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.

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