Caring for Our Clients - The sacred agreement →

In the spirit of penning a Valentine’s Day blog post, I had planned to share how I really care about the projects and the clients, with whom I work. I’m passionate about giving clients a gorgeous home, customized for their families, in which to welcome guests and to help them reflect who they are.  I consider being invited into their homes, and to be included in their personal lives, as a sacred thing.  With some recent industry events, I decided to edit this post.

One of the definitions of sacred is:  "secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right:  sacred oaths; sacred rights."  This means I come to clients with the understanding I will respect their privacy and the data we create from their projects and will do my very best to protect it.  It means we want to carefully vet people and processes that will be part of their projects, too.   

We want our clients to know one of the key values we bring, other than our creative collateral, is how we take on the role of advocacy, on their behalf, whether it’s tracking a shipment of furniture, making sure the workroom understands their specs and drawings or measuring twice for a picture to be properly placed in proportion to its location.  We are their last point of project resolution. 

Some changes occurred for the interior design community, this week.  There were a few big announcements which created a conundrum as to where designers can place their trust.  It’s a long story but one of the news flashes was regarding an interior design project management and financial platform and that it was sold to a large industry entity, leaving many feeling vulnerable.  (To read about it, click <here>. “Houzz acquires IvyMark to expand into services for designers.”)  More than 2,400 designers had invested in IvyMark and there are over 200,000 designers on Houzz, globally.  (Figures are taken from one of the Houzz co-founders.)

Ballantyne Living Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo: Dustin Peck

Ballantyne Living Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo: Dustin Peck

It has created quite a stir, to say the least.  If you’re an interior designer reading this, you’ve probably been part of this big discussion.  If you're a consumer, the shift in our industry is also important to you, as you consider addressing your home's design.  

After many exchanges and reading Terms of Use and Privacy Policies, I pondered why consumers might actually care about this, too?  After all, haven’t these kind of companies been around for a while and made it clear there’s an expected exchange for anything being “free”?  It also depends on what is regarded as privacy or ownership of information.  It’s important to note, these Terms and Conditions can be changed at any time, meaning when you first subscribed to a service or platform, it may not still be applicable to the original proposition.  (By the way, interior designers had to pay to use the IvyMark program, which Houzz purchased.)  Essentially, though still being debated, it's becoming more clear there's a different price being paid in this information age.  And we have a choice in it.  Or I at least think we should.

The fine print can be a long and boring read and because it seems everyone else has given a thumb’s up, why not join in, right?  That’s until it becomes like a Facebook post, going viral, that has been proven to be false, and your friends begin pointing you to the Snopes or news articles refuting it.  One of those egg-on-the-face moments.  I don’t want to make light of this.  Trust is tough to gain back, once it’s been broken.  Think of some of the corporations who’ve had to take responsibility for breaching their customers’ good faith.

In the beginning, some of these platforms were to provide inspirational and aspirational design and as a means to connect the public with professionals.  They were to provide a method for the consumer to be able to collect images, communicate preferences when technical terms might not be part of their everyday vocabulary.  (In the “old days”, designers asked clients to bookmark magazines or hardback publications to help express their style or to point to a specific element.)  Today, all you have to do is search for something on your computer or phone, and suddenly that object appears in an advertisement on a social media site or when a website allows Google ads to run.  It begins to filter what you see as it makes choices for you.  Feels a little invasive, doesn’t it?

Time will tell how all of this flushes out.  In examining between the legalese lines, it reads as if the door has been left wide open for the collection of information, designers' work being shared for sourcing, as well as the policy for images being the property of that big entity to do with them as they wish.  Photographers may have a say in this for use in advertising and I hope they will. 

Ballantyne Dining Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:&nbsp; Whitney Gray

Ballantyne Dining Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:  Whitney Gray

Sedgefield Owner's Bath - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:&nbsp; Whitney Gray

Sedgefield Owner's Bath - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:  Whitney Gray

I work hard for my clients.  I am a high touch designer.  My focus is to make the design process more calming, more organized, and to protect clients' interests while also getting the job done.  The less I jump into subscribe to the “next big thing”, which ultimately may become disruptive and/or falls short on application, the more consistent I’ll be at focusing on doing my best job. 

I hope designers will consider this to be a positive catalyst, though it’s not my place to advise on how to handle their own business practices.  Some will continue to embrace these platforms and others will steer clear.  I would suggest taking time to read, read, read and investigate before investing in another program or system.  Find out from others if they've seen a return on their investment, both time-wise and financially.  In times of upheaval, take care with those who might take advantage.  

What I do know is my firm will continue to use systems we’ve customized for our own client management, (in-house), and for billings and financial documentation.  Having owned my firm for 20+ years, I’ve tried many different things and the bottom line is it’s all about having a process in place - to keep it simple for the client even if we have to go the extra mile to develop it.  That's our sacred agreement.  

All my best! ~ Wanda

*Note:  All of the beautiful floral arrangements, above, were created by my friend, Kim Rushing, the owner and fabulous floral designer of August Lily Florist.