I’m bringing several employees with me to High Point Market for the first time this spring. What’s the best way to handle expenses and compensation for my team for what I know will be an inspiring, but long, weekend of work?
Dear Payment Plan,
Such a simple and fascinating question. On one hand, attending High Point Market is beyond the scope of most designers’ core businesses. On the other, there is tremendous value in seeing and learning about all that is available at High Point—an essential destination for shopping and inspiration, one could argue. Since ongoing, day-to-day responsibilities at your firm do not stop during Market—and because attending Market is an additional request, no matter how excited your associates may be—the straightforward answer is that extra compensation is due the employees you choose to take with you to High Point.
However, if you are going to provide extra compensation, you should expect some value in return. If you are paying for your employees to attend, it is only fair that you should reap the rewards of the investment. To me, that means deliverables—for example, a written report on the most interesting trends, styles, products; a list of contacts made; or a summary of educational topics presented. To be even more specific, I would suggest that you ask your employees to share at least two viable opportunities you can put in place in your design business that will reap a return, financial or otherwise, in the next six months to a year.
With what I’ll call “conference overload” so prevalent these days, there is a tendency to be amped at the conference or market—excited and inspired by what you and your employees experience—only to have the energy fizzle when you return to the grind of everyday business at home. Instead, choose a tangible, structured path to build on the energy created at High Point. Not just, “Wow, that new lighting technique I saw was amazing—we should do that for a client one day.” Instead, “That new lighting technique was amazing. I have scheduled a meeting with the manufacturer to give us additional information for next week. Here are the projects we could work the technique into and here is the type of project it would be great for, as well as all pricing and specification information.”
Last, by choosing to compensate your employees for High Point, you are identifying a fundamental shift that is critical to the future of design businesses. Today, employees want to be empowered to have an entrepreneurial spirit in addition to assuming responsibility for doing the tasks they are assigned. That means that the real challenge is to incorporate this ethos into the fabric of your business. Make the desire to push boundaries be the standard of excellence you expect of all your employees. Then, as the future reveals itself, you, your art and your creative business will be uniquely positioned to take advantage of whatever may come.
Sean Low is the the go-to business coach for interior designers. His clients have included Nate Berkus, Sawyer Berson, Vicente Wolf, Barry Dixon, Kevin Isbell and McGrath II. Low earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and as founder-president of The Business of Being Creative, he has long consulted for design businesses. In his Business Advice column for BOH, he answers designers’ most pressing questions. Have a dilemma? Send us an email—and don’t worry, we can keep your details anonymous.