Don't miss this insightful conversation with LuAnn Nigara, Sandra Funk, Arianne Bellizaire and Peggy Morgans!
Date: September 2, 2021
Time: 12:00 ET
We’ve been discussing process and systems the last couple of months, and I want to share the accomplishments of some of your colleagues — colleagues who have drawn the line in the sand, taken the time out of their work day, week after week and month after month to create a business that is profitable, scalable and satisfying to operate because of duplicatable, documented systems.
Sandra Funk, CEO, House of Funk, NY, NJ, TN
I have known Sandra for many years; in fact, at Window Works we are honored to be her window treatment vendor for her New Jersey and New York projects. From the beginning of our business relationship, Sandra noticeably stood out to me as an intentional, organized business woman. I saw very quickly she was on top of things, she was firm, yet level-headed with her trade partners, she had an eye on the design but she definitely also had an eye on her profit margins. By the time I met her she was a practicing designer for more than 12 years. You might reasonably assume that she had a pretty good handle on her business systems, right?
Not so fast. In 2017, after a panel we did together in Atlanta, we were at the airport and her phone rang. It was an irate client. She began telling me about a string of problems over the last several months. So many projects had problems with vendors, with contractors, with the clients themselves. She explained that more than a few clients either consistently questioned her invoices, like the one on the phone, or they pulled back on previously agreed scope, or, worse, canceled projects altogether. She looked at me and said, “Lu, I just don’t know what to do. Why do I keep getting these bad jobs and bad clients?”
I said, “Sweetie, you know I love you, and you know how much I respect you and your business.” I went on, “But one bad client out of 10 clients, it’s the client. However, five, six, seven bad clients out of 10, it’s the business owner.”
I’ll never forget her face. First, she looked stung. Then she looked a little scared. Then I saw her wheels turning ... then I saw the resolve on her face. Sandra Funk was not going down without a fight and if this problem was hers, she was going to own it and correct it.
Arriving back at her studio, she made a hard decision. She declared to her team, “No new clients until we get this train back on the tracks. We will finish up anything in house but we are not taking any new clients until I am certain we are executing every project to the very best of our abilities — and I’m not talking about our design ability. I’m talking about everything else.” Sandra stopped the speeding train, a very big train, with lots of expenses and responsibilities. She re-grouped.
Over the next six months she and her team, with the advice and expertise from the coaches and consultants she hired, totally systemized every single aspect of her business. From info calls to consults to design proposals to trade days to reveal installs to project closure. Every email, every invoice, every RFQ became a template.
The results were incredible. Now with finite, documented processes and systems, her entire business was transformed. No more complaints about billing, no more canceled contracts, no more working with clients who didn’t value and appreciate her and her firm. It was enjoyable to be at work again; she was joyful and her business was booming!
There was another amazing, unexpected bonus of all of this hard work that none of us could have imagined. The documentation was so detailed and complete that Sandra realized if she made it available to other designers, they too would have a well-run design firm. Designers who wanted proven processes and systems, who wanted to bypass the years of hard and costly lessons and the many months of re-designing the operations of their business could have it ready to go if she shared it with them.
The idea for The Interior Design Standard was born.
Sandra then dedicated the next year to perfecting every detail. She created videos, tutorials and checklists. She pulled back the curtain on her business and included every template, every system, every process. She even included her agreements and contracts in The Interior Design Standard. Sandra didn’t set out to create this to sell and teach to other designers. It was because she dug in so deep into what it actually takes to attract, sign, manage and complete a successful design project, from the big picture systems down to the tiniest processes that when she stood back, she realized she had actually created an exact blueprint for running a profitable design firm.
Four years later when COVID hit, House of Funk didn’t miss a beat. They sailed through seamlessly because every process and system is digitally detailed in Asana as well as in their standard operating procedures (SOP) manual. All information is available to her and her team at any moment. She even moved to Tennessee during the first fall season of COVID, built a home, managed her New Jersey and New York projects, and started doing business in Tennessee, all at the same time. This was possible because Sandra knows, and so does everyone who works for her, exactly how The House of Funk does anything and everything. The company’s client experience is outstanding because it has outstanding duplicatable, documented systems.