When Angela Bonfante, a former client of mine, offered to do a guest post about resiliency, I jumped at the chance. I have always believed the most successful design professionals are the most resilient. Angela’s words of wisdom are spot on….
When I started my interior design business I had a business plan, a marketing plan and a customer service plan. I had worked for the past 21 years in sales so I thought I fully understood the secrets to a successful business which included having a plan and great customer service. I thought to myself, I know design, I have been in business for years, I know people, this business will be fun.” No problem.
Are you laughing yet? Because I am. I was so naive when starting my business. I look back and now I can laugh, but back then, I often wanted to cry. I realized that owning a design business comes with unforeseen issues and circumstances that serve to undermine projects and disappoint clients. Sometimes these issues are from an error of our own, but the majority of the time, problems that arise are beyond our control. Still, being the business owner, we are responsible for resolving these problems and keeping the client happy.
Most designers are blindsided daily with unexpected backorders, discontinued fabrics, delays in production and shipping issues. It can be truly disheartening to watch the trajectory of a well done job quickly take a turn for the worst. How the issue is handled makes all the difference as does handling it without losing money and more importantly losing valuable time.
The most successful business owners are incredibly good at being able to manage client expectations and manage their own emotions while remaining focused on the outcome of negative situations. They are able to recover from a set back quickly and then move on to business as usual.
A change in the game does not change their focus or send them spinning off in the wrong direction. These people have resiliency defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties ” and “the ability of an object to spring back into shape” (Google, 2017).
Resiliency is an emotional elasticity that allows us to “bounce back” when life throws us the inevitable curve ball. We can prepare ourselves for the worst by setting in motion the three laws of resiliency. I promise you if you practice the following laws you will have a confidence in your ability to handle anything while remaining calm and focused in the face of adversity.
Law #1 Managing Expectations
Managing client expectations frees everyone from “assuming” how things will go. In design, the client, the designer and the contractors all have pictures in our minds of the process we are undertaking and what the outcome of the project will look like. When these pictures do not align properly, there is the opportunity for issues to arise.
Communication is the key to success. At the beginning of a project, letting clients know how things will work, what the process with look like, and how issues will be handled along the way will help to eliminate assumptions.
Letting clients know that there is a possibility that issues will arise along the way, delays may happen, and that you will handle them, find solutions, and keep the communication lines open, really helps everyone to understand what to expect. This honesty reflects your commitment to to the client and their project, allows them to understand issues do arise but not to be alarmed, and that you are perfectly capable of handling these issues.
Law #2 Keep the End in Mind
A key trait of resiliency is the ability to create a plan and then follow it through with success. A vision that is focused on the end result allows us to remain clear on what matters most.
Setbacks are to be expected in any project. It is how we handle those setbacks that makes the difference to our success. When we have a clear vision of the end result we are able to focus on resolutions to issues and positive communication with our clients.
When we get caught up in who did what and how the issue came to be, we have a tendency to dwell on the issue versus rectifying the problem. We can get caught up in the blame game and see a small issue as something big instead of giving it the proper perspective. When we have the larger picture in focus we can quickly ascertain what really matters.
So let go of the resentment, focus on solutions, and keep an eye on the end result. This keeps our energy focused on positive solutions.
Law # 3 Practice Integrity
Honesty and integrity will win long term clients and referrals. When you are blindsided it is often tempting to hide behind excuses when explaining issues to a client. If it is your fault or someone who works for you it is easy to feel embarrassed and fear a negative reaction from the client. Do not allow fear to dictate how you will handle the situation. Clients appreciate honesty and expect us to be able to handle the situations that arise.
Whatever you do commit yourself to honest communication and humility. We are all human and we understand innately that each of us makes mistakes. When we demonstrate humility and honesty in the face of an issue it endears us to our clients. Whatever this issue be honest and forthcoming and explain exactly what you are doing to solve the problem.
Putting these three laws in place in your design business will free you from dwelling on issues out of your control and ruminating on mistakes. Take action to communicate and manage client expectations, stay focused on the outcomes, and lead with honesty and humility. You can then focus on design while standing strong in the full confidence of your ability to handle anything that comes your way.
Angela Bonfante, a highly talented interior designer, is also a skilled coach, author and public speaker. Check out her website at http://angelabonfante.com.