Navigating Interior Design Business Development: Expansion

Hierarchy of Needs The Team
Navigating Interior Design Business Development


The final section and the pinnacle of the pyramid is growth. That can take many different forms, from better aligned and profitable clients, to expanded demographics or product lines and new revenue streams. As you hit this focus and make any adjustments, know that this is a cycle. That means that any changes you make at the growth strategy stage, will need to be carried down to the bottom so that your foundation, team and biz development layers can adjust to support the updated vision.

  • Marketing and Outreach Plan
  • Online Presence / Site / Social Media Outreach Plan
  • Publication Outreach Plan
  • Photography Plan
  • Brand Extension Plan
  • Passive Income Plan (if applicable)
  • Exit Strategy Established

I know this seems like a lot to tackle, and it is, but you are doing all of this already in some form. Using this Hierarchy of Needs will help you to figure out where you are in your process and what you need to do next. Keep in mind that this is a continual process, meaning you may cover each of these sections on a cursory level, stabilize then go through them again and develop each section more fully. Then stabilize and do it again. It’s a bit like life, we go through one layer of development at a time.

This is a perfect time for all of us to look at our businesses in a new way. Let’s move forward unafraid to reinvent and reorganize. If there was ever a year to do that, it is now! So have fresh eyes, be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to really stretch yourself to dream a more fulfilling dream. You got this and if you want help building your business please reach out. I’d love to talk with you.


Navigating Interior Design Business Development: Positioning

Hierarchy of Needs The Team
Navigating Interior Design Business Development



This is usually everyone’s favorite area of business development. Crafting and refining the experience you bring your clients through is paramount. It needs to be on brand and sync up with the promise of your firm and your brand anchors. The key is to answer the needs of your clients at each juncture and do it in a branded way.

  • New Client Welcome Package
  • New Client “What to Expect” Document
  • Milestone Gifting Procedure
  • Onsite Code of Conduct
  • In Office Client Meeting Code of Conduct
  • In Office Client Meeting Experience Protocol
  • Signature Snack
  • Client Referral Method
  • Client Weekly Update Method
  • Installation Protocol
  • Post Project Protocol
  • Post Project Survey
  • Past Client Outreach Program
  • VIP Binder with Preferences/Birthdays/Gifting Information/Etc.

You had a strategy at the beginning when you started, but by this phase in your growth, you will need to reassess and refine. You have more distinctions now, more knowledge and more resources to expand upon what you’ve built thus far. Regardless of how far along the growth curve you are, you will need a strategy check in every year to stay on track.

  • 2-5 Advisors Selected for Annual Strategy Session
  • Clarity on Business Objectives and Timeline with Action Items
  • List of Assets
  • List of Weaknesses
  • Development Plan
  • List of Opportunities
  • Clear Growth Trajectory
  • Actions Needed to Achieve Milestones

You of course, have been doing some form of marketing all along, even if its just been social media, but the outreach portion of your business takes on a new kind of focus as the engine of your business begins to coast and your strategy includes some version of a brand expansion. Your marketing approach will need to be adjusted and refined so they are more directly supporting your company mission and brand.

  • Congruency at All Points of Contact with Potential Clients
  • Social Media Outreach Plan
  • Website Conversions Plan (Viewer into Client)
  • SEO Plan
  • Referral Network Established & Plan of Action
  • Community Group & Client Attraction Plan
  • Online and Print Marketing Plans (if applicable)

We’re almost to the top! Next post I’ll be talking about expansion and growing your business.

Navigating Interior Design Business Development: The Team

Hierarchy of Needs The Team
Navigating Interior Design Business Development

The Team

Hierarchy of Needs The Team

Let’s talk about your team and the roles each of you play. This section is commonly overlooked. You need to be clear about your role, especially if you have a partner. As the leader, you will also need to incorporate a self-mastery component, like self-care, recharge methods and personal development so that you can continue to lead effectively.


  • Designer
  • Junior Designer
  • Expeditor
  • Office Manager
  • Principal Designer

Each role should have the following:

  • Accountability Chart
  • Job Description
  • Mentor/Consultant/Group for Support, Learning & Guidance
  • Self Objectives & Timelines
  • Self-Care Program/Guideline
  • Plan for Learning & Leadership Development
  • Plan for Facilitating Company Development

Not every design firm needs all of these roles in their fullest sense, as in full-time hires. That being said, these roles are the intrinsic parts of the engine. There are many ways these roles can be satisfied, either 1099, part time, combined with another role or outsourced. Most firms grow through a few of these methods as they slowly expand. Regardless of the way you construct your team short or long term, you will need to consciously devise a structure that demands less of your time as the CEO, doing the technician duties and more time on high level client, design vision, billable and business development work; your zone of genius essentially. Same with the support roles, keep each role in their lane, without too much crossover. This keeps everyone in their zone of genius and keeps the design team billable as much as possible.

  • Job Description / Accountability Chart/ Job Posting
  • Offer Letter and onboarding documents
  • Training Documents, Videos, Resources & Training Checklist
  • Support Methods
  • Weekly/Monthly Check-In Meetings
  • 90 day / 6 month and annual review self-assessment and review with Principal guidance
  • Growth Track for each role

I’d love to know what works for your team, share it with me in the comments!

Next we’ll talk about positioning and how to get your ideal clients.

Navigating Interior Design Business Development: The Foundation

Hierarchy Chart Foundation
Navigating Interior Design Business Development

The Foundation

Hierarchy Chart Foundation

The FOUNDATION level of the hierarchy of needs is all about setting up the infrastructure and systems that will enable you to incorporate a team, outsourced support and utilize well all manner of resources, into your firm. Without this foundational work, getting your processes and payroll dollar to translate into efficiency and profit will be very difficult. Things will feel disjointed and disorganized. Too much will be in your brain and getting team members to click in, be proactive and experience long periods of high levels of concentration will be unattainable. Setting up a well-conceived foundation enables all the transactions of business to actually be absorbed well and processed effectively.

Company Assessment

All growth begins with understanding your starting point and your target. You will want to gauge where you are and what kind of lifestyle and business you are building.

Determine lifestyle goal and how that translates into the type of business you want

Clarify business goals

Determine strengths and deficits in your business as it stands

Determine strengths and deficits in your personal development as a leader

Make sure your business goals facilitate the lifestyle you are building

Make sure the business you envision are authentic and incorporate your values

Company Identity

This section of your foundation is all about establishing the culture of your firm. Know what your brand stands for, what your brand anchors are and be clear about what you do and who you do it for.

Key Characteristics Defined

Company Manifesto & Promise Defined

Ideal Client Defined

Ideal Client’s Intangible Needs Defined

Team Code of Ethics and Guiding Principles Defined

Business Documents

This section is about getting your ducks in a row. Basic documents and standard operating procedures.

Client Contracts, Proposals, PO’s and Transactional Documents

Vendor/Contractor Code of Conduct & Operating Procedures

1099 Contracts

1099 & Employee Nondisclosure/Confidentiality/Non-Compete Agreements

Operations Manual / Standard Operating Procedures for team – even 1099’s

Office Logistics

Think of section 4 as all of the small connections that happen between the big moving parts of the company structure. How do they connect? What are the pass offs? Where are things kept? What are the rules around how things are done? How are they tracked or monitored etc.?

Technology platforms

Time Billing Protocol

Mileage & Reimbursables Protocol

Office Equipment Maintenance

Contact List & Maintenance Protocol

Digital File Directory Organization Protocol

Online Properties Information & Maintenance Protocol


You’ve got to be prepared to make and spend a lot of money and do it in a way that is easily administered, tracked and monitored. The system is best if it is integrated with the design process. Make sure to have routine reports and protocols in place that happen automatically, meaning you do not have to ask for them. They should be part of the normal office routine.

As the CEO you should not be searching, and constantly pulling information. This information should be organized in a way that helps you navigate your firm, not just raw numbers. It should be pushed to you automatically at regular intervals, weekly or monthly. If you’re having to continually ask for it, something is wrong.

Financial Plan/Milestones

Time Billing Tracking & Invoicing

Billing Protocol

Purchase Order Procedures

Monthly/Bi-Monthly Financial Reporting Protocol

Deposits and Banking Protocol

Job Cost Tracking & Reporting Protocol

Monthly CEO Financial Review Protocol

Navigating Time Scheduled into Calendar

CEO Quarterly Meeting with Accountant

Project Management

Project Management is where the foundational structures begin to engage and click into motion. Moving parts that interact with clients, vendors and the design team have to sync up and engage with each other in anticipated and a predetermined manner. It is your job as the CEO to facilitate smooth operational processes and optimized tools.

Client Presentation Protocol

New Project Workload Scheduling Protocol

New Client Protocol

New Client Set Up Procedure

Design Process Flow Chart

Weekly Team Sync Method

Design Development Method

Office Rhythm Method

Inter-Office Communication Flow Protocol

Installation Checklist & Protocol

Punch List/Project Wrap-up Procedure

Proposal & Ordering Protocol

Scheduling & Project Management Procedures

Centralized Data/Project Management System

Managing Images Protocol

Team Management

This is the last piece of the foundation of your firm. This is where you prepare specifically for building out your team. You’ll want to provide them with not only the organizational structures of the rest of your foundation, but well-conceived H/R resources and structure around their employment and role.

Hierarchy Chart

Updated Team Job Descriptions

90 Day/1 Year Review Schedule

Review Forms & Procedure

Bonus Structure

Bi-Annual Team Building

New Team Member Orientation Packet

New Team Member Training Checklist & Procedure

And that’s it. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts.

Next we’ll dive into the team and the roles each member plays.

Navigating Interior Design Business Development

Hierarchy of Needs

Navigating Interior Design Business Development

Hierarchy of Needs

The interior design sector has gone through a lot of changes over the last year, but continues to move forward and in many cases, is booming. I am seeing a lot of growth despite the uncertainty, and for many of you, the need to grow your business is becoming more evident. It is different now though. As we all have gone through a purging process and come to terms with the things we need and the things that are not truly important, rebuilding our lives and our businesses more intentionally has become paramount.

This is the time to retool, reorganize and build our firms more strategically. Today I want to focus on the foundational aspects of your design firm. We’re going back to the basics so you can visualize your business development as a whole and then map out your growth track.

That clarity is going to serve as the roadmap for your year ahead. It will be better this time, more organized, polished, efficient and in many ways, easier. Your energy will be more on point and your team and processes will truly facilitate the level of service you know you are capable of. The first step in constructing a better business is breaking it into its pieces and understanding how your plan fits into the bigger picture.

Do you remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Maslow was a psychologist that created a pyramid of 5 levels of development. He asserted that in order to rise to the next tier, you had to satisfy the level below.

Maslow's Need Chart

I realized years ago that the same premise applies to interior design firms and I created a hierarchy of needs for our industry. As you develop your firm, this model will help you to understand your gaps, next steps and the overarching construct of your business, a bit like the blueprint for your firm.

Over the next few days, I’m going to break down each level and section within each level. You can use it to plot your moves as you navigate business development.

The FOUNDATION level of the hierarchy of needs is all about setting up the infrastructure and systems that will enable you to incorporate a team, outsourced support and utilize well all manner of resources, into your firm. Without this foundational work, getting your processes and payroll dollar to translate into efficiency and profit will be very difficult. Things will feel disjointed and disorganized. Too much will be in your brain and getting team members to click in, be proactive and experience long periods of high levels of concentration will be unattainable. Setting up a well-conceived foundation enables all the transactions of business to actually be absorbed well and processed effectively.

In the next post I will discuss the foundation of your business. Stay tuned!

BOLD by Design Magazine

A magazine, why a magazine?

As I laid awake at 4:30 in the morning, struggling to fall asleep, my internal light bulb went off and it wouldn’t stop flashing visions of magazine covers, articles and friends I could feature, traveling to grand resorts to do interviews, and bold new products to feature. Visions of grandeur and grit swirled a dreamscape in my drowsy imagination, making my heart beat faster despite my need for more sleep. The next few days the question lingered as I pondered my next challenge.

BOLD–Business of Luxury Design–needed something new. Or, maybe I was just getting bored. As if an international consulting firm and the luxury BOLD Summit business conference wasn’t enough, right!? And I literally know nothing about doing a magazine, I thought.

Then I remembered something I hadn’t thought of for decades. I was shocked when I realized that I’ve done this before, kind of. A long-forgotten memory emerged. It was sixth grade, I was sweet, meek, a little dorky, and I didn’t have cool clothes to wear. I had no older siblings to show me the ropes. I needed a haircut and fashion advice terribly. Being a late bloomer and 2 sizes smaller than other kids my age, I wore a lot of uncool hand me downs and a scuffed-up pair of brown penny loafers with fringe that curled up at the ends. But I was a straight A student and I had ideas for my school, Mark Twain Elementary. I wanted to fix up our playground and create a donations table for extra lunch food kids didn’t want. I decided I would put my name in to be class President.

I made posters and a speech. I wore my favorite bright yellow pleated dress, that flared out like a flower when I twirled, to give my speech in. I went up on the stage in front of the school and told them all my great ideas. I was terrified. When I was done, I think a total of 3 people clapped, until they realized no one else was, and then they awkwardly stopped. The whole day everyone made fun of my fancy yellow dress. I told them that I didn’t ‘dress up’ for the speech, I just randomly felt like wearing it. My first experience (but definitely not the last) in being fabulously overdressed. At the end of the next day, the results were announced over the classroom intercom. The Principal announced that Marci won. Marci!? I sunk in my chair. Perfect, blonde, Jordache jean wearing, snotty, little miss popular won! She didn’t even have a speech! She simply said “Hi” and laughed as everyone cheered. Really?

Broken and confused, I went in to talk to the Principal, Mr. Gooch, after school. Again, I was terrified. I told him I thought it was unfair. He agreed. He gave me a hug. Then he suggested I do what I wanted to do anyway and that I could still influence the school. He suggested I start a magazine. Brilliant! So that’s what I did!

I drew pictures of the revamped playground with new equipment and more loungy benches, complete with full landscaping, of course. I had my quirky friends draw dungeons and dragons’ comics. I interviewed my Principal and the lunch ladies and included photos I took with my first camera I had just gotten for my birthday. I wrote the articles out on pieces of paper in my best handwriting and taped them together.

The ladies in the office made copies for me and I distributed my very first magazine and called it “The Mark Twain Times”, at a ripe age of 12. I think I had two editions and yes, I did manage to get a table set up in the lunchroom. I made a big poster that said, “Share your lunch”, with Lisa Frank and Hello Kitty stickers on it (Ooooo, Fancy!). And I know that at least for a semester, a few kids that normally got nothing more than peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks for lunch got the sweet paradise that was donated boxes of animal crackers, with the string handle, Oreo’s, and a rare Twinkie. It was not much of a legacy, but I did it. And that is how it all began. That was my first magazine. And now you could say, BOLD by Design, is my encore.

A lot has changed since then. But as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I can still be meek, but I work hard to be brave and BOLD every day. I still have quirky friends and I absolutely ADORE them.

I still have a lot of ideas on how to make the world a better place. I am still a little rough around the edges at times and yes, I’m still FABULOUSLY overdressed unless I’m in yoga pants, which is pretty much all the rest of the time.

I’m ready to change the world. I’m ready to share the BOLD vision. I’m ready to step onto that big stage in my bright yellow dress that flairs out like a flower when I twirl.

Yes, I’m ready to be BOLD.

So…let’s begin, shall we?


My Dear Friends,

How are you holding up?  It’s been an intense few weeks and as the situation evolves, life is feeling rather surreal. I live in Portland, Oregon, in Washington county where the most cases are. We are on full lock down now. My 11year old son, William has been out of school for a couple weeks. He came down with a fever a bit ago. He recovered quickly, but I was so frustrated that I couldn’t get him tested. They could only test 40 people a day here and were testing only those very sick. Just absurd! Other than that, we are fine.

I’ve had my ups and downs. My emotions span intense sadness to gratitude for the global reboot and quiet time.  I posted a very personal video on insta @juliamolloy1 yesterday sharing an awareness that in order for me to move fully into solution mode, I really needed to get in touch with my grief and sense of loss. It was uncomfortable sharing such a vulnerable moment, but I know so many of you are feeling waves of sadness too. It seems that everyone is staying positive and ready to work through the current issues all gung ho. For the first couple weeks, I was a little numb. It wasn’t until yesterday that I allowed myself to grieve. I wanted to make sure you know that it’s OK to go through that sadness and you are not alone in that. I think we are all on an emotional roller coaster these days. I know for me, it was necessary that I process those emotions before I could really move forward.

Today I woke up feeling better and ready to move into solution mode again. I want to reach out to each of you and remind you that you are not alone in this and that we are in this together. Despite the overwhelming scope of this situation, it is important to step back and remember that it is temporary and we will make it through this. For those of us that survived the recession of ’08 we have first hand experience and know that this too shall pass and we will thrive once again. In the meantime, there are a few things we need to do as we navigate through these rough waters.

Focus on SELF-CARE. This means many different things and they often shift from day to day. A few that I am including in my day are:

Rest – Sleep or rest when your body tells you it’s tired | Staying in touch with our support circle of friends and loved ones  |  Eating healthy  |  Allow our feelings to flow  |  Include things that bring us happiness each day without fail  |  Exercise even if its just stretching or dancing around to music  |  Stick to a daily routine

Center ourselves in LOVE and GRATITUDE. It will ebb and flow, of course, but if we can focus our energy on loving ourselves and our loved ones more intensely than ever and pay attention to all the little blessings this time is offering us, we will maintain a better sense of well-being. A few ideas I am gradually incorporating are:

1. Playing with my son. Really getting into it, with no time limits or distractions. Board games, Disco Nerf battles, making things together etc.

2. Tell people you love them often and let them know the things you appreciate about them

3. Sending out note cards or letters to people that matter to you

4. Indulge in Goddess Bath time – bubbles, bath salts, music, (wine), I even have a glowing unicorn rubber ducky (Anyone who knows me well is not surprised! lol!)

5. Doing a little at home online workout program. (Full disclosure, I haven’t quite been doing my daily workout, but I will get there.)

Get CLARITY around your Business. It is difficult to make decisions with so many unknowns and that can cause a great deal of anxiety.  We do have several indicators and methods to make A and B scenario plans. There are also several key metrics to look at to determine what tough decisions you would have to make and when.

I will be releasing several online videos and courses to help you do this with clarity and confidence, over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are being hit hard, here are a few steps you may want to take immediately:

1. If you rent your space, call your landlord and ask for a hold on rent for 60 or 90  days.

2. Apply for a bank loan or an SBA loan. Some states also have local programs you can apply for.  Stay in the know and apply for whatever financial assistance you qualify for. Do not wait.

3. Go through all of your expenses and auto-pays and eliminate everything you can.

4. If you have student loans, call and ask for a deferment. They are mandated to provide this to you.

5. Some utilities, rent and mortgage companies and other debtors have been instructed to provide grace periods with no penalties. Reach out to them and ask for extensions as needed.

These steps will preserve your working capital so you do not go into panic mode and have a little space to pivot your business.

Next time I will be talking about that pivot, specifically staffing choices and outsourcing scenarios to consider.

Below are a few links to valuable industry interviews and guidance from the best.









I am here with you. We have everything we need to make it through this!

If you need guidance, I am here to help. Click here to schedule a complimentary needs assessment call.

Thanks for being a part of the BOLD community. I appreciate you. Stay safe and healthy and I’ll see you next time.


Julia Molloy

Day 1 – Get Organized with Julia Molloy

Are you ready to GET ORGANIZED?! Now is the time of the year when we refresh, reboot and realign your interior design business for the year ahead. To that end, I am walking you through a 20 day GET ORGANIZED program for your Interior Design Business! I invite you to take advantage of this complimentary 20 days to organized program. Just follow along each business day in February.

I am super jazzed about it. I am giving away 1 free interior design business tool with each day’s assignment. Today, we launch with the Design Firm Systems Checklist. I’ll be walking you through 20 of these . Check of off the items you already have and take advantage of my gift and info each day.

To download Day 1’s document, go to my shop right here on my website,  and follow along all month.

Watch the video above to get started. I’ll say a little hello and then walk you through the Design Firm Systems Checklist.

Let’s DO This!

Download the doc and enjoy!l see you tomorrow!

How many items on the Design Firm Systems Checklist do you already have checked off? LMK in the comments. See you tomorrow!


Julia Molloy