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The Business Lessons Design Pros Are Taking Away From This Crazy Year

The Business Lessons Design Pros Are Taking Away From This Crazy Year


The year 2020 will be one to remember, that’s for sure. For business owners in all fields, it’s been a year full of adjusting, adapting, and plenty of learning. AD PRO asked design professionals to share some of the lessons they’ve learned along the way that they’ll never forget.

Andrew Torrey, principal, BA Torrey

An extremely successful international businessman and client gave me the best advice I received during 2020. He said, “The first day of lockdown is now officially the first day of your business. Everything that came before no longer exists, other than the relationships you have fostered with your clients. If you wait for it to ‘get back to normal,’ your business is already over.”

That wisdom, and the hunger and drive that came with it to survive, helped us immensely. We’ve been able to expand, and hire, and I know how rare that is. For that advice, I am forever grateful.

Jan Showers, principal, Jan Showers Interior Design

One of the most important lessons I learned this year is that I don’t need to be on a plane every week. Turns out, I can handle most situations from where I am. Of course, I miss the contact with the people I was flying to meet, the presentations, and book signings, but I can get quite a lot done working from home. The old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” has certainly proven to be true!

Kesha Franklin, principal, Halden Interiors

I learned that with the sudden increase in demand for interior work, I had to trust my gut in making decisions around what projects and business opportunities were the right fit for my company. Learning how and when to say no is just as important as knowing when to say yes.

Nile Johnson, principal, Nile Johnson Interior Design

Social distancing efforts have made the standard initial in-person consultation challenging and in some cases impossible. Because there is typically a wealth of nonverbal insight into a client’s lifestyle needs when meeting in person, I needed to revise existing prompts and implement additional intake information to focus far more on life and work habits and less on their favorite color. Essentially, deepening the understanding of how my clients want to feel at home became a priority.

Stephen Chrisman, principal, Ferguson & Shamamian Architects

One of my biggest revelations of the past year has been the importance of expanding a home library of trusted architectural books, including downloaded digital books. Our work has such a high degree of reliance of historic precedents that design work is next to impossible without key references to draw inspiration from.

On a personal level, I learned that without house guests, it is quite okay to put your new exercise bike in the living room in front of the fireplace, especially when your college-age son, now learning remotely, has taken over the bedroom formerly known as the “home gym.”

Amanda Gunawan, principal, OWIU Design

As someone who takes comfort in control, not having a grasp on what’s going to happen next has been difficult. But instead of simply acquiescing to change, I am learning how to adapt to it and, most importantly, to trust it.

At OWIU, we used to be so fixated on finding the next job and the one after that. Right now, we have our minds and hearts fully focused on the jobs that we currently have, giving them our all without worrying about the next. And unsurprisingly, new paths have started opening up for us.

Jordan Cashman, owner, Sage Market + Design

One of the biggest things we learned was that you need to always plan for, prepare for, and expect delays. These delays can come in so many forms and involve custom furniture orders, handmade pieces, shipping, and even trades getting backed up and not showing up when expected. All of these things happened to us this year, which was very frustrating, but we will be going into 2021 more prepared for when these delays happen.



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