Lord Design

In Case Studies

Managing growth at a small interior design firm in Portland, Oregon.


Lord Design creates spaces that reflect and inspire a well-lived life. Her portfolio includes multi-million dollar homes, corporate showrooms, restaurants, bars, playhouses and treehouses.


Arlene Lord initially came to me in 2010 wanting to develop an identity for her new interior design business. Since then, I have been working with her in an ongoing capacity as a freelancer crafting staff, customer and user experience design.


By 2015 Arlene had hired three new employees and needed my help restructuring and re-strategizing in order to more fully involve her team and create a seamless experience for her clients. After a year of milestones—being published in Better Homes and Gardens, working on DIY Network’s Treehouse Guys and a pool of fantastic clients and projects—she was not feeling celebratory. The successes were whispers. The to-do list was screaming. The marketing was half-hearted felt unnecessary in the midst of a boom. Worst of all, no one on her team was spending enough time doing what they love.


Deep Listening/Coaching

During a conversation regarding some minor website updates, I was picking up feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm. Rather than being excited by her continued success, I heard the burden of responsibility beginning to drag her down. Together, we explored what actually enjoying her business might look like and how that might, in turn, shift her profitability. How were these responsibilities effecting her business in a negative way? What could we get rid of or do more efficiently? How could her meeting her own needs better serve her clients? Even this brief exploration unearthed some easy win-wins.

Stakeholder Interviews

From that impromptu exploration, I proposed a one-day workshop with Arlene’s entire team as a way to kick of 2016. It was a way for me to get to know the dynamics and personalities of the new team while we explored the successes of the past year and the frustrations that accompanied them.

Systems Analysis & Strategy

Together, we crafted a way for Lord to work moving forward that aligned with the overall mission of the organization, highlighted each individual’s unique strengths and passions and minimized hurdles, dropped balls and other unnecessary burdens.

We reviewed:
  • digital marketing strategy
  • project life cycle and management
  • individual roles and responsibilities
  • new business acquisition, leads and referrals
We identified:
  • redundancies
  • pain points
  • personal passions and brand values
  • opportunities (missed and new)

What Worked


By positioning each of the new team members as experts in the areas they are most passionate about, Arlene’s clients have begun feeling more confident transitioning to someone else’s hands. The tone has shifted from “Arlene doesn’t have time for me anymore.” to “I’m working with Stephanie now because she’s amazing with organization.” In addition to improving client relationships, this has created ease and freed Arlene from unnecessary responsibilities.



By implementing and training the staff on a new system for organizing files and managing projects, everyone is spending more time working within the niches they are energized by and passionate about. Communication is clearer and there are fewer cracks for things to fall through.


Our discovery that relationship-building with contractors and local businesses was a better way to generate quality referrals has shifted efforts away from traditional marketing to a channel that everyone enjoys more and gives their business a competitive advantage.

What I Learned

By listening on a deeper level to a conversation about minor website updates, I was able to improve client relationships and job satisfaction internally. I advocated for the health of their business in a way that they weren’t able to from the inside. I gave them the permission they needed to let some things go and shined a light on some easy wins that started them down a path of a more joyful and effective work life.

What She Said

Over the years, Emily’s holistic, human-centered approach to matters great and small, along with her technical and design expertise, has allowed me to spend more time being creative less time doing busy work and putting out fires. Our partnership has increased my focus, my confidence and the efficiency and impact of my business.