Summer Kickoff!

Memorial Weekend signals the beginning of summer! As we enjoy our cookouts, picnics, outings to the beach or lake, we'll also take time to remember the men and women who have served our country and those who have lost family members.

We have a parade each Memorial Day in my little town and it's awe-inspiring to see the marching veterans in their uniforms, stopping in the harbor to honor all the fallen at the Healing Field where over 400 flags are displayed. Young girls in pretty dresses toss floral wreaths into the water while the band plays. It's very Normal Rockwell and very moving. I always cry at parades.

Here's a guide to displaying your flag:


PAC-MAN's 30th Birthday!


I love celebrating birthdays but . . .

Did you know that today is Pac Man's 30th birthday? I know what you are thinking, you had no idea I was a fan. Well, I'm really not; I might have played the game one time when Owen and Lee were young. I simply don't play video games.

My reason for this blog is that every time we at the Minutes Matter office open our Firefox browser to the Google home page, the PAC-MAN game tune begins to play. It scared me to death the first time I heard it; I had no idea where the noise was coming from. Even worse, I can't get it turned off! I had to turn the volume off on my computer. Anyone else "celebrating" PAC-MAN's birthday today? :(

Looks like he has keep himself in good shape, I can honestly say he doesn't look a day older.


Vision10 - Interviews with Exhibitors

Vision10 in Atlanta ended on Saturday. Grace looks so tiny under that enormous sign! Classes were very educational, as always. My class on Cloud Computing enlightened attendees on the benefits of moving their business to the Clouds. One attendee asked, "Are you saying we wouldn't have to have a server?" I responded, "That's exactly what I am saying." Everyone left the seminar with all of the possibilities swirling in their heads. Minutes Matter will be offering a series of webinars on Cloud Computing later this summer. Watch your Inbox for more details on why and how you can move your business to the Clouds.

The new Social Media Day, on Friday, was a huge hit. Somfy hosted a Tweetup, which included free drinks for everyone! Attendees tweeted and blogged all day about the conference. That afternoon, I was part of a panel discussion on how blogging benefits the interior design industry. Jackie Von Tobel did a fabulous job hosting the panel discussion. The panelists were Brian Patrick Flynn, Valorie Hart, Skyla Freeman, Jay Helser and myself. You could tell this group came from a wide variety of backgrounds. The discussion was very educational and, at times, quite humorous.

Saturday morning, the last day of the show, was the first opportunity I had to tour the show floor. I wanted to make sure I took some videos to share with those of you that were not able to join us in Atlanta. I interviewed a couple of vendors and asked them to tell me a little about the services and products they offer.

Mark your calendars, Vision11 will be held in Tampa, Florida, April 14-16, 2011. Grace, her staff and I hope to see you there!

click on image to view video

Jenna Abbot, Executive Director for WCAA (Window Covering Association of America) has only held this position for a year, but you wouldn't know it looking at all the changes that the WCAA has undergone during her tenure. The entire WCAA board attributes much of the organization's success to Jenna's attitude and her keen business skills. The board consists of Bob Hipps - President, Margi Kyle -Vice President, Ed Hopkins - Treasurer, Jeanelle Dech - Secretary, Beth Hodges - Past President, Bill Taylor - Director, Roman Hardy - Director, Linda Principe - Director, Michele Williams - Director, Lora Vestal Scott - Director, Joe Jankoski - Director, and me, Debbie Green - Director.

If you're not a member of the WCAA, check out their website or visit a local chapter in your area.

Debbie Green Minutes Matter Helser Brothersclick on image to view video

Jay and Mark Helser are two great guys; you can randomly ask any one of their customers about them and you'll hear story after story about how their products and customer service is the best in the industry. They have a passion for their business and it shows. Hats off to you guys, I know success will continue to follow you!

As usual, the WCAA After-Hours Party, hosted by Helser Brothers on Friday night was a blast. I was so tired and, I hate to admit it, a little stiff from all the dancing. I could hardly get up the next morning! It was a sight to see, since I really can't dance, but that definitely wasn't true for most of my fellow party-goers. I think, as I said last year also, that I've got to take dance lessons. You have to watch the video all the way to the end to see Jay and Mark doing their best Robot moves. I'll be sharing Jay's video with you once he finishes the final edits.

Debbie Green Minutes Matter Lutronclick on image to view video

This was my first time to stop by the Lutron booth and I was certainly glad I did. Joe Secena, took time to enlighten me on all of their products. After Joe's tour, I can see why Lutron leads the industry in motorization. Can you say "Quiet Motors?"

click on image to view video

Jeanelle Dech, CEO of the CHF Academy, sponsored the Construction Zone at Vision10. The Construction Zone conducted live demonstrations throughout the conference. In addition to offering specialized classes at the CHF Academy, they also offer an industry network membership, Drapery & Design Professional, which includes a bi-monthly magazine, access to the industry's largest forum and free educational webinars.

click on image to view video

Teia Combs with M'Fay Patterns told me they have a new pattern collection that includes an instructional DVD. They also have a new supplement available for purchase. Teia, you were such a delight, who wouldn't want to buy from you?


Paperwork Housekeeping Tip

By now you should have all of your taxes filed, unless you filed an extension. Now is a good time to consider what records and files you should keep and what you can discard. The paperless office is still a distant dream to me, but we can try to cut down on how much paper we keep by following a few basic guidelines.

The IRS website (www.irs.gov) offers official several informative publications on record retention. For example, Publication 552 is for individuals and Publication 583 is for for businesses. Most states also have easily accessible websites that provide guidelines and recommended record retention policies.

The list below is a general list of documents along with suggestions regarding how long to retain them. Of course, you should always consult your own accountant for specific information related to your particular business situation.

I use a rolling system of record keeping. I keep the current year and last year's records in file drawers in my office. For older records, I have a set of six large totes in my attic. Five of these are labeled by the year, while the other one is labeled Returns - Keep Forever. Despite what the government guidelines say, there are some records that I like to keep forever. I have this ridiculous idea that my great-grandchildren might find reading my old tax returns interesting when they clean out my attic some day in the far off future.

Using January 2010 as an example, here is what I do. In January of 2010, the 2003 tote came down from the attic. I then shred or burn the 2003 records and re-label the tote for 2008. I take the 2008 files from my office and load them into the tote, then the tote makes a return trip to the attic. Lastly, the 2009 records get shifted from the current year drawer to last year's drawer and we start all over again with 2010.


5 Biggest Mistakes Interior Designers Make With Clients

Here are a few of the mistakes some designers make...

1. Not setting expectations well. We all hate negative surprises and the worst ones are the ones that cost money and time. From the beginning of your relationship with the client, you need to establish a range for your budget. Clients have no idea how much things cost, so you should have examples of what a typical window treatment, room furnishing budget or renovation cost would be based on either the photos in your portfolio. Give them a range and then you’ll be able to read their reaction. If their eyes flutter and they don’t look at you directly, they are very uncomfortable.

2. Not asking enough questions and truly understanding what the client’s motivations and priorities are. Never assume. Always feedback what you hear your client say to be sure you understand what they really want.

3. Not communicating quickly when there are problems with the project, products or schedule. You should start the beginning of your client relationship by asking how they want to hear the good news and the bad news. Ask if they prefer a phone call, email or a meeting in person. First, be sure you have three solutions…decide which is the best solution and then either discuss it in person (very important for dominant CEO types) or by email or phone.

4. Not taking care of every last detail. At the end of the job, it is easy to get bored and disinterested and not want to finish the last few details, but those details are the ones that determine whether you will have a raving fan or a raving…..you know what I mean. Those extra details and a nice thank you gift and note at the end can mean the difference between more work and referrals or them telling 10 people how badly you handled their project. The little things matter the most.

5. Not asking for testimonials! This is one of the best tips I can share with you. Ask for testimonials early and throughout your relationship with your clients. It actually reinforces the reason why they made such a good decision to hire you. Help them with the testimonials by writing what you want them to say…you remember the compliments they’ve given you, so just write it out for them and ask them to tweak it, put it on their own stationery and that you will pick it up on a particular date and then bring a small token gift. Your clients want to help you, too.

Bonus tip - Job appreciation…any time you make an installation or deliver a product, be sure to admire the beautiful result with the client. This is really not as self-serving as it sounds. Clients need reassurance that they made the right decision. They are very insecure with designers, and this is a great technique that I learned from one of my teachers years ago. It works like a charm because your clients look to you for your approval, so share it liberally, but honestly.

Gail Doby, ASID, is co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of Design Success University. Gail is an Interior Design Business Success Mentor to thousands of interior designers globally. DSU’s Business Mastery Membership and classes include Value Based Fees and Marketing Intensives. Click here to get your complimentary copy of DSU’s Interior Design Fee & Salary Survey eBook and IDEAS newsletter subscription filled with inspiration, business tips and time-saving resources.