Episode 79: A Peek Behind the Curtain with Traci Connell
My next badass guest is Traci Connell, an award-winning, nationally published interior designer and business coach. Over the years, the Traci Connell Interiors team has expertly perfected and streamlined a system of service that simplifies and organizes the design process, becoming one of the most trusted design firms in Dallas. Seeing a need in her industry, The Gloss, the Ultimate Glossary of Business Resources for Interior Designers, was established to provide mentorship and strategy for designers to elevate their firms and scale to millions.
In this episode, Traci gives us a peek behind the curtain of a successful interior designer and how she grew her business to what it is today. We also chat about why to invest in the right people to help you get where you want to be in your business.
To learn more about Traci and her team, visit www.traciconnellinteriors.com and follow her on Instagram and Facebook. On the business side, check out www.JoinTheGloss.com and TheGlossforInteriorDesigners on Facebook.
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.
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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, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. I want to introduce you to Traci Connell of Traci Connell Interiors, who happens to be an actual personal friend of mine and a business badass. Traci is an award-winning nationally published interior designer and business coach. Her luxury namesake design firm is based in Dallas, Texas, and it services clients across the United States. With 20 years of design experience, Traci's aesthetic has evolved into a clean lined modern look, servicing clients looking for high-end interiors that withstand life. It's a true marriage of luxury and livability. Now, she's got a whole, she's got two more paragraphs or three more paragraphs in her bio, but I'm going to put those in the show notes and just welcome you, Traci to the podcast. Thanks for being here, friend.
Traci Connell: You're welcome. Hello. Thanks for having me on.
Michelle Lynne: Absolutely. We've threatened this for a while, it's finally come to fruition.
Traci Connell: We've talked about it, yes.
Michelle Lynne: Life gets in the way; business gets in the way. And you've just created a new program. So I know that you have been slammed. Slam, slam, slammed.
Traci Connell: Been a little busy. But we do this to ourselves, don't we, Michelle?
Michelle Lynne: Yes. I actually got a tattoo. It says, "Be Still", just because I need to like rest my brain and my body sometimes. And I just needed that reminder. It's not working very well but I needed it.
Traci Connell: Yeah, right. A good reminder though, every now and then.
Michelle Lynne: Yes. Just be still. So Trace, you've been in the business for, I didn't realize it has been 20 years.
Traci Connell: It's over 20 years. It's like 23 years. Isn't that crazy?
Michelle Lynne: That is crazy. How did you get into this field? I know you've told me the basic story, but
Traci Connell: Yeah, yeah. You know what? It's interesting because I am a formally trained teacher. So I taught elementary school.
Michelle Lynne: God bless you.
Traci Connell: I know, right? It's come to serve me a little bit lately. But it was interesting. So when my kids were little, and toddlers, you know, I was doing playdates with friends and things. And I was actually at one of those little petting zoos with a friend. And we were just sitting, you know, on a blanket, kind of like looking, like when is it going to be happy hour. And we were chatting, and she said something to me. And it was basically, wouldn't it be cool to do something you love to do and get paid for it? And I was like, no, I mean, jobs are not like that. You can't do that. Now granted, this was long time ago. But then it hit me a little bit later when I had to make some decisions whether I was going to keep teaching or do something else. And I was like, what if I could actually make money at interior design? Because that was my passion. And that's what I love to do. And so really, it takes an entrepreneurial spirit to really kind of get some dreams going and to start figuring out how to make it happen.
Michelle Lynne: Yes, yes, yes, yes. So did you just quit teaching and get directly in to design? Like, did you go full force? Or did you stair step your way out?
Traci Connell: I did some stair stepping. So I went from full-time teaching and then I was pregnant with my third child at the time, very sick, ill with morning sickness. And so I started my own tutoring business out of my home. And so I had the connections from when I was a teacher and that went on. And then I kind of got a little bored with that and said, and then I started the business with a friend of mine. Who, I would not quite recommend that for everybody.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, that's hard.
Traci Connell: It's way harder than you think it would be. So after just a couple of years, we both had different visions of what we wanted out of this and so we parted ways. And then I started my own.
Michelle Lynne: Amazing, amazing. Yeah, so you had that entrepreneurial spirit just starting your own tutoring business. I was gonna call it a tutorial.
Traci Connell: Yeah, that's what I do know. Yeah, I actually did, and then when I was in college, I actually had a company. And it was, I was called, Simply Traci and it was wearable art, like I painted shirts and leggings and things and sold those at boutiques.
Michelle Lynne: That's fun.
Traci Connell: I know, just a crazy person.
Michelle Lynne: Was your family entrepreneurial?
Traci Connell: No, they were not.
Michelle Lynne: You just knew you wanted something different.
Traci Connell: Just me and still just me.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah. Interesting. So what do you think is the, what's been the hardest part about starting your business? And then getting it to where it is now because it is just amazing.
Traci Connell: Yes, thanks. Yeah. So starting the business, I mean, I feel like there's three stages in running a business, developing a business. And you know, it's the starter group, right, and you're developing all of those, I mean, really connections and just starting the business, which is what you are just masterful at, and getting the confidence. And then I did that for probably my first 10 years. I was using interior design as a second income, because I was there to take the kids to school and to pick them up. And so it was a second income. And really, the growth happened when life happens. I suffered some setbacks, I ended up getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage, and as you know, was married to an alcoholic, and then he passed away the next year. So at that point, I had three kids and really had no choice but to make money at whatever I do. And that's when I catapulted the business just really out of necessity.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, absolutely. So you just had to buckle down and really be a business person?
Traci Connell: Absolutely.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah. And do you think like, I look back now at when I started my business, and my expectations back then compared to reality. What would you say about your expectations versus reality?
Traci Connell: You know what's so interesting about this industry and this field, is that you just can't turn it off. Like your tattoo, that's the difference. Your expectations are, okay, I'm gonna, like me, I was gonna work, you know, eight to two every day. Well, your money reflects that. So your expectations are, I can get it all done, and I'm only going to take this, and it's going to be easy. You don't know that there's 50 ways to Sunday.
Michelle Lynne: There's so many moving parts in this business.
Traci Connell: Yes. And everybody does it differently. And so the reality is that it can be a hot mess. And it's really difficult to turn it off.
Michelle Lynne: Yes, I definitely agree with you there. Just even when you're making dinner at night, looking at some of the color combinations and stuff, you're like, oh, that's the direction we should take this room, or I need a pillow that looks like this.
Traci Connell: Yeah. Saffron. That's right.
Michelle Lynne: Exactly. Exactly. So is there anything that you did as your business was growing, that you know worked?
Traci Connell: Yes. So I am a fan of knowing what my limitations are and where my zone of genius is. Early on, I hired a business coach. He was not an interior design coach. He's worked with some before. But he really helped me think bigger on the business side, where I was designing, designing, and he helped really structure my firm. And, you know, really assisted me in getting my numbers in check and pushing me to hire that very first employee, which was a designer, so I can help duplicate myself in order for us to make more revenue.
Michelle Lynne: Right. Right. Right.
Traci Connell: So that was really early in the game. And I would say that is probably the biggest, I guess reaction to what I was trying to do.
Michelle Lynne: That's fantastic. Yeah, just having somebody that can guide you accordingly.
Traci Connell: Exactly.
Michelle Lynne: So how many people do you have on your team now?
Traci Connell: It's, um, I took a deep breath when I say that. So I have eight of us now and I'm interviewing for another designer. And what's interesting about that, and you're so good at this too, that when you have the proper systems and processes and the way that you price, and the way that you work with clients and boundaries, everything, you don't have to spend a whole lot of time thinking about that. That's on autopilot. And so you have more time, or I guess it takes less time to handle these projects.
Michelle Lynne: Right.
Traci Connell: And so I feel like if, you know, the designers are trained by me and our processes to go out and execute with me leading all, you know, you can duplicate it.
Michelle Lynne: Absolutely, yeah, it is, it's just rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat, that makes such a huge difference. So what would you say is your favorite aspect of the work that you do? So, for those of you who don't know, Traci, she has her interior design business. And I alluded to this earlier, she's also launched another business similar to myself, where she's coaching other interior designers. And it's interesting how your and my business is kind of aligned, because I love the baby designers, you know, under $300,000 in revenue, and then you love them when they are $300,000 and above, $500,000 and above is probably your sweet spot. But you've got both aspects now, what would you say is your favorite part of the design side?
Traci Connell: So on the design side, because I've been doing this so long, I feel like my favorite parts, and it's great, because you can pick and choose when you start outsourcing, right?
Michelle Lynne: Oh, yeah.
Traci Connell: People under you, you can really hone in again on what you're good at. So what I love to do and what I'm good at is connecting with the client, selling the jobs, and then when once they're executed, you know, as far as the agreement goes and they're in our TCI family, then the other two things that I do well and I enjoy doing, is the design direction on the project, and then once the designers start clicking through with, you know, sourcing, and they present concepts to me, then I can take it and I can uplevel it from there.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, that makes sense.
Traci Connell: I use my resources and just really to make it shine and more unique.
Michelle Lynne: Right. Right.
Traci Connell: I would say those four things are my really, I would say the greatest assets that I bring.
Michelle Lynne: And you love doing it. So I think that's so important is that what we're best at is usually what we love doing. And what we love doing is usually what we're best at. So that's awesome that you've identified that and hopefully our audience will start thinking about things that way as well. What about on the coaching side? What is your some of your favorite things there?
Traci Connell: Oh, the coaching side. Like you said, when I grew my firm, I wasn't a baby designer, I mean, you know, I was inching on like 300, I was kind of in the 200 range as far as revenue, but it was because I think I didn't work as much, then I catapulted, and I went fast. And so I like working with designers who really, really want to get to that next level, who want it all, and have given themselves permission, not only to make a lot of money, but define their next level of success, and a lot of them is name in lights, going to industry events and show houses, and being published. But they've got to get it all, you know, really in check as far as some processes and precision before they can do that. So I'm very pragmatic in my approach, very tactical. And, you know, I really attract the designers who want to move fast.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah. And you've done really well with that because you've been published nationally. You've done the show houses, you know, just all of the fun things. Was that your intention? How has that served your business?
Traci Connell: You know what's interesting, because I guess it never was my intention until it was like, well, what's next?
Michelle Lynne: Oh.
Traci Connell: You know, we all have that thing. It's like, well, what's next? And now that's just me, it could be, you know, my entrepreneurial spirit. But I already had great jobs, and I looked to others and said, oh, well, let me do what they're doing. They're in magazines, I see them on panels, you know, they're doing show houses. But the difference was, and this is when I had another consultant in our field, that she let me in on a little secret. That a lot of them, and this was even before there was a highlight reel, they weren't making money. They were going out and they were doing all these things and collaborations and lines, but they weren't making money. So I figured, I'm gonna develop a way that we can make money and do all those things.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, why do it if you're not getting paid?
Traci Connell: Exactly. I just couldn't believe it. So it has established a lot of credibility for our firm and then giving me, you know, personal fulfillment as well.
Michelle Lynne: It makes sense. So do you find that you get more clients from it? Or do you just find that you can raise your rates for it? Or do you just find that it is, you know, just kind of helps you seal the deal when you're trying to get a contract signed?
Traci Connell: Yeah, I would say all of the above, but the biggest thing is, I think it's the exposure. Because people are like, oh, I've heard your name. And oh, I've seen you. And oh, I know of you. And so by dabbling in a lot of different things, right, it brings the experience and when you talk about, you know, pricing, and defining your value, that's all of that, it kind of just goes into that bucket, which makes you, yes, be able to price a little higher and not really explain as much.
Michelle Lynne: Trust me, I know what I'm doing. Didn't you see me in this magazine?
Traci Connell: Yeah, did you not see me over there, come on. That's not reality.
Michelle Lynne: Exactly. That is too funny. Yeah. Because I remember as you and I met and, you know, the friendship developed, I was just watching you going, oh my god, this woman is everywhere. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Because you did everything.
Traci Connell: I know.
Michelle Lynne: Maybe more intentional now, or more strategic as you're growing your second business, and you've got your team behind you and so forth. But yeah, I was like, I'm gonna be at home on my couch in my pajamas and you were out every night.
Traci Connell: Well, you know I don't sleep a lot. You're able to take cat naps but not me so I envy you.
Michelle Lynne: Yes, amen to the cat nap. But yeah, otherwise, three in the morning, I'm waking up with thoughts. Yeah, we should, we should text.
Traci Connell: Well, I don't think we can Voxer, we might wake up the husbands.
Michelle Lynne: That's right. At 3am, I go downstairs and start the day. So is there any piece of wisdom or advice that you would want to leave with our listeners? I'm gonna lead into another segment here in a second.
Traci Connell: Yeah, you know, to leave with, you know, it's almost, to give yourself some grace is really what I would like to kind of leave off with. Because, you know, this business can be a lot of, you know, I want to be like her, I want to be like him. And there's no real fast track to do that. And it's a process and it's step by step. And it did not happen for me overnight, nor you, and it is so much work. And so to expect a huge change immediately, is sort of setting yourself up for failure. But, you know, I'm here to say that it can be done.
Michelle Lynne: Yes. And I love the fact that, you know, seeing other people successful, if you know it can be done, it opens up so many, so many doors and so many options for others as they watch.
Traci Connell: Right.
Michelle Lynne: But I love what you said about giving yourself grace because it doesn't happen overnight. And it's not without, you know, a lot of tears, money, you know, just spent, like, you think it's gonna work and it just goes down the drain, and just headache and heartache and all the things. People look at your Instagram and probably think you've got all your shazizzle together. And while you do, it hasn't always been easy.
Traci Connell: No, no. And like I said, I mean, the fact that you can develop it in the years that it takes to develop it, it's just insane. And, you know, investing in people to help you, like what you've created and what I'm doing too. It's the shortcuts, you know, it's like, it took you a long time to do it. It took me a long time to do it. So here you go, here it is. Right? And it's a small investment. And it's, you know, I think in mine, you too, just a way to just to give back.
Michelle Lynne: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Because back in the day, nobody was sharing information. And in my opinion, I don't think I've told you this, but I think the reason people didn't share information when I was asking, it's because they didn't know what the hell they were doing either.
Traci Connell: Then they had good poker faces, because it sure looked like they did, right?
Michelle Lynne: I know. I should have called you, back before I knew you.
Traci Connell: But we actually met at a mastermind event, which is hilarious. And we were like, oh, our offices are about five minutes away from each other, which was bizarre.
Michelle Lynne: That's right. And I think that was the first time people were talking about business of interior design and stuff like that. At least that I knew of, because I was begging for help, and it was just impossible.
Traci Connell: Well, it doesn't have to be a mystery. That's the thing.
Michelle Lynne: That's right, we did meet there.
Traci Connell: Yeah, we did. Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: I was trying to, trying to picture that. That's funny, small world, works out great. Yes. And this is another thing. So for the audience, I really preach a lot about, you know, community over competition, because you and I can be competition, but we're not because we're different. So it's just, it's so important. Y'all, there's a lot of ugly houses out there. So don't look at somebody as competition. Look at them as somebody that you can bounce ideas off of, and share thoughts with, and whatnot.
Traci Connell: Absolutely.
Michelle Lynne: So yeah, I love that.
Traci Connell: You've been such a great mentor for me on the coaching side. And the thing is, our approaches are different. Our personalities are different. And really, you know, the market is different, too. So, yeah, and you practice what you preach because you've been a great help to me.
Michelle Lynne: Well, thank you. Yeah, I just think that, yeah, we need to lift other women up as much as we possibly can. Because sometimes we don't do it enough for ourselves.
Traci Connell: I agree.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, well, girl, you and I both love to talk all things business. So yeah, we go drink a martini and then talk business and then we talk shit. But I also like to have a little bit of fun. So I'm not sure if you know, but the next segment is a rapid fire Q&A.
Traci Connell: Okay, I'm ready.
Michelle Lynne: Dun dun duuun. Okay, we're gonna start easy. Do you have an innie belly button or an outie?
Traci Connell: Um, it used to be an outie and now it's an innie. I didn't have a tummy tuck, I swear!
Michelle Lynne: That is so funny. What was your favorite subject in school?
Traci Connell: Oh, gosh, my favorite subject, I think it was, well, it was English actually, writing.
Michelle Lynne: Oh fun. What is your biggest pet peeve?
Traci Connell: Oh, I think when people give excuses for things. I just can't take it.
Michelle Lynne: Yes, those victims.
Traci Connell: Yeah.
Michelle Lynne: There's a book, I'll have to remember what it is and tell you. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Traci Connell: One superpower. I think, gosh that's a good one. What would be my superpower? I think maybe looking into the future. I don't like surprises. Maybe looking into the future and then planning it the way I foresee it.
Michelle Lynne: So would you consider yourself type A?
Traci Connell: Yes.
Michelle Lynne: What is your favorite color? And what do you think it says about you?
Traci Connell: It changes. My favorite color now is like an aubergine. And what does it say about me? I think it must say that I drink a lot of Cabernet.
Michelle Lynne: Yet another reason we're friends. Okay, so what would you do, anything, if you knew you could not fail?
Traci Connell: Wow. Um, anything. It's what I'm trying to do now. It's to, you know, still have this fantastic interior design firm, where everybody's happy, we're serving clients and there's not a lot of hiccups, but really grow the mentorship part of my business to where it's clicking along. And, you know, all that does is create a better quality of life and I can truly make wonderful memories with my family who's scattered everywhere.
Michelle Lynne: Yeah, it definitely does allow a little bit more breathing room.
Traci Connell: Yes.
Michelle Lynne: That's awesome. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Traci Connell: Um, that I am a national championship clogger.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, yeah.
Traci Connell: You've seen me in action.
Michelle Lynne: Yes I have.
Traci Connell: It's the Georgia roots.
Michelle Lynne: Do we have any of that online? It was before the internet, wasn't it?
Traci Connell: Oh, no. Well, yeah, there's some, like when we won. This was like at the Grand Ole Opry. But, you know that at most happy hours I'm pulling out my clogging routine and I'm teaching other people.
Michelle Lynne: That is greatness. That is greatness. I'm gonna have to reach out to your kids and get some old footage. Last question is, what would you pick for your last meal?
Traci Connell: Oh, gosh, I think I would probably pick pizza.
Michelle Lynne: Pizza. How do you take your pizza? Do you like the fancy like white sauce, pesto, chicken-y stuff?
Traci Connell: It's funny, because my kids, for my birthday, I mean, they were really thoughtful. They bought me this, it's called an Ooni.
Michelle Lynne: Yes, yes, yes.
Traci Connell: And it cooks in 90 seconds.
Michelle Lynne: That's amazing.
Traci Connell: So I would have to say black olive, mushroom, pepperoni. Those are all the good stuffs.
Michelle Lynne: Just quite traditional.
Traci Connell: Yes.
Michelle Lynne: And then the other, so then you have green olives in your martini.
Traci Connell: Yeah, I double up on Friday nights.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, that is awesome. Well, Traci, thank you so much for being here. I know that it's so fun to just have a peek behind the curtain of a successful interior designer. And, you know, just the message that you share. So, will you tell the audience how or where they can find you? So both the design side as well as your program.
Traci Connell: Sure, sure. So design side, we're traciconnellinteriors.com, my name is Traci with an I. We're @traciconnellinteriors on Instagram, Facebook, all the things. And then on the coaching side, it's really, yes, it's Facebook, it's Join The Gloss. So it's Join The Gloss. And on Facebook, it's @TheGlossforInteriorDesigners, which stands for The Ultimate Glossary of Business Resources for Designers.
Michelle Lynne: Oh, there you go. So it's not lip gloss?
Traci Connell: No. It is a glossary of business stuff.
Michelle Lynne: Actually, so let me ask you this before we go, because I'll make sure that all of those details are listed in the show notes. But since this is relatively a new program, I haven't even had a chance to really dive in and talk to you and ask you about it. So let's just pretend we've got that glass of Cabernet. Tell me a little bit about what is in the program?
Traci Connell: So what's in the program, it's really based off, and we have a free masterclass where I'm revealing the secrets and shortcuts to scaling your business and getting industry prestige. But our paid membership program is called The Confidential, because in there, you know, we are sharing the secrets and things, it's a closed group, but it's based on four pillars. And that is like identifying your next level through more purpose in your business, more precision, which is systems and processes, more profit, to me that's the most valuable, and then more prestige. You know, how to get your name in lights and really showcase what you do.
Michelle Lynne: So that's just what we were talking about, is all the things.
Traci Connell: I feel like you can do it in four steps. It's exactly how I did it.
Michelle Lynne: Love that. Love, love, love it. Well, good, then I will definitely make sure that those links are in the show notes. And yeah, I think the audience needs to go and follow you. That's just the next level. So I've got the babies and you've got the next ones. Yeah, fun, fun, fun.
Traci Connell: Yes. I love it.
Michelle Lynne: So for all of you who can benefit from even more resources surrounding the business of running your interior design business, you can join Traci's group, Join The Gloss on Facebook. And then I also have one called The Interior Designers Business Launchpad. And we're here to serve you guys. So Traci, thank you so much for being here. And until next time.
Traci Connell: Yes, I loved it. Thanks, Michelle. It was actually really fun. It was like another happy hour.
Michelle Lynne: I know. Darn it, we're drinking water.
Traci Connell: Thanks again.
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.