Do you hire the right designers for your firms?

To ensure hiring the right designers, the job descriptions and position titles listed on your ads must be honest. Many interior design companies said hiring “interior designers” on their ads but actually the real job responsibility was either a sales person or a computer draftsperson. Different job titles will attract different types of candidates, if you want to hire a CAD operator but are worried the person might quit if he or she won’t have the opportunity to really design their own things, lying about the job title on the hiring ads won’t help. It will just attract many creative individuals who don’t necessarily possess advanced computer drafting skills to the interviews, and if you try to save on salary and say you want to hire a CAD drafter on the ads but actually are looking for a talented interior designer, you might end up attracting more technical oriented but not so artistic people to come to the interview. No matter under what scenario, it will all end up wasting your valuable time and company resources. 

Low salary contributes to higher competitiveness?!

I just read an article the other day saying low salary in Asia actually increases the competitiveness for these low salary countries which a lot of European countries and the US envy greatly. What kind of non-sense it is?!

I am not so sure if the writer of the article has ever heard a word called Brain-Drain? Does he think the people in those low salary countries are so stupid so they will stay at wherever they are for the rest of their lives?! When majority of the workers leave the country, it will fundamentally devastate the country’s competitiveness as a whole. The low salary countries eventually become education and training facilities for those countries with higher salary levels.

Two major reasons cause brain-drain: 1. Low salary. 2. Long working hours. Paying capable people good salary not only increases workers’ productivity which will eventually contribute to the company’s growth but also eliminate the competitions for the company. Many workers quit their jobs and start out on their own is because they are not satisfied with their pay and want to make more, so when those employees establish their own companies, they eventually become their former employers’ business competitors.

Making workers work overtime is also a commonly seen phenomenon in the low salary countries, I always heard the employers tried to defend it by saying if I do not take the jobs with unreasonable deadlines, someone else will in a heart beat and even ask for less. Well, who do you think those “someone else” are? a lot of them probably used to work for you, dumb dumb! If you keep taking those jobs that have unreasonable deadlines and making your employees work overtime all the time, then you will expect many more such competitions in the future, and those who stay and work will also become less productive or creative workers due to the long working hours, so while the workers in the countries with higher salary invent good stuff and make money out of the patents and enjoy their lives on sunny beaches, your less creative workers will still work like dogs and never be able to invent anything. Now, tell me where is the competitiveness brought by the low salary?!

Does long working hours translate to real profits?

These are the 10 most influential brands in the world according to the April 2, 2013 article by Kochie’s Business Builders:

1. Google

2. Microsoft

3. Apple

4. Facebook

5. Visa

6. Coca-Cola

7. Samsung

8. YouTube

9. MasterCard

10. P&G

After I saw this result, I am puzzled because there is only 1 Asian Company on the list. It can’t be because most Asian businesses have the tradition of working overtime. Longer working hours means higher productivity which many Asian businesses deeply believe. So, based on that theory, it should have more Asian businesses on the list.

We also can see most of the companies on this list are American businesses and most American businesses do not promote working overtime. I think for many Asian business owners, this list must be wrong.

Interior Design Company Cultural Differences

Advice for the interior designers in China who would like to work in the US:

Working overtime voluntarily in Asia is often portrayed as the workers’ strong devotion and dedication to work hard for the companies while working overtime frequently is a sign of inefficiency in the US.

Most of American businesses are running based on 3 principles, Efficiency, Innovation, and Elimination of Competition, so every company policy was designed exactly for achieving these 3 goals. For instance, many people think American businesses do not like their employees to stay at work late or work overtime is because America has more stringent labor law and many American companies do not want to pay for the overtime pay. Well, yes, it might be part of the reason, but there are more to it.

1. Efficiency: First of all, the companies I had worked at in the US, none of them actually paid for the overtime pay, but how come none of my ex-employers ever asked me to work overtime? in fact, throughout my 14 year career in the US, I probably had worked overtime less than a week if you put all of my overtime hours together. American companies believe the longer you work, the less efficient you become, when people get tired, they have hard time to stay focus, and their pace will get slower but the chance of making mistakes will increase. American businesses expect you to work with 100% efficiency when you are at the office, if you are not performing at the top condition, you are just wasting time. That is why the US companies also do not like their sick employees to show up at work. Because they do not want a dizzy zombie-like person at work who probably will waste a lot of time on blowing his/her nose or rushing to the restroom every other minute and give the virus to other workers and make them sick and become ineffective. Basically you can just call in and tell the company you are not coming in to the office just because you do not feel like working today in the US, why? because American companies think if your mind is not here when you are working, you are not effective, you are wasting time here in the office. Many American businesses give their employees 5 sick/personal days in addition to the 2-week paid vacation days is exactly for that purpose. Now, for increasing the productivity, some companies are giving employees extra time to take a nap after lunch.

2. Innovation: Research also shows most of creative and innovative ideas happened when people were outside of offices during non working hours. So, American companies want their employees to enjoy their personal lives. They do not believe keeping employees at the office for longer working hours has any positive impact on being creative or innovative.

3. Elimination of Competition: Sung Zu’s The Art of War says The best way of defeating the enemy is to defeat the enemy without sending out a single troop. American businesses definitely follow this ancient principle from China. The best way to defeat your business competitors is not to compete with better products or services but not even let the competition happen at the first place. Many American tech companies often filed suits against their foreign competitors over the copy right issues to keep the competition out, and many products made by foreign competitors can not even be imported to the US market because of the violation of copy right. Endless lawsuits also weakened their business competitors’ ability to compete because their competitors had to spend more time and resources on defending themselves at the court but less on developing new technology. American businesses treat their employees not only as partners but also as competitors, prolonged working hours creates dissatisfaction towards the working environment which usually caused employees to quit their jobs and work for other companies or start out on their own, no matter what, these employees eventually will become the competitors directly or indirectly. Many states in the US requires commercial interior designers to have state issued licenses in order to practice, it is also another way to keep more competitions out.

Of course, high health insurance cost in the US is also a major factor that American businesses have to make their employees work very efficiently because keeping the numbers of full-time employees down will save money on the employees’ health insurance premiums, and they definitely do not want their employees to get sick all the time because of long working hours which will also drive up the employees’ health insurance costs.

So, if any of you have the opportunity to work in the US, do not think your employer will be happy and appreciative to see you or people working under you working overtime constantly because it will only make your employer think you have very poor time schedule or project management skills. The last thing you want your employer to think is you are not efficient or creative, and a competitor creator.

Fast design? You just might get what you ask for.

In this fast paced world, everything has to be fast, fast food, instant noodles, speed dating, everything has to be done not today but yesterday, interior design is not an exception.

It’s nothing new for commercial projects being fast paced, tight deadlines due to tight budget control, the result? poor craftsmanship and poor handling of construction details in both aesthetically and functionally. Why am I not surprised to see this kind of fast paced design practice happened to the high-end residential projects?

Many design firms are trying to come up with a way to digest those high-end residential projects in very short period of time in order to maximize the profits, one way they come up with is to standardize designs by giving all of the clients several pre-designed packages to choose from, package a, b, c, and d. These packages can be different in prices or design styles. The clients pick the one they like and the firm starts to build, because everything is pre-designed with certain styles, colors, and furniture and accessory selections, the design process and construction time frame can be shortened dramatically, of course, the cost also can be lowered. You might think the money saved will go back to the clients, but because it is still called high-end residential project, the design fees remain the same, the extra savings go right back into designer’s pocket.

Which design company will not happy to charge like high-end residential projects but design like commercial grade quality?! It is not the design professionals’ fault but the clients’ responsibility. Next time, if you want your 10,000 sq.ft house to be done in 6 months? you might get what you ask for – a pre-designed package, and you might never find out about it until one day you visit your relative’s or friend’s house and find the interior design in his or her house is almost identical to the one in your home.

Mystery of Made in USA

When I heard the news talking about the US Olympic team’s uniform being made in China, I found it fascinating because I have also encountered similar things throughout my interior design career. The word “Made in China” has become such a scary word and many furniture companies started to sell their products by telling customers that their furniture was not  made in China but in the US.

I also had been on this fear of Made in China wagon by avoiding specifying furniture that was made in China for the high-end residential projects until one day, I saw a security safe that was recommended by the client was delivered to the job site, and I found multiple defects on it, I started complaining about its poor craftsmanship and low quality and said this safe must be made in China. Then, I saw the tag attached on the safe wall saying “Made in USA”. Besides embarrassing, I started to think what I did was totally stereotyping. I hate people judging me based on stereotypes, so why should I judge a product’s quality based on its origin?

I remember back in the 80’s, people were making fun of the products that were made in Taiwan, but now, Taiwan’s products are famous worldwide for the superior quality. Many Chinese restaurants in the US are owned by Chinese, but the food served by lots of them is actually Americanized. So, I really would suggest interior designers judging the quality and service of a product based on its manufacturer and brand reputation, not by what country it was made at.