CHAGRIN FALLS, OH —
Independence means different things to different people. For designer John Hall, his own personal road to independence began in 2006, when, after 23 years working with the same firm, he decided to go out on his own.
“I didn’t want to end my career without going into business for myself,” he says, explaining his decision to open up his own showroom, the Ohio Design Centre, in Beachwood, OH.
And initially, Hall was quite content with his showroom. “Things went very well right from the start and times were great,” he notes. “I employed two designers, a drafts person, an office manager and a bookkeeper. We also did installations and we had two installation crews.”
But three years into the venture, Hall wasn’t quite as happy. “I was spending 80 percent of my time managing the business and very little time working with the clients. As a result, I was losing what I truly have a passion for: design and working with the clients.”
A friend’s advice – “Don’t be afraid to take a chance!” – inspired him to move to a new business model that would better address not just his business needs, but his need to spend his time engaged in work that would be truly fulfilling. The solution, he realized, was to give up the showroom in favor of a “virtual design studio.”
This time, Hall did his homework. He notes, “I hired a business coach who assisted me with all of the smart moves needed for the business to be successful. I moved into a small office and picked up cabinet lines that not only offer a terrific product but also have state-of-the-art showrooms a simple drive away. I was able to put displays into Cleveland Lighting, northern Ohio’s premiere lighting store, where I take my clients.”
Also working to his advantage was his longstanding industry experience – Hall is a CKD and an Allied Member of the ASID, with 28 years in the kitchen and bath design industry – which contributed to a strong referral base. And eliminating the overhead costs of the showroom made it significantly easier to be profitable, while focusing on what he sees as “the best parts” of the job. Thus was born the Hall Design Group.
In his business’ new incarnation, he still handles kitchens (with a specialty in Kosher kitchens), baths and other-room projects, but also has the flexibility to take on projects in different locations, or of different sizes. As far as products, he notes, “I am proud to represent several lines that not only fit my virtual needs but also offer the quality and flexibility that the clients expect,” including Mullet, Berloni and Shiloh. He adds, “I also sell countertops, plumbing and all other items needed for the project and am blessed to have terrific showrooms for these products located throughout the area.”
ADVANTAGES OF GOING INDEPENDENT
Part of what Hall loves about working independently is the ability to take on any type of client or job – from the multi-room project to the 95-year-old woman with a tiny bungalow who’s never had a dishwasher before. “These are the things that I would not be able to do if I had the showroom and had to worry so much about the bottom line,” he notes.
He also feels that the clients enjoy the more “personal” feel of the new business model. “I will start the design process and then offer to buy them a nice lunch and travel to these showrooms. Not only do we get to utilize these showrooms at no cost to me, but the drive also gives me uninterrupted time with the clients to really get to know them on a personal level. I do not bring the cell phone along so it truly is quality time with them,” he says.
Indeed, he believes there are numerous advantages to his business model, from the lack of overhead costs and minimal staffing needs to not being locked into having a showroom open when he needs to run appointments and not having to incur the expenses of keeping displays up to date.