees, etc.) will make up the lion’s share of your expense budget. Once you have established those, budget for the amount of profit you are seeking after all expenses are paid. You now have a target for what you need to earn to come out on top at year’s end, and a useful guide to help you manage your cash flow.

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Why Nightmare Clients Cost You Money

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Designers don’t want nightmare clients, but when business is slow, it is tempting to take any client because it seems like a better idea than having no clients. Is it worth taking a difficult client just to pay the bills? My answer is a resounding “NO!”

Here are a few red flags that warn you of trouble ahead:

1. One of the first questions the prospect asks is “how do you charge.” That indicates they are price shopping and that is never a good client.
2. They are late for your first appointment with no good excuse or apology. Most people are on their best behavior at the very beginning, and things tend to go downhill from there.
3. They are “too easy” saying they want you to make all of the decisions. You’ll be the one that is frustrated when they aren’t happy and they don’t pay your bills.
4. They want several changes on your contract. If you have a contract that’s worked for most of your clients, this could be a sign that they will nitpick your work and your invoices.
5. It’s hard to schedule a time to meet with them. If so, it will be hard to get them to meet to make decisions and move your project along.
6. They want you to hold their hand and be their friend. This means lots of extra non-billable hours.
7. They are too busy reading their text messages or taking calls (unless it is an emergency). You’ll be frustrated by their lack of attention to the details especially with your contract!

It’s crucial to take on clients that fit your values. Drue Lawlor, our Director of Coaching, wrote a blog post about values this year – be sure to read it if you missed it.

What are your top 3 values? If your clients don’t fit those values, you’re headed for challenges.

Why do nightmare clients cost you money?

1. They question bills.
2. They negotiate for better rates (which leaves you frustrated that you are working for less than your ideal clients pay you).
3. They get angry to control you which is stressful and can end up in you walking away with bills they haven’t paid.
4. They micromanage which costs you time and ultimately money.
5. They delay decisions which affect your efficiency and cash flow.
6. You find yourself working extra hard to convince them of your value, and that means more non-billable time.
7. You question your abilities and your confidence sags which means it is harder to get yourself “up” and positive when ideal clients do reach out.
8. You’re too busy trying to make difficult people happy and you spend less time on your good clients leading to other unhappy clients that might have been ideal before they were neglected.
9. Difficult clients make lead to unhappy staff members that make costly mistakes.
10. If you keep taking difficult clients, that can lead to you doubting yourself… and who knows… that could lead to counseling fees!

Just say NO!

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