trade tales | Aug 20, 2021 |
How do you help your employees grow?

Whether you have a team of 20 or a single assistant, making sure that your employees are growing their skills helps your business be the best it can be. We asked six designers—Brittany Farinas, Amal Kapen, Liz Lapan, Mark Lavender, Katherine Melvin and Michele Salazar—how they foster professional development among their staff.

Liz Lapan
Liz LapanCourtesy of Liz Lapan

Power to the people
“We are always striving to offer our team more opportunities, the chance to take ownership over their responsibilities, and the resources to learn about all aspects of what we do. Providing this type of support, while also giving them free rein to push themselves, is how great team members are born. Including our team in our design meetings, polling the group on ideas for the showroom layout and which vendors we are investing with, and expecting their feedback on plans and concepts that we present gives everyone the opportunity to speak and to listen. Expecting more from those around you, not letting them settle, and reinforcing that their growth is dependent on their willingness to be open to the experiences and resources around them helps put the power in their hands to be better for us as a whole.” —Liz Lapan, In Detail Interiors, Pensacola, Florida

Amal Kapen
Amal KapenCourtesy of Amal Kapen

Day by day
“I have a very small operation—usually three people working in close proximity. I take my obligation to mentor people very seriously, as most of my employees have come to me with little or no experience. I share information and knowledge about the things that I have learned along the way on a daily basis. [My] taking time to explain things has worked to instill a sense of pride in their work, no matter how small the task. In addition to encouraging my employees to take classes and participate in training sessions, I also try to foster the idea of good ethical practices toward each other and our clients. Personal responsibility, accountability and kindness are the hallmarks of our team and what we expect from everyone we work with.” —Amal Kapen, Amal Kapen Interiors, Huntington, New York

Katherine Melvin
Katherine MelvinCourtesy of Katherine Melvin

Have Patience
“Our firm would not still be here if it wasn’t for our great and growing team. I’ve seen this so closely as I’ve been on maternity leave these past few months. Having such a wonderful team allowed me to enjoy time away with my baby while still staying informed about what was going on in the studio. I think empowering others in your office to take on responsibilities is very key so they realize how integral they are to the success of the firm. I try to give the other designers in our office direction, but then step back and let them take ownership. I love to see how they work and come up with such wonderful ideas. I’ve found that good communication is key and also remember that it can take time to get to a place where you communicate effectively. It takes patience to invest in each other and learn how we each work, but the payoff is tremendous.” —Katherine Melvin, Katherine B. Melvin Design, Birmingham, Alabama

Brittany Farinas
Brittany FarinasCourtesy of Brittany Farinas

The floor is open
“I encourage my employees to express their creativity no matter what their position is—whether they are an interior design assistant or a junior designer, I want them to feel included in the design process and for them to feel that they are being heard, which allows them to grow. This also opens a dialogue between our team that can lead to different ideas that we may not have thought of otherwise.” —Brittany Farinas, House of One Interior Design, Miami

Michele Salazar
Michele SalazarCourtesy of Michele Salazar

“Employee growth has definitely been challenging. It can be scary to admit when your team needs more help. But as we continue to grow, I find that the value each employee brings to the table has paid itself back tenfold. As we delegate different tasks to different team members, we are able to better serve our clients. I think that by taking a good look at where you are lacking in the business—whether it be customer follow-up, draft delivery, etc.—you can determine who will best service and alleviate that area. From there, you’re able to see clearly and take next steps for improvement! Every business, big and small, has room for improvement somewhere.” —Michele Salazar, Cozy Salazar Interiors, Miami

Mark Lavender
Mark LavenderCourtesy of Mark Lavender

Long game
“I only have one employee, but coming from a large firm, I strongly believe in growing her knowledge and expertise. I believe the more I can expose my employee to both the business and client side of the industry, as well as making time to expand her technical knowledge, it benefits both of us in the long run.” —Mark Lavender, M. Lavender Interiors, Winnetka, Illinois

Homepage photo: A projcet by Brittany Farinas | Courtesy of Brittany Farinas

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.