For all of the upsides of growth, there’s a side effect that doesn’t get talked about enough: how emotionally challenging it can be for the principal at the helm. Whether the change comes fast or slow, adding a new team member (or 20) indelibly changes a firm, and the person running it. Seven designers at different stages of staffing up share how they think about hiring, and how they’ve adjusted to their own changing role within the firm.
» The Dreamer
After years of compromising his vision by working for someone else, Nile Johnson set himself free and founded his Philadelphia-based firm. Now he’s embracing the idea that his dream needs a team.
» The Teacher
When Atlanta-based designer Whitney Ray founded Wyeth Ray Interiors with architect Joel Kelly in 2017, she started out slowly—taking three or four projects a year at first, then making a few hires. Then, in 2021, growth came quickly: The firm ended the year with six employees and 29 projects in the books, and had more than doubled its revenue.
» The Perfectionist
Lauren Lerner left a sales and marketing career to found the Scottsdale, Arizona– based firm Living with Lolo five years ago. With record sales in 2021, she is taking a moment to reassess what comes next.
» The Risk Taker
Architect and designer Eddie Maestri credits much of the success of his Dallas-based firm Maestri Studio to betting on his future—whether that means opening an art gallery or starting to say no to small projects.
» The CEO
Oakland, California– and Atlanta-based designer Kelly Finley of Joy Street Design started her career as a corporate attorney. Now she’s looking to build a design empire, which means developing a team that can make decisions without her.
» The Mentor
After a decade at Polo Ralph Lauren, Michael Cox co-founded the New York–based design firm Foley&Cox with fellow Ralph Lauren alum Mary Foley in 2002. In the two decades that followed, he has honed a process for mentoring young talent—but never stopped learning himself.
» The Curator
In the first decade of running architecture and design firm Workshop/APD, Andrew Kotchen and his co-founder Matt Berman strategically diversified their portfolio to ensure steady growth even in uncertain times. Over the years, their team swelled to nearly three dozen employees. Then the pandemic hit, and the firm doubled in size again. Growth at that scale means being a leader, but also building the firm’s next generation of leaders from within.
Homepage image: Earth tones lend a grounded atmosphere to this interior by Nile Johnson. | Stacy Zarin Goldberg