trade tales | Jan 7, 2022 |
What’s your ideal firm size? 9 designers share their goals

Deciding how big you want your firm to be can be a tricky balance. With more staff comes the opportunity to take on bigger projects, but it can also mean a lot more pressure on you as a business owner. We asked nine designers—Laurence Carr, Jill Croka, Laetitia Laurent, Kate Lester, Jessica Nicastro, Eve Robinson, Ashley Ross, Sarah Stacey and Cara Woodhouse—what their ideal number of employees would be.

Ashley Ross
Ashley RossCourtesy of Ashley Ross

A full house
“I currently have one full-time and two part-time employees, but my ideal team caps at 50 full-time employees! My background is in business development, so my plan is not to build along the lines of a traditional firm but [to create] one that runs like a boutique Fortune 500 company. As I imagine it, the departments would be split almost in half with the design side and the remainder of the team all business-focused. While I am nowhere near this goal, I find myself torn between tasks every day—do I jump into development tasks or the design ones? I am building toward a business that frees me up from the things I do not want to do (or that I am not good at) so I can tap further into the creativity it takes to design.” —Ashley Ross, Muse Noire Interiors, Charlotte, North Carolina

Kate Lester
Kate LesterCourtesy of Kate Lester

Back and forth
“I feel like this is always changing, and I’m OK with that. Some days, I want to have 20 people so I can take all the projects that we get requests for, but I know that’s not realistic for our brand or our location. Other days, I get sentimental and miss the days when it was just me working from my guest room at my leisure. I go between these two extremes pretty consistently, and I think it’s important to know that as a business owner, you probably will too! But for us, right now, that ideal team size is about five to seven in our design firm.” —Kate Lester, Kate Lester Interiors, Hermosa Beach, California

Jessica Nicastro
Jessica NicastroCourtesy of Jessica Nicastro

Sticking to the status quo
“We are currently a team of three full-time employees plus a part-time bookkeeper, an HR consultant and an accountant. Over the past year, I have toyed with adding more people to our team only to realize that our team should remain at three people full-time. The beauty of our small office is that it is a collaborative workspace with an all-hands-on-deck approach to our projects. This allows me to really give the team my attention without spending too much time on team management. I have truly learned that it is about quality and not quantity.” —Jessica Nicastro, Jessica Nicastro Design, Studio City, California

Eve Robinson
Eve RobinsonCourtesy of Eve Robinson

Balancing act
“My ideal team size is between eight and 12. I assign a lead designer to work with me on each project, and I have three administrators who support the design team and handle purchasing administration. We are a close-knit, supportive group of nine people currently. Increasing the team size depends upon the workload, as I never want my team to feel overwhelmed and work-life balance is important to us all.” —Eve Robinson, Eve Robinson Associates, New York

Sarah Stacey
Sarah StaceyCourtesy of Sarah Stacey

Learning to grow
“My ideal team size is ever-evolving. I’ve always thought I wanted to be a one-woman show, but since having a baby, I’ve realized I can’t do it all on my own now. I think an ideal team for me would be a total of four designers and one project manager. I currently design and manage projects, and I have a designer who does our CAD work, one project manager and one other designer who focuses only on product selections and 3D renderings. We have a lot of work right now, and I think having one more designer would be ideal.” —Sarah Stacey, Sarah Stacey Interior Design, Austin, Texas

Cara Woodhouse
Cara WoodhouseCourtesy of Cara Woodhouse

A perfect fit
“I find that a small, boutique-sized firm is ideal. I like to have one office manager and three assistant designers, as well as a bookkeeper and [an outside] PR team. I consider this to be the perfect size for us, where we are able to really accomplish everything that we would like to with our firm, while remaining organized and producing quality work.” —Cara Woodhouse, Cara Woodhouse Interiors, New York

Laurence Carr
Laurence CarrCourtesy of Laurence Carr

Nearing the goal
“My ideal team size is under 10, and I’m delighted to be close to that goal. In this new era, my focus is on finding the right talent who can also accommodate our business schedule and work-from-home/office hybrid model and travel to installs and events. I view my colleagues as collaborators, rather than as employees, so it’s a very dynamic and creative environment.” —Laurence Carr, Laurence Carr Inc., New York

Jill Croka
Jill CrokaCourtesy of Jill Croka

Looking ahead
“I think the ideal team size for our design team is two designers full-time, along with myself and our studio manager. This team size allows us to stay in front of our projects and take on new ones as they come in. I would like to achieve success with online sales and eventually add a separate e-commerce team to the business as well.” —Jill Croka, Jill Croka Designs, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Laetitia Laurent
Laetitia LaurentCourtesy of Laetitia Laurent

Define the roles
“By staying at a size of approximately 10 employees, it allows for projects to have a thoughtful and artisanal approach. With a carefully curated team, each member’s voice can be heard, and input is valued. It gives the opportunity to be explorative with design style and unique selections while truly taking the time to source the perfect piece for clients. With a clear understanding of roles and expectations, a boutique firm is a perfect fit to accomplish all of the company’s needs.” —Laetitia Laurent, Laure Nell Interiors, Boca Raton, Florida

Homepage photo: A project by Eve Robinson Associates | Courtesy of Eve Robinson

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