Creative Conversations with Staci Davidson
When Staci Davidson was hired as the operations and business manager for Leighanne LaMarre Interiors, she knew it was her job to make the back-end business work smoothly so the design staff could focus on their work – the art of design.
That’s why she immediately sought out a reliable project-management Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. In search of a product that could specifically address the needs of an interior design firm, she transitioned the company from QuickBooks, which she had found limited in that regard, to another industry-specific solution that was aesthetically pleasing, but turned out to lack value-adding tools.
“[That product] really is attractive to the design staff and the creative staff at a business,” she says. “They really lure you in with pretty images and the appearance of cutting-edge software, and they have this promise that they're really going to deliver on the project management end.”
But Staci quickly determined the product’s capabilities didn’t match that promise. For one, it had its own integration with Quickbooks, Staci says, but that integration was far from seamless, and instead of spending less time doing accounting work, she was doing more.
“[It] wasn't communicating properly to QuickBooks, so essentially, we would show in [the platform] that a client had paid an invoice but this wasn't tracking over to QuickBooks,” Staci says. “Or, when it did, it might be in a completely different amount. On top of that, the sales tax module was basically unusable. So, that created a lot of headaches and [required] a lot of additional manpower.”
Realizing this product was not the solution, she set out to find a better alternative.
Flash vs. Function: Finding a SaaS Product That Works
Wary of another under-performing product, Staci shopped around for a while. She viewed numerous live demos and sat in on multiple calls outlining various products until, finally, she found Design Manager. She was impressed then, and continues to be now, by the combination of project management and business operation tools in the platform.
“One of the greatest and most exciting things for me with Design Manager is that everything starts at a spec level,” she says. “The importance of the design staff being able to look at each and every spec within their project, and to know all the details of that spec saves so much time. The importance on my end is that I am able to see and track each spec throughout the process, from creation to client installation.”
The ease of use and robust toolset has streamlined efficiency and, ultimately, improved sales for the company.
“I tell everybody that we wouldn't be able to operate at the level that we do, and do the sales that we do, with the amount of staff we have if it weren't for Design Manager and all of the capabilities. It's a one-stop-shop to track everything within a project in one place efficiently,” she says.
Letting Designers Do What They Do Best
From Staci’s perspective, the appeal for designers is the interface allows the design team to use the Project Specification Window to get creative and enhance their client communications. The flexibility of the platform allows the designers to make changes as they progress in a project.
“They don't have to spend so much time on administrative tasks, getting bogged down, so they can focus more on what they came to do,” she says. “They are there to design so they don’t want to waste time clicking through a bunch of spreadsheets and documents. With this Specification Window they see exactly where items are within a project.”
“When I go into the purchase and work orders tab, I can easily see any item that has still not been received. I can see all the tracking for every single purchase order. I can see the estimated ship dates and what we might need to troubleshoot,” she says. For their business, she is doing this for anywhere from 12 to 18 projects with as many as 75 purchase orders per project so it's an incredible time saver.
Saving Time and Growing a Business
Since implementing Design Manager in March of 2018, business at Leighanne LaMarre Interiors has grown exponentially. The ability to manage so much, seamlessly, has increased the team’s capacity to take on new businesses and support a growing project list.
“We have clients reaching out almost daily, potential clients, who want to work with us,” Staci says. “We would never be able to do more than five or six projects at a time if we were still operating on [the other platform].”
Even features Staci thought she wouldn’t care about have proven essential. For instance, the numbering system for purchase orders.
“Within [the other product], just as an example, a purchase order might be 10136. If you're anyone looking at that within your business, you have no idea what client or vendor that is. But Design Manager is unique in that it starts with the three letters of a project. For instance, if our client's last name is Jones, it's going to be JON01-0001. Whenever anybody within the company emails a question regarding that purchase order, we know immediately, ‘this is for the Jones project.’ It's so much easier to go in and find the information.”
The Client Portal is another daily benefit. Here, clients can pay deposits on proposals, as well as view and pay their invoices.
“It's been a real time-saver for us also in how we communicate with clients, they can log in and know that they can always see proposals and invoices that they've paid, the dates that they paid, and the amounts and what they paid on,” Staci explains.
For the team at Leighanne LaMarre Interiors, Design Manager has proven to be more than just a pretty package – it’s transformed how they do business. As Staci says, “While pretty images are great, when it comes to the bones of the business, it's dependent on your software and the management capabilities that set you up for success.”