podcast | Mar 27, 2024 |
Want to open an office in another city? Georgia Zikas has advice

Starting over in a new place can be daunting—it brings an entirely new set of challenges. That’s the position Georgia Zikas found herself in more than a decade ago. After studying at the New York School of Interior Design and learning the ropes at Gomez Associates, she relocated to West Hartford, Connecticut, for her husband’s job. While the move provided her with the perfect opportunity to launch her own design firm, it also posed a unique predicament: Without a built-in network, where to begin?

“I didn’t know a soul in town, and I didn’t have a stitch of family in a 98-mile radius,” Zikas tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “It did take a couple of years for me to realize I can do this—but I also needed a team to make it worth growing.”

The designer took her time preparing for that expansion. She saved up a year of operating expenses, then cultivated her local community until she found a talent pool to tap into—all while operating her firm as a one-woman show. Today, her five-person team is the product of that deliberate approach, with a level of professionalism and communication matching the high-end clientele the firm now serves.

“You can train skill, and you can train experience in some ways, but when it’s a good fit, it’s a good fit,” she says. “Culture’s just one of those things: You’ve got to lasso it, and then make sure you protect it.”

Elsewhere in the episode, Zikas shares why her whole team is involved in the hiring process, how she manages offices across two cities, and why she hired a CFO to keep her firm’s goals in sight.

Crucial insight: As Zikas’s firm has moved into a higher strata of luxury clients, she has sought new ways of setting her services apart from the competition—including tailoring the firm’s process to client preferences. “At this level of design, we’re all going to provide a beautiful end result, but how you get there is going to be wildly different,” she says. “I have honest conversations with clients now: ‘How do you like to receive information?’ ‘How do you like to receive billing?’ That, to me, is luxury.”

Key quote: “Once you have the right people in the right seats rowing in the right direction, I feel like that’s kind of magic, and we’ve struck magic over and over again with this current team.”

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

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