Why I created the Design Roadmap System

As a Designer with my own business, I was trained in design, not project management. Planning is NOT my strong suit.

Add to this that I’m also a people pleaser, so when someone asks for something, I want to jump to get it done. All of this combines in a perfect storm of chaos and stress, reactively trying to meet expectations and feeling constant stress and shame that things are late.

I worked this way for years and was able to keep it together and produce as long as my projects were relatively small and simple and I had understanding clients, but then...

It finally came to a head when I got a dream kitchen project and wasn’t able to bring it in on time or on budget. The Contractor and the client were very unhappy, and even thought the project design turned out beautifully, I never got hired by either of them again. I was mortified and knew there had to be a better way.

A short time later I had the opportunity to do an even bigger project. This time it was an entire 5,000 sf house, partnering with an amazing Architect and a premium client who was a referral from another great client. The stakes were high. I got the project, but I was terrified. I knew FOR SURE, that if I tried to do things the way I’d always done and hoped for the best, I would blow it, and it was going to be much more dramatic than the last time.

Excited and terrified, I hired a business coach. I told her that her only job was to keep me on track with getting this project done in a timely manner. The first thing she asked me to do was to plan out the project step by step, with timeframes and estimated fees for each task. Seemed simple enough, but it was a huge task for me. After a lot of thought, working and re-working, I came up with a single document that told the client exactly what the plan was - what we would do, how long it was going to take, and how much it would cost. Bam. The Design Roadmap was born.

The client looked it over and said, “great, let’s get started!” Then something magical happened that was much larger than the seeming simplicity of this document. Every week, I was on task knowing exactly what needed to be done. It was more work than I was used to doing on a consistent basis, but there were no crazy all-nighters either. I knew in advance when meetings were scheduled, and my super busy client did as well, so they could plan ahead and avoid delays. The end of the first month came and I felt amazing sending out my bill because I did all the things I promised, and I knew the clients were expecting the fees I charged… ! (This can’t be underestimated, as I was constantly discounting my fees before). They paid their bill on time and the energy I felt from them was gratitude and excitement.

Over the course of many months, I kept this up and completed the project on time. Even better, I realized I could give my Design Roadmap to the Architect and the Contractor, so they also knew when everything was going to get done. They patiently waited for us to complete the work. There were no phone calls asking where the drawings were, no stress or trying to pull it out at the last minute. It was, dare I say, calm. There was a surprising lack of shame or embarrassment on my part. I just got to feel good about all the hard work I did.

I’m also proud to say I enjoyed wonderful relationships with the homeowner, the Architect and the Contractor throughout the project. When the project was complete, we all celebrated together. Referrals from the contacts we made on this project have become our main source of work these days, have led me to hiring a second employee and a virtual assistant, and are causing us to uplevel our work in every way. This is what I was leaving on the table before when I was so disorganized. I didn’t even know what I was missing!

In the years since that project, I’ve continued to use the Design Roadmap on every project. It’s amazing: whenever I get lazy or skip it, it’s right back to our old disorganization and stress. It’s like clockwork. As I’ve continued to refine the Roadmap, it’s led to additional tools that make it even more effective. I created a Planning Calendar and other trackers that allow me to see not just what’s going on with one project, but how all my projects are working together, for me and my team.

This system is deceptively simple, but has come out of my more than 20 years of design experience. Unlike a lot of project management systems that are created by naturally organized people, this one came out of my creative designer's brain - my brain that has trouble prioritizing, planning, or understanding the passage of time. This has come out of doing this over and over and over the wrong way and trying countless systems that other people invented but that didn’t work for my kitchen and bath design business. Then, out of desperation, I came up with something that was simple enough that I could actually follow it on a consistent basis, but powerful enough to make a change in my business. I’ve been using this system over the course of years, and it has transformed my business and my life in countless ways. I’d like to help you transform yours as well.

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