2019… what a year! Oh the things we learned, did, and how we’ve grown. I’d say this was the year of figuring it OUT. During our first full year in business we were very much focused on growth and saying yes to everything in an effort to get things off the off the ground. Year Two, we realized we needed to fine tune our operations & what we put out in the world to make sure that the right projects are finding us, and maybe not just whoever walks in the door wanting help. (I’m a helpful to a fault, So I want to help everyone, even if it’s just someone who’s wandered in for directions!) Instead of a year of firsts, it was the year of “How can we do this better next time?” and “What went wrong there?” And I’m so proud of how at every turn we’ve taken a step back to think about how we can always strive to be better. So here’s a look back on it all, as well as some of the things we’re excited for in 2020!
THE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED
Busy is not always good thing.
We started off the year slammed with work. We’d gotten to the point where we’d built up a consistent flow of clients and were booking out for remodeling well into the year already. Then R.K. Miles closed their Kitchen and Bath department… which just so happens to be our specialty. The flood of people in the door was too much for the two of us to handle on our own, and a lot of it was the wrong kinds of projects for us or folks thinking about renovating where the work never really went anywhere. I spent the better part of the year responding to every “How are you doing? or “How’s business?” with “BUSY.” and a nervous smile plastered across my face. Yes, as a new business we felt blessed to be busy, but we quickly realized we were doing no one any favors by being SO busy – not us, and definitely not our clients. Around the thousandth email I started with “Sorry for my delayed response…” I started to worry we had a big problem on our hands. Around the time I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and actually lost a client who was super excited to work with is because I just couldn’t get to her plans, busy week after busy week. We’ll we’ve finally managed to figure out a balance now, we definitely had a rough time getting there and while I’m really glad we have… I can’t help but wonder how things would change if we’d figured it out just a little bit sooner.
You can’t do it all on your own.
Something that I’ve noticed in every design job I’ve ever had is that most design firms expect you to be all things, this is especially hard with the creative mindset designers tend to have, that mind doesn’t often enjoy the more tedious side of the business, creating proposals, documents, quoting, and project management. Some of this is why Chris & I work so well together because we play to each others strengths. But neither of us could keep up with quite all of it … and the thing I’ve noticed about just about every successful person is that they are masters at delegating and directing others. So we realized (as scary as it was) it was time to grow our team to more than just US.
We dipped our toes into hiring and brought on our first part time employee, our design assistant, Melissa in late January (who I don’t know if we’ve made it official but I would now consider a Junior Designer). While part time help was transformative at first, once building season hit full swing and we were again overwhelmed we realized we needed more help & it was time to bring someone on full time.
Instead of hiring another designer, we decided to bring on an office assistant & front desk person. Why? Because there was SO much administrative work we were doing that was backing us up completely and making it impossible to get to the actual design work and for me at least, it was all the stuff I don’t enjoy! So we brought on Jenna in September to make sure our door was always open and the “paperwork” didn’t fall through the cracks anymore. We are so happy we’ve made a second hire and our productivity has soared because of it – It really feels good to have a solid team put together!
WHAT WE ACCOMPLISHED
- 14 Kitchens
- 28 Bathrooms
- 11 Countertop Replacements
- 10 Bedrooms
- 2 Staircases
- 3 Bars
- 3 Whole Home Projects
- 1 Basement Renovation
- 4 Photoshoots
- 3 Business Trips
- 1.75 One Room Challenges (we promise we’ll get back to it soon!)
- Our Kitchen (Almost)
- Our first full feature in a our local Stratton Magazine
- And whole bunch of things still in the works!
- Our pup’s first full year with us, We love little miss Bromley Brook!
- Chris upgraded to a “professional grade” 2500 truck for towing all those kitchen deliveries and we bought a dump trailer which doesn’t sound that amazing but even I’ll admit this thing is awesome.
- Chris found the jackpot of reclaimed wood from a local covered bridge
- Hitting the Architectural Digest Show
- Becoming a member of the VFW Auxiliary & getting more involved (And Chris became the Post Commander!)
- Spending time exploring the D&D Building in NYC
- Visiting the Kips Bay Showhouse – I might just have to go every year now!
- Making trips to the farmer’s market a Sunday Ritual
- Going up the Gondola at Jay Peak (I’m super scared of heights this was huge! even though I refused to go back down, haha!)
- Spending lots of time at Camp Buttercup & on Lake St. Cathrine
- Growing from a Team of 2 to 4!
- Visiting the Candlelight Cabinetry factory to see their facilities and get a first hand look at their superior craftsmanship and sustainable practices (and pick up our kitchen!)
- Replacing our electrical panel, officially eliminating all knob and tube & sorting out the nest of electric in the basement (this was a hazard & made me anxious, it gives me so much peace of mind)
- Celebrating two years married and two years in business
- Traveling to DC for Chris to run the Marine Corps Marathon
- Hosting my first Christmas in the new kitchen – truly a dream!
A FEW RESOLUTIONS…
Read More, Learn More – While if you know me you’ll know I devour podcasts on design & business (and also murder) at a breakneck pace. I love to be learning and flexing my brain when I’m on the go driving or working on anything that doesn’t require a ton of mental focus. But something I’ve noticed is those epiphanies & ideas that I get listening a lot of times go nowhere, because I can’t flip back to a page to reference that thought, sometimes it disappears forever. A couple months ago I picked up a book and I remembered how good it feels to read again, dog tag pages, write in the margins, and occasionally, if I’m feeling really crazy – highlight! I’ve gathered quite the to read list and I can’t wait to get started!
Consistency is Key – I’ve never been a creature driven by habit, spontaneity and doing what I feel has always been my game. But consistency and routine can not only be great for your mental health, but also for building a business that’s a force of nature and a following that can’t wait to see what you come up with next. (At least according to ChrisLovesJulia and the book I’ve currently devouring, “Superfans” by Pat Flynn.)
Have More Fun – Something I noticed this year is that I got way too serious and forgot to have fun. I second guessed myself a lot both in design and life which I think meant I had a lot less fun. I’ve been making a point lately to say yes to things, try new things, and just enjoy life – and I’m excited to see how 2020 goes because of it!
Stepping Up Our Game – With a slower period this fall we had lots of time to reflect on how our business has grown, our process has developed, what’s working – and more importantly what’s not. We have some changes in the works for just about every facet of our business, and I’m excited to see us implement over the next year!
Self Care is IMPORTANT! – This year something that came hand in hand with getting overwhelmed and pushing so hard to finish projects on the house was that we forgot to take care of ourselves. My biggest resolution is the one on everyones list – to eat better, be healthier, get outside more, exercise more, but also pamper myself a little more ’cause long baths are my jam now!
Things We’re Looking Forward to in 2020…
- Our trip to KBIS in January – We’re hitting Las Vegas for this years Kitchen & Bath Industry Show as well as a mini-vacation! I can’t wait to take you along in my pocket for a peek at all the latest & greatest – and maybe some fun casino tours (I love the over the top crazy design ideas that happens in them!)
- Focusing more on interior design projects – With a few clients with completed kitchen and bath focused renovations moving into the furnishings phase and a few new clients coming in with lots of furnishing & drapery needs I feel like I’ve finally gotten some balance in working in the parts of design I enjoy! I will always love kitchens & bathrooms the most, but there is nothing quite like the immediate transformation of styling a shelf or a mantle, filling a basic couch with fabulous pillows or taking a room from just ok to “hot damn!” with some killer draperies.
- Finally spending some time in the Hudson Valley – We got gifted a stay in Hudson for Christmas and though we’ve yet to figure out exactly when we’re going I am so excited to check out all the things I’ve been drooling over via Instagram (Mostly via House of Brinson). During college I focused on the Hudson River Valley in the Gilded Age for an entire semester and it was beyond inspirational. I really love what was happening in art & furnishings during that period, it was a really interesting time of immense wealth & growth with the entire dynamic of how people lived their lives shifting, the impact that had on furnishings is really fun to study. I’ve heard the antiquing is legendary and since there’s a few things I need…
- Finishing our Main Floor – With the kitchen almost completed and all the major construction checked off for the time being (our master bath is the absolute last priority in the house so that will stay as is for now.) – It’s finally time to focus on the finishing touches! On my to-do list is much needed storage pieces (a chest of drawers for the dining room, credenza for the living room, and maybe a coffee table with some storage too.) as well as a comfy chair for Chris, Runners to protect our floors & stairs, and custom draperies for our living & dining rooms (which I may or may not D.I.Y). Chris has been hard at work organizing his shop & with his new Christmas tools I’m hoping to get those walnut bookshelves he’s supposed to build and maybe if I’m lucky he’ll build me my dream secretary desk for the living room!
- Heading to High Point for the first time! I’ve said I’m going to High Point next market for the past two years but I haven’t actually done it, things kept happening too close that made it too crazy or we were just plain too busy or didn’t have the coverage to have me leave town for so long… We’ll I’m stating it publicly here to make sure it actually does this time! I need to be able to touch and feel things and SIT in the seats to up my game and KNOW I’m giving people something they’ll love.
- Buying my first piece of Original Fine Art – Being an art nerd I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I don’t actually own much art! I’ve got some prints, photos, & drawings that I’ve picked up over the years or have been gifted by friends but as this house (and our last one too) has very limited wall space we’ve never had a spot for any. But we’ve identified the perfect place in the dining room for something and I think decided we’d like it to be a painting… now just to find the perfect piece!
And with that, we sign off, Happy New Year & Cheers to an amazing 2020!