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Starting a Design Business: 4 Recommendations for Building a Meaningful Career | Architectural Digest


Over the last six years, I have spoken with more than 700 business owners for my podcast, A Well-Designed Business. I’ve heard their stories, listened to how they’ve overcome challenges, and celebrated their wins. 

Reflecting on these conversations, I’ve noticed patterns in the struggles that they face—as well as the strategies that have led to their overall success. Time and again, I’ve seen that the strongest businesses are those that established their values early on, and stuck to them.

Take Melinda Marquardt of the Vale London. In my interview with her, Marquardt explained that as she was setting up her business, she first identified the ideals that were important to her as an entrepreneur. I love that she did—that one action will benefit her company immeasurably and reward her consistently throughout her career.  

I found it interesting to note the overlaps in Marquardt’s list of ideals and my own. And those similarities tell me what I know to be true: Well-run, profitable businesses share certain foundational elements that contribute to their success. As you’re getting started, here are a few tenets to live by.

Believe in Yourself

Marquardt explained that her number one value is to believe in yourself, and I could not agree more.

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As entrepreneurs we face myriad hurdles, and a seemingly endless list of tasks—from documenting processes and systems to vetting suppliers and hiring and leading our teams. Believing in yourself, which includes understanding and appreciating your strengths as a leader, is paramount to getting through it all, especially during times of crisis. 

When we are struggling, more often than not, it isn’t a matter of getting the right information to determine a course of action. Instead, the challenge is having the courage to make a hard decision.

The fact is, you’ll get some choices right, and some of them wrong. But when you believe in yourself, your self-confidence doesn’t waiver. This is the mindset that Marquardt spoke about—the mindset of successful people, in all walks of life. 

Build a Great Team

Regardless of whether you run a solo design practice or manage a large firm, there will be a team around you: your CPA, lawyer, and social media expert all the way to your senior and junior designers and outsourced techs. Who you surround yourself with—who you go to for advice, who you bounce ideas off of, and more—will factor into your success.

Remember the old saying “garbage in, garbage out”? It’s the same with your team, whether they are your employees or an assemblage of outside professionals that you hire for a particular skill set. 

To be the best, you must first surround yourself with the best. 

Establish Strong Relationships 

If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: Your business is only as good as the relationships you have. That means with your clients, with vendors and trades, with mentors and your network, and even with your community. 

Looking back at my career, I know that caring for and valuing relationships in my business has been the secret to my success. From the early days in my business Window Works, to the present; in both the Exciting Windows community as well as here, in the interior design community, everything always comes down to the strength of reliable, reciprocal, and most of all respectful relationships.


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