Gail Doby and Erin Weir are the co-founders of Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting, a consulting company that helps interior designers build thriving and fulfilling businesses. Gail is also the author of Business Breakthrough: Your Creative Value Blueprint to Get Paid What You’re Worth. We talk about entrepreneurship for interior designers, why you need system integrators for your business, and creating a long-term vision for your business.
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Craft a Tool to Solve Each Problem with Gail Doby and Erin Weir
Our guests are Gail Doby and Erin Weir the co-founders of Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting that helps interior designers build thriving and fulfilling businesses. Prior to founding their current business, Gail founded and ran a luxury interior design firm in Denver, Colorado. So welcome to the show.
GAIL DOBY: Thank you so much for having us. We’re excited.
It’s awesome to have you guys. So, let’s start with you, Gail. Tell me a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey. How did you become an entrepreneur and how did you partner up with Erin?
GAIL DOBY: Well, I think I would have to say accidentally, I became an entrepreneur. I think I’ve always had it in my blood. I’m sure it’s like you as well, Steve. But I had been starting to do a little bit of design work for some friends. And they started asking me to come and help them with their homes. And then they would fly me places wherever they were living, and I would start working on their homes. And finally, I came home one day and I said to my husband, you know what? I think I need to get a design degree. I already had a finance degree. And I think I need to go ahead and become an interior designer. So that’s how I became a designer and started my first business. So, and it was some years after that. So, I was about 92 when I finished my degree in design. And then it was probably, I think it was, what year was that, Erin? It was 2005? Erin Maney, Creative Commons, USA
ERIN WEIR: It was 2021 and we’ve been together for 16 years. I like to say that I started working for Gil and I was five. So that keeps me like in my early twenties, but that’s just a little joke that we like to play. So yeah.
That would be child labor that’s illegal. make you an entrepreneur, or there is a distinction that not all interior designers are entrepreneurs, some of them may be technicians. I don’t know. How does this work in your profession?
GAIL DOBY: Oh, I love that you asked me that question. I really do, because I have this conversation with our designers all the time, and I tell them, you are the CEO of your business, and you just happen to be doing design work. And so I came to that realization some years into doing it. And Aaron joined me after I’d been running my business for a while. And that was the realization that I had is that sometimes we’re accidental entrepreneurs, like as I mentioned at the beginning of the call. And I though had the business background but I didn’t know how to be an entrepreneur. They do not teach that in design school. They do not teach that in business school. At least they didn’t at that time when I was getting my first degree. So yeah, I think we have to kind of decide that we are going to be business people and then we become good at whatever it is that we happen to be providing in service.Sometimes, we are accidental entrepreneurs, lacking the formal training in entrepreneurship. However, with a business background and the right mindset, we can excel in our creative endeavors. Click To Tweet
ERIN WEIR: And after working with Gail for so many years, I do think that there is just something that is just, she was born with it, right? Like she was born with that entrepreneurial spirit and that really big vision thinking. So, I think that that’s part of the mold that you came out of, Gail, too.
GAIL DOBY: Probably.
Okay, so Gail, so you’re a visionary. So for your clients who enroll in your coaching program and who you teach the systems that you have been using, I assume, for your business. Do they have to be visionaries to be successful, or is it like a franchise system that they can basically run with it, and even if they are not a pure entrepreneur, just by following the right recipe, they can get there?
GAIL DOBY: That is an excellent question, too. And I also realize that most people are not thinking like entrepreneurs when they come to us. And so, through time we teach them how to be that. And we teach them how to run their businesses and for most of them because they are creatives they tend to be on the visionary side. Not always as much as maybe I am. I’m like a 98 on a scale of 100 on being a visionary. But each person has a certain amount of that because I don’t think you can do it without it. So, you can teach a certain amount of how to run a business and structure. There has to be a little bit of natural ability toward being a visionary as well.
By the way, there are a lot more visionaries than there are what you call integrators, people who can really manage a business and have the discipline to hold people accountable and to coach people up. Erin, I’d like to ask you, where do you come from? Do you feel like you’re a visionary entrepreneur or you’re more of an operator or you’re both? What are you?Integrators are vital for managing and maintaining discipline within a business, turning visionary dreams into reality. Click To Tweet
ERIN WEIR: So I am the integrator for our company. And that is something that I have found over the years is just very naturally a natural gift of mine. I love people, I love working with our team. And for the longest time before we really kind of had those names of visionary and integrator, what I would say to people, even in our design business, is I would really, I always want to take Gail’s visions and dreams and really make them come to life. And I realized very quickly as we got more into EOS and Rocket Fuel and all of that, that really, I am the integrator for our business. And it’s a good yin and yang for us as far as our business and how that works. I think that I’m beginning to see, I definitely have visions too for the business. So, Gail and I do a lot of strategy and our 10-year vision together, because we are building the business together for the future of the business. I think that there is probably more integrator in me, but I definitely see some visionary spirits starting to come out. And I just can’t help but have a vision when I hang out with this gal all the time. I’ve stopped saying, okay, wait a minute. Wait, what are you talking about? Are you talking about in like five years? And I get really excited about it now because I used to get really like a very short timeframe in my mind of what I was thinking. And now there’s just so many moving parts and projects and a team that we’ve built that I’ve got to keep chiming along. So, I owe it to the business to be really thinking about the long-term vision of it.
That’s right. You can grow into it. It’s actually easier to grow into that part than the integrated part. So, you started the business, or Gail, you founded the business and then Erin, you joined and you kind of built it up and then you figured out that maybe this is something that you could teach others and help them be successful. So, when did this idea of design university come about and how did you make the transition?
GAIL DOBY: Well, interestingly, Erin and I had been working together since 2005 in my design business. And she started with me as an intern. And so, she over the years, has learned and grown and now she’s cofounder of this company and vice president. And what I’ve seen happen over the years is she just has this natural affinity for organization and managing people and leading people. So, about 2007, she was getting married, she wanted to have kids. I was burned out from what we were doing. We were doing lots of remodels. And I just said, why don’t we find a way to use our talents? And let’s create a business that will actually work for us that will meet your needs and meet my needs. And so, 2007 we started talking about it. In March 8th, 2008, we started DSU. And that was our first iteration of the company before we became Gale Doby Coaching and Consulting in 2014. So, we started more as an educational business and then we transformed into more of a consulting and coaching business in 2000. Well, actually about 2010, officially in 2014, we started that new brand.
ERIN WEIR: And I think that we were just really thinking about, you know, what kind of shortcuts can we provide from what Gail has learned in her interior design business, what we’ve learned from working together and then Gail also has a finance degree. And so how can we take that combination and just really help our industry, help up level our industry and help people?
So, what was the point when you actually felt like you were really onto something then, when you felt like it could be a sustainable business that could actually replace some or most of your income from the actual interior design business?
GAIL DOBY: That’s a good question too. And a little bit of a painful journey. So, I’m sure you and the listeners will remember that 2008 in October was when the market crashed. Well, that was our first month of revenue and we did $86,000 of revenue that month by doing an event that was a, it was unheard of at that time. It was a three days Telesummit, and we had 14 speakers and we did it using teleseminars so we had no zoom calls.
ERIN WEIR: So old.
GAIL DOBY: Oh my God, and it was so we had almost 300 people on there. $86,000 of revenue is pretty darn good for 2008, especially for your first month of revenue. So that we thought we were on the right track and then when the whole market crashed around us then it was another three to four years before we really got our sea legs back and we almost failed and I have to be really honest about it because it was really a tough time. We didn’t know if we’d make it and it was a very tough business to switch from interior design to something that’s very digital and we had to learn a whole new language and a new type of business to operate. So, it was a rollercoaster journey and from time to time, it still is.
ERIN WEIR: Yeah, and the Telesummit really was our first attempt at building a list, right? We knew we had taken some classes. We knew we needed a list. If we wanted to sell to other interior designers, we only had our friends that we knew of, so we needed to start building an email list and that tele-summit helped us begin that. We partnered with someone that had a list already and she was part of the event as well, and so that was a great partnership to begin everything. And then we started with trying to do a monthly membership program, so really low-cost membership program, and I believe we were charging like $37 a month at that time, and that in itself was just a big deal, right? Like it was content monthly, it was delivery, it was client service, and it was still just the two of us. So just figuring out the marketing for that, the delivery, and then also whatever problems could arise, we were just kind of working through all of those things, all in the midst of finally having a list and also, you know, the economy tanking at the same time. So, it was interesting, but we always have been able to really stay positive together and really continue to just kind of work through it and move through what we’re dealing with. And I’m so glad that we did. I’m so glad we didn’t throw in the towel because our work on a daily basis is so rewarding and who we’re working with, not only just our team members, but our clients right now, and really getting to see the difference we’re making in people’s lives.
I bet it’s very rewarding. So, I’m really curious about how you constructed your program. Did you model it on another coaching program and just took it into the niche, or was it like completely grounds up, this is what’s worked for you, Gail and Erin, and you basically just use your own best practices and start teaching it.
GAIL DOBY: Well, that’s another great question. You have a lot of great ones, Steve. So what can I say?
I’ve got to get five stars from you.
GAIL DOBY: Well, I’ve had a few mentors along the way that I’ve followed, and one of them said, you create the program and sell it before you actually build it. And I love that concept, and that’s how we really got into the higher-level program, that we were doing. So, when I started developing a coaching program, I actually created, I did a survey and I asked our clients, what is it you really need? And so, I took that information and I created a framework for a program, which at that time was six months. And so, I put together the modules and I said, this is what they’re going to be. This is what the cost is going to be. I think it was about $2,500 at that time for a six months program. And we got 12 people to sign up. And so, we built it as we went.
ERIN WEIR: Yes. And that is something that I learned is I was like, wait a minute, we’re going to start selling something that we haven’t completely built yet. And goes like, well, let’s just at least see if this is exactly what they want. And we’ll just build it as we go. And that was a big learning curve for us because in my mind, I was like, wait a minute, we got to do this in three days. Like we got to have it all done, and in the bag before we sell it. And that has really helped streamline our learning and what we’re offering people is coming up with the idea based on their feedback and then starting to just develop it once we’ve sold it.
GAIL DOBY: And now we just improve on it by, they’ll tell us what their problem is and I’ll create a new tool for it. So that’s something that I do, and it’s just a natural tendency of being the problem solver that I am. And so, for me, that’s the key is just it’s constant creativity. It’s constantly solving problems and finding out what our clients need and then building what they need. And, of course, I have for our company, for the two of us, we’ve probably invested at least 400,000 in classes and programs over the years. To educate ourselves, we operate on EOS, which we highly recommend for any company that is of the right size, which is usually around 2 million or about eight people. And I’m just a real avid learner. So, to me, it’s all about taking what I can learn from all the other experts out there and collecting it in the right format and learning how to teach it to people who are very visual. So that’s kind of how we’ve gotten to where we are right now.
I really love this concept of following the need with a tool. So, it’s not that you have a system that is carved in stone. You are keeping your ears to the ground and listening to your members. And if they have a problem that you haven’t addressed it, okay, what is the tool that you could construct to help them with? This is awesome. Actually, this is different from EOS, because EOS have been carved in stone for the last 15 years, right? And it’s a complete tool set. There’s no need to improve it. I’m saying tongue-in-cheek. So that’s fascinating. So, what is special about interior designers? How are they different and how are their needs different? Or is it just the same as any other business?
GAIL DOBY: No, it’s not.
ERIN WEIR: A whole other animal.
GAIL DOBY: It is another animal. And it’s not meant to be in any ways negative at all, because creative people think differently. And I happen to have both sides of the brain. Erin has both sides of the brain. Creatives like designers as a rule are very right brain. And so, for us to teach them how to run an effective business, we have to help them understand that they need that left brain to operate and that they can learn it. And they don’t necessarily believe they can learn it, and they’re scared of numbers and they’re scared of spreadsheets. And my goal is to always get them over that and have the light bulbs go off. And then they will learn it and they will become great business people. And we’ve watched our clients go from, you know, 200,000 to 4 million in seven years. We’ve seen people double their business in a year. We had one person that came up to me at market last week and said, we were a million last year, we’re going to be at $2 million this year. And it’s because we have figured out a way to talk to creatives in such a way that they can apply it and just start doing it. And then I keep teaching the finances and eventually it’ll sink in. It’s a daily process of learning how to teach something that is not easy for that right brain creative mind.
ERIN WEIR: Right, well, and not all interior designers have gone to design school. Some just have that God-given talent of design and that creativity. But for those of us that have gone through design school, we have not gotten very many business classes offered in our courses. So, Gayle, you should tell that story about your teacher, what she was asking you in class one day.
GAIL DOBY: This was in design school. It was probably 92. And it was our one business class that we had. And she turns to me in the class, and she knows I’m a student, and that I’m also practicing at that moment. And she said to me, do you know how to do this sales tax? And I said, yes. And so, I ended up having to teach the students and the teacher in class how to do the sales tax. And it wasn’t too long after that that the head of the department said, would you be interested in teaching that business class? And I said, well, thank you, but no, thank you. Because it was, I think at that time, they were offering $33 per class hour, not including drive time and your preparation or class time or tests or anything. I said, I think not. Thank you, though. I appreciate that. And so here you go. Here’s the answer. We ended up starting our own business and developing our own tools and programs and classes. And here we are 13 and a half years later. And I think we’ve got the best programs out there in the industry to help people grow and scale their businesses and learn about business.
That’s fantastic. So, do you only have interior designers enrolled or it’s also open for other industries? Are there other industries that have the similar issues of maybe people are being creative and don’t have affinity and some kind of craftsman type business?
GAIL DOBY: That’s also a wonderful question to ask. And we help many industries, lighting designers, landscape designers, architects. I’ve helped CPAs and bookkeepers as well, salespeople. So, it’s really about teaching the business principles in a way that makes sense to people. And it’s very streamlined so that you can actually take our materials that we usually teach over a three-day period, and in three days, they have a complete plan for how they’re going to go and build their business and a three-year model, financial model for how they’re going to make money at the business. And that’s something that we do with all of our clients. And it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, everybody needs that.
ERIN WEIR: Yeah, so we actually, you know, we started with interior designers because that was a natural fit for us of the industry that we were coming from. But this recently, this year, Gail even wrote up her first book, create, well, it’s not your first book, it feels like your first book because it’s so recent and it’s such a daily task right now just keeping up with all the book items. But she created a book called Your Creative Value Blueprint to help creatives get paid what they’re worth. I think that I may have the tagline a little unedited but you know, there we go, we finally got print versions in the mail this last week. We’re really excited about that. But, you know, our hope is that that is a book that can really help a lot of the creative entrepreneurs and also extend us into meeting more creative entrepreneurs in their business path.
That’s awesome. And what is the program? What does the program look like? So, they come in, you teach them how to read a balance sheet, how to create a business plan, and what are the basics, but is that it? Or it’s more of a longer terms program? And what does it take for an inter-designer who is complete rookie, maybe they have a practice, maybe they make two, $300,000, to go from there to having a real business with maybe with employees and systems and all that stuff. What is the proven process for you?
GAIL DOBY: Well, and you have to have a proven process. And we do have a proven process. We have spent years. We have 150-page manual that I developed over time. And we literally just reviewed it and revised it again because we’re constantly improving. And so, we have a process that we teach. And it’s something that other team members can teach as well, which is really great. But we take people from the 10-year vision, which is very similar to EOS. And then we walk them through everything from their values, their vision, their why, and we help them figure out their culture for their business. And then we teach them how to manage their time. We teach them how to read financial statements, the balance sheet and the P&L. And we teach them about cash flow statements, and we teach them about how to hire and how to manage their client processes. Systems and processes are a big part of it. And then I’m going to say something that’s going to be probably a surprise to you. And then I’m not a big fan of business plans. As a matter of fact, I tell people, I would rather not have you have a business plan, I would rather have you have a financial model so that you know what you need to be doing every single day to achieve your goals. And they can operate on the EOS system and some of the things we do, like having rocks and to-do lists and things like that. But in the end, if you know what your financial goals are and how to achieve those, that is more important to me than having a business plan.
I hear you. And, you know, there is this school of thought that from planning, the middle is gone and it’s all about having a vision, a long-term vision, I call it the pinnacle, and then you have the quarterly rocks, which is what are you going to do next quarter to move towards your vision, and what’s between the pinnacle and your quarterly is less important, right?
GAIL DOBY: Exactly.
Because if you know where you’re going and you’re going to build your climb, with discipline in the 90 days, then you can figure out what the next climb going to be and you just hit your metrics and you’re going to be fine.
ERIN WEIR: I would just share that as we went through the process of you know, Gail’s always been a visionary, she’s always been thinking like way ahead, I always give her a joke like, are you thinking about 2031 right now? Like, where are you at? What timeframe are you in? Anyways, but you know, I think that process that Gail’s always involved me in. But there was something about our time and getting set up in EOS that really, I just felt so included in creating that vision. It wasn’t just based on what Gail wanted, it was also what I wanted and what our leadership team wanted. And just that buy-in in itself of all of us being aligned and really what we’re looking for, and it’s not just Gail, the owner, setting that vision, that was really powerful. And I loved the idea of like that bigger vision and then working backwards. So, looking at that three-year target, looking at what we need to do for the year and then breaking that out by quarter. And for some reason in my brain, that just clicked and it has really helped stay excited about, even if we have some things that aren’t working or we have some issues that arise, just really kind of coming back to that bigger vision and staying excited and focused on that.
Okay, so you obviously use EOS and that’s part of your thinking, perhaps, to create your own model. EOS is one of those management blueprints I always talk about, you know, scaling up the four disciplines of executions, 3-Headway, and many others. What other frameworks, management blueprints, whatever you want to call it, inspired you to put together your system? Did you have some other things that you learned a lot from and what ideas from?
GAIL DOBY: Well, I’m a reader. I’m a huge reader, so I read everything I can get my hands on. And I can’t say that I take one other system as much as I do EOS. There are so many good things that are out there, and I just pick the pieces from each of those that I think will meld well into a program that is followable and doable for our clients. And if they will follow that, they will get the results, because we know that, based on our experience, this is what works. And we also tweak what we learn from our clients and keep putting it back in. So, we keep remixing the batch until we get better and better at what we do. And every book I read is part of my thinking process and also what I bring into maybe our monthly coaching and individual coaching. I will take some of the concepts that I’ve learned and I will help, I will take that and add that into the mix because that’s what keeps it fresh and interesting and I think current.
ERIN WEIR: I would also share that, you know, we’re problem solvers, we’re solving problems every single day, whether it’s for our business or for our clients, and Gail and I are really good about taking a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned. So even when we’re going through a really hard conversation or a really hard thing, we’re like, what can we learn from this? What can we learn and put that back into our tricks? And so just those experiences of going through hard things and fun things together and those experiences, we’re always leaving the storylines into our communication with our clients and through our VIP experiences because just as much as we grow, our clients can grow with us from what we’re learning as well.
Wonderful. Well, very exciting. It’s, they say the riches are in the niches. And you definitely found a great niche. And I love that you have this open-ended architecture. So, it’s not like your card is stone, you keep adding tools and you’re listening to your members and you’re flexible and empathetic, which is great. So, if our listeners would like to learn more about your program, more about you, connect with you, where can they find you?
ERIN WEIR: Well, they can find us on our website at gailw.com. So that’s G-A-I-L-D-O-B-Y.com. And also, we’re over on Instagram, Gail. Doby and you can find out about Gail’s book on our homepage there. It’s listed on Kindle, it’s listed on Amazon. And yeah, we also have a podcast on iTunes called Creative Genius Podcast. And so, we’d love for people to follow us along there as well.
Okay, well, lots of goodies to check out. So, your book title is Breakthrough. What’s the full title?
ERIN WEIR: Hold it up.
GAIL DOBY: Business Breakthrough, your creative value blueprint to get paid what you’re worth.
Oh, that’s wonderful. And it’s already out on Amazon?
GAIL DOBY: It’s out on Amazon and it is now, people are buying it on paperback too. So it is going out that way.
That’s awesome. Well, definitely check it out. I’m going to check it out and read it as well because I’m looking for new tools and maybe, maybe Gail, you shared some secrets that I can steal from you.
GAIL DOBY: No, maybe not. I love some of your tools too. I can’t wait to interview you for our podcast. I actually have, you’re going to like this, hang on two sec. I have this printed out and sitting on my table. All right. It is talking about what my equity target needs to be for the business. How about that?
So anyway, so thanks so much for coming to the show. You’ve been awesome. Dear listeners, please, if you enjoyed this show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and subscribe, obviously, and stay tuned for next week. We’ll try to, you ladies have set the bar very high, but we’ll try to find someone who is comparably exciting to you on the next show.
GAIL DOBY: You’re kind. Thank you so much, Steve. It was our pleasure.
ERIN WEIR: Thanks, Steve.
- Pinnacle: Five Principles that Take Your Business to the Top of the Mountain
- The Gail Doby Website
- Gail’s new book: Business Breakthrough
- Gail’s Instagram Page
- The Creative Genius Podcast
- Steve’s New Book: Buyable
- Steve’s blog
- Complete the Buyability Assessment