Approximately one month into the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., the effects of a nationwide directive of self-isolation and a halted economy are in sharp relief. Companies large and small shifted employees from working in centralized offices to working from home, experiencing technological obstacles along the way.Many are also experiencing intense financial pressures, particularly small businesses that do not have the cash reserves to continue paying expenses such as rent and infrastructure costs while their revenue streams are hitting a pause.
One source of relief in all of this is the flexibility afforded by cloud-based apps and services that are allowing them to continue doing business as usual, at least as much as possible. What’s more, these shifts are likely to remain the case going forward even after this current crisis subsides.
The Business Benefits of Cloud in an Uncertain Landscape
Cloud computing is defined as the delivery of services and applications through the Internet. Before the invention of cloud computing, all files and software applications had to be stored in a physical location that was in the same place as the computers using those applications, like the hard drive on your laptop or desktop. Cloud computing lets users access a network, files, and software applications from anywhere they can access the internet, because the data and applications are being stored in a virtual warehouse rather than a physical disk, hard-drive, or server. Services like Google Docs and Dropbox are cloud-based applications.
Companies that invested in cloud services prior to the current COVID-19 crisis were in a strong position to support a workforce that shifted from working in a centralized location to working from their individual homes that are dispersed across a wide geographic area. Companies that did not have robust virtual networks are now scrambling to find ways to maintain productivity without crashing their networks. Companies that aren’t able to collaborate through cloud-based services are experiencing limited productivity and a sense of disconnection among employees.
For small businesses – a label that applies to many interior design firms – investing in cloud computing is a smart strategy to stay nimble in times of uncertainty, whether due to a universal crisis or an individual rough patch. For example, a business may need to close an office location due to a slowdown in business, or may not be able to afford an in-house IT specialist to maintain physical servers. Interior design businesses that were previously in a strong financial position will now have to contend with both residential and commercial clients pushing off plans for projects further into the distance. Working from the cloud makes it easy to predict IT costs and to only hire IT professionals on a limited and as-needed basis. Small improvements like that will let them be more efficient, and may help them buy some time with finances.
Design Manager was the first software company to offer interior designers a cloud-based interior design project management and accounting software, three years prior to any other company in the space, anticipating the specific needs of their clients.
“When cloud computing started gaining traction around 2007, we at Design Manager saw the writing on the wall coming quite quickly. Outside of the interior design industry, others were moving to a cloud based solution. Knowing how dynamic interior designers are and how often they are on the go, we could envision how having the accessibility offered by the cloud would be an absolute plus. Even if designer’s didn't know that before they had the cloud offering, once they have it, they love it and quickly rely on it.” – Brad Martin, Former President of Design Manager, Current Director of Customer Success
One of the reasons many delay making the move to the cloud is because they don’t have the time to replicate data from physical to virtual locations. Design Manager recognizes this and is able to bring designers’ desktop data into the cloud, unlike competitors’ cloud solutions which require users to start from scratch with no history.
For those curious about security, Design Manager employs a best-in-breed approach to encryption and data storage, making all cloud-based data entries redundant then copied and stored in a separate location, eliminating the risk posed by any single point of catastrophe.
Weathering the Storm
Design Manager has believed in cloud technology from the very beginning and still believes that cloud computing is best for business, affording the flexibility to work from anywhere with an internet connection. With Design Manager’s cloud offering, users have un-compromised access to their project data and financial records and planning tools, helping to get back to generating cash flow as quickly as possible.
“The interior design industry itself will be fairly resilient. There will be a natural pause as perhaps people don't want others coming into their homes. Once we get through the pandemic, the industry will bounce back with vigor. The utilization of remote work and sourcing will get even stronger. Expect an uptick in home office renovations.” – Brad Martin
Design Manager has weathered decades of economic swings alongside interior designers, including the 2008 recession, which ironically was right around the release of their first cloud software. Through it all, Design Manager has been an industry leader and advocate for interior designers, committed to serving the community and finding new ways to make working as an interior designer easier. After being acquired by 1stdibs, Design Manager now has the expanded resources to improve upon its previous success and is working on new features for its cloud service. Users can expect a plethora of new functionality in the coming months, some of which designers have been asking for, and some that are so forward-thinking, they will be delightfully surprising.
While we wait for better days to come, if your interior design business is currently in a financial crisis due to the impact of COVID-19, there are federal relief programs to help bridge the gap to a post-crisis future. Owners can apply for low-interest loans of up to $2 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Also, the Treasury Department will defer the deadline for annual tax payments by 90 days.
For the latest developments on how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the interior design industry, financial guidance on cash flow, the best loan to apply for, and how interior design businesses can weather the storm, stay tuned to the Design Manager blog.