Starting a new business: "Less is More"

My goal is to start a small business, and I am blessed to have entrepreneurial friends who are smart and savvy enough to have done so already, and shared their learning with me.  So, knowing that many people are in the same boat, I thought I would pass along their thoughts and knowledge to you on a regular basis. 

The first person I talked to when I got back to the States after a year in Sweden about this "crazy idea" was my friend, Sharon, co-owner of "Less is More" a staging company in the North Shore of Boston.  See http://www.onyourwaytolessismore.com/ Sharon was so inspiring and helpful to me.  She's a burst of energy, great fun,  and I think you'll really enjoy reading her and co-owner Merri-Lee's, answers to my questions: 
1. Did you have a business plan when you got started?
2. How do you gauge success?
3. Tell us about your business.  What's your philosophy?
4. Where do you get inspiration?  

Please check out their answers below, especially inspiring for Home Stagers and others interested in starting their own companies of any kind.  Thank you so much Sharon and Merri-Lee!  Read on... and make sure you check out that to-die-for organized closet at the end.  Drool!  And I happen to know Sharon's own closet is even nicer. ;-)

How great to be asked these questions and have the opportunity to look back over the last two years and reflect on the early days of our company. First, let us introduce ourselves; we are Sharon Honey and Merri-Lee Steeves and we co-own Less Is More LLC. We are celebrating the 2 year anniversary of our business on May 1st!  (Well at least the 2 year anniversary of its life in the United States! Read on to find out what country Less Is More originated in! )  It’s all very exciting to be past the “start-up” phase and to be moving into a growth phase. We’d love to have you learn more about us and see some of our portfolio by checking out our blog, On Your Way To Less Is More, at www.onyourwaytolessismore.wordpress.com or our web site, www.OnYourWayToLessIsMore.com. We are particularly proud of our before and after pictures so be sure to take a look at those! J

 Tina:  Tell us about your business. What’s your philosophy?

Less Is More is a service company offering Staging, Organizing, Interior Styling, and Packing/Unpacking to Move assistance.  Our philosophy revolves around our clients. Our goal is to offer clients our experience and guidance in order to help them meet their individual goals. This may sound vague but in reality it is quite specific once we know what projects our home owners want assistance with.  For us, it’s all about defining our clients’ goals and making those goals attainable in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible.

 Tina: Did you have a business plan when you got started?
Well, not really. Actually, we had a homeowner who knew that Sharon owned a staging business back in England (Sharon started Less Is More in England in 2006) That same homeowner wanted help to stage and prepare her property for the market in three weeks or less. She asked Sharon for her expertise.  

At the same time, Sharon and I, we’d had been friends for 3 years, were both chatting the way friends do about wanting to get back into the work force. We already recognized and respected each other’s talents and skills. Sharon knew she was ready to start up Less Is More in the United States and asked me if I would consider partnering with her.

We talked, hugged (shaking hands would have been too awkward – remember, we were friends first, business partners second J ) and jumped on line to formally file all the paper work necessary to officially start a business.

I guess you could say, we didn’t have a business plan; we had a plan to start a business in a week or less in order to take on our first client who was already asking to book our first session. The rest is history!

[A picture from that very first staging project where we used the client’s furniture]



 Tina: How do you gauge success?
For us, the word success has many different meanings. There are a number of sub-questions that we would have to answer to know if we are feeling successful.
First and foremost, are our clients pleased with our work?
When we read the reviews and testimonials that our clients have offered to us over the last two years then we do feel a sense of satisfaction that we were able to help our clients meet their individual project goals. One of the things that we have learned is that if you want honest feedback, just ask! We always ask for feedback when a project is coming to a conclusion and clients are very often happy to offer their opinions either in an email directly to us or by using online review sites such as Angie’s List, Manta, or Yelp just to name a few.
Second, we might judge our success by the number of industry professionals we have had the opportunity to meet and work with over the last 2 years.
We are thrilled to have been selected by William Raveis, The Dolores Person Group as their designated staging company. We love working with the talented and professional realtors at Raveis. They offer our services to their property owners and we  then assist those property owners with staging as well as other related services such as preparing to move (sorting, eliminating what they no longer need, and packing up their belongs). Home owners will often call us back in to assist them get organized and settled in their new homes! It’s all very rewarding to see clients progress through their transition from beginning to end.
Third, being a new business and a small business as well, we have been working to promote our Less Is More name. Admittedly, our marketing and advertising budget is a small one (by choice) so it is always satisfying to get feedback from people we meet who say, “I’ve seen your information around town” or “You were referred to me by my friend or realtor”. For us, this means that our marketing efforts are paying off. 
And finally, we are a business. So, of course we must judge our success on profit and loss. If success in the Profit and Loss category means that you have to have a positive bank balance, your accountant doesn’t laugh and shake his head at your annual Tax meeting, and your children are able to attend college, then yes!, we are feeling positive about the direction the company is heading in. J

 Tina: Where do you get inspiration?

This question has to be answered in two parts really. Our inspiration is related to motivation! It’s different depending on if the goal is to sell a property or if a home owner has contacted us to style or organize a space that they want to continue to live in.

If the project is a “staging to sell” one, then our goal is to show the property’s best features off in a way that allows the buyers to picture living in the space. Our Staging Services strive to enhance architectural details as well as show off the very best features that the home has to offer whether that is tons of closet space, an amazing master suite, plenty of play space for a large family or the ability to have a home office. Creating a neutrally staged space in which the buyer can picture their own colorful life is the goal of every stager  J

[A recent staging project where rental furniture was used in an empty home]


If the project is an “Organize or Style to live” one, then our goal is completely dictated by the home owner! We often have clients who will sigh and noticeably show signs of relief by the middle of our very first meeting. It never ceases to amaze us when our client’s say, “Oh, I am SO relieved”.  When we ask them why, we are always told the same exact thing, “I thought you were going to tell me I have to have (xyz) because that is what is popular right now”. Our answer is also always the same. We tell them that living in a space and staging a space are two completely different projects. Our Styling Services are about creating spaces that make our home owners happy and satisfy them. If they feel comfortable and happy in their environment when we are finished working together, then we have done our job properly. If they want orange as the focal color in the room then they get a room designed around their favorite shade of orange. End of story!

[A closet re-due where the clients needed help purging and organizing]

In a nut shell, Less Is More is about helping our clients succeed. If they’re happy then we are happy and we have done our job. Each and every day that we go to work we are amazed about the differences of each project and the uniqueness of each client. It keeps our days interesting and our time at work fun.
It’s been great visiting http://www.livinglavidalagom.blogspot.com and sharing a little bit about ourselves and our company. Thanks for your interest and asking about us.  J

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