Episode 84: Systems Over Symptoms - Developing Effective Relationships with Your Team with Brittanie Elms
My next guest is Brittanie Elms, the CEO and Lead Consultant for My Design Assistant, a virtual assistance agency for interior designers looking to reimagine their efficiency so that they can develop a life and business they love.
The My Design Assistant team helps designers develop actionable systems and tools so they can move their business forward efficiently and free up their time for creative thinking and professional development.
In this episode, Brittanie shares what people should know about the difference between hiring an employee and hiring a VA, identifying symptoms of a broken process and how to diagnose and resolve them, and the importance of establishing SOPs before working with a new team member.
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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
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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: Hello, and welcome back to the podcast. This is Michelle Lynne and I'm excited to introduce you today to my guest, Brittanie Elms. She is the CEO and the Lead Consultant for My Design Assistant, a virtual assistance agency for interior designers looking to reimagine their efficiency so that they can develop a life and a business they love. So if you've been following along with me for any moment at all, you definitely know that this is a philosophy that resonates with me. So Brittanie, thank you for being here. Welcome to the podcast. I'm so excited to continue our conversation.
Brittanie Elms: Thank you. I'm so excited to be here. It's fun. We connected a few years ago, I think, right, when you, it was your first in-person summit.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, absolutely. So that was three years ago, two years ago, three years ago, three years ago. And as I mentioned before we started recording, it's been so fun just watching you and your business blossom. It's so exciting to sit back. And it's so crazy with social media, how we can do that. Right? Like, I've never spoken to you in, I haven't, we've spoken but not to the extent that we will today.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: But just to feel like I've watched your company grow and your kids kind of, because that's where you launched your business from.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, it's so funny. It's been such a journey. And just like, the highs and lows and kind of even, you know, social media itself is just such a, it's a blessing and a curse, right? Because I look at some of those posts and those memories and there are parts of it that are accurate, right? Like, oh, that was really good. Like, we had all this growth. But then I remember, like, the underlying current of frustration, and overwhelm, and stress at the same time that isn't necessarily always represented in those, which is ultimately what led me to the consulting part from the VA agency. So that's where our mission came from. It's like, we're trying to help people feel that less.
Michelle Lynne: Absolutely. And I think being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. Because there is always that undercurrent of what next, what is, you know, what do I need to be looking for, what's going on and whatnot. But by putting together systems and processes and outsourcing and all the things, it definitely does alleviate the multiple gray hairs, maybe just like one or two here and there, but like sprouting a multiple at a time. Definitely. Yeah, so tell the audience a little bit about like, what My Design Assistant entails. It's not just VAs but that's where you started. And then you have the consulting and like your CEO club and stuff like that. Let's just touch on a little bit of that. And then we'll dig into some of the VA questions as well that that we've got.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, so we started in 2017. And the whole goal behind that, I don't know if many people know, but my initial career path was social services, and my degree is in psychology. So I was so certain I was going to work for the state or the county. And I was working for a nonprofit at the time when I was pregnant with my first and there was that undercurrent of like, what are we going to do about this kid once it's here? So someone has to take care of this child, but we both have jobs, and I work for a nonprofit and childcare is really expensive. So I had this career path in front of me. And it really like once I was on maternity leave, I realized that maybe it wasn't going to be a good fit for our family future. And I connected with this interior designer, as part of a class that was a college accounting or whatever you call it error, where they thought I needed less credit, so I canceled a class and then they came back on my final term and were like, actually, you need one more credit. And I'm like, you're kidding me like, I have a new baby and you're gonna make me take this additional course, you're kidding. And it ended up changing everything, because that course was a career exploration course. And that's how I connected with this interior designer, because I took all these tests or whatever you call it, quizzes, aptitude tests, and it showed like creativity, something like interior design, and I was like, that's a job? Like, people do that? That's not just Hollywood? So it made me look into it. They found this designer that I connected with, and she had me do some testing, and she's like, you know, what, I think you could be a really good fit, we should work together. And it was, I don't know, kismet. Like, somehow, she allowed me to name my schedule, name my wage, and was like, yeah, whatever, you need, let's work together.
Michelle Lynne: That's amazing.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah. And then it turned out later, she's like, you know, I didn't quite realize how much this was gonna cost me, it is kind of expensive. And it was one of those where she was like, I can try to keep you on for all these hours, but it is going to be tight. And I was like, you know what, I can figure it out. I'm crafty. And I had been listening to podcasts all over the place, LuAnn Nigara's A Well-Designed Business. And in hearing these questions over and over again, like, oh, the floor plans take so much of my time, and the sourcing, and it's so hard to hire. And I'm like, I could do all of that from home. Like, I could do that from my living room.
Michelle Lynne: The light bulb went off.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah. And I was like, why am I not offering these services? And so the designer was okay with it as long as it wasn't someone local. So 2017, when my son was just a few months old, is when My Design Assistant launched, and then it was just me until like 2020. And we were doing floor plans, sourcing, and like presentations primarily, that's all that I really advertised. And then there was a lot of just kind of general admin stuff. And then it got to a point where it's just like, I can't do this anymore.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, not all on your shoulders.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, actually, sorry, my first hire did come a little bit before that. Because it was shortly after I had my second, and she was in 2018. But for a long time, it was just me. But yeah, and then we started expanding more in 2020. When you know, everyone I think, kind of have that fear of like, ooh, what's gonna happen to interior design right now? And then it ended up like booming instead of what I think we all feared was going to be the opposite.
Michelle Lynne: Thank goodness we were all stuck in our house for that timeframe. Lots of ugly houses, lots of ugly houses out there. Oh, so that's exciting. So yeah, so you just really dug down and figured out what other people needed?
Brittanie Elms: Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: That's very fun. So let's talk about the hiring people. So what's the, I guess let's just start with what's the difference between hiring an employee and having a virtual assistant?
Brittanie Elms: So I think the biggest thing that people struggle getting used to is having someone who's immediately accessible to you, versus having someone who's kind of on their own schedule. And I guess, to even correct that, you know, hiring doesn't mean that you're hiring an employee, you could be hiring a local contractor, but in the term that we're talking about, we're assuming employee, or I am, versus virtual contractor. But that has been the biggest adjustment because it really does kind of require that you have your processes in place and are setting good client expectations, which I know is huge for you and the content that I see you produce. Like, setting the expectations, naming your schedule, and knowing when you're realistically going to be able to provide things. And that helps tremendously in your relationship with your VA, if you know, I need to do this by this time, so this needs to be submitted to the VA, that is I think one of the biggest differences, is it doesn't allow for a ton of
Michelle Lynne: Off the cuff or on the fly type of work.
Brittanie Elms: Right. Yes, thank you.
Michelle Lynne: That makes sense. Yeah, so you have to be a little bit prepared and organized so that you can keep that funnel full for your VA.
Brittanie Elms: Right, and that they can keep operating at full capacity. And that's the way we operate is we operate in packages. So you can have someone who's dedicated to you more, say you have a 30-hour package and they have more time committed to your projects each week and each month. But if you don't have that frame of mind, you know, where you can say, okay, I'm going to need you to work on this in the next couple of days versus where you get to that point where it's like, it's going to be too hard to describe this and it's due tomorrow, I just need to do it myself. That makes a huge difference in the success of that relationship.
Michelle Lynne: That would be me. It's like, Oh, shit. This is due tomorrow, and I haven't even thought about it. Yeah.
Brittanie Elms: I think we've all found ourselves there.
Michelle Lynne: Yes. But I also think that if you, like for myself, in the instances that I've used a VA, a lot of it comes down to, once they help you unbury yourself and you have breathing room, it's kind of like, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Like they have to help, like for me, they had to help unbury me before I could have breathing room to think ahead and provide that, you know, couple weeks in advance type of filling the pipeline, or the funnel for her. So it's a delicate balance. But you're right, you have to plan ahead and know what you need to have done and be able to train them accordingly. How many people do you have on your team?
Brittanie Elms: Oh, gosh, right now I think we have 12, and not all our VAs that work directly in the design capacities. So we have Emily, who's our CSM.
Michelle Lynne: So Emily is your CSM. What does CSM mean?
Brittanie Elms: Customer Success Manager. So she is going to be the person that anybody who submits an inquiry for services or schedules a discovery call, that initial call will be with her.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, perfect. That makes sense. So she can go through and say okay, yes, we can help you with this. No, we can't help you with that. Hey, I think so and so it'd be a good fit and so forth.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, absolutely. And then we've started a new service, which is our SOP creation. So now when people come to work with us in the VDA capacity, or when they're hiring a virtual design assistant, then we have them go through the SOP process first.
Michelle Lynne: Tell the audience what SOP means.
Brittanie Elms: Sorry. Yes.
Michelle Lynne: I know, right?
Brittanie Elms: Standard Operating Procedure. And the point of that is a lot of people have this in their head, they have like, okay, I do this. And that might be something that they do on their own. But it makes it so much harder to express that when you have the need. And so this is our way of documenting the process, or if somebody doesn't have a way of doing it, kind of helping them iron that out to better prepare them for working with us in that capacity.
Michelle Lynne: Well, and it's also, I mean, I love, love, love that Brittanie, because we all have these things in our head, but they have to be written down. Because if you're going to hire somebody, whether it's a VA, or whether it's going to be a local assistant that helps you with design or helps you as an office manager, something, that's the only way you can train them is to follow these standard operating procedures that are written down, so that there's no mistake, or no misunderstanding, per se. And you can rinse and repeat over and over. So standard operating procedures are like the foundation of a business, it brings you out of the hobbyist into more of a professional run business. So the fact that you do that is fabulous.
Brittanie Elms: Thank you, it makes such a huge difference in just being able to hand stuff off too because we talked about that roadblock of when someone's like, oh, this is going to take so much time to explain, I'm just going to do it myself. And if you keep pushing that off, then it makes it so much harder to ever get to that handoff point. So our goal is to try to attack that first and head-on and figure out where are our handoff points. But having consistency. Because working with a virtual design assistant, one of the concerns that we hear often is like, how can I trust that they're going to do what they're saying they're going to do? And how can I make sure that they're doing it well? And where things start to get missed is if there's inconsistencies. So sometimes, maybe the handoff is, I source and then I send you the link and you add it to Houzz. Or sometimes it is, I presented this proposal, but then you need to create the PO. So people don't really know when they're supposed to own something.
Michelle Lynne: Right.
Brittanie Elms: That makes it easier for it to fall through the cracks and not get owned.
Michelle Lynne: Because most of us don't read minds.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, exactly. But if they know like, okay, I own it when it gets here, then that gives them something to check in on or like, hey, where are we with this, versus just like sitting in the back and not wanting to bug you.
Michelle Lynne: Absolutely. And I think that that's part of it is that a lot of people won't ask the questions about like, hey, I don't want to bug you. But then the designer is like, are they getting it done, are they not getting it done and so forth. So when you do have that, okay, I'm done with it, check. And you're handing off a baton almost like you're running a relay race, then that other person can pick it up and run with it and take it to the finish line as needed.
Brittanie Elms: Exactly. And that's why we are so, so huge on project management systems. And so we are big advocates for Teamwork. That's our favorite system. And why we love that so much is that exact reason like, it allows us to have comments and tasks right there. So we invite all of our designers into it with us so they can communicate directly with our team regarding the tasks, and we have a chat
Michelle Lynne: What's that called, Teamwork?
Brittanie Elms: Teamwork, yes.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, I don't think I'm familiar with that. I'm writing that down.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, they've got a lot of great features on there. And then they can see their time too. So they can see, at any point, what time we've logged and what we logged it for, and if they need to go in and bill their clients at a different timeline than we normally bill, they're not restricted to waiting on our invoice, they can go in there and extract the information.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, that's perfect. So if you're working on a floor plan for them and they need to bill the client, they have that information.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: Sounds like it's really easy to work with y'all.
Brittanie Elms: I hope so. We try to make it that way.
Michelle Lynne: So because you work with a bunch of different designers, what do their values and mission, like their mission statement or whatever, have to do with the success of working with a new teammate? Do you find that it's different across the board?
Brittanie Elms: Yeah. I mean where I feel this is so, so, so important is really in all communications, how you communicate with each other, how you communicate with the vendors. If we're interacting with your clients, which does happen, sometimes people will ask us to send updates to the clients or we've had designers that were really, really integrated in their business. And like I said, interacting with the clients, setting up appointments, onboarding their clients, so knowing their values, and how we can communicate that presence that they want to have, like that consistent branding, is really important. And the unfortunate thing that we come across is that there's not a lot of people who have that developed at this point. And so if you're asking about their values, it's harder for them to share, or they don't have a developed mission statement. And, you know, it helps us to know, where are you trying to go? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you, one gal that I interviewed, potentially, who is going to be a potential client, her concern was, she's very, very, very busy but she has clients who need a lot of really high touch. And so with us in doing a lot of automation, and that's what we were looking at working together for was automating her processes, she's like, I just don't think this would work for me. I need to be like the person contacting our client every single time. They're not okay scheduling a call through an automated link. Like, we need to have a conversation about it. And that's something where it's like, I mean, that's her value, that's something that's very important to her is having that high touch. And so that doesn't, with us being more automated in some ways, that's not in alignment.
Michelle Lynne: That makes sense. So it's the culture, it's the values, it's the mission, it's all the things. Because you're right, every designer has a different personality, and you have to fit yourself into it. So you're kind of like the willow tree that bends and blows with the wind of each individual.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, and even how they treat their vendors, you know, that's something we have to consider. And not to say that we have any designers who are mean to their vendors, but there's definitely a cadence or tone that some of our designers expect, and that makes them feel comfortable. And when they see that communication come through and how about communication's representing their firm. And again, having those values and that knowledge clearly communicated helps us stay in alignment with that.
Michelle Lynne: I love that because it definitely, you become an extension of the design firm, you need to represent them the same way. Because like my team at ML Interiors Group, we're very casual. And so if you were to come in and be incredibly proper and fussy, it wouldn't be in alignment. Or the other way around. If you have the very proper and traditional designer, if you came in casual, it would not feel comfortable. So that's a huge notation in that regard. What a good selling point too, because it should be seamless.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, and we try. I mean, we're always learning and we're always growing. And we'll always find like, oh, we think we could do better here. And that's why often I will tell people where waitlisted. Because we take on a few clients and then we pause, because we want to see okay, so how did the onboarding go with those individuals? How was this pairing? Are there areas that we can improve? And our fear is getting too busy, taking on too many clients, and making that too stressful to go back and fix things. So we always like to take a pause, and we really try to only take on a few clients at a time to make sure that we can manage that and that we can do it well.
Michelle Lynne: No, that makes sense. We joke, we seriously joke, but there are times when we tell our clients, you know, I'd love to work with you, but I would disappoint you and embarrass myself. And it's just not going to be the right time or the right fit. And it's much easier to walk away or put a pause on it, than it is to take it and start, just the stress, and then the reputation management is key. So that's good to know.
Brittanie Elms: For sure. And like in our consulting calls when I'm talking to clients, what I often tell them is, you know, when you do things as a favor for people and you're not fully in it, it always starts to breed a little bit of resentment, right? Or like when you give that client a discount, and then suddenly their project, at no fault of their own, has become less of a priority to you because it pays less, or it's like, oh, that's the discounted client. This is the high paying client.
Michelle Lynne: Right.
Brittanie Elms: But you gave them that rate, and you honored that rate, and you said that was enough. So then it creates like this weird dynamic, where you're stressful, you're resentful because you're not making the same amount of money that you're making with this other client. And just like you said, it's better, to me, I always like to just refer elsewhere. And it's like, we know, a lot of really great VDA. So if we're not in a position where we can take on more clients, I would so much rather refer them elsewhere then put us in a position where people are going to be unhappy.
Michelle Lynne: Well, and it's a small community, the design community, you could get a reputation one designer to another. And if somebody posted in a Facebook forum, holy cow, they could just jump all over it.
Brittanie Elms: But it's so funny, because I mean, exactly that. There are so many people that it's like, oh, I heard about you from this person, or this person referred me. And it's like, man, I talked to them, like three years ago, but it really just does come like full circle.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Because even though you and I haven't worked together, I've mentioned you to a handful of our bakers, from the Interior Design Business Bakery and stuff like that, because you have to outsource. Until you get to a certain point where you want to hire somebody that's going to be hands-on face-to-face, oftentimes, it makes such a huge difference. And it is, it's just reputation out there.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: So how important is it that you have these, okay, so you talked about when you're onboarding somebody, and you're talking to them about the standard operating procedures, but you also consult with them to put those together, correct?
Brittanie Elms: Correct. So that is working with Emily, our Customer Success Manager, and she's like our processing person. She's really, really incredible about that, around looking at things that you're trying to accomplish and breaking it down into like, okay, we need to do these in the next steps. So that's working exclusively with her in that first month, which is like our trial period.
Michelle Lynne: Nice. So she puts things together that will standardize, let's just say, my design business, so that I can integrate in with you and have a seamless transaction, or just experience, or we just work better together because we're both so well organized.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, I mean, it's a little bit of everything. We have our standardized versions of all of these SOPs. And that's like, if you don't have a process, we'll come in, and we'll do it according to our process. But we're giving you the opportunity first to tell us how you would like it to be done. So our default is that we do everything in Teamwork, we invite you in, and we'll communicate with each other there. But this is the opportunity to say like, do you agree with these? Does this fit with your flow in how you work as an individual or how you work as a firm? Or do we need to tweak these to make sure that we're working well together?
Michelle Lynne: And if nothing else, you're upleveling their business.
Brittanie Elms: Right. And that's what I was going to say. So this is like our trial period of working together, and then at the end, if they want to walk away and it's like, okay, I feel better, I have this package of SOPs, and I can go and find someone local or whatever it may be. They're totally welcome to do that. If anything, the goal is that people are going to feel better prepared and more aligned with their process. But I don't think we've had anybody walk away at this point, they just usually put that into working with our VAs.
Michelle Lynne: It makes sense. How long are clients usually with you?
Brittanie Elms: We were talking about that the other day. So it spans. So we have had clients almost since, like MDA's conception that are still with us now. And we have had people who maybe go through a quarter, and then it's like, okay, we'll revisit this in the fall. As you know, it can ebb and flow. So we have different packages that start at 10 hours, which is really kind of minimal, but it's like the, you know, some of that busy work. Like maybe it's some research, maybe it's tidying things up, making some presentations, or helping firm up some documents. Where we find is people who are investing more hours are able to integrate us more into their process, so they stay longer, obviously, than someone who has a smaller package where it's only a couple of hours a week.
Michelle Lynne: Well, yeah, because they can't live without you because you are a team member, just not necessarily on the payroll.
Brittanie Elms: Right.
Michelle Lynne: That makes sense. So how do you, if somebody comes to you with a broken process, like, oh, yeah, Brittanie, I've got these great standard operating procedures, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. How do you identify when it's like, and what do you do if it's like, ah, sorry, Michelle, you actually don't have, they're not standard operating procedures, they're kind of busted up pieces of ideas. What do you do, then?
Brittanie Elms: What I would say in that case, is it's not, you know, the idea of the process is the starting off point. Like, there's more of a fear when people have no idea how they want to do things, or they're super inconsistent in how they do things. So somebody has a standard of how they're doing things, that's good, even if it's not maybe the most efficient way. At least they've identified how they're going about their business. What we can do from there, though, is identify again, like, where are those handoff points? Where is that critical point where it transitions from the designer's responsibility to the VA's responsibility? And how can we streamline? And as you know, it's part of our mission is efficiency and streamlining. How can we reduce the amount of steps? Because our biggest concern working virtually is, a lot of times we have very little to do with your project. We've never met your client, we don't interact with them, we've never been on the job site. So that's where, if you have too many steps in your process, you might be able to catch those rather easily because you've been on the job site, you've had a conversation, you're gonna see something and be like, that doesn't quite align, like, why is this here? But virtually, we're not going to have that. So we want to make your system as efficient and scalable as possible. So we know we're going to have all that information at handoff and we can go ahead, make these orders, track those products, and get them where they need to go, how they need to go there.
Michelle Lynne: That makes sense. So sometimes beauty is in the simplicity of it.
Brittanie Elms: One hundred percent. Like, the simpler the better. I always tell people, if you have to go more than three places to document something, something's almost always going to be forgotten. And a lot of the systems that we see people using, they're very close to being like everything you need, but none of them are everything you need. So it's like, you might be able to invoice your client and track time in one, but you can't usually track the items efficiently. And that's where, again, we like to use Teamwork or Smartsheet or Google Sheets, like somewhere where you're going in and you're tracking every little thing, but that's exactly it. Like we might take that item, a lot of our clients use Houzz, so we might take that item from Houzz, we put it in a spreadsheet so we can track exactly like when we're going to follow up, what's the status of this item right now. So the designer can be on the same page with us if they need to provide a client update. But if we have to do that in Houzz, in the spreadsheet, and then add it somewhere else, one of those places, when you're in a rush, is almost always going to get forgotten. And so it's not, you can be the best, most organized person in the world, but if there's a distraction or somebody sends you a message, or there's an email update it's just too many distractions.
Michelle Lynne: Oh my gosh, yeah, there's always something.
Brittanie Elms: And so it's like, well, how can we eliminate that? How can we pare it down to make sure we're not doing too much unnecessary stuff? What is actually needed?
Michelle Lynne: No, and it's funny, as I was building ML Interiors Group, the term efficiently lazy is really what I fall back on. How can we be as efficient but lazy as possible? So yeah, document it one, maybe two places. After that, forget about it. So that's a really good point.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, I was talking to one of my clients the other day, and both of us have had the compliment, I'll put them in air quotes, it's like, you're such a hard worker, and it's like, how do I feel about that? Like, I don't know that I like, I appreciate it and I know where this is coming from, and I am very motivated, but I want to be a smart worker, I don't want to be a hard worker. Like, I don't want to be struggling all the time, I want to know what I can hand off and be smart about the work that I'm doing and have control over where my attention is going.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, that's one of the things that I, with our paid program, The Interior Design Business Bakery, it's like, burning your candle at both ends is not a badge of honor. Working on the weekends and evenings and being, again, air quotes, busy, is not something to be proud of. You know, it's why don't you get from point A to point B with as much ease as possible?
Brittanie Elms: Mm hmm.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah. I think that's so amazing.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah. When I first started My Design Assistant, I remember like, I would bring my laptop to parties and stuff, which is so ridiculous. But it was like, oh, I've got to take this call, and there was like an annoyance that I had to interrupt. But then also, like you said, kind of a like, well, I'm in demand, like people want me. And then it got to a point with the kids, and I'm like, I am up until four in the morning every morning. I get like three to four hours of sleep at night. And I am constantly exhausted. This is not success. This does not feel good. And everyone's like, your business is growing. This is amazing. And I'm like, it does not feel amazing.
Michelle Lynne: It sucks right now.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, it's awful and I hate it.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, and I think a lot of times a lot of business owners just hit that point, you're like, I love what I do, but I don't love what I'm doing. And so it's time to step back and revisit it and put these SOPs into place. So that's like a full circle. So Brittanie, I could, first of all, I could talk about entrepreneurship and momming until I'm blue in the face. And also, just like how you support this industry, you know, there's a huge need for what you do. But I also like to have fun. So we're going to move into the next segment, which is a Q&A session to get to know you a little bit better.
Brittanie Elms: Awesome.
Michelle Lynne: It is just rapid fire, whatever comes off the top of your head from the tip of my tongue, or the other way around.
Brittanie Elms: Okay, and I don't want to be held too accountable for my answers. I'm on cold medicine right now. I'm a little nervous.
Michelle Lynne: That could make it even more fun. Okay, you ready? We'll start off easy. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Brittanie Elms: Oh, cookie dough or mint chocolate chip.
Michelle Lynne: Ooh, yum, yum, yum, yum. What is your favorite book?
Brittanie Elms: Oh my gosh, um, I don't know if I have like a favorite specific book. The Horse and His Boy is one that I loved as a kid and I love reading to my son, or my kids, I have a son and daughter. But my favorite type of book right now is coaching and consulting books. Like I have been inhaling those as much as possible this year.
Michelle Lynne: What was your most recent that you remember?
Brittanie Elms: The one I'm working on right now is The Coaching Habit. And there's more to it, it's a longer title. But it's more like, essentially, talk less, ask more questions.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, I love that.
Brittanie Elms: And how to ask really effective questions.
Michelle Lynne: That's so true. That sounds like a good one. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Brittanie Elms: I tried out for American Idol when I was 18 and I did not make it. They told me I'd be better for another year. I don't know what that meant. But it was devastating to my 18-year-old heart.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, no kidding, huh. No kidding. Um, okay, so innie belly button or outie belly button?
Brittanie Elms: Innie.
Michelle Lynne: And what is one thing that scares the hell out of you?
Brittanie Elms: Oh, um, just being unhappy, which I know like, it sounds really cheesy. But just, I've always been that person who, I could never stay in a job that I hated. Because it's just like, I can't just live miserably. I refuse to accept living miserably. And that's what prompted a lot of the changes in My Design Assistant. I've referenced this on my social media, 2020 was such a huge pivotal moment for My Design Assistant because it was kind of at the peak of my exhaustion in the business, and me working mostly solo. And it prompted a lot of changes because it was kind of that like, make it or break it. I hate this. Do I keep down this path or do I completely change it? And so I'd say that fear of being unhappy or being miserable is what prompted me to like, this doesn't work, I'm going to search for something else or reevaluate.
Michelle Lynne: I love that. So you probably will never be unhappy because you always do something about it. So your biggest fear is kind of just a motivator?
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, really.
Michelle Lynne: There you go. Yeah. But I think we all have to find out what drives us too.
Brittanie Elms: Mm hmm.
Michelle Lynne: Because I tell people, you're either running towards pleasure or away from pain.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: So when you think about what kind of drives you, and your clients as well, so when you're talking to prospective clients, you have to find out do they go towards pleasure, away from pain, or a little bit of both? Most people do a little bit of both. But still in that regard. So if you couldn't be in your current profession, what do you think you would be doing?
Brittanie Elms: I mean, so I always wanted to be a marriage counselor. So that was my initial, and the only reason I didn't continue down that path was, where we live, it's just oversaturated. And we didn't want to move. So it was like, do I invest in this next stage of my education or not?
Michelle Lynne: Well, in a way, you're saving marriages by helping people outsource and keep their sanity. So you're kind of one removed, but you're still doing it.
Brittanie Elms: Well I love it, because with the business consulting, it's kind of the best of both worlds, entrepreneurship and a little bit of that psychology and counseling so I love it.
Michelle Lynne: Absolutely. Me too. Where do you find inspiration, Brittanie?
Brittanie Elms: It's so hard, I don't have a specific spot. I think it just kind of, every once in a while, they'll just be that like, trigger. Um, I really love traveling, I really love spending time with my family. So I think where I feel most inspired is when I have extra time. And I'm one of those individuals that's really terrible at constantly filling my schedule, like I see a gap and then I'm like, ooh, I could fill that with something, like I could take this on. And my husband hates that about me, he gets very frustrated, because he'll tell me, I see what you're doing, you're taking on too much again, and you never see it before you do it. But when I have those moments of like relaxation, and like, that's when I start to feel like my most productive. And when I can start to develop things like really fully and then that's when of course Emily gets all these messages from me of like, we could do this, and we could do this.
Michelle Lynne: You might be a sister from another mister because I totally understand that. I got all these ideas and now I can breathe. Let's go back underwater.
Brittanie Elms: She's like, please stay busy.
Michelle Lynne: That's hilarious. Okay, last one. Dinner with anybody past or present, who would you invite?
Brittanie Elms: Like multiple people or?
Michelle Lynne: How ever you interpret it.
Brittanie Elms: So this is going to be kind of a funny one. Reba McIntyre, I love her, I think she's hilarious. And my husband, when I was having my first child, to try to keep me calm, because he didn't really know what to do, I had her album saved to my phone. So he started playing that. It would be like good music and like a good atmosphere. So I just think, I don't know, I love her. Lucille Ball is another one. Like I have been obsessed with I Love Lucy ever since I was a kid. And I just am so impressed with her as a businesswoman. And then she's hilarious.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, that's fun. Can you imagine the dinner?
Brittanie Elms: Redheads, apparently. Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: I always say red's not a color, it's an attitude.
Brittanie Elms: Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: Oh my gosh, girl, I have really enjoyed our conversation. And would love to continue this, but let the audience know how they can connect with you. Because you've got your VA services, you got your consulting services, you've got this new project called the CEO Club, so where's all of this hubbed?
Brittanie Elms: Yeah, absolutely. So first off, our website is mydesignassistant.com. So you can learn the most about us from there. And then second, we're, I guess, second most active on Instagram, which is @my.design.assistant. And join our mailing list, we're actually going to be moving the majority of our focus there. And we're also on Pinterest, which is just @mydesignassistant. So our marketing person has been helping us kind of develop more intention. And we've just found our mailing list is where we connect the most with our audience and that we really want to develop there and give more intentional content.
Michelle Lynne: And think about, it those are the individuals that you're not going to lose if Facebook or Instagram or Meta or whatever it is these days goes down. Those are the people that you quote unquote own, and you can develop those relationships with them. So I think that's awesome. In fact, I'll probably go join your mailing list too, just to see how we can support each other.
Brittanie Elms: I love it.
Michelle Lynne: Okay, so I'll make sure that all of those details are listed in the show notes for our audience to reference. And for those of you who can benefit from even more resources surrounding the business of running your interior design business, join our growing community on Facebook's private group. It's called the Interior Designers Business Launchpad. I go live weekly with training and a few times a year we have a really awesome free five-day workshop and it's called Rolling in the Dough, how to qualify, quote, and close high-end clients while you're baking the profits into the project. That's a long name, but that's what it's about. So head on over there. Say hello. And thank you, Brittanie, for being here. I look forward to our next conversation.
Brittanie Elms: Thank you. Me too.
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 a 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.