Accounting tips for designers and decorators - small business

Whether you’re doing your books or submitting information to your bookkeeper, accounting is an integral part of a running a design/decor business. This said, the industry has its quirks, and the associated accounting can be a bit different from other industries as a result. Accounting doesn’t need to be a daunting task. With these tips in hand, accounting can be a breeze for decorators and designers. 

Some of you may have only considered getting business insurance to satisfy client demands in the past. But it is more than just a necessary evil. The truth is, most business owners do far too little to protect themselves while failing to grasp the full implications of leaving themselves exposed.

Unfortunately, no matter how effective you believe the preventative strategies you have in place are, there is always a risk associated with doing business. Most often, it is something completely unexpected that you never considered that has the potential to disrupt your business.

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When it comes to funding and advice for starting and growing a decorating or design business, many of our members encounter some real challenges like getting start-up capital, expansion funds, or help with a special project. What many of our members don't know is as Canadian business owners, we have access to a suite of small business services offered through Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

BDC has been in operation for nearly 75 years and is the only bank in Canada solely devoted to entrepreneurs. For some of our members, BDC's tailored advice and funding have been incredibly valuable, so we thought it would be helpful to give you a better idea of what they've got on offer.

Advisory and Coaching Services

One of the main challenges of running a small business is the sheer volume of decision-making that falls to you. BDC has a network of consultants across the country trained to help you make the best, most informed choices.

Strategic Planning
It’s hard to reach your goals if you don’t know what they are. It can be very helpful to work with an outsider to define your goals. If you don't have anyone in your network you can call on, the BDC might be a great solution for you. You can schedule a consultation with a BDC strategic planner to learn the fundamentals of strategic planning, clarify your goals, and make a roadmap to attain them.

Financial Planning and Management
If you’re like many creative professionals, tracking, reporting, and planning around money is, at best, deadly boring, and at worst, completely impossible. Understanding your financial picture and building a strategy for your company is an essential part of running a business. The BDC has advisors specifically focused on helping entrepreneurs with their finances.

Sales and Marketing
At face value, sales and marketing seem like parts of the business that will be straightforward, and yet they are anything but. If you have yet to master your sales process or marketing tactics, you might want to work with a BDC marketing expert to ensure you are spending your time and money on the right things. 

Funding Opportunities

Whether you’re just starting your business or looking to grow it, cash flow can be a significant challenge. It's always helpful to speak with other members about how they manage cash flow and financing. You may have already found out that accessing a bank loan can be near-to-impossible in the early days, which is one of the reasons why the BDC is such an important outlet for us. You can look to BDC for a wide variety of financing options, including:

Start-up Financing
Most small businesses take months or even years in operation before achieving profitability but most of us don’t have several years’ worth of operating costs at hand. BDC offers financing with flexible repayment options that will help you fund:

  • marketing 
  • consulting fees
  • purchase a business
  • provide working capital

If you’re looking to get your design business up and running, this could be a great option.

Small Business Loan
If your business has generated revenue for at least 24 months and has a good credit history, you can apply to BDC for a loan of up to $100,000. This funding can be used to:

  • create a showroom space in your office
  • attend industry events (hello, Salone del Mobile!)
  • protect your intellectual property in the form of a patent or trademark

If you’re out of the start-up phase but still need financial help to meet your business goals, you might be eligible for a small business loan.

Xpansion Loan
For decorators, liquid assets can be tight—even when things are going well. Say your business has grown to the point that you’re ready to expand your markets, bring on additional staff, or develop a new offering. All these things require cash flow, which is where a Xpansion Loan comes in. And the best thing? You can re-advance any repaid portion of this loan to your company, which will create additional development funds.

Commercial Real Estate Financing
Perhaps your company has grown so strong that you need a larger space for your staff and clients. This kind of loan will cover you for real estate purchases, or construction, expansion, or renovation, without affecting your cash flow. Phew!

Just because you’re a small business owner doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Ask around your chapter to see who has utilized BDC services. There is at least a one member we know of who has taken advantage of BDC financing (twice, actually) in the past year; in fact, it was their suggestion to write this blog.

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Selling takes practice. In a Houzz business webinar on selling, presenter Shawn Doyle discussed tactics clients commonly used to negotiate job price and counter tactics you can use. Here are 10 of these tactics and counter tactics.

No matter what the offer the person makes the other party flinches physically or verbally. “Wow, that's really high.”
• Don’t respond at all.
• Flinch back: “I am surprised you would say that.”
• Respond, “That is the market price.”

Buyer makes an incredibly low offer evoking an emotional outburst “That is so loware you nuts? That is way too low, but here is what I could do …” 
• Tell them that is not a reasonable offer.
• Tell them what you believe is reasonable.

Competitive offer 
Buyer says “I have gotten three offers and yours is too high.” 
• Tell them how your offer is better. 
• Make sure the offers are equaloranges to oranges (i.e. same quality).

Good cop / bad cop
Two buyers and one takes the “good” role and one takes “bad” role. This is designed to put pressure on the other party.
• Be logical and don’t respond to bullying of bad cop. 
• Answer question in a calm non-emotional manner.

Bait and Switch
Seller makes an offer for “A”, then once deal is made provides “B”. Usually, B is a more inferior product.
• Make sure when buying you specify product.
• Don’t accept B.

Reasonable offer
The person says “This is a reasonable offer.”
• Tell them why it is not reasonable to offer based on market conditions.
• Make a reasonable counter offer. 

Guilt equity 
When negotiating person says, “After all that I have done for you, I need you to help me out here.”
• Tell them you understand and when you can help you will, but you have constraints.

After asking a question, someone (usually a buyer) goes silent. The other person speaks to fill the silence and reveals all.   
• Wait out the silence. 
• The person who speaks first loses.

Person buying or selling says the price is too high and not where the market is right now. 
• Respond with market data.

After a deal is struck buyer wants to add on goods or services not originally in the deal: “Oh, by the way, this includes free maintenance right?”
• Do not agree to any add-on.
• Only provide concessions you have planned.

For 20 more negotiating tactics, read Doyle’s guide The Smart Negotiator: 30 Negotiating Tactics. Also, set aside some time to watch the Houzz webinar with Doyle—it is jam-packed with selling advice.


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For those of us in the brick-and-mortar business world, the very idea of using social media as a marketing tool can seem intimidating, time-consuming, or just plain nonsensical, but the numbers tell a different story. According to a report published by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), Canadians spend an average of 36.7 hours per month online, and 59% of us log on to use social media. We’re also there for general surfing (49%), shopping (46%), and product research (43%). Yet despite this strong trend toward online research and purchasing, some Canadian businesses are reluctant to embrace social media—and it’s hurting their bottom line.