Designer: Business sense required

To be a truly successful interior designer, a person has to know more than just how to select matching lamps. He or she has to know how to operate a business.

This was the lesson Bobi Leonard shared with fellow interior designers at last week’s First Friday event at the Las Vegas Design Center at World Market Center Las Vegas.

“The financial aspects are equally as important as the creative aspect,” she said.

During her presentation, Leonard shared tips for what types of documents and contracts are necessary, as well as stressed the importance of items such as vendor agreements and change orders.

She ran a successful interior design business in Los Angeles for more than two decades. She worked with many of Hollywood’s top stars, as well as on upscale, international commercial projects. Since selling her business in 1999, she has dedicated her time to teaching others her formula for success in business. She currently counsels more than 50 companies.

Admitting that she has been criticized for her tough nature, she said it’s in her clients’ best interests to protect them from those who provide materials for their design jobs as well as their own indecision. With the proper paperwork she said she can ensure that clients get exactly what it is they wanted or ordered and get it on time.

She also addressed issues such as errors and omission insurance, collecting deposits and retainers in advance and limited liability corporations.

One of the most important lessons she shared was to urge designers never to pay contractors and vendors directly. This makes them general contractors, and without the proper license they can be arrested on felony charges, she said.

Leonard also spoke about getting a business coach.

“The truth is that I wouldn’t be standing here today without my business coach,” she said.

That person should be someone who is available by telephone on an ongoing basis to provide help and advice on the spot, and not after contracts have been signed. By then, it is too late, she said.

Before concluding her presentation, she said it also is vitally important for designers to believe in themselves and their abilities. If you believe in yourself, then you believe you can help your client, she said.

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