We recently had the opportunity to sit down with operations extraordinaire, Jennifer La Caze of Jadestone Consulting, and are excited to divulge all of the expert advice she shared for our readers. Jennifer has over 22 years of experience in the complex operations of the interior design business model, and her firm, Jadestone Consulting, offers its interior designer and architect clients a full suite of support services from bookkeeping, purchasing, payroll, to all other administrative functions. We thought she was the perfect person to ask about the crucial topic of how interior designers can stay on to top of their businesses beyond their core design function.
What Makes Jennifer La Caze An Operations Extraordinaire?
Jennifer did not initially set out to become a master of the interior design business model, but finds herself an expert in this niche market by serendipity. When she began working for an interior designer 22 years ago, Jennifer quickly assumed several business support roles at once, which is commonly expected in a small office but rarely well executed. Her boss noticed that Jennifer was excelling in her role and showed a natural business acumen, so she sent Jennifer to bookkeeping classes, and then eventually encouraged her to establish her own consulting and outsourced support firm to help other design businesses.
Today, Jadestone works with a small number of clients, only taking on a few per year, so that they can truly partner with their clients and provide robust support where needed. Jennifer and her team can offer different ranges of support, from consulting to actively managing an entirely outsourced business process, which they support with Design Manager. Jadestone has its own relationships with vendors, so they are also able to add value to the purchasing process. Because they work remotely, they are able to take on clients across the country. Essentially, Jadestone is a one-stop-shop for all of the interior design business support functions one could ever need.
“Your CPA will want you to use Quickbooks or another software that interfaces with Quickbooks. Hang tough, be firm."
The Importance of Diligent Bookkeeping
Jennifer agrees with the notion that scrupulous bookkeeping is the fundamental first stone in building a strong interior design business, saying, “you need to weed the garden because if you get behind or something slips through the cracks, the consequences can be serious.” Jennifer has been using Design Manager to manage her clients’ books for the last fifteen years, and she credits the software for her ability to adhere to Jadestone’s core value of keeping books current.
Just like finding strong operational support in the niche business of interior design is rare but absolutely necessary, finding an accounting and project management software that captures the unique intricacies of the interior design business model is equally so. Jennifer stresses the importance of choosing the right software to support your business and thinks Design Manager stands out as the best tool on the market for interior designers. She advises,“Your CPA will want you to use Quickbooks or another software that interfaces with Quickbooks. Hang tough, be firm. Your CPA likely doesn’t know the intricacies of the interior design business, and if I had a dime for every designer that came to me completely overwhelmed by Excel spreadsheets and struggling with a million knots in their Quickbooks rope, I would be a wealthy girl.
One of Jennifer’s favorite advantages to keeping books current with Design Manager is that you can pull up financial reports at any time, a feature that will surely get your CPA on board.
“Getting that team put together is all about beginning with the end in mind, and anticipating problems before they arise."
Advice For Designers Launching New Businesses
For designers trying to establish a new business, in addition to starting the books with the right organizational tool, Jennifer stresses the importance of assembling a strong team of specialists as soon as possible. She says,“Getting that team put together is all about beginning with the end in mind, and anticipating problems before they arise. You need a good CPA, an insurance expert, a good attorney, and you should establish a letter of agreement for clients so there is a clear method of working together.
She also stresses the importance of a good website that shows off your designs, the core of what your business is all about.
Jennifer’s last piece of advice to designers: keep doing what you’re doing. She says, “the contribution that designers make to the world is so important—don’t let operational issues intimidate or discourage you from entering the business.” If design is your expertise, build your business with support from specialists and specialist software that truly understands the business of interior design.