Pros & Conversations

Episode 14: Adding Structure to a Creative Business

November 07, 2022 Peter G. Reynolds Season 1 Episode 14
Pros & Conversations
Episode 14: Adding Structure to a Creative Business
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Show Notes Transcript

From accounting to marketing, working "on" our businesses is often less fun than working "in" our businesses. But if we let things slide, we soon won't have businesses at all. Interior designer Jo-Anne Kupiec provides tips and tricks for adding structure to your business without stifling creativity.

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Peter Reynolds  00:00

Hi. I'm Peter Reynolds, and welcome to Pros and Conversations. The podcast that explores what it takes to be successful, whether you're from the world of business, science or the arts. Entrepreneurs need to be creative, to develop new ideas, create innovative products and compete in a competitive marketplace. But creative types, like myself, we can get a little bit scattered. We want to work in the business and not on the business. On this episode of Pros and Conversations, we're going to talk about adding structure to a creative business. And with me, as always, is my co-host, Damon Adachi, who's a marketing consultant with Seven Fold Marketing. How're you doing, Damon?

Damon Adachi  00:47

Good, I am definitely a self-professed creative type. So I'm really anxious to hear some great tips on this one.

Peter Reynolds  00:54

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think for myself, it's definitely a struggle. I mean, I stole your quote there about working in the business and not on the business, because I'm definitely someone who would rather be creating than doing the accounting at the end of the day.

Damon Adachi  01:11

And at the same time, there's a struggle for in our creative businesses to be on when you need to be creative. You know, sometimes for me, it's two in the morning, I need to get something done. And it's tough to be inspired. But as we know, the other side of the coin is that you can get so entrenched in the creative aspects of your job, that you may fall down on some of the structures. So we've got a great guest here today to help us with all of that.

Peter Reynolds  01:36

No, you're absolutely right, Damon, I mean, there's a lot to unpack in this episode. But luckily, we have a guest who can help us navigate this complex but important topic. Joining us today is Jo-Anne Kupiec. And she is an interior designer and owner of Design Excellence. Welcome to Pros and Conversations. Jo-Anne.

 Jo-Anne Kupiec  01:56

Thanks, Peter. Thanks, Damon. Thanks for having me.

Peter Reynolds  02:00

So Jo-Anne, maybe you could start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your business?

Jo-Anne Kupiec  02:06

Sure. I do Interior Design, which really means that I help clients, renovate their homes, redesign their homes, taking them through the process in a way that is easier, helps them save money, and help to make the actual process more efficient. 

Peter Reynolds  02:28

Structure and creativity seem like they're polar opposites. What are some of the strategies that did you use to keep yourself on track? And what without stifling your creativity? 

Jo-Anne Kupiec  02:42

Right. I think as entrepreneurs, we tend to wear so many hats, and a lot of times hats that we really don't even want to wear. And we get into the business to create a business, because we love what we do. And that's why we do it. But the reality is, in order to be able to be creative, it's really important to have certain things in place. And one of the things that's important is, is creating a consistent experience for our clients to make sure that, you know, we have consistent repeatable processes that we do over and over again, so that every client feels that they're getting the same thing from you, as the next person in line that hires you. 

Damon Adachi  03:26

Yeah, that's really interesting, I hadn't really considered that your structure adds consistency. And a standard that your clients can expect is not only self serving, and making sure that you stay on track, but it's how you are perceived by your clients. It's really interesting. 

Peter Reynolds  03:43

Yeah, I experienced that myself. I mean, you know, there because we're in a creative field. And we always want to do our very best work. And you know, whether if a client comes in and they have $500, to do something, or a client comes in, and they have $5,000, I'm going to give them my best work. And often I find I'm doing way more work than the 500. Because the 500 just won't cut it, to give them what's in my head of what they should have. And I find that really a struggle, 

Jo-Anne Kupiec  04:19

And when you have that structure, it allows more time for that creativity. So I think as long as you put those systems in place, and we can talk about that as we go along it, it really does allow you a little bit more time for that creative aspect that you know and love in your job. 

Peter Reynolds  04:37

So Jo-Anne, maybe you could tell the listeners a little bit more about your process in terms of creating a consistent customer experience. 

Jo-Anne Kupiec  04:49

We have a 15 step process that we go through every time consistently with our clients, starting from Letter of Agreement, making sure that we know exactly what it is that we're doing for the client, creating scope of work for the client, all the way through to managing deficiency. So there's all kinds of steps that take place, and these take place for every single client.

Damon Adachi  05:16

Yeah, that's, that's quite impressive. And to me, you're kind of a double threat, because I know you as such a vibrant, creative, dynamic person. But I also know that in your previous life and your career, it was very much the other side of the line and more of you know, structure and speak to what your previous work experience has brought into your business today.

Jo-Anne Kupiec  05:38

Previous work experience. So in the past, I was working for a bank and the brokerage firm and I managed projects. So I managed all kinds of interior design projects, actually for the bank. So project management is really key in terms of making sure for me and in creative businesses that we have a structure around project management systems, so that it takes you once you complete step one, and step two, and three, and it reminds you of literally what is what is next and coming down the pipe in terms of your projects. So having a system to help you do that is key, I find.

Peter Reynolds  06:26

And I guess that system helps you, basically it's determining for you, when it's time to stop, you know how many hours you're putting in. So that you're not getting that bleed through, you know, to doing more work than the contract is set for.

Jo-Anne Kupiec  06:45

Right. And in, in the case of the project management system that we have it does, you do track your hours. So you consistently know whether you're going above and beyond what you've had quoted your clients so that it really helps you learn to the next job so that you can quote more accurately for the next job that comes along. Whether they lose a little bit here, or charge them a little bit more. But it allows you to let them know as you're moving along, where you stand in terms of your rates and your fees, as well as where the project stands.

Damon Adachi  07:22

So I find that being in a creative business, it's hard to quantify and to always put the right value on what it is you do. And I'm sure Peter can back me up on this. Because people hire you to do something that they can't do for themselves. They're not interior designers, they're not videographers, they're not graphic designers. So they need your services. But it's hard for them to really quantify what it's worth and value. And I would say that you can probably confirm this. But by adding that layer structure and professionalism, you really come across more as a professional service that people can route a value to and say, Wow, Jo-Anne has really got her stuff together. And she knows what she's doing. And, you know, I feel like I'm being walked through a very structured process, versus somebody who goes "well I was thinking about blue" and doesn't have all of that structure behind it to keep people focused on where the value is. So you must have a great response from your clients with this level of professionalism and structure.

Jo-Anne Kupiec  08:23

Well, clients definitely take you more seriously, when you have a structure in your business you come across as a professional. And in addition to keeping that creative mind that we have on point. Keeping moving forward. So I find that it literally helps us keep everything on track for our clients and for ourselves.

Female Voice  08:47

We hope you're enjoying this episode so far. Pros and Conversations is brought to you by For the Record Productions, providing video production services to corporate and nonprofit clients for over 20 years. To learn more about how we can help your business visit VideosThatMatter.ca. And by the Business Alliance, a professional peer group that helps you grow your business through networking, collaboration and sound advice. To learn more about how to become a member visit JoinTheAlliance.biz.

Peter Reynolds  09:18

Tell me a little bit about calculating income for those entrepreneurs that are coming up through the ranks they're starting their business, they're trying to figure out "How much am I actually going to make in a year and what do I have to charge to make that a reality?" Talk a little bit about that calculation?

Jo-Anne Kupiec  09:41

Sure, I find that creating an achievable, salary is key. So I think it's important to decide what that number is and what that looks like for you. You know, we always would say in many of us in the creative business that I would do this even if I wasn't getting paid, but the reality is this really doesn't pay the bills for us. So it's important to calculate how much you want to earn in a year, and then break it down on a per day per hour basis, and then ensure that this amount is actually achievable and billable.

Damon Adachi  10:16

You know, I had that similar experience on the I deal with a lot of new entrepreneurs in my line of work, you know, people that need new business branding. And so a lot of times, they're their infant stages. And they haven't really done that breakdown in that almost business casing of saying, Where do I need to land in revenue to offset the expenses that I need to run to get to a salary that I can be happy with. And if when you don't do that, you fall into the trap of either overspending because you're getting excited about starting this business. You're investing in things that won't provide rich returns, and that you can't cover in your top line. It's one of the hardest lessons to learn as a new entrepreneur. And kudos to you to having that know how, and be able to impart that to other people. Because it's very crucial to your success in your first few years.

Jo-Anne Kupiec  11:04

Yeah, you're right, making sure that you don't overspend is key, as you go along. And at the beginning stages and just trying to limit your exposure certainly, is important. 

Peter Reynolds  11:21

Yeah, that was a big, that was a big part. For me starting off there was this, this idea of looking around and figuring out what is that sort of magical day rate, you know, as a cinematographer. And the piece of advice I was given is exactly what you're saying, Jo-Anne is it they said, just pick the number that you want to work. How much do you want to make any year? You know, and at the time, I think I said something along the lines of, you know, I want to make, you know, $100,000. And they said, Okay, well, how many reasonable days can you book in a year? Do you imagine yourself working over 365 days, instead, probably 100 days is probably the maximum, well, then you you charge $1,000 a day, that's simple math. The turns out 100 days a year was a was 

Damon Adachi  12:15

Sign me up for that. I want that deal.

Peter Reynolds  12:20

That was not as achievable as I thought it would be. But, but it was a good, it was a good starting point. It was a good starting point.

Jo-Anne Kupiec  12:31

Indeed, a good starting point. And you can readjust quarterly, annually. And yeah, take it from there. Right.

Damon Adachi  12:40

So where do you document your process? Jo-Anne, you talk about some of the great structure you have in place, but how does that translate into forms and tools that that you employ in your business.

Jo-Anne Kupiec  12:54

So I would say that we have a number of systems in place. One being a bookkeeping system, that's the one thing I really don't like to table. And I find it really helpful for me to see where the spending is, see where the income is coming in. And so our system actually allows you to see that happening as you input things first, that's critical. And don't get me wrong, I still don't do the official bookkeeping, that's definitely left to the expert. But it certainly helps in passing that information along to her to make sure that I'm on top of things as well as an entrepreneur 

Peter Reynolds  13:38

Jo-Anne, how did you make that decision? When you're starting a business, there's obviously areas that we're not experts in. How do you make the decision to this is something I'm going to outsource versus this is something that I really should probably buckle down and learn. So that I'm saving on some of those costs. How do you make those decisions or made those decisions?

Jo-Anne Kupiec  14:05

Sure, I think as creative entrepreneurs, we get into the business because we love doing what we're doing. But again, unfortunately, we have to wear these hats that we really don't suit. Doesn't suit our personality to book keep or, or create legal documentation, that sort of thing. So it's really important to know when to hire a professional to do those things for your marketing plan, for example. That's your that's your specialty Damon and certainly, those are things that are critical if you're really not good at that, that to hire the right people to achieve what it is you're hoping to achieve. Yeah, so that's what I would say about systems critical and have them in place in order to not have to do what you don't want to do.

Damon Adachi  14:54

So I know that in most businesses, the long term plan is not to work in the business forever and you've got an endpoint for yourself on whether you'd like to look at a succession plan or a sales plan or some way to move the business beyond you being involved with it. So my question is, is that part of your strategy in putting this system, the structure in place where you say, Now when somebody comes into, take a little bit of a valuation, look at the business, they see that structure, and they see those checks and balances that can give them an idea of the value of the business and whether or not they would like to buy it? Is that part of your thinking when you went that way, too?

Jo-Anne Kupiec  15:33

Yes, I think that it allows you to break down projects, by how many hours you spent on it, by how much the client chose to purchase. It allows you to how much how much literally how much time you spend on it, and what the end result is. Somebody says to me, what does it cost for me to do a kitchen and family room renovation? You know, two rooms in a home, I can go back to some of the jobs that we've done and double check how many hours it is, and for us do that work. And how much did it cost those clients? And are they in the same budget range. So those systems really do help keep us on track and helps to give them a fair and reasonable idea of what it is that they're looking to spend.

Damon Adachi  16:23

Right, and then also dictates your profitability that you can, you can tell a potential buyer of your business someday to see just how profitable jobs are.

Peter Reynolds  16:35

That's a great piece of advice there and great point to bring up Damon because I know in video production, a lot of times when people start, they're kind of winging it. They're figuring out as they go along, even the file structure that they have on their computer, how they lay out and I was very much like that. I didn't have any sort of formal training to know how files should be marked and set up, I just did it the way it easiest for me. I was forced to create that structure, because I started to work with broadcasters and I started to work with freelancers and people who needed that structure. I needed to supply a hard drive in a certain format. So it forced me to comply, to some sort of structure, which ultimately helped me. Because now, if I bring somebody on to a project, they can just start working immediately. I don't have to explain to them how my system works. My great filing system, alphabetical, no, please. I file by mood. So I no longer have to do that. So it's a great piece of advice. Jo-Anne, any final thoughts for entrepreneurs out there who are maybe just starting off and looking to add a little bit more structure into their business?

Jo-Anne Kupiec  18:11

Sure, final thoughts would be when you don't want to be or you're not good at doing things like bookkeeping, or insurance or marketing, or legalese. Definitely hire a professional. It's critical to the success of your business.

Peter Reynolds  18:31

Well, Jo-Anne, thank you so much for spending some time with us today to talk about adding structure to a creative business. We really appreciate your time.

Jo-Anne Kupiec  18:42

Thank you. Thanks for having me. Good to see you guys.

Peter Reynolds  18:47

With us, as always, is the maestro of marketing Damon Adachi. And we also were joined by Jo-Anne Kupiec who is an interior designer and owner of Design Excellence. I'm Peter Reynolds and you've been listening to Pros and Conversations. See you next time.