trade tales | Aug 28, 2020 |
Who was your first hire?

Starting a firm is full of important choices, but choosing the right people to join your new team is particularly crucial to success. We asked five designers—Victoria Amegno, Brian Brown, Lisa Kahn, Ariel Okin and Vicky Serany—what positions they hired for first.

Vicky Serany
Vicky SeranyCourtesy of Vicky Serany

Balancing act
“The first employee of my studio was a young designer who had strengths that balanced my weaknesses. I came from a strong construction background, and the young designer had solid experience with furnishings and window treatments. It can be somewhat intimidating, but hiring to balance my weaknesses has always proved to be successful.” —Vicky Serany, Southern Studio Interior Design, Cary, North Carolina

Ariel Okin
Ariel OkinCourtesy of Ariel Okin

Know your strengths
“[My first hires were] a design assistant to help with technical aspects like AutoCAD and a CPA to help with our bookkeeping. I learned early that you should outsource the things that you aren't great at—for me, that was CAD and bookkeeping. It really allowed me to focus more on bringing in new business and the creative side, which ultimately allowed me to grow the business faster.” —Ariel Okin, Ariel Okin Interiors, New York

Victoria Amegno
Victoria AmegnoCourtesy of Victoria Amegno

Picture perfect
“Being part of a highly visual and artistic industry, it was critical that the firm’s aesthetic and work are represented in the utmost professional manner. As a result, a great percentage of my start-up costs went toward professional photography and a website. I’m thrilled to have made this investment, and cannot wait to debut a new website this winter. The next role [I’ll be investing in] is an accountant, which is just as vital for the firm’s success. I’m in the final stages of the interview process to fill this role and am excited to have the right person join my team.” —Victoria Amegno, Victoria Lambert Interiors, Minneapolis-St. Paul

Brian Brown
Brian BrownCourtesy of Brian Brown

Fill the Gaps
“Being a big-picture kind of person (with a touch of ADHD), focusing on the finishing details for drawings was a huge challenge—a detail-oriented task that, for some reason, seemed to take me a lifetime. With that in mind, I sought out to hire my opposite. I know every job posting says, ‘Looking for someone detail-oriented’—well, I meant it! I continue to hire to other areas that I may be weak in, or even areas that other parts of my team may be weak in. I know what our strengths are and where we excel. Looking at what isn’t working informs what I look for in a new hire.” —Brian Brown, Brian Brown Studio, San Diego

Lisa Kahn
Lisa KahnCourtesy of Lisa Kahn

Teamwork makes the dream work
“I hired a design assistant and a part-time bookkeeper as my first employees. I wanted to be sure we had the handling of money in order—both ours and the client’s—and the bookkeeper provided that confidence. I also knew there would be too many details to coordinate in both design and purchasing for me to handle on my own, and though the design assistant needed training, they were able to plug into what I needed fairly easily. These were smart hires because they allowed me the freedom to do some marketing and overall business management right from the start. Instead of starting with a slow crawl, we shot out of the gate and ended up landing one of the largest projects in the area after being open only three months. I attribute that to assembling an effective team as I opened my doors.” —Lisa Kahn, Lisa Kahn Designs, Naples, Florida

Homepage photo: A project by Ariel Okin | Photo: Seth Caplan

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