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Why You Need an Operations Manager at Your Interior Design Firm

Interior design is a highly creative pursuit without a rigid formula for success. Running a business, however, is a whole other ball game. That’s why having an operations manager on your team is crucial to building and maintaining a successful interior design firm. 

What Does an Operations Manager Do?

An operations manager is responsible for executing or overseeing all aspects of the “back end” of a business, meaning the functions that happen behind the scenes. For an interior design firm, almost all of the non-artistic functions fall into the category of operations, including:

  • Purchase orders
  • Collecting and disbursing payments
  • Inventory management
  • Bookkeeping and accounting
  • Human resources
  • Facilities management
  • Marketing and client development

For a solopreneur just starting out, it’s possible to execute these functions oneself while overseeing the outsourcing of those that require specific expertise, such as accounting and human resources. But the more a business grows, the greater the need becomes for a dedicated operations manager. 

How a Dedicated Operations Manager Can Help Your Interior Design Business

The interior design business model is complex. With so many details to keep track of and crucial tasks to complete on time, it soon becomes impossible to manage the business without an expert on your team. A dedicated operations manager, particularly one who is familiar with the interior design industry and the ins and outs of its distinct business model, can transform your interior design business into a well-oiled machine positioned for growth. Here are some ways an operations manager can help your interior design business:

  • Create an operations manual: The first thing an operations manager can do for your business is to create a document that outlines every single process that your business needs to function. In the process, this expert will identify procedures that can be improved and can implement new methods of working, so the manual becomes a living document that becomes the core of your business. This manual will be shared with all employees and will be a guide for onboarding new hires.
  • Oversee bookkeeping and coordination with accountants: Bookkeeping can be tedious, but doing it correctly is essential to a company’s financial health and tax compliance. An operations manager not only oversees bookkeeping (though likely not doing it themselves), they will also coordinate with your accountant to make sure all information is provided to the accountant with enough time to file taxes. They will also follow up and make sure your accountant is meeting all of the company’s reporting requirements.
  • Oversee purchase orders: Interior design involves a sequential process of issuing invoices and collecting payments from clients, ordering and tracking products, and finally the delivery and installation of products. The minutiae of this process is overwhelming for an interior designer who is simultaneously creating and adapting designs while interfacing with clients. Yet, the importance of getting this part of the  job done correctly is crucial to the success of a project. An operations manager can take over the administration of this entire process, allowing the designer(s) to focus on their core strengths. 
  • Make sure the lights stay on: Remembering to pay rent, utilities, and internet is something an interior designer does not need to keep on their plate if it can be avoided. An operations manager will handle these perfunctory tasks, as well coordinate cleaners, garbage disposal, and all other aspects of running an office.
  • Manage showrooms and records of inventory: If your interior design business has a showroom or shop, an operations manager can handle not only the above-mentioned facilities management, but also keep records of ingoing and outgoing inventory.
  • Staffing and employee management: while the business owner may take on a larger role in deciding who to hire and fire, an operations manager can handle the process in a way that is compliant with the law. Aside from hiring and firing, an operations manager can also oversee the hiring process and will also oversee all aspects of getting new hires familiar with their responsibilities and company policies. They will also work with insurance brokers to find benefits packages for employees and oversee the disbursement of such benefits.
  • Identify marketing opportunities: Networking and finding opportunities for exposure is part of becoming a successful interior designer. Much of this will be done by the designer(s) herself, but an operations manager can also help secure marketing and advertising both within and outside of the small, enclosed world of the interior design industry. That may be something they are directly responsible for themselves, at a smaller company, or something they oversee through a marketing lead that reports into them at a larger company. Either way, the management of those strategies and execution of those tactics are something most designers won’t be able to handle on their own.

Running an interior design business involves so much more than creating beautiful designs. Having a dedicated operations manager can save a designer and business owner time and stress by having an expert to manage the business correctly without anything slipping through the cracks. When you see how much an operations manager is actually responsible for, you may think one person cannot possibly do so much alone, so as a business grows, the operations manager will build a staff to support them. 

Margot LaScala
Margot LaScala
Margot is a writer and interior designer based in the NYC area. She is passionate about keeping up with the latest architecture and design news to not only stay informed, but inspired.

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