Be A Master Stage Manager

Growing your design business begins by knowing – and mastering – the stage it is in, By Gail Doby, ASID

How are you feeling about your interior design business these days? Is work challenging? Are your creative juices flowing? Do you enjoy working with the clients you have and are you satisfied with the money you’re making? If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, it may be a sign you’re feeling stuck in your present situation.

Perhaps your situation is only temporary, the result of circumstances outside of your control. More than likely, not. I’ve come to recognize that often when an interior design business owner tells me they are feeling stuck, it’s either because they have not yet mastered the stage their business is in now or they don’t know how to move on to the next one.

The 5 Stages of Design Business Development

Working with a number of different types of firms over the years, I began to see certain patterns in how they and their owners develop. From those observations, I’ve identified five life stages common to many interior design firms. Not all firms go through all five stages, but those that do follow a similar progression.


Is thinking about starting their own business
Wants to learn the ropes, especially the business side of running a firm


Lone Ranger
The sole practitioner
Tries to do everything on their own


Looking to expand their market and client base
Hoping to attract more of their ideal clients


Design Star
In high demand
Has strong brand recognition
Enjoys great visibility in the design media and social media


Seasoned professional
Has moved into a primarily executive role
Is thinking about retirement, and preparing successors to take over the firm
Looking for ways to give back to the profession

Moving on to the next stage

What you need to get unstuck are strategies to either maximize the model you’re using or to move on to the next level. This is not as hard to do as it may sound. But first, you need to understand and appreciate what stage of development you and your firm are in.

I’ve created an assessment tool that will help you to do just that. I call it the "Interior Design Owner Quiz." By answering a few basic questions about your business and your career aspirations, you will discover what type of interior design firm owner you are and where you are in your business life cycle, its challenges and rewards.

To get started, go to to complete the online questionnaire. Based on your answers, I’ll send you a tailored report that details what type of design business owner you are and what this means for your business. You’ll also receive advice you can implement right away to start improving your business now.

About Gail Doby

Gail Doby, ASID, is a mentor, advisor and Co-CEO who is passionate about design, experienced in business, and on a mission to help you experience a quantum leap. Her firm Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting, and its sister company, Design Success University, have been coaching interior designers to make more profit and rapidly scale their businesses since 2008.