podcast | Feb 14, 2024 |
How Amy Storm shifted her team structure in pursuit of healthy growth

When Amy Storm decided to move her budding design firm into an office space in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, in 2017, she saw the step as the natural progression of a growing business—a new place for her team to come together, not to mention a stronger boundary between her home and work life. What she didn’t expect was that the move would set her firm on an entirely new path.

“It changed everything,” Storm tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “It put me on a very fast-paced trajectory of [first] learning how to do all the things the wrong way, and then finally figuring out how to do them the right way.”

Having worked her way through the ranks of a commercial design firm before launching her own business, Storm had the design side of the job down pat—it was the entrepreneurship, she quickly realized, that would prove the bigger challenge. Moving into an office space expedited that learning curve, with new overhead expenses suddenly making it abundantly clear that, despite a steady pipeline of projects, Storm’s firm just wasn’t making it out of the red.

To right the ship, the designer enlisted outside help. She started with her husband, Josh, who took on the company’s marketing, social media and back-end support. Then she tapped a local business consultant, who helped shed light on the strategies needed to achieve profitability—starting with a massive overhaul of the team structure. In the end, the experience set a new precedent for Storm’s business approach, centered on embracing change at every stage of her firm’s growth. Elsewhere in the episode, she shares why she decided to forgo remodels and focus solely on new construction, and how she locks in a project’s FF&E budget before ever breaking ground.

Crucial insight: Storm’s business consultant quickly pointed out that her staff of part-time employees was keeping her firm from turning a profit. In order to find success, she would have to overhaul her team’s structure with a full-time staff. “I basically said, ‘Within the next year, we need you all to become full-time, or we need to let you go and bring in somebody else,’” she says. “With that comes drama and sadness. … Not everybody wants to go in the same direction you want to go. Once I was able to not be so emotionally affected by that, we were able to step into [the mindset of] Let’s hire the right people for the work and change the way we’re doing things.”

Key quote: As her firm has grown, Storm has consistently established new benchmarks to preserve the company’s upward trajectory—including decisions like turning down inquiries for remodels and taking on only new construction jobs, or establishing an FF&E budget before the contract is signed, to make sure furnishings don’t fall out of the equation at the end of a project. “Along the way, I’ve put these stakes in the ground that have dramatically transformed our firm’s trajectory,” she says. “But it didn’t come without hesitation and maybe a little fear along the way—and a lot of optimistic thinking.”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Universal Furniture.

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