12 Steps to Conflict Resolution for Interior Designers

How to Apply the 12 Steps for Managing Conflict and Gaining Resolution to Circumstances that May Arise in Your Design Practice

1. Admit there is a problem.

The very first step in dealing with any problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem. urrendering to the idea that control is an illusion allows one to be proactive rather than reactive which creates opportunity for solution.

2. Recognize that a power other than yourself can restore you
to sanity.
You do not have to do it alone. You can go to mentors, peer managers, a coach, or even business literature to tap into additional experience, tools and solutions.

3. Choose to turn it over.
Sometimes the biggest obstacle is you. There are times when the best thing you can do is to get out of the way and let others- contractors, assitants or colleagues- do their jobs.

4. Analyze the situation to determine the cause.
Where did you drop the ball or where could you have handled the situation differently? Look for specific situations, especially those where you can see you were part of the problem and not the solution. The question to ask: 'Have I truly set my people up to succeed in every area of their
responsibilities?' Look for consistent patterns in which you are the liability. Remember, if it begins with you, it can end with you.

5. Create a successful plan of action with another person.
An objective view eliminates blind spots and also brings attention to what we do not see ourselves. This step must be taken with someone with integrity and who is concerned about both the business success and your success and has a proven track record of creating results.

6. Humbly get into action.
There is a reason servant leadership creates companies that thrive financially as well as in employee/management relationships. Become a servant-leader and reap the benefits, both personally and professionally.

7. Let your side of the street sparkle.
Take stock of your personal inventory and identify where and with whom you need resolution. Then, decide what action you will take in order to complete/restore relationships.

8. Be entirely ready to implement your plan of action.
Be committed to resolving the situation. Any second-guessing or conflicting intentions should be discussed and put to rest. Willingness is a state of being, not just an attitude. It may sometimes be necessary to modify your plan of action if you are not getting the results you looked for, but
don't quit before the miracle.

9. Lead by example.
Be an active part of the solution and admit your piece of the problem. Show up as a leader who accepts personal responsibility and earn respect. You don't need to demand it. People will go where you lead them, so lead by example.

10. Create an outline for others.
Once you have increased productivity and have the trust, respect and loyalty of the people involved (up, down and across the board), write down these steps as guidlines for yourself and others to operate from.Be available to support other designers through this process.

By Elizabeth Tull
Photography by Abdone

Elizabeth Tull is a Legacy Strategist who assists people in Disovering, Developing and Delivering Legacies of Excellence, Humanity and Extraordinary Living. Come visit and sign up for The Coaching Catalyst newsletter http://www.agapelegacycoach.com

10 Client Feedback Questions to Help Better Your Design Services

Top Ten Client Feedback Questions     

Here is a list of 10 questions you could use to get client feedback. Select a few that suit your situation. The key is to ask the question and then allow the client uninterrupted time to answer. Your job is to just listen!

1. What was the greatest benefit you derived from my service?

This question helps you to understand what is working. Sometimes you will be surprised by the answer.

2. What would you like to see more of when you work with me?

For our session the panelists told us some counselors introduced themselves by telling about their business background during the sessions while others did not. The clients said they wanted to hear the qualifications of the counselors who were working with them. Are you forgetting to be consistent when delivering your product or service to your clients?

3. How could I improve my service? 

Clients often have ideas that are easy to implement but somehow you haven't thought of.

4. Is there anything you would like to see me stop doing?

This question gives the client the opportunity to tell you about something that isn't useful to him or her.

5. Is there anything you didn't get from my service that you were looking for?

Here is an opportunity for the client to tell you other services that you might provide. If you are looking for ways to expand your offering this question is important. In

6. Has my staff treated you with care, attention, and courteousness?

This would be an important question for a service provider with an administrative staff to ask. Clients don't always complain about their experience with your staff but might share something significant when asked.

7. Is there an issue that I have not spent enough time on for you? 

Sometimes clients allow you to move forward but are still thinking about a previous issue. This kind of question helps them to revisit areas they may have not understood and still have an unanswered question.

8. Am I doing what you want me to do? 

Most of the time we are doing what we think the client wants. It is good to check once in a while to find out if you are actually doing what the client wants.

9. Where have we been less than proactive in addressing your concerns? 

It may be that the client is expecting you to move into different areas that you think are being covered by other vendors or staff members. "Being proactive" may have a broader definition to the client than you are using. Asking this question might uncover new business.

10. Is our billing clear? Are you getting value for your money?

The bill is often a source of anxiety for the client. He/she needs to know exactly what he/she is being billed for. Does your bill show that? This final value question is critical to insuring your client is satisfied with your product or service.

By Alvah Parker
Photography by Franz Pfluegl

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor (The Attorneys' Coach) and a Career Changers' Coach as well as publisher of Parker's Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. Subscribe now to these free monthly publications at her website http://www.asparker.com/samples.html


10 Strategic Errors that Could Ruin Your Business

Strategy - The Top Ten Ways to Ruin Your Business With Strategy

Working strategically is the best way to guarantee business success. Without a doubt, having strategic objectives and a strategic plan, and consistently pursuing them is the smartest way to manage your business. There are ways, however, that a business owner can - using strategy - destroy their business. Let's take a look at these.

1. They have the wrong strategy for current conditions.

Many businesses continue to pursue the strategy that made them buckets of money a decade ago, but have not delved deeply to create a winning strategy for NOW. They continue to execute what worked in the past but cannot figure out why they aren't getting traction for their business under the current conditions.

2. They fail to execute their strategy in the right timing.

They wait too late or rush in too early. The market is either not ready or has already lost interest. They fail to take advantage of the window of opportunity. It's even worse though when this happens because you're spending time on non-productive activities.

3. They work a strategy that cannot possibly fulfill their strategic objectives.

The strategy is delusional and made up of fantastical premises that bear no relationship to market reality. The strategy never approaches realism. It's based on wishes and dreams rather than real world circumstances.

4. They pursue a strategy that is about avoidance rather than growing the company and growing the revenue.

This might be avoidance of things like taxes, hiring employees, expanding operations, or learning marketing. Whatever is being avoided though, keeps the business owner in a restricted mode, and the business suffers.

5. They operate as if strategy is a static, unchanging, iron-clad document.

Many business owners come up with a strategy and believe they have to "gut it out" and execute - no matter what. They ignore changing conditions, and robotically charge ahead inflexibly. They don't use their strategy as a guideline and instead believe it is a rigid and unchanging document.

6. They have a great strategy in place but fail to fully execute it - then, claim that the strategy does not work.

This becomes "blame the strategy" rather than blaming the one who failed to execute. They don't consider deciding to step up and responsibly take action. It's a self-defeating exercise and altogether too common.

7. They use their strategy as the "reason" not to seize good opportunities.

This is like the person walking into the path of a speeding car because a green light gives them the right of way. Their focus is on something that technically is correct, but is short-sighted in failing to assess long-term consequences. They don't exercise a consistent reassessment and alteration of strategy, according to circumstances and opportunities.

8. They have a strategy but don't reassess and revise it regularly.

The best way to use a strategy is to revisit and revise it weekly, adding new content as you complete activities. Simply having a strategy and not using it as a weekly reassessment tool is a mistake. It can quickly become outdated and meaningless. The real value in a strategy is understanding your objectives, and constantly ensuring that your strategic activities will deliver those results.

9. They have a strategy that alienates current clients.

This could be things like not caring, or taking an approach that destroys the goodwill of their business. Sometimes we think the "shock effect" or newest, newest is the way to go, and that is an extreme miscalculation. There is nothing wrong with upgrading your target market, but it's best not to alienate your target market until you have secured the new market.

10. They do not write their strategy down.

A plan in your head cannot become a strategy until you write it down. A strategy is not coherent or effective until it is on paper. Make the time to detail and organize your strategy, and lay it out on a time-line. Mental strategic planning is fine, but not especially valuable in the long-term.

It is very possible to ruin your business with strategy. Don't make any of these Top Ten mistakes with your strategy. Let your strategy support and guide you to grow your business.

By Suzi Elton
Photography by Jörg Jahn
Suzi Elton provides business writing that attracts targeted prospects to your service business and converts them into clients for you. She is a Robert Middleton Certified Action Plan Marketing Coach, as well as a professional writer. Her website offers a free series of 8 assessments you can use to analyze your own site. To learn about her Robert Middleton style Web Site Tool Kit Writing Package, go to http://www.wowfactorwriting.com/services/web-site-tool-kit-package/


5 Tips to Establish a No-Negotiation Policy for Your Design Fees

1. Never Negotiate Your Prices under any Circumstances
Negotiating makes the client think that you're overcharging for your services. Let potential clients know that your rates are honest and fair for the level of service that you provide which is why you don't negotiate them. Have a firm policy of not negotiating and stick to it.

2. Establish a Value Mindset
It’s a “value-for-value” relationship.
Jesse Nirenberg wrote the following  in his book How To Sell Your Ideas:
[Y]ou have to sell the fairness of all your offers … If you don’t justify them, it seems as though your guiding principle is to get the most for the least. Giving this impression hurts the relationship. For it means that you’re willing to deprive the other person of what he should have… If you finally accept much less than your initial request, the other person is likely to think that you’re trying to get much more than is reasonable.

Compromising Your Fee is Compromising Yourself. Corporate recruiter Jeff Allen uses this quote quite frequently.  He says that comprimising your fees is like telling the client, “I really don’t believe my services are worth what I charge.”

3. Decide That You're Worth It
If potential clients can't afford to pay more for quality services,  they shouldn't come to you. You are worth every penny you charge. If you don't believe this who will? 

4. Believe That Your Fee is Fair
Stephen Gillers says it best in his book  I’d Rather Do It Myself, written as a guide for attorneys:

The belief in the value of what you’re selling must be yours . . . If you know it, so will the client. If you don’t, most of your clients will eventually know that too. If you lose the client because you want to get paid, you’re better off in the long run. This will be as true in your tenth year as it is in your first week. You sell time and, despite your willingness to work hard and sleep on your desk, there is a finite quantity of time available for sale… [This is] the only time … when your interests and the client’s interests will conflict.


5. Don't Be Defensive
Simply state that your policy is your policy. Potential clients will repect you for it. In the long they'll be touting that you were worth an arm and a leg but worth every penny!

By IDRA: The Interior Design Resource Agency
Photography by Dana Bartekoske Heinemann