Episode 100: A Walk Down Memory Lane with Debbie Pratt and Megan Fornes


Show Notes: 

Hey y’all, welcome to the 100th episode of the Designed for the Creative Mind podcast! For this special episode, we thought it would be fun to look back at how ML Interiors Group has changed and grown over the years.

Debbie, Megan, and I chat about how our processes have evolved, important things the team has learned working together over the past 10 years, and Debbie & Megan’s new roles at ML Interiors Group.

Whether you’ve been doing this for a while or just starting out in your interior design business, know that it’s a journey, and you are not alone. We hope this episode will encourage you to give yourself the grace to know it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you grow from them.



We would love to support you! Come join us in our year-long mentorship and coaching program: https://www.designedforthecreativemind.com/business-bakery 


Debbie Pratt & Megan Fornes are the lead designers behind the brand of ML Interiors Group. Their award-winning designs, amazing client service, and ability to manage large projects allows Michelle Lynne the flexibility to take her business acumen to the public via her Designed For the Creative Mind® outlets.


Connect with Megan & Debbie on Instagram!




Text UPDATES to 214-380-1969 for all our DFCM updates.


 Thank you to our sponsor for their support!

  • Sidemark is an all-new, all-in-one software that organizes sales, marketing, and business services all in one convenient location. Join mysidemark.com to help grow your interior design business.  


About Michelle

Michelle Lynne began her interior design career after spending more than two decades working in Corporate America. She began in the home staging arena and has since built a successful, award-winning, full-service interior design firm, employing talented designers and serving clients across the country.

In the summer of 2018, Michelle began focusing on a big gap she saw missing in the interior design industry: teaching interior designers how to run the business of an interior design business. She now engages in private coaching and leads an in-depth, 12-month group coaching program, both options focus on teaching designers profitable processes, systems, strategies, and mindset needed to run a streamlined, profitable interior design firm.

Her motto is simple: we rise by lifting others.



Connect with Michelle

 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/designedforthecreativemind/ 

Join our Free Facebook Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/idbizlaunchpad 


Have ideas or suggestions or want to be considered as a guest on the show? Contact me! https://www.DesignedForTheCreativeMind.com/contact 

Podcast edited and managed by Haili Murch LLC.

If you are interested in starting a podcast or you are currently a podcaster needing help managing or relaunching your podcast, you may email Haili Murch at [email protected] or you can click here to book a call: https://calendly.com/hailimurch/podcast-discovery-call 




Michelle Lynne: Welcome to Designed for the Creative Mind, a podcast for interior designers and creative entrepreneurs to run their business with purpose, efficiency, and passion. Because, while every design is different, the process should remain the same. Prepare yourself for some good conversations with amazing guests, a dash of Jesus and a touch of the woowoo, and probably a swear word or two. If you're ready to stop trading your time for money and enjoy your interior design business, you are in the right place. I'm your host, Michelle Lynne.


Michelle Lynne: Welcome back to the podcast, everybody. I'm so excited that you're here. Today is our 100th episode. Holy cow. For those of you who have known me for any given time, I didn't even want to do a podcast. But now that I'm doing this, I have so much fun bringing some amazing guests to you guys as the audience. Today, we have some old friends. We have Debbie Pratt and Megan Fornes, my designers at ML Interiors Group. And so they have no idea what we're talking about today. And we're just kind of making this up as we go, which is kind of been the way we run our business. It's like, okay, so this is what we need, let's go ahead and plan for it. We implement it, we adjust it. We try it again. And then we tweak it. So today what we're going to be talking about, I think my goal here is let's talk about our business ML Interiors Group from the very beginning. And literally, Debbie came and joined me, I was still doing home staging at the time.


Debbie Pratt: Ninety five percent.


Michelle Lynne: Yes, it was. That was back in 2014.


Megan Fornes: Beginning of it, because I came in April, no, June.


Michelle Lynne: June, right. So we were doing a lot of home staging, we had like 3,000 square feet of warehouse, I want to say an a whole ton of inventory. So Deb came on board. And then the market in Dallas, the real estate market in Dallas got so hot that we were doing the home staging and very little design. So it was like 95% staging, 5% design. And then the realtor would call us let's say on Friday and say Hey, can you come out on Wednesday and do some home staging, just like let's say an occupied one. And the house is going to be photographed on Thursday, it's going on the market on Friday. So they'd call us on Thursday or Friday the week before, we'd put it on our calendar. And then we'd get a call saying, we already have multiple offers on the home.


Debbie Pratt: Cancel the staging.


Michelle Lynne: Cancel the staging. So we as a business had to really pivot or go out of business. And Lord knows I was not going back to corporate. So we switched and really focused on design. And that was, and then Megan came on board with our project, we had an out-of-town project.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, in Austin. And that was in April.


Debbie Pratt: That's right.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. So you kind of came on part-time contract-ish, knowing that we wanted to bring you on board. But you also loved.


Megan Fornes: I also still lived in San Antonio. So Austin was convenient so it worked out.


Michelle Lynne: It worked out really well. For those of you who are not familiar with Texas, Dallas is about three hours north of Austin, three-and-a-half hours north of San Antonio. So Megs was a bit south. So what do you guys remember from our processes?


Debbie Pratt: There weren't any.


Michelle Lynne: Exactly.


Debbie Pratt: Yeah, we had an Excel spreadsheet to track purchases.


Megan Fornes: We were still shopping retail at the time too. A lot of retail and a teeny bit of trade, because we just didn't know as much about it. Then we started opening more trade accounts, learning all the trade lingo and everything.


Michelle Lynne: Getting over our intimidation. So if you're listening and you're intimidated to do trade purchases, you're in good company.


Debbie Pratt: We were using furniture vendors rendering software to do floor plans and stuff 'cause it was free.


Michelle Lynne: That's right.


Debbie Pratt: And then Megan came along.


Megan Fornes: I came along and said we have to do something.


Debbie Pratt: Anything. I used to draw everything out.


Megan Fornes: We used, what was the first one?


Debbie Pratt: Icovia.


Megan Fornes: No, so Icovia and then we went, Minutes Matter.


Debbie Pratt: Minutes Matter.


Michelle Lynne: Wow. That's a blast from the past.


Megan Fornes: It's great if you're fluffing furniture, and you're not really planning it.


Debbie Pratt: Which makes no sense.


Megan Fornes: Because you have to. You have to plan it.


Debbie Pratt: It's decorating software.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, no. You can't give that to a contractor.


Michelle Lynne: But it was a great place to start. So we baby stepped into it.


Megan Fornes: And then we went to Chief.


Debbie Pratt: Minutes Matter to Chief, straight into it.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, that makes sense.


Debbie Pratt: I don't even remember how we heard about Chief. It just happened.


Megan Fornes: Michelle heard it through, there was a builder at the time we were going to work with and they used it.


Michelle Lynne: Oh, that's right. That is right. And then I heard Kelly Fridline on LuAnn Nigara's podcast, A Well-Designed Business, and it rang a bell.


Megan Fornes: Yeah.


Michelle Lynne: So yeah, that makes sense. I remember that builder. And I can't remember his name.


Megan Fornes: I know.


Michelle Lynne: He and his daughter.


Megan Fornes: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: Oh, I know exactly who you're talking about. Yep.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. So that's how we came upon that.


Megan Fornes: And then dove right in on that.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: Took our first project. And Debbie did the finishes, and then I did the plans, and tag teamed how to learn Chief and not slow down with our project load.


Michelle Lynne: Right. Well, at the time, we were also doing projects way too fast.


Debbie Pratt: Way too fast. Oh, we can get that done for you in two weeks.


Michelle Lynne: I know. Remember, there was another local designer who promoted that she would have a design done in 90 days. And that was supposed to be fast.


Debbie Pratt: Yeah. That was confusing to me, because I thought everything was done in 90 days, including the furniture installation. No, that was the design itself. Because when you stop and think about it.


Megan Fornes: Like we were pushing installs at 90 days.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. So if y'all are breaking your, if you guys are breaking your back getting designs done in 30 days, give yourself some breathing room. How long, so we were turning things around in almost 30 days, which it's a lot of it had to do with one our ignorance. But then there was also the two of you guys. So technically, that was like 60 days.


Debbie Pratt: True.


Michelle Lynne: So but in that instance, now how long are you taking, in general, for let's just say, three to four room design? No construction,


Megan Fornes: Pretty consistent with the 90 days.


Debbie Pratt: Ninety is a perfect average. And if it's more, I mean, we've done more in 90 days, but it can be a pressure cooker if it's a full house.


Megan Fornes: Yeah. So depending on the scale, I mean, if it's a big project, it can, well, you know, we can go over.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, break it down into phases too.


Megan Fornes: But then if it's a two bedroom or say it's a kitchen and a bedroom and an entryway or whatever, because, you know, we have minimums too. We can sometimes come under.


Debbie Pratt: Oh yeah.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. It makes it nice.


Megan Fornes: And it helps the client with a range of a timeframe too. It's like, okay, I'm not gonna have my house done in a month or so.


Michelle Lynne: You're not even gonna see your design in a month or so.


Megan Fornes: Exactly. We're gonna be chit chatting and trying to figure out the details.


Debbie Pratt: And you know, if they have revisions or anything, we've worked out ways to minimize those over the years.


Megan Fornes: Yes.


Debbie Pratt: So we stopped doing the whole HGTV reveal where we would gather as much information as we can, but we wouldn't share it along the process.


Michelle Lynne: And then disappear, Yeah, we used to disappear.


Megan Fornes: And not even get that much information honestly.


Michelle Lynne: Not in retrospect.


Megan Fornes: No, not compared to what we do now. And we would just, thank God guess well.


Debbie Pratt: A few revisions if it changed the design, it was not only more work, but it was almost heart wrenching, because you were so excited about it. And they're like, I don't like it, you know, but now we know what they like and not like.


Michelle Lynne: Right. So how has that changed the number of change orders, revisions, and so forth, compared to where we were back in the day?


Debbie Pratt: Greatly reduced. It's easier to source for people when you really get in their head and you understand not only what they like, but why they don't like it. I think the why has a lot to do with it. It wasn't just because it looks pretty and works based on general design decisions, doesn't mean they're gonna like it. So the psychology comes into play. So we always use the example that the side table reminds them of their brother-in-law or something like that.


Megan Fornes: Which happened.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: It happened, but how random is that?


Michelle Lynne: No, there's no way you could have known that.


Debbie Pratt: Yeah, so we'll find out the why. Why does that remind you of him? And why do you not like it? Maybe they can't stand that person or their style.


Megan Fornes: Right.


Debbie Pratt: So we do that ahead of time.


Michelle Lynne: Right. So the difference between our design preparation, then versus now, is that back in the day, we would take the information, we would do the questionnaires, we would do a jumping off point kind of inspiration conversation that was very minimal. And then we would disappear and then come back with the design and then have to edit accordingly. And if you guys have been doing this for any length of time, you definitely recognize that there's a design domino effect. You might change one thing, and it's a revision, but then three other things have to change around it. So now there's a lot more conversation involved during the design development, so that there are so few revisions that there's not going to be that kick in the gut like, oh, you didn't like it, or the extra work where you have to make up for some of the details.


Megan Fornes: Because even when you say you're charging for revisions, it's still, nobody wants to actually, like I don't want to charge the client for revisions, like, I still hate having to be like, well, we've made two changes. Here's the third, you know, here's an invoice. It's not fun. Like nobody wants to do that.


Michelle Lynne: No, and because you've been working so closely with them, you've become almost friends. And it is a difficult conversation in that respect.


Megan Fornes: Yeah. And I would even say just more budget conversations, so many more budget conversations now than in the past. Because the reason with that side table example was for budget.


Michelle Lynne: That's right.


Megan Fornes: It was a smaller side table to fit on a, to not fit, because so we got a smaller rug. So, you know, you don't want your table half on half off. So it was sitting off and the table, I think the rug was an 8 x 10.


Michelle Lynne: Right.


Megan Fornes: If we went to a 9 x 12, it was going to blow the budget. Well, she wanted a bigger table with some storage. And I was like, well, if we have that, then we have to get a bigger rug because it's gonna sit on it. And so having those discussions, and it was fine in the end, because she wanted it.


Michelle Lynne: It's all about the why.


Megan Fornes: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: The why when it comes to budget, the why when it comes to what they like and what they don't like, and so I think we put more why at the beginning.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, because I would have asked those questions way beforehand, and just showed her the floor plan and been like, how do you feel about this?


Debbie Pratt: And now the big surprise is what it looks like all together.


Michelle Lynne: Yes.


Debbie Pratt: Because they see elements of it, and they're like, so they're imagining, oh, my gosh, this is gonna look so good. But then when they see the reality of it, even in rendering, that's the big wow factor versus the keeping everything hidden.


Michelle Lynne: So why did we keep everything hidden?


Debbie Pratt: Because we thought that's what you do.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: Maybe, yeah.


Debbie Pratt: I don't even know. Because I mean, we wanted to give this big design presentation.


Megan Fornes: Because everybody else was.


Michelle Lynne: We thought they were.


Debbie Pratt: Look at how smart and creative we are. Don't you love the work we did? And they're like, maybe all of it but one or two pieces.


Michelle Lynne: That's so true. That is so true.


Michelle Lynne: Hey, y'all, as my interior design business grew, there were some struggles that quickly surfaced. It was balancing, management, just all of the things that come together, and especially when it came to consolidating my marketing efforts, my client relationship management, social media planning, website building, all the things. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, just trying to tie all of these things together and it didn't really come out very pretty. I thought it would be great if I could find something that would bring everything together into one place. And I believe I have found it. The support of Sidemark, growing your interior design business has never been easier. It will be available this spring. Sidemark is an all new, all in one software that organizes sales, marketing, and business services all in one convenient location. By signing up for Sidemark, you too can get access to all of the essential tools needed to help your business succeed. With features such as a built-in website builder, a custom sales pipeline, email marketing, client relationship management, scheduling on a calendar, and more. This is going to expand your interior design business and make it a breeze. Go online now to join the waitlist at mysidemark.com. You will receive 10% off your first year and get notified of all of the new and exciting updates yet to come. Visit mysidemark.com to start your journey towards successful business growth without the stress and join mysidemark.com today. You won't be sorry.


Michelle Lynne: So how, as the processes that we've put together, change the way you feel about how we do business? So let's just talk about our ML experience. So our 16 steps of sanity. Let's first talk about, how did we even develop some of those?


Megan Fornes: Trial and error.


Debbie Pratt: Guinea pigs.


Megan Fornes: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: Megan and Debbie right here.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, we would have something come up or a situation and if it was a big enough situation and happened more than once we figured out a process to help alleviate that pain point.


Michelle Lynne: So we kind of wrote down what order things went in, but we were still so green, we also didn't realize like when do you bring the trade professional in and we were still doing our own measurements like for wallpaper and window treatments and stuff. And once we got bit a couple times we were like okay, we're not going to do that. anymore. So it has been a journey.


Debbie Pratt: It's just to make sure that things aren't forgotten.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, even as little as the client gift. I mean, you're so busy wrapped up in the design details and managing and trades and, you know, you want the client to still have that beautiful experience. And then it's easy as going to a trade meeting or whatever initial visit and forgetting the candle or the flowers or the coffee, and that little experience, makes everything for the client, because that's, that's all they're seeing. And then you forget about that, because you're handling so many details.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: It's kind of like a roadmap, our experience. Because if you follow the steps, yes, can you take a different path to get there, it might take you longer, it might, you know, lead you somewhere else. But if you follow it pretty, pretty closely, you're gonna get to that end result, which is a positive design, a good check at the end, you know, and a smooth installation.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, the experience.


Debbie Pratt: It's just following your processes and not deviating and keeping it that same process in place, despite the size of the project, it's still the same. It may skip a step or two, like if there's no construction, but it keeps us on point, something to refer to, and go back to and make sure you do it correctly.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. And I think that a lot of trial and error. And just for the record, I was a guinea pig in the day too, and then you guys became more guinea pigs.


Debbie Pratt: Oh yeah, she was the chief guinea pig, and we were following her on that little wheel.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, and now I jumped off.


Debbie Pratt: Yep. And so now, you know, you can just slow down, take a breath, especially with the timeframe, so you can do it right and everybody's happy. You just have to teach patience to your clients. And I think it once you get that far,


Megan Fornes: And that's just communication, because as long as they know what's going on and there's no surprises, especially after COVID, right? Now, everybody doesn't expect anything. Even Amazon can't deliver sometimes the next day, right?


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: We were unable to make your delivery.


Megan Fornes: Yeah. So that's become normal now. And the expectation. And so it's like, as long as that is explained and communicated, everybody's happy.


Michelle Lynne: So what we've done is we've basically broken down every project is the same, but the process should be, no every project is different, but the process should be the same. Let's clarify that, every project is different, the process should be the same. And we've taken the four phases and broken those down into multiple steps and assigned them and so forth. So that has, I think, been a key to our growth, our ability to take on bigger and better projects, because now we can sell to a more sophisticated client as well.


Megan Fornes: Not only, if you think about it, our say the last two, three years, our clients not necessarily new, they keep expanding their project.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: Like if you think about it, a lot of them keep adding phases, because they are enjoying the process, the end result, and they want to keep working with us. I mean, that's the goal.


Michelle Lynne: Phase 15.2.


Debbie Pratt: Other spaces don't look as good as the one that we just finished, they're like, oh, wait a second, now we're going to need to do that. And it's not in a negative way. It's just like, they're excited to add it because they want a complete home. Some of them even have talked about buying beach houses.


Michelle Lynne: And taking us for the ride.


Debbie Pratt: Taking us for the ride along with them.


Megan Fornes: And they understand the process.


Michelle Lynne: And they trust.


Megan Fornes: The trust factor is huge.


Michelle Lynne: I think that has been a really big benefit of the processes that we've put into place from our business standpoint is that the clients aren't doubting, or double checking, or questioning as much because we've already addressed some of their interests, addressed some of their concerns, even before they know they have them. So by being proactive.


Debbie Pratt: And learning what they value is key. So for instance, depending on the client, you know what to focus on, what you could do something a little more high-end and things like that. And that's part of the process, too. It's that big research phase in the beginning. So we don't go down a bunny trail, you know, what is something that they're willing to invest in?


Megan Fornes: Right.


Debbie Pratt: So we don't waste time on something that we know they're not going to invest in. Especially people with a lot of hyperactive dogs. They don't usually invest in rugs, for instance. But they may, and this has happened, buy a $900 pillow.


Michelle Lynne: Right. So a $350 rug.


Debbie Pratt: The pup's not allowed on the couch. So it's learning that also keeps us on track and make everything at the end, and that also increases more phases. I think I went on a bunny trail there, but you know what I mean.


Michelle Lynne: No, it totally makes sense.


Megan Fornes: And I'd say that just the whole 16 steps, the process, it's a structure. And people can understand structure, because for one, you are the professional, they are hiring you, the trust level there for that professional. They don't know what they're doing. That's why you're being hired. So to have that business structure behind it to support that gives more trust.


Michelle Lynne: Absolutely.


Megan Fornes: It's not just willy nilly. I'm selecting furniture and throwing it on a PowerPoint. Here you go.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, we used to joke about that. It's not rainbows and fairy dust and poof, your room is pretty, there's a lot of work that goes into it.


Megan Fornes: Which I think that's what when we created the meet and greet, that was a selling point too to show clients, look, this is our structure. This is why we do, this is why we charge what we charge. Because of the systems, the processes, and because we are professionals. Trust us.


Michelle Lynne: Right. And professionals hire professionals.


Debbie Pratt: It's intentional design. So focusing on their needs and every selection for their design, every suggestion has a purpose, and explaining that purpose and why, I keep going back to why.


Michelle Lynne: But it's true.


Debbie Pratt: All that stuff makes it work so it isn't just throwing stuff on there. You know what, I think this lamp will work great. Well, wait a second, do they need a lamp there? Is this lamp going to be okay with these, you know, two 150-pound dogs or whatever? That would be very big dogs. You know what I mean? So there's little things like that, like, is this going to work? And why will it work or why won't it work? So you pull it off. It's not just because it looks good.


Michelle Lynne: And that makes sense. Because oftentimes, what looks the best is going to be the least practical. And that eliminates a good design.


Debbie Pratt: A good designer knows how to filter, you know?


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: And work within a budget.


Michelle Lynne: Let's talk about that.


Debbie Pratt: That's also part of the filter.


Megan Fornes: It is, because I love our clients that have really nice budgets, because it's fun, right? You can go to the different vendors and get all the nice fabrics. But that's easy to do. It's designing in a budget that’s; you have to go and figure out what's smart. And then that comes back to what clients value. Do they value in the pillows or the rug? Or the walls or in their cabinets, you know? Finding those details out.


Michelle Lynne: That goes back to the why.


Megan Fornes: Yeah. And it's having the documentation to help extract that from that client. And that's what we have now that we did not.


Michelle Lynne: Right. I think that's been part of our growth is just doing a lot more research.


Debbie Pratt: And our interview days, we used to have it as one little thing. And now


Michelle Lynne: I think we, and we also used to send a bunch of those willy nilly questionnaires, like the bathroom questionnaire and the bedroom questionnaire.


Debbie Pratt: It's easier to do it all at once.


Michelle Lynne: So it's so crazy. When you look back, you're like, well, why didn't we just talk to them? Instead, we sent them these electronic questionnaires and they had to send them back.


Debbie Pratt: We had to read between the lines. And we thought we were really good at it.


Megan Fornes: Well, and if you think about it, a busy professional does not have time to sit down and fill that out.


Debbie Pratt: And you can tell how busy they are by how many questions they leave blank on our general questionnaire. Because a few, they just leave it blank. Yeah, I'm not going to talk to you about that. You know, I don't have time for that.


Michelle Lynne: It's not relevant.


Megan Fornes: Right. But if you sit in front of them and have that connection and that interaction, then they're definitely more willing.


Michelle Lynne: One question might lead to another that leads to another that is going to prove very helpful when you're actually behind your computer figuring out the details.


Megan Fornes: And that could expand the project. We've had that happen.


Michelle Lynne: You're good at that.


Debbie Pratt: That's another thing is being open minded. Because sometimes you go into a project and you think, oh, but until you get into those interview days, you don't really know those people.


Megan Fornes: One hundred percent.


Debbie Pratt: Then you realize that they don't know what they don't know. And we don't know what they're willing to do.


Michelle Lynne: Right.


Debbie Pratt: Because we don't know them yet. So once we get to know them, and they learn to appreciate it because a lot of them, it's like going, you know, getting a massage for the first time. You're like, why haven't I been doing this my whole life?


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: We don't give massages, by the way. But you know what I mean? It's like, oh, my gosh, I need to do this more often.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. That makes sense.


Debbie Pratt: It's a luxury service.


Michelle Lynne: And, you know, I think sitting here talking, it feels so natural. And it feels like we've been doing it the whole time. So it's interesting to go back through memory lane because y'all, it was not pretty.


Megan Fornes: No.


Debbie Pratt: It's hard to remember.


Megan Fornes: I really, like I think we blocked it out.


Michelle Lynne: I've heard childbirth was the same thing.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, like block that out, even the after.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, so then you just enjoy the growth and the day to day.


Megan Fornes: Speaking on like luxury. I think back in the day, too, we would take on every single client.


Michelle Lynne: Yes.


Megan Fornes: And it is a luxury business. We have marketed towards, we don't, everybody's not our client and that's okay.


Michelle Lynne: Oh, it's much easier now. I think once we identified that you can say no to the good to keep room for the great, and as difficult as it is we benefited from it, and it has definitely launched us into a different realm. Now, I think if we look at it, like we've been doing this for 10 years now, and I feel like we finally have hit our stride. You might think it's an overnight sensation but it's not.


Debbie Pratt: And eliminating the panic contracts, you know? Taking people on because maybe it's a little slow, because you know, business goes up and down, depending on whatever. Just eliminating, oh, my gosh, we better take this, I think has really helped. You just, it's not our ideal client. And with our processes and how we vet people, you know, vet and learn and greet new clients and everything, we can start to figure it out before we even step foot in their home.


Megan Fornes: Oh, yeah.


Debbie Pratt: Which is amazing. But back in the day, we'd think, oh, oh, no, no, no, we can, we're gonna fix this. Because, you know, you feel like you're going to fix everything.


Megan Fornes: We're people pleasers too.


Debbie Pratt: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: I feel like most designers are. That's a natural thing that you, I mean hello.


Michelle Lynne: Right.


Debbie Pratt: Yeah. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.


Megan Fornes: Right. Because typically those people like to take advantage.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: And try to squeeze as much as they can. And then you look at your hours, and you're like, well, crap, that wasn't profitable. And I still have more work to do.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, it's just like minimum wage. And I think that that's a valid point. And, you know, a lot of what we've done, is what we've written down, and it's what we've put into our paid program, The Interior Design Business Bakery. Because once we figured this out, I mean, it's too good not to share because of how much sanity it saves us. Just to say, not everything's perfect, y'all.


Megan Fornes: Right, no. We're still dealing with people.


Debbie Pratt: We'll get the occasional red flag that sneaks through.


Megan Fornes: That sneaks through, yeah.


Debbie Pratt: But we're getting better and better at identifying our ideal client based on experience. And so it's just, why not share this with other designers.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. And I think part of the reason why I wanted to talk a little bit more about the then and now is literally because I want to make sure that the audience recognizes that one, this shit is hard. And two, it's not always as pretty as it looks on Instagram, or on a website. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. But you know what, though? What a blessing that as three strong-willed women, that we still love and adore each other, and respect each other. And I don't think anybody's ever been, you know, strangled or kicked or anything?


Debbie Pratt: Not recently. As far as I can remember. It's been, it's good, because we're three unicorns, like you say.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, that definitely makes a difference.


Debbie Pratt: But not the fairy dust and other stuff.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, just being able to


Megan Fornes: Well, and I think with working with a team, we each have our own strengths. And finding that if you do work with a team, how to lift each person's strength up and use it towards to grow the business, to help strengthen everybody, because you're a support system for everyone, not one person. And if you are that one person that's doing it, pat yourself on the back because it's not easy.


Debbie Pratt: Right, but to put yourself into categories when you need to approach stuff, that's the best way to do it.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, and then think about that when you're hiring too is, what do you not like doing if you're doing it by yourself right now?


Michelle Lynne: Amen. Which is why I don't design anymore.


Megan Fornes: Yeah. Like, what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? And then work towards that. Because I feel like that's what over the years, we find out what we do best.


Michelle Lynne: That's also, I mean, that's a great point, because just recently, you know, as we continue to evolve, we have made some transitions within our design team, where, you know, Debbie has stepped into more of a role that focuses on the business. She'll still have some design work but has kind of stepped out of that.


Debbie Pratt: Yes.


Michelle Lynne: So if Archer calls and says they have that beach house, you don't want to have that project?


Debbie Pratt: I'm going to fly down there with Megan because we do initial visits. I'm just going to help her with you know getting to know them.


Michelle Lynne: Make that introduction?


Debbie Pratt: Exactly. Since the new structure is Megan and I do all of our initial site visits. I'll get that paperwork just right for her.


Michelle Lynne: There you go.


Michelle Lynne: Imagine trying to bake a cake without a recipe. You kind of know what the ingredients are, but you don't know how to put it all together. After lots of hard work and trying different combinations, all you are left with is a sticky situation and a stomachache. Babe, running an interior design business can feel exactly that same way. That is why I created The Interior Design Business Bakery. This is a program that teaches you how to bake your interior design business cake and eat it too. If you don't want to figure out the hard way, and you want guidance to follow, a recipe that has already been vetted, someone that has already been there and done it and will help you do it too, then check out the year-long mentorship and coaching program, The Interior Design Business Bakery. If your interior design business revenue is below $300,000, or if you're struggling to make a profit and keep your sanity, this is the only program for you. You can find that information at designedforthecreativemind.com/business-bakery. Check it out. You won't regret it.


Michelle Lynne: So Debbie has moved into more of a business management role.


Debbie Pratt: It's getting there. It's creeping, we're putting everything in place and really even nailing that down. Even more defined.


Michelle Lynne: Right. And Megan has taken over the creativity and principal design. So while Debbie and Megan have been on equal standing from a design standpoint, they're kind of breaking up.


Debbie Pratt: Well, actually I think we're partnering.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah, that makes more sense.


Debbie Pratt: I feel like it's a partnership, where before we would, Megan and I, as senior designers, were leading projects.


Megan Fornes: Our own projects.


Debbie Pratt: Our own projects. So it's almost like we were two independent designers under one company. Even though we'd look at each other's projects and stuff. That's how we would run them. And we both were designing a little differently. But now, it's partnership where she's running all the creative side, and I'm making sure all the money's working out for it. Are we going to be profitable? Is everything entered correctly? Are there any mistakes? Or are we going to hit our profit margin? You know, what can we adjust? And those will be the discussions that we have so it is more of a partnership. The creative and the business units are separate people, but they're combined on each design.


Michelle Lynne: Well, and isn't it ironic that you're left-handed, and now you're going more left brain?


Debbie Pratt: I know. It's those damn spreadsheet., I can't tell you how many spreadsheets and flowcharts I've been working on the past couple of weeks. We need buckets because we've grown. Who does what, so there's no overlap. And so people know their role on a design team.


Michelle Lynne: Which is fantastic as we've continued to grow. So I mean, we don't even have all of our people on the website right now. We just haven't had time to take pictures. But for the most part, let's go back seven years and talk about spreadsheets.


Debbie Pratt: I still don't like Excel. Google sheets for some reason suits me better.


Megan Fornes: I feel like it's different. Excel just has more horsepower.


Debbie Pratt: I just couldn't format formulas. I just couldn't do it. And the fact that I was able to do that by myself on Google Sheets to calculate our pricing model. You should see my scope of work calculator, I was like holy crap, look what I did.


Megan Fornes: I love it.


Debbie Pratt: And I did a sample one just in case with easy math. I'm like, oh my gosh. So it's and you know what I realized? I'm the only one is going to be doing that now. I have my own personal calculator.


Megan Fornes: Well, and you can get that on your phone too. I just feel like it's an easier app too.


Debbie Pratt: Exactly. But it also, if I'm out on vacation or something, and someone else needs to write one. We're not reinventing the wheel.


Megan Fornes: No.


Debbie Pratt: You know, it's like automatic versus a stick shift.


Megan Fornes: Right. Because we both know what to do in each other's roles.


Michelle Lynne: Because you guys have both been doing it.


Megan Fornes: Because we've done it.


Debbie Pratt: Yeah, we've done it independently, now we're joining forces and splitting all those little details. So the designs are going to be stronger.


Megan Fornes: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: And we're going to be more profitable in them, I believe.


Michelle Lynne: And I think that that also lends to part of the conversation of as the business owner, as you grow and evolve, you know, part of what I've done is I've taken my foot off the gas a little bit. And so I'm blessed that Debbie and Megan can step in and kind of fill where I have vacated. So as I've moved into more of the Designed for the Creative Mind, and found that passion and just really loving that aspect of it, some of these other details have fallen to the wayside. So that's something for you to keep in mind. As with a business, even when you get the processes and the procedures up and running, you still have to continue managing them. So what you measure gets managed, I think is a really good way to look at that. And that's been something that has been lacking. Not that we've fallen off and into the ditch, but for the most part that's something to keep track of. If you start finding yourself going a little bit off track, rein yourself back in and take a look at what you measure you manage.


Debbie Pratt: It's just evolving.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: I mean we're evolving in these roles just simply because of our strengths.


Michelle Lynne: And where you are in life.


Debbie Pratt: And where you are in life. I'm in a different place than Megan is. So how do we focus on our strengths at these phases? And how do we do it? So taking a lot of the ugly number crunching away from Megan, I think gives her more time to be so uber-creative and spend time with her daughter.


Michelle Lynne: Because you're not gonna have to implement them as much because now we have individuals, quote unquote underneath Megs that can do a lot of the legwork that they enjoy.


Debbie Pratt: That time late at night design work that you used to do, now it's going to be strictly creative. Which I'm sure, I figure that you stay up later. But it's the little things that if you don't have to worry about what that proposal looks like, your designs are going to be stronger. And my current clients are going to say, wow, why didn't we have Megan from the beginning? Which, rock on, you know, she can improve it. Maybe they'll redo my stuff in a few years. I'm okay with that.


Michelle Lynne: But this is a great point is, if you are currently a solopreneur and you're the left brain and the right brain, that that's how you have to start. And you may not find that, Debbie referenced earlier the unicorns, because Debbie, Megan, and I, we balanced each other out well, in regards to the creativity, the administrative aspect of it, the numerical financial aspect of it, Debbie and Megan, like Deb said they were basically running their own businesses under the umbrella of ML Interiors Group managing that. As a solopreneur, that's what you're doing right now. Stop and think, based on this conversation and how we've evolved, what do you want your business to look like? Do you need to hire a design assistant first? Or do you need to hire a business manager, an office manager first? So you can take a look at that and determine what direction you want it to go and know that there's no wrong answer.


Megan Fornes: No, I think it just depends on your strengths.


Michelle Lynne: And where you're at in your life. I didn't have a kid at the time. Now I've got a kid and a couple other businesses. It's just like, holy shit, no wonder I'm not, my foot's off the gas. So watch out, we're about to be a Ferrari with these two.


Debbie Pratt: Yeah, we're gonna disconnect cruise control.


Megan Fornes: Vroom vroom.


Michelle Lynne: Let's talk a little bit about cruise control, because we got to the point where we were able to have Designed for the Creative Mind, the coaching arm of the business, because we had those steps in place. And if you guys have been listening to the podcast for any length of time, I think you've probably heard me say that this business of coaching and the podcast and all of this fun stuff was born because I was able to leave Debbie and Megan in Dallas when I went to Michigan while my daughter was born. She's adopted, in case you guys are like, we talked about childbirth, I was like, I heard this is what it is. And I have this daughter. So in that respect, I was gone for a month and they were never calling. So I'd call and check in and say Is everything okay? Yep, we're just following the process. So it gives you room to breathe. It gives you room for a vacation.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, cuz I will say there were, I think there was one time Debbie and I looked at each other and we debated on calling you. And we're like, no, we could figure it out. And because of the process we were able to, and we figured it out.


Debbie Pratt: We figured it out. We were confident with our decisions. She left us here in charge. You know, big girl panties. We got a box full, put them on.


Megan Fornes: Exactly. And know that when you have that set up, that that next level underneath you that it's helping you run your business has the confidence to make those decisions on their own. It's a safe space.


Debbie Pratt: Was it perfect?


Megan Fornes: Probably not. But nothing is.


Debbie Pratt: But it was okay. And that's the message is that you can do it. Don't overanalyze it. That just came out of my mouth. But don't, because it's, at the end of the day, we're not doing brain surgery.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: And I mean, each project, you'll learn something new anyways. And improve for the next one.


Michelle Lynne: And Lord knows things change. So even though you did it really well on one particular aspect, then COVID hits, and then all of a sudden everything changes.


Megan Fornes: Again, you're dealing with people, not everybody is sweet and nice and likes to write you checks.


Michelle Lynne: Darn it.


Megan Fornes: I know. And then when you get that one, it's like, ah.


Debbie Pratt: Those are the really nice ones.


Megan Fornes: Yeah.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. That's where you really appreciate it. So if you could wrap up the last decade and just like, and I know it's just you know, like, what would you say has been your, what do you feel about the last decade in business?


Debbie Pratt: I think there's pride. Look what we did. Look where we were. I mean, Megan came in and out for an interview with the original location and we were cleaning the bathrooms. We would rotate who would clean the bathrooms. And we don't, you know, there's things, I don't even hang pictures anymore. I used to clean toilets and now I don't even have to hang pictures. So, I know that's gross, but just the way that not only has what we deliver been elevated, but I think the business itself and how we work. It's like people want to be with us. People want to be part of us, other designers. I mean, it's like, oh my gosh, we hear it through some of the forums like, oh, I wish I was working with you guys. When we meet them in person we get these little fan girls, which who ever thought. It's the funniest thing. Oh, my gosh, I've seen your Instagram and I don't even post anything. So there's been, it's pride, at look what we built together. ML is on the door, but the group has been really the big. I mean, she always will be the face of the company, and I think it's important because y'all know who she is.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: I know. She's whining. She's sighing.


Michelle Lynne: Well, I love doing it. It's just it's, it's a lot sometimes.


Megan Fornes: I mean, yeah, I think you nailed it, though. Those, just the thinking of the growth is incredible.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Megan Fornes: I mean, when I started too, I would think about the growth. I mean, I was a baby, you know, I was 24 turning 25. Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: And learning how to write a check, by the way. I have put that out there. I taught her how to write a check.


Megan Fornes: I don't remember that.


Michelle Lynne: That's funny.


Debbie Pratt: It's all right. It's funny, I was like, I got to teach her something.


Michelle Lynne: Growing. Yeah.


Megan Fornes: Just, but if you even think back, because trends and design and fashion, it all evolves. So it's even kind of funny to look back at some of our older designs. And I'm like, oh dear lord.


Michelle Lynne: Oh, my gosh.


Megan Fornes: Right? And so even just to look back at this, or now to look forward, at the sophistication of what we're developing and giving.


Michelle Lynne: Our deliverables.


Megan Fornes: Oh, my God, it's beautiful. But it was not when we first started.


Michelle Lynne: It was for the time.


Debbie Pratt: At the time it was pretty good.


Michelle Lynne: We've just become much more knowledgeable and sophisticated. Because I can look back at my house when Brian and I got married, moved in, and I thought it was great. And I look back at pictures and I'm like, oh my God, I hope that never gets out.


Megan Fornes: All of it.


Debbie Pratt: The funny thing is, yes, we would accessorize with Home Goods back in the day. Because it was convenient. It was easy. It was fast. I can't tell you the last time I was in one. And I used to always say, you never know when you'll find something.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: I think we've learned to value, not only for our own homes, selections and options, but for our clients. It's like no, they don't need Home Goods. We're past that. It's okay when you're starting out and you know, I get that.


Michelle Lynne: And sometimes they have brand names there.


Debbie Pratt: Sometimes they do. And you recognize it. I mean, I go into boutiques sometimes little home boutiques, and I go, I'm not buying that I know how to where you got that.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, that's from Accent Decor.


Debbie Pratt: Exactly. I'm not gonna get that. So you learn to identify things. I remember going through like Architectural Digest before I even started with you. And I'd see to the trade. And I was so intimidated.


Megan Fornes: Especially I think it's, Home Goods at the start was because it was comfortable, and you could walk in.


Michelle Lynne: It was accessible.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, and it's funny now because you can easily, we're lucky because we're in Dallas and have you know the Trade Center, but walk in and that's accessible. That's at your fingertips.


Debbie Pratt: And you're comfortable there. And it took a while to get there.


Megan Fornes: Yeah. It just takes time. So if you're at that beginning stage, just know, and it's, you might have one person that's kind of stuffy, but everybody's so friendly. I think that's the biggest thing.


Michelle Lynne: That's their job.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, I mean, they're trying to sell stuff, right?


Debbie Pratt: We're the customer.


Megan Fornes: So think about that.


Debbie Pratt: It's just like being the customer in a retail location. And it's just, you have to walk in with that confidence that yeah, I am the customer. I'm not here to please you. Sell me something.


Michelle Lynne: Exactly. Exactly. And I think that brings up another point is that, you know, I really hope that as the listener, what you're hearing is not that we're so all that right now, but more along the lines of it has been a journey.


Megan Fornes: Yeah. We worked hard to get here.


Michelle Lynne: A journey. And we're not done.


Megan Fornes: No. Not by any means.


Michelle Lynne: But also give yourself the grace to take baby steps. Give yourself the grace to make errors. Give yourself the grace to be intimidated but overcome that. Give yourself the grace to have money stories. Like that's one of the things that we haven't touched on is that we would get, we would be quote unquote afraid to spend something. Megan never would.


Megan Fornes: No. I know.


Michelle Lynne: Megan never would. But Debbie and I were like, oh no, we won't pay that much for it.


Megan Fornes: I can easily spend other people's money.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah. So just give yourself the grace as an entrepreneur, this stuff is hard. Nobody tells you how difficult it is. Nobody tells you how difficult being married is, right? That's a lot of work. Nobody tells you how difficult motherhood is. That's a lot of work. Let me just tell you owning your own business, and especially in interior design, it is difficult. But that's what we're here for. We're here to serve. As Deb said, you know, people recognize now that we are here to support the interior design industry. We're here because a rising tide lifts all boats, and that it is community over competition. I mean, there's a lot of ugly houses out there, y'all.


Debbie Pratt: And if you're shopping Home Goods right now and you're at the beginning of your career, look where you could be.


Michelle Lynne: Yeah.


Debbie Pratt: Look where we were. We were there. It's not bad.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, I'd also say that it was nice when Michelle would tell us that nobody's on the operating table.


Michelle Lynne: Right. Nobody's gonna die.


Megan Fornes: And it's safe. I think that's why we had such confidence making those decisions while you were gone is because it's a safe place to make mistakes if you learn from them.


Michelle Lynne: Right.


Megan Fornes: And you, we had that. We had you telling us that. So if you're by yourself, tell yourself that. Like quit putting so much pressure on yourself to be perfect and to have it right. Like, it's interior design at the end of the day. You are making somebody's life better and more functional. But we're not curing cancer.


Michelle Lynne: Amen.


Debbie Pratt: Put this podcast on repeat if you're having trouble not hearing that in your own head. We're saying it right here. So just keep it over and over. If you need a little support, we can be your support group, and you can do it.


Michelle Lynne: And hey, with that, if you're not familiar with The Interior Design Business Bakery, we do have a paid program that's a one-year mentorship. If you have any questions about it, you can find it at designedforthecreativemind.com. And it says Bakery. But in the meantime, for those of you who can benefit from even more resources surrounding the business of running your interior design business, join our growing community over on Facebook, okay? That one's free. It's a private group. And there's a lot of support that goes on within that group. I go live once a week. And that one's called The Interior Designers Business Launchpad. So finally, my last request, or first request of you, other than not hanging up earlier, is if you'd leave a review, wherever you listen to your podcast. It really does help keep us in circulation. And it will continue to assist other interior designers within this industry, so that we can all be professional. So Debbie, Megan, thank you for taking this walk down memory lane.


Debbie Pratt: One Hundred.


Megan Fornes: Yeah, it was fun.


Michelle Lynne: Super fun.


Debbie Pratt: A century.


Michelle Lynne: Number 100. How crazy is that? And thank you listeners for sticking around. It's nice to know it's not just my mom listening anymore. Okay, until next time.


Michelle Lynne: Hey, y'all. If you love the show and find it useful, I would really appreciate it if you would share with your friends and followers. And if you like what you're hearing, want to put a face with the name and get even more business advice, then join me in my Facebook group, the Interior Designers Business Launchpad. Yeah, I know it's Facebook, but just come on in for the training and then leave without scrolling your feed. It's fun. I promise you'll enjoy it. And finally, I hear it's good for business to get ratings on your podcast. So please drop yours on whatever platform you use to listen to this. We're all about community over competition, so let's work on elevating our industry, one designer at a time. See you next time.

Back to the Blog


Business Bakery

Program Login




Let's jam on Instagram