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Design Coaching Center: Putting Your Company Culture to Work

Gail Doby, Co-Founder and CVO of Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting, is passionate about helping interior designers unlock their potential.

By Diane Falvey
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Building a healthy culture is like flossing every day. Whichever employee you don’t want to lose requires daily nurturing and attention from you and your leadership team. Culture-building is one of the most important skills we teach our clients during their first VIP day (one of Gail Doby’s coaching programs). Cheryl Stauffer, owner of Crimson Design Group, and Christi Barbour, co-owner of Barbour Spangle Design, are two savvy entrepreneurs we’ve had the pleasure of coaching, and you’ll see from the following lessons that they’ve elevated culture to a new level.

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Cheryl Stauffer

Crimson Design Group

Born in Paraguay to two Mennonite missionaries, Cheryl Stauffer has long been interested in the way our surroundings influence who we are and who we want to be. Natural beauty shaped Cheryl’s childhood and continues to guide her work as Crimson Design Group’s fearless leader. In every project, CDG aims to cultivate a sense of grand, transportive wonder in spaces made for daily living. Through unexpected color and texture, thoughtful details and general rule-breaking, Crimson Design Group creates spaces that serve and delight the people who experience them. 


1. What are some of the most impactful things that you’ve implemented to build a successful culture?  

We take time to celebrate what’s important in our employees’ lives and all their big wins. It is important to us to value each other’s company and well-being by holding team lunches and team wellness events each month. We cook together and do fun creative events together.   

   Once a year, we do a two-day company retreat off-site to allow everyone on our team to give feedback on areas where we need to improve and what we do well, and really focusing on our culture.   

We have also defined our core values which defines how we select and maintain our members. 


2. Why or how do you think a healthy culture has positively impacted your team and employees? 

It has enabled a relaxed and professional environment. We know how to play hard and work hard. I believe at the core of building a good culture is valuing each person on the team, really taking the time to know who they are and who we need them to be at work. We want to be part of their personal and professional development. We have created a family environment here at Crimson. 


3. As you look forward, what are some of your plans for improving your culture? 

We really listen to our employees. We did a company survey, and the most important benefit was adding health insurance for our team members and therefore, we are implementing it this year. 


4. If you were a new business owner, how important is it to have a clearly defined culture? 

It’s the number one thing to focus on. It’s about people, and people are the ones driving your business forward.


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Christi Barbour

Barbour Spangle Design

hristi Barbour is the Founder and Partner of the multi-faceted, award-winning Barbour Spangle Design located in High Point, NC. She and her team are uniquely situated at the intersection of the residential, showroom and commercial design worlds. Their work in all channels of design informs their ability to envision more, source wider and bring better ideas to their clients. Their strong culture and experienced team guarantees that no one will care about your project more than they do. 

In the Fall of 2021, Barbour assumed the role of Vice Chair of The High Point Market Authority after serving on the board and executive committee for three years. Christi is the founder of the 501(c)3 non-profit High Point Discovered, an organization that connects, communicates and catalyzes growth in the city of High Point. 


1. What are some of the most impactful things that you’ve implemented to build a successful culture? 

Creating a culture that is reflective of who we are collectively as humans and not aspirational, which can feel unattainable. Unlike pay, perks and promotions, culture has a rather elusive quality that stands in a class all its own. We didn’t intentionally set out to create a culture-driven workplace, but we instinctively knew what we didn’t want, which helped us to define the kind of workplace we wanted. And so we have created a company where we put people first. This mindset has helped us to create a successful culture that our team loves.  

I would add that our culture is successful because it’s a part of our day-to-day. We hire by our culture. We believe you can train someone on your processes and help them develop skills, but if your employees don’t believe in your culture, you’ll see an impact in every facet of your operation and relationships. Our employees lived our culture before they came to BSD; we just created a work environment where those people flourish and thrive. 


2. Why or how do you think a healthy culture has positively impacted your team and employees? 

Having a strong culture is like having a guidebook to making all the right decisions. For example, one of our designers recently shared that she knew when the team makes decisions based on our culture, leadership will always support them and have their back. In this example, being able to make decisions autonomously knowing you will have support is exemplary of how a healthy culture will have a positive impact on your team.   

Our culture takes the guesswork out of what we believe and value. We also hold each other accountable and praise each other. And because of what I previously mentioned (that we lived and believed in our culture before BSD) we feel “safe” – safe to challenge each other, safe to grow, safe to create. And that freedom is important in a creative setting.   


3. As you look forward, what are some of your plans for improving your culture? 

For me personally, improvement is a never-ending cycle. There is always something we can learn or do to improve. Communication is key and involving our team in that communication is very important to us. Just last month we had our team interviewed one-on-one with an outside consultant to gain insights on where we are doing things well and to solicit ideas for continued improvement.  

We are also adapting our culture for growth – when it was an office of 10, it was easier to get a temperature check on everyone. Like everything, a strong culture must evolve with growth. 


4. If you were a new business owner, how important is it to have a clearly defined culture? 

I believe defining the culture you want is just as important as having a business plan or your finances in order. Culture boils down to the values of an organization that is reflected through its people. And if the people in your organization don’t reflect your same values, it will never be as successful as it could be. Many years ago I read the quote: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” I would add to this, “and who you do it with.”     

We are interior designers. But good design isn’t just making the world more beautiful — it’s about making the world better. And that’s exactly what we believe we do by creating an exceptional work environment. 

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