Twenty-five years ago, while helping a friend with their interior design business, Lloyd J. Princeton fell in love with the home industry. “I loved the combination of business and artistry,” he tells Business of Home. It was that initial experience that would lead him to found Design Management Company, a consulting agency that specializes in business development and recruiting design talent.
The development of his business has coincided with a tumultuous period in the industry. There are more designers now than there ever have been, facing an increasingly complicated marketplace, with trade protection disappearing, clients getting savvier (and pushier), and the internet turning everything upside down. Designers need guidance, and Princeton has made it his mission to offer it.
He’s spent the intervening decades as a business consultant and sought-after speaker at trade shows across the globe. Princeton has done over 300 speaking engagements, including trade missions to Russia and Thailand. Unsurprisingly, wherever he goes, he finds that designers respond most to a perennially tricky subject: pricing for services. “My signature presentation is called ‘Deciding What You’re Worth and Charging It,’” he says. “Those talks helped me learn about the trade and gain exposure in the industry. And during my travels, I met a ton of designers and helped a lot of people develop their careers.”
Six years ago, he expanded his business to include recruiting services, an area he’d found to be a real pain point for design firms. “My clients are trained to build things, not search for people to join their team,” says Princeton. “They’re coming because they’re frustrated with the lack of responsiveness from candidates and then, in many cases, a lack of transparency about people’s careers.”
His client base ranges from newly formed firms to designers who have decades of experience. Princeton’s business expertise informs his input and he prioritizes honesty in each step of the process. “We always inform our clients about the realities of the marketplace,” he says. “We help firms make decisions about whether or not they should be bringing people on board. If we don’t think something is the right position for a firm's needs, or if our opinion of a candidate changes through the recruitment process, we tell them. If we have reservations, we’re honest about that. We don’t just try to put a deal together. We want to make sure it’s good for the candidate and for the design firm as well.”
It’s that commitment to finding the right fit and helping a business grow that led Princeton to adopt a one-year guarantee for any candidate he places. “Ultimately, we are a resource for the whole business, not just for recruiting,” he says. “Whatever questions a client may have, we’re prepared to answer them. We’re a holistic resource for their entire business.”