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Phyllis Harbinger

102 – Industry: From Blogging to VOCs

Industry: From Blogging to VOCs

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, one of the top interior design podcasts, Nick chats with Adam Japko from Esteem Media and Phyllis Harbinger jumps in with some business tips on turning leads into paying customers.

Wine and Design with Adam Japko

Adam Japko, a founding member of Esteem Media, always surrounds himself with good wine and good people. With Esteem Media, Adam creates connections amongst design professionals and educates this community on marketing themselves. He’s heavily involved with putting on the Design Bloggers Conference and an additional resulting event, Design and Wine Italy 2016.

Adam received great feedback from the first Wine and Design Tour was able to learn a ton from his involvement in planning the trip. In addition, Adam was able to marry his two passions: the personalities of design professionals and discovering new wines. Overall, around thirty design individuals from across the US set off for a week from Venice to Verona. Adam is excited to announce another Wine and Design trip coming up in May of 2017.

Adam’s High Point Blog Tour and Design Bloggers Conference

Serendipitously, Adam had reached out to his High Point relationships and is now leading a blog tour where he recruits ten bloggers to spend two days visiting around fifteen sponsors and vendors. The bloggers are paid and create quality content about the tour and vendors.

2017 is the seventh year for the Design Bloggers Conference. This time, it is located in Los Angeles, California in March. Adam mentioned that you don’t have to be a designer to go. Topics covered include content marketing, mobile phone photography, search, and even podcasting (to be presented by The Chaise Lounge’s Nick May!). Design Bloggers Conference is an opportunity to learn about these topics in addition to the priceless networking that happens at events like this.

How Fran DuCharme from Benjamin Moore works with Designers and Architects

Since she was a young child, Fran has had a passion for color. She graduated from a two year design program and has worked in the industry for almost 30 years since. As a rep for Benjamin Moore, Fran is a resource for designers and architects. She provides them access to material and the largest and most complete color palette.

Fran also supports the specification of products and provides education which can include events, webinars, introducing new  products and CEUs. She mentioned that the most popular CEUs currently are 1. How color perception changes as you age, and 2. Creating healthy environments with new technologies.

A Deep Dive into Paint with Fran

In today’s marketplace, you can get any color anywhere. Any brand will match any competitor’s color. However, each brand has their own formulas and colorants, so matches may never be exact. Color is not the only factor in choosing paint.

DIfferent kinds of paints, beyond sheen, display different qualities and levels of serviceability. There are different formulations for different characteristics. For example, all paint is scrubbable, but not all is stain resistant (like, Ben vs Aura). Fran prefers Aura paint in a matte due to the luxurious finish, and that it covers in two coats.

What are VOCs

VOCs are volatile organic compounds that are carbon based and evaporate into the air. In the past, the concern was around these compounds affecting the ozone layer, but today concern is that VOCs in interior environments are higher, which can affect your lungs, breathing, asthma, and allergies. Paint companies, including Benjamin Moore are creating products with zero VOCs to address this concern.

Utilize your Rep to Problem Solve for your Clients

There is a great variety of products available within the industry. Benjamin Moore has grown from one product in nine colors to multiple products in thousands of colors. Specific products to meet specific needs. In the past, many thought that you needed to use semi-gloss only in bathrooms to reduce mold, but now there are specific bathroom products to resist mold and mildew, like hydrophobic paint in a matte finish.

The best way to get in touch is through the Benjamin Moore website’s architect and designer locator where you can put in a request for your rep to contact you.

Fran recommends connecting with your rep before you need them to start to build a strong working relationship.

Phyllis on Turning Prospects into Clients

Phyllis was able to join Nick in person at the Porcelanosa building in the Flatiron District in New York. She began with a recommendation around multiple touch points between a designer and prospect. Rather than a simple, impersonal email or phone call, she suggested meeting in person (when possible) or a Skype call to understand the prospect’s needs and even deliver a scope of work or review a proposal. This allows a designer to read body language and clearly explain away any confusion.

Phyllis also suggested to not hold back during consultations and be specific in proposals so that clients know what they are paying for, including and handling or shipping fees. This prevents any surprises later. Phyllis charges a design fee the moves forward with a percentage on product purchased. It is important to be upfront with clients on how you charge too.

Phyllis the referred to the paint schedule available in her book that can help ease the process. Everyone will be on the same page with what is happening in each room, colors, sheen, type of paint, etc. While anecdotal stories are helpful for clients to understand what may happen or pop up, it is also important to ask about their budget before accepting a project.

Its also a good idea to have all parties sign the agreement and initial each page. Take business classes if this is not your strong suit, and even hire a bookkeeper if you need to. Put Phyllis’s recommendations into action to set yourself up for success!

If you would like to connect with Phyllis:

Wrap Up

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!


96 – Industry: Interior Design PR and joining getting involved in an Association

Interior Design PR and joining getting involved in an Association

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Andrew Joseph from Andrew Joseph PR, and Phyllis Harbinger jumps in with some tips on getting involved with American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

Getting to know Andrew Joseph from New York (3:55)

Located in New York, Andrew Joseph starts his days around 4am. This ensures he is able to properly service his clients around the world. Andrew also admitted that starting his day so early allows him to indulge in mid-day naps.Few people know that Andrew came from humble beginnings in a small farm community in Oklahoma. If he wasn’t working in public relations, he would likely be a farmer like his sister’s family.

How did Andrew get into public relations? (9:00)

Andrew moved to New York 17 years ago and landed his first job as a  research assistant at Vanity Fair, before moving on to other publications. In these positions, he noticed a great deal of turnover and realized this profession was not right for him. However, while in these jobs, Andrew was able to interact with the public relations departments and fell in love.

Andrew moved on from fashion and found a firm that exclusively represented architects, interior designers, and luxury home furnishings. He mentioned that fashion is ephemeral and moves fast, where interior designif focused on the home that sustains and supports your soul.

What does Andrew’s business look like today? (12:31)

Currently, Andrew Joseph PR employs four individuals full time and additional interns from all walks of life. The team services 15 clients and is on a growth curve. Andrew and his team fulfill about 50% of their clients’ pipelines with traditional public and media relations opportunities including print publications, speaking gigs, etc. However, based on compiling the average number of print opportunities, the team was able to see the limited inventory available, which led to a greater understanding of what they can offer. Andrew Joseph PR is not only a creative resource for magazines, but also provides more non-traditional opportunities for its clients, including social media, blogs, and podcasts.

Andrew really looks to make sure potential clients are the right fit and has even turned clients down. He stated that his company delivers on agreed upon goals and objectives, not just bringing in new business. A few words of wisdom from Andrew include – This is a visual industry. You need a good website, images, branding, and to document your work over time.

If you would like to connect with Andrew:

Associations with Phyllis Harbinger (40:19)

Phyllis has been a member of ASID since 1990, when she joined as a student. She mentioned that serving in associations like ASID, IIDA, NKBA, etc. provide leadership opportunities  and allow you to hone your skills in dealing with all kinds of personalities.

Phyllis was asked to run for president, turned it down, and then later realized that she was interested in the opportunity. She was able to serve as president and now is a chair on the chapter support team at national level where she supports and councils eight presidents. Phyllis has enjoyed unexpected opportunities since being involved in ASID, including: panel discussions, speaking gigs, and even a book deal.

In the beginning, Phyllis volunteered on committees. She found a support system within ASID and developed meaningful relationships. And recommends the same path – Join committees to see how it works and then think about leadership. Get information on available committees and how they support board members. It’s OK to move around until you find one you like. Your profession will continue to advance if you support it through an organization. Overall, Phyllis said that ASID has made her a better business person and a better leader.

On a separate note, Phyllis was invited to participate in George To The Rescue, an NBC show that provides home renovations for deserving families all via donations and pro bono work. Phyllis is extremely passionate and excited about this opportunity. The episode will air in February.

If you would like to connect with Phyllis:

Wrap Up

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!

92 – Industry: Social media, choosing an Interior Design program and finding success

This week we focus on our Industry, which means Nick is joined by Phyllis Harbinger a few others that bring great value to you the interior designer.  On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Holly Mattson from CIDA on interior design program accreditation, Fred Berns shares tips on sales and marketing in the design industry, and Phyllis Harbinger jumps in with some social media strategy.

Interior Design Accreditation with Holly Mattson (0:20)Interior design accredidation

Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Holly Mattson is the Executive Director of CIDA, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. With 186 currently accredited programs in the US, Canada, and abroad, CIDA sets standards for quality assurance in professional level interior design programs. In her position, Holly works with the programs on an administrative level, where volunteers conduct evaluations of the programs, which include student interviews to ensure standards are being met.
Acquiring accreditation is voluntary and is obtained by completing an application on basic eligibility requirements and complying partially or completely with 16 specific standards. These standards range from basic resources, like faculty and facilities, to a focus on professional content, including a minimum of a bachelor’s degree within the program and other basic education credits. Programs are reviewed every six years for re-accreditation.
While attending and graduating from an accredited program is not a necessity to become a professional in the design field, there may be an advantage. Accredited programs expose students to a rigorous process and curriculum, which can help prepare them for the professional environment. Employers may be looking for accredited programs on resumes and the level of preparation and education may better prepare student for NCIDQ, the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please visit accredit-id.org.  The FAQs, list of programs and contact information, online programs, and program accreditation history list may be a good place to start.

Marketing and selling yourself with Fred Berns (10:08)

Fred Berns - interior design businessNick and Fred have known each other for awhile now, going back three years. Nick had called Fred for a live event in Denver. Interestingly enough, this event turned into Nick speaking with another group of designers and business owners, which ultimately parlayed into The Chaise Lounge. Now, Nick is podcasting on a weekly basis!
Nick and Fred were able to reconnect more recently at the Interior Design Society National Conference in Dallas. Fred spoke on the Selling Methods of the Masters. As he mentioned – It’s not rocket science!
Fred has been coaching interior design professionals for quite some time. He stated that so many work so hard, but so few earn top dollar. Throughout working with his clients, there are a couple of things in common when it comes to sales and financial success:
● Designers must sell themselves. They may not be the best designers, but they must be the best self promoters.
● Many say they don’t market themselves. If you have a website and/or social media accounts, this is marketing! It’s more than an ad in a magazine.
But what if selling is not your specialty? What if you have no sales experience? How do you get better?
  1. Build your network. Make a hit list of who you need to know.
  2. Probe for pain. What are the challenges, dilemmas, and pain points of those who you need to influence? Come up with solutions for that pain. Be the caregiver.
  3. Blog, market, and produce content for social media on those pain points. Solve your clients’ problems.
The biggest mistake interior designers make in sales: Leaving money on the table. Too many clients are treated as one and done. But rather, Fred proposes:
  • Work with clients on a regular basis; be dependable.
  • Educate clients on all services they offer and all they can do.
  • Include a bio on your website, Houzz profile and other social media to spell out your capabilities.
  • “Play billiards” – Set up your next shot. Up sell, cross sell.
By increasing repeat business by 40%, you will double your income in a year! Don’t act as an “order taker” but as a problem solver – If they are changing all décor items in a room, they will likely want to paint, which will lead to drapery. Interior Designers should be design consultants who coach their clients. Turn a one time contact into a long term contract.

If you are picking up with Fred is putting down, you can find more words of wisdom on http://interiordesignbusiness.net/ where he offers personalized coaching calls to take your business to the next level. Fred also specializes in promotional bios for designers at Bio Briefing and website coaching at Website Onceover.

Social Media with Phyllis Harbinger (24:16)

Anecdotally, in the design industry there is quite an array of social media savviness from a low level of understanding to those who rock it and to those who pay others to help. Regardless of where your level of comfort lies, social media isn’t going anywhere. We need to embrace a social presence.
Phyllis mainly uses Facebook, Instagram, Wecora, and Houzz.

On Facebook, Phyllis utilizes her personal account as well as pages for DCI Studio, Harbinger Design Consulting, and even some private groups she has created or been invited to. By posting on these pages and within groups, Phyllis is able to get more visibility and attention on her content from these relevant audiences. Phyllis also mentioned that she is getting into Facebook videos more.

Phyllis also mentioned she works with Donna Cravotta from Social Sage PR. While it is absolutely acceptable to employ help with social media, it is important to remember that the content and engagement should be in your voice.


While Pinterest is a very popular social platform, Phyllis uses Wecora to connect with her clients instead. She invites clients to discussion boards to show and share thoughts back and forth. If you are interested in a promo code for Wecora, please contact The Chaise Lounge.

Phyllis uses Houzz to give prospects homework prior to meeting. She asks them to create ideabooks and reasons why they like those photos, which helps to interpret the clients’ needs and wants as well as likes and dislikes.
Overall, social media can be a reflection of who you are, personally and/or professionally. Be mindful of how you are portraying yourself.
If you would like to connect with Phyllis:
● Email: info@harbingerdesignconsulting.com
● Phone: (914) 734-1382
● Facebook:  Harbinger Design Consulting
● Instagram: DCI Studio

Wrap Up

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!

88 – Industry: Launching a Furniture Brand

88 – Industry: Launching a Furniture BrandIndustry with Phyllis Harbinger and Bruce Andrews Macdonnald

Industry: Launching a Furniture Brand

Today in The Lounge, I am joined by two great friends: Phyllis Harbinger and Bruce Macdonald.  Because this is our monthly talk with Phyllis, you know we have a specific topic to discus, and today we talk about what to do when you are asked: “Can I pick your brain?”  As experts, people will always want free information, but as interior designers, what should you do?

Then I talk to my friend Bruce Macdonald. I met Bruce earlier this year at the Design Bloggers Conference, and we just keep meeting up at different interior design events across the country.  Bruce has an extensive history in marketing, retail, and building brands, and has decided that it is time to build his own: Bruce Andrews Designs, a bespoke furniture company focused on American made, had crafted, artisinal furniture.

75 – Industry: Talking about 3D Modeling programs and being grateful

Industry header

It’s another installment of the Industry series where your host discusses a specific topic with an industry expert, Phyllis Harbinger. On today’s show, we are speaking on gratitude, specifically having an ‘attitude of gratitude!” Tune in for valuable insight into the interior design world, and continue to learn how to grow your business.

Phyllis Harbinger: ‘Attitude of Gratitude’

“I really think this is such an important topic, because we all grateful at thanksgiving, around the holidays, to our employees, to our vendors, to our clients, but what about the rest of the year, those other 11 months? When you really think about it, you need to take even little snippets of opportunity to show that you are grateful to someone for whatever they did to make your day or to enhance a project, I think that is just so critical to success.” Phyllis goes on to talk about how the changing nature of business, over email and phone, and how important hand-written notes or face to face contact can be in showing gratitude. Phyllis talks about a specific service called “Send Out Cards,” which allows her to easily and conveniently send out a personalized card or gift, she also talks about holding client appreciation events, and even holding it at a client’s home after a project finishes. “It’s a great way to market, and it really doesn’t cost you that much, you know a couple bottles of wine, some cheese and a server, for the client to show off their new space to their guests, while also marketing your work.
Phyllis continues talking about gratitude, especially with her staff, and gives an example where if you maybe can’t afford to give out a raise, giving an extra day off around the holidays or even on in a regular work week, as a way to show gratitude. “I think you’ve got to look at what you’ve got, what’s your bandwidth, and then decide, but always try to be grateful and always thank people for what they do.” Nick talks about how easy it can be to forget to do these little things, but how important and beneficial it can be. Phyllis says, “People would rather have experiential gifts rather than concrete gifts, and sharing an experience is a way to show comradery.”
Check out harbingerdesignconsulting.com to learn more from Phyllis on topics similar to what was discussed today, such as ways to grow your business and market your work.

Jillian Lare: 3D modeling and its place in Interior Design

Next up on today’s show, Nick interviews an industry revit rendermember that brings value to the interior design business through a specific topic, today we’re talking about 3D modeling software’s and how they can be used to grow your business. Nick and Jillian start off by talking about the 5 big ‘take-aways’ from the Design Blogger’s Conference. Jillian is an instructor at Iowa State teaching interior design. Her background includes industrial engineering along with a creative nature, which led her eventually to become an interior design who focuses on efficiency of spaces.
Jillian describes how she got her start using 3D modeling software’s throughout her career, she describes how 3D modeling is helpful in helping clients visualize a space and communicate with contractors on the project. She describes her first introduction to 3D software, which started with Sketch-Up, a google program. She also talks about the Autodesk product, Revit, that she now teaches at Iowa State along with Chief Architect, another useful design software. Jillian also talks about 3D modeling versus hand drawn visuals, and they debate between which technique is more useful for students. “We’ve actually had employers tell us that they will pay more for a new employee that can hand draw,” Jillian advises.
Jillian talks about the time constraints these types of software have to fit within, and how she selected Chief Architect as her main tool for 3D modeling, She’s even written a free e-book comparing the three software, that helps others decide which product to use, as these software programs can be a big financial investment. Jillian describes the costs of each of the software she’s explored and the pros and cons of each.
designstudentsavvy.com is where you can find Jillian’s e-book, along with blog posts and tutorials, both written and video with downloadable models to follow along with. You can also reach out to Jillian by emailing her directly at jillian.lare@gmail.com

Updates from The Chaise Lounge

Nick is getting ready to head down to Atlanta, for the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furniture show to obtain some great interviews from attendees and designers down there.
Another great announcement, we are considering a second show each week for our listeners, that focuses on Kitchen and Bath design specifically. Sound like something you are interested in? If so, please reach out to The Chaise Lounge and let us know your thoughts!
We’d like to thank one of our very best sponsors, Design Manager, software that is designed around interior design businesses. Check it out and see how this software can help you save time and money in your business. Along with Design Manager, we would like to highly recommend you get in contact with Benjamin Moore, and specifically, one of their trained interior design representatives to learn how to take your paint to the next level, check out www.benjaminmoore.com for more information.
If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com. Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!

67 – Industry: Ellen O’Neill – Creative director for Benjamin Moore

Industry:  Talking the business of Interior Design

On today’s episode of The Chaise Lounge, we are talking Industry and specifically are talking about the task of Time Management. Nick May, your host, interviews his friend and designer Phyllis Harbinger, and the Creative Director of one of our favorite Sponsors of the show, Ellen O’Neil of Benjamin Moore. Tune in to learn more about organizing your business and your time!

Phyllis Harbinger: DCI Interiors

On the week’s show, I first talk to our good friend Phyllis Harbinger from Harbinger Design Consulting and designer at Design Concepts/Interiors, LLC.  In this episode of Industry, we talk about time management, and how to determine when it’s time to hire someone to help. Phyllis speaks from recent experience regarding the loss of a team member to which she says, “I was presented with my own time management dilemma, but also a dilemma on many different levels, because we bring people in, we spend a lot of time training them, and then we start giving away a lot of the tasks and areas of expertise that we might have owned previously and then we finally have trust and someone who can take that over so we can pursue other parts of the business, and then all of a sudden you are like ‘uh-oh’ because someone can’t come in in two weeks and take that person’s place.

Phyllis talks about how her business has changed, and how her interest within the business has changed. Phyllis is much more intrigued by other parts of her business, other than the design aspect. “I decided to take a step back and think about a course correction, I want to look back at what really worked for me in the past and I made a list of all the pros and cons of building my team with a different methodology.”

“I want people who are listening to understand that just because something works for a certain period of time, doesn’t mean that’s the only way things can work, and to be open to exploring things and course correcting, looking and taking a pulse of our business.” Phyllis talks about the importance of having reserves, and being able to weather the storms that can be typical to the interior design field. Nick runs with what Phyllis is speaking about, and speaks about how he has gone about organizing his business.

Phyllis talks about hiring a social media expert, and how quickly her presence on social media has grown in just a short period of time. With social media, Phyllis talks about the importance of keeping your voice in your content that is being posting. Nick and Phyllis talk about the different ways they go about archiving content, whether it be an internal Facebook page or a shared photo stream.

“I think that we all effort too much, about too many things, you just said it perfectly, you’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole, we effort, and when you don’t effort and you just say I’m going to do what I need to do and put it out there and the right people are going to show up, and they always do, if you worry about it, nothing good happens.” Phyllis talks about missing things that are right in front of you, and how easy it can be to get caught up in the minutia. Nick, as well as Phyllis, gives advice on how to get started, taking that first step, to save your time for higher value tasks that you are actually passionate about. Phyllis also talks about how fulfilling it can be to hire someone just starting out, who can save you time, and also learn so much from you and your business.

To learn more about Phyllis, connect with her Phyllis@harbingerdesign.com, or follow us on Instagram @DCIstudio, Phyllis offers strategy sessions and full coaching programs available. Reach out!

Ellen O’Neil: Creative Director of Benjamin Moore

Nick gets to know  Ellen O’Neill, who is responsible for pickingBenjamin Moore the color of the year, and this year proved to be quite controversial.  The color of the year for Benjamin Moore ended up to be Simply White; her “baptism by fire” into interior design was being hired by Ralph Lauren as a freelance stylist to help design the vignettes that their tabletop collection was using. Ellen was supposed to have a 3 weeks contract, which turned into 13 years.

Ellen studied journalism in college and had some background in journalism. More recently, Ellen has worked for Benjamin Moore for the past 3 years. As the Creative Director, Ellen has created the department from the ground up, “it was time to form a formal marketing department and reign in all the work internally, so that you had a consistent brand, view, message and visual vocabulary.” Ellen talks about how she has tailored messaging to each constituency within the field, “I was presenting a product that was indisputably the top of its class.”

Ellen talks about her background with Ralph Lauren, Benjamin-Moore-Simply-White-OC-117and how that has helped her with her current position, especially with her knowledge and experience with color. She discusses how she picks colors for color pallets; she tries to embed color theory into her schemes. Ellen also looks at other trends, like what’s happening with bedding trends, lighting, and furniture, etc. and how that affects the colors she chooses.

Ellen and Nick discuss the press that was received regarding the color of the year, which was simply white this year. “It was a really important color discussion for the interior design community.” Ellen talks about how a lot of other paint companies outsource to color trend forecasters, however she states, “I want our stuff to be original and I also want it to reflect the color conundrum that we read and answer questions about from the consumer, so I want it to be true and authentic and applicable to people’s design issues, so color forecasters don’t necessarily dig down onto that level. We look for different signals.” Lastly, Nick asks Ellen what colors she chose to paint her apartment, tune in to hear!

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on InstagramFacebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business.  See ya!