Unless you have been growing your business under the rock lately, you most likely have learned that systems and processes are what keep your business and life in great shape.
In my work, I build systems for interior designers and other small businesses. I work with design entrepreneurs and many other small business owners, who want more life and more cash, doing what they love and are exceptionally great at. Systems are key to achieving this! Also, as a Systems Engineer, I have been doing systemization for over 20 years, so I have some great insights into implementing systems in organizations, big and small!
But, I get that this can be a bit confusing to designers. That’s why, my mission is to make it as simple and joyful as possible! In this article, I’m covering
- the 9 systems every designer needs to have in place
- how to implement them one step at a time
- the difference between systems and processes
- the difference between systems and tools
Let’s get systemized!
What Are Systems For Interior Designers?
Systems For Interior Designers are the various tools, techniques, and processes that interior designers use to create functional and aesthetically pleasing living or working spaces. These systems may include software programs for creating 3D models of rooms, databases of furniture and decor options, project management tools for tracking budgets and timelines, sales and marketing systems, accounting workflow, and other resources that help interior designers streamline their work and deliver high-quality results to their clients.
Are Systems & Processes The Same Thing?
No, systems and processes are not the same thing, although they are related.
A system is a set of interconnected components that work together to achieve a specific goal or objective. In the context of business, a system can refer to a collection of tools, technologies, and resources that are designed to support a particular function or process.
A process, on the other hand, is a series of steps or actions that are taken to achieve a specific outcome or result. In the context of business, a process can refer to a set of activities that are designed to achieve a specific goal or objective, such as delivering a product or service to a customer.
So, while a system may include multiple processes, processes are just one part of a larger system. In other words, processes are the individual steps taken to achieve a goal, while systems are the larger framework that supports those steps.
Typical processes for interior designers include onboarding, project communication, and so on.
Do Systems Always Include Digital Tools?
No, systems do not always include digital tools. While digital tools can be a key component of many systems, there are also many systems that do not rely on digital tools at all.
For example, a manufacturing system might include physical machinery, conveyors, and other equipment that are used to produce goods. A healthcare system might include medical equipment, patient records, and other physical resources that are used to provide care to patients.
That being said, in many industries and contexts, and in particular in the design industry, digital tools are becoming increasingly important components of systems.
However, it’s important to remember that systems can take many different forms, and digital tools are just one possible component.
The 9 Systems Every Design Entrepreneur Needs
Let’s dive into the systems you need to run your business. I’m covering the main systems, and each of them has sub-systems that make the complete system. The main systems are:
- Marketing System
- Sales System
- Value Delivery System
- Financial & Legal System
- People System
- Growth & Planning System
- Procurement System
- Time & Effort Tracking System
- Storage System
Let’s dive into each of the systems!
Marketing System For Interior Designers
A marketing system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to promote an interior design business and attract new clients. This system might include a variety of tools, technologies, and processes, that can be viewed as sub-systems, such as:
- Target audience identification: Identifying the specific audience that the interior design business wants to target, such as homeowners, commercial property owners, or renters.
- Branding: Developing a brand identity that appeals to the target audience and differentiates the interior design business from competitors.
- Website design and development: Creating a website that showcases the interior design business’s portfolio, services, and contact information.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimizing the website and other digital content to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) and attract more organic traffic.
- Social media marketing: Promoting the interior design business on social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, to showcase the business’s work and generate leads.
- Email marketing: Building an email list of potential clients and sending regular email newsletters and promotions to stay top-of-mind and generate leads.
- Advertising: Running paid advertising campaigns on social media, search engines, or other platforms to reach a wider audience and generate leads.
- Lead generation: Generating leads through various marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, and advertising.
These components work together to create a cohesive system that attracts new clients and promotes the interior design business’s services.
Sales System For Interior Designers
A sales system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to convert potential clients into paying customers, such as:
- Lead qualification: Evaluating potential clients to determine if they are a good fit for the interior design business’s services and if they have the budget and timeline to move forward.
- Call booking: A system that makes your sales call scheduling a simple process for you AND for your clients.
- Needs assessment: Understanding the client’s needs, preferences, and goals for the project.
- Proposal creation: Creating a detailed proposal that outlines the scope of work, timeline, and budget for the project.
- Presentation: Presenting the proposal to the client in a compelling and persuasive way that addresses their needs and concerns.
- Follow-up: A system that you use to follow up on your prospective clients.
- Closing: Closing the sale by securing a signed contract and initial payment.
- Signage: A simple mechanism to get the signature.
These components work together to create a cohesive sales system that converts potential clients into paying customers and ensures that the interior design business delivers high-quality services to its clients.
Of course, these are tightly connected with your marketing systems and with your delivery systems!
Value Delivery System For Interior Designers
A value delivery system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to deliver high-quality services to clients and create value for them, such as:
- Onboarding: Onboarding is a make-or-break process that you cannot afford to ignore. This includes your client welcome package.
- Design process: Creating a design plan that meets the client’s needs and preferences, and that is aesthetically pleasing and functional.
- Project management: Managing the project from start to finish, ensuring that the client’s needs are met and the project is completed on time and within budget.
- Communication: Maintaining open and effective communication with the client throughout the project, keeping them informed of progress, and addressing any concerns or issues that arise.
- Quality control: Ensuring that the final product meets the client’s expectations and is of high quality.
- Delightful touches: As a premium service or product provider, your clients expect a premium experience. Add delightful touches such as hand-written cards, gifts (without your firm’s logo), or lunch at a local country club.
- Follow-up: Following up with the client after the project is completed to ensure their satisfaction and address any remaining issues or concerns.
These components work together to create a cohesive value delivery system that delivers high-quality services to clients and creates value for them.
By focusing on the client’s needs and preferences and delivering high-quality services, you can build a positive reputation and generate repeat business and referrals
Financial & Legal System For Interior Designers
Financial and legal systems for interior designers are sets of interconnected components that work together to manage the financial and legal aspects of an interior design business, such as:
- Accounting: Managing the financial transactions of the business, such as invoicing, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.
- Budgeting: Creating and managing a budget for the business, including forecasting revenue and expenses.
- Tax compliance: Ensuring that the business is compliant with all relevant tax laws and regulations.
- Legal compliance: Ensuring that the business is compliant with all relevant legal requirements, such as licensing, permits, and contracts.
- Contract management: Creating and managing contracts with clients, vendors, and contractors.
- Risk management: Identifying and managing risks associated with the business, such as liability risks and financial risks.
- Insurance: Obtaining and managing insurance policies to protect the business from various risks, such as liability and property damage.
- Invoicing: Using time and effort tracking data to create accurate invoices for clients.
These components work together to create cohesive financial and legal systems that help interior designers manage the financial and legal aspects of their business and ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
By managing these aspects effectively, you will reduce risks and improve the overall financial health of your business.
People System For Interior Designers
A people system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to manage the human resources aspects of an interior design business, such as:
- Recruitment: Identifying and recruiting talented individuals to join the business, such as designers, project managers, and administrative staff.
- Onboarding: Welcoming new employees and providing them with the necessary training and resources to succeed in their roles.
- Performance management: Evaluating employee performance, providing feedback, and setting goals for improvement.
- Career development: Providing opportunities for employees to develop their skills and advance their careers within the business.
- Compensation and benefits: Managing employee compensation and benefits, such as salaries, bonuses, and healthcare coverage.
- Employee engagement: Creating a positive and supportive work environment that fosters employee engagement and job satisfaction.
- Diversity and inclusion: Promoting diversity and inclusion within the workplace and ensuring that all employees feel valued and respected.
These components work together to create a cohesive people system that helps interior design businesses attract and retain talented employees and create a positive and supportive work environment.
By investing in your employees, you can improve the overall performance and deliver high-quality services to your clients.
Growth & Planning System For Interior Designers
A growth and planning system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to plan for and achieve business growth, such as:
- Strategic planning: Developing a strategic plan for the business that outlines goals, objectives, and strategies for growth.
- Growth rituals: The habits you do regularly to move the needle in your business.
- Market research: Conducting research to identify market trends, customer needs, and opportunities for growth.
- Business development: Developing and implementing strategies to acquire new clients and expand the business.
- Financial planning: Developing and managing a financial plan for the business, including forecasting revenue and expenses.
- Performance tracking: Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor progress toward growth goals.
- Innovation: Encouraging innovation and creativity within the business to develop new products, services, or business models.
- Partnerships and collaborations: Developing partnerships and collaborations with other businesses or organizations to expand the reach of the business and create new opportunities for growth.
These components work together to create a cohesive growth and planning system that helps interior design businesses plan for and achieve business growth.
By focusing on strategic planning, market research, and business development, you will be able to identify new opportunities for growth and expand your reach to new markets and customers.
Procurement System For Interior Designers
A procurement system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to manage the procurement process for materials and products needed for interior design projects, such as:
- Supplier identification: Identifying potential suppliers of materials and products needed for interior design projects.
- Request for proposal (RFP) creation: Creating a detailed RFP that outlines the specifications and requirements for the materials or products needed.
- Supplier selection: Evaluating supplier proposals and selecting the best supplier based on factors such as price, quality, and delivery time.
- Purchase order creation: Creating a purchase order that outlines the details of the purchase, including the quantity, price, and delivery date.
- Order tracking and management: Tracking the status of orders and managing any issues that arise, such as delays or quality issues.
- Inventory management: Managing inventory levels of materials and products to ensure that they are available when needed for interior design projects.
- Payment processing: Processing payments to suppliers for materials and products purchased, this is also part of your financial systems.
These components work together to create a cohesive procurement system that helps interior designers manage the procurement process for materials and products needed for their projects.
By managing this process effectively, you can ensure that you have the materials and products you need to complete projects on time and within budget, while also maintaining high-quality standards.
Time & Effort Tracking System For Interior Designers
A time and effort tracking system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to track the time and effort spent on interior design projects, such as:
- Time tracking software: Using software to track the time spent on each task or project.
- Task management: Managing tasks and projects to ensure that they are completed on time and within budget.
- Resource allocation: Allocating resources, such as staff and materials, to projects based on their needs.
- Budget tracking: Tracking the budget for each project and ensuring that it is not exceeded.
- Performance analysis: Analyzing the performance of each project to identify areas for improvement.
- Reporting: Creating reports that summarize the time and effort spent on each project and provide insights into project performance.
These components work together to create a cohesive time and effort-tracking system that helps interior designers manage their projects more effectively.
By tracking the time and effort spent on each project, you can identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to your processes to improve efficiency and profitability. You can also use this data to create accurate invoices for clients, ensuring that your are paid fairly for your work.
Storage System For Interior Designers
A storage system for interior designers is a set of interconnected components that work together to manage the storage of materials, products, equipment, and intangible assets needed for interior design projects., such as:
- Inventory management: Managing inventory levels of materials and products to ensure that they are available when needed for interior design projects.
- Storage space planning: Planning the layout and organization of storage spaces, such as warehouses or storage rooms, to maximize efficiency and accessibility.
- Shelving and storage solutions: Installing shelving and other storage solutions, such as bins or cabinets, to organize and store materials and products.
- Labeling and tracking: Labeling storage containers and tracking the location of materials and products to ensure that they can be easily found when needed.
- Equipment maintenance: Maintaining and repairing equipment, such as tools or machinery, and computers, used for interior design projects.
- Security: Implementing security measures, such as locks or alarms, to protect stored materials and products from theft or damage.
- Waste management: Managing waste generated by interior design projects, such as packaging materials or scraps of fabric or wood.
- Digital storage: Storing your intangible assets, process description, SOPs, images, and other intellectual property for secure and easy access.
These components work together to create a cohesive storage system that helps interior designers manage their materials, products, and equipment more effectively.
By organizing and tracking your inventory, you can ensure that you have the materials and products they need for projects, while also minimizing waste and improving efficiency. You can also protect your stored materials and products from theft or damage, ensuring that they are available when needed for projects.
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How To Create Systems
- Identify the pain point
- Analyze the current situation
- Envision the future situation
- Map out the processes
- Identify the tools
- Identify the people
- Manage the system
Identify the pain point
When creating systems, identifying the pain point is a crucial step.
The pain point is the area of difficulty or frustration that you experience in your business. This can be a front-end or backend related pain, either experienced by you, your team, or your clients. Often by all of them!
Identifying the pain point is essential for creating a successful system because it helps to ensure that the system addresses the real needs of users. Without identifying the pain point, a system may not effectively solve the problem or meet the needs of users.
Also, if you don’t have pain points, you also have no need to systemize. That’s why, you can’t start your systemization work unless you have pain.
This means: you should NOT start systemizing your business before you are ready!
Analyze the current situation
What’s happening in your business in the specific area where you experience pain? What are the steps that, for example, a client goes through to become a client? This is a client journey map, something you must understand if you want to systemize your sales and marketing.
Envision the future situation
What would be the perfect future situation? In other words, what does success mean to you, in regards to your business as a whole, and in particular – the specific systems you are improving?
Map out the processes
What processes are included in the system? Do you have sub-systems and interconnections that you need to take into consideration when systemizing your business?
Map it all out!
Identify the tools
What tools should you use to improve the systems? What tools are you using today, and can some of the tools do many things? Or, can you find a tool that replaces your current tools?
Make no mistake: there are NO tools that do it all. You need to design your complete tech stack before you start adding tools.
Identify the people
Now, every system needs its person. Even if you automate all the things in your business, someone needs to know what you did, how it works, and how to maintain the systems.
- Who is that person?
- What training does that person need?
- What happens if that person leaves?
Document Your Systems
You also need to document the systems, even if you are a solo business owner.
Do not keep the systems in your head.
Manage the systems
Lastly, all systems need maintenance, planning, and management. Design a system for managing your systems!
Which Systems Should You Start With?
What’s your current stage? Are you, for example, getting tons of clients and you need to improve the delivery and back-office side? Then you need to start with that.
If you’re not getting tons of clients, then I’d start with sales and marketing systems. When you grow, those are the key systems to keep working really well, so you can build consistency into your business.