Garrison Hullinger: We Meet Again
Today in The Lounge, Nick catches up with Garrison Hullinger, whom he hasn’t spoken with since Episode 24, about two years ago. The two update each other on what’s been happening since then and Garrison talks about what has changed within his business.
Getting to Know the Garrison
Garrison is a fan of messenger bags, colloquially known as a “murse” or “man-purse.” He cannot travel without is iPad and loves it for its small size and easy mobility. When asked the infamous “Beer, wine, or cocktail” question, he claims to still prefer cocktails, though he has graduated from the dirty martini to the classic manhattan.
Garrison also recently visited Spain with Porcelanosa to visit their new factory. Highlights of the trip included incredible food and incredible connections made with incredible people who are also in the business of interior design.
Where Are You Now?: The Business Today
Two years ago, Garrison worked with a team of about sixteen people. Today, he works with twenty-four employees, of which the core team and ten seniors and leads remain. The focus of their designs have shifted from residential to multifamily-residential. It took many years for them to get their first project as they previously had no portfolio of multifamily designs, but Garrison and his business have experienced success ever since.
They work primarily on the interior of high-rise apartment buildings of two classes: Class A, which pertains to luxurious, new apartment buildings; and Class B, which are buildings that are aging and in need of remodeling.
Challenges of Change
The shift of focus from residential to multifamily-residential has presented a handful of challenges to Garrison. First among them was learning how to present a project to and receive answers from a committee rather than an individual. Another was learning how to be firm with his vision of the designs throughout the entire process. He has learned that the best way to do this is to create a narrative of what the vision is, state it from the beginning, and stick to it until the end.
Garrison has also had to forgo pet projects but has learned to maintain a presence in all of the projects he and his employees undertake. He does this by making sure his teams meet his requirements ahead of time, essentially posing as their client. He meets with every team member and goes over projects with them individually, thereby keeping him deeply entrenched in the work that is going on.
The Boss’ Burden… or is it?
Just as people complain about there not being enough jobs, employers often complain about there not being enough employees. Garrison claims to not experience this problem, however. He believes that if the employer is honest about their needs and what will be expected of the employee, the right people will apply. He acknowledges that this has led to slower hires with his business, but not a shortage of applicants.
Another concern of many employers is the possibility of their newly-trained employees leaving and taking their clients with them. Garrison scoffs at such a thought and says he never even considers the possibility. By offering fair and competitive pay to employees along with great benefits, he believes his employees are content, if not happy to work for him. His philosophy is that if the employees are treated well, they will treat the employer well in return. As such, he never assigns schedules that he wouldn’t work himself.
The Value of Retail Experience
Having formerly worked in retail operations, Garrison has carried his economic knowledge from that job into his interior design business. He calculates the most efficient way to spend time and money, whether it be adding more phone lines to his office or deciding on a paint color. This creates financial safety for his business which extends to his employees as well.
When managing vendors, he adheres to the rule of “you have to inspect what you expect.” Garrison ensures that all of his expectations are being met frequently throughout the process of ordering by requesting to see expedited reports every Monday and Tuesday.
As for his website, Garrison does not believe anything more than a template is required to make one.
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