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Best Practices


Give yourself a special present this year

And it is even free

Wednesday Workshop How to Give Yourself a GiftWhy give yourself just one gift when you deserve two! And unlike most gifts that lose their value over time, these two gifts will continue to make a real difference in your life. 

Gift #1: A Password Manager

A what? A password manager is a software program you install on your computer to store really long gnarly passwords. But the magic is that all you have to remember is a single, simple "master password" to open the password manager program. Then the program does the heavy lifting by remembering and filling in these long passwords for you when you need to login to a site.

When I ask our clients how many use a password manager most will confess to having heard of them, but very few use them. You'd be smart to get one, if for nothing else than to protect access to your key financial websites.  I use the Wirecutter website to research things before I purchase them and they have a good review of the best password managers available. All have free versions and the "pro" versions aren't expensive.

Gift #2: A Credit Freeze (at least it isn't a gift card for cryotherapy)

In September a new federal law took effect that requires that all three credit agencies freeze your credit access for free when you request this. Then they have to thaw it upon your request. For better or worse, there is no software program involved with these freezes. It requires the somewhat old-fashioned process of picking up the phone and actually calling all three credit agencies to request this freeze.

If you've ever dealt with these agencies then you know that they tend to ask you financial questions from your past to confirm your identity. For example, they might ask you the name of the title company that closed on a house you sold thirty years ago. And if you get that correct, then the next question might be what was the title company owner's favorite color. But if you can get through this hassle, getting your credit freeze is a smart thing to do. Very smart. Unfortunately, it doesn't protect you completely, but it is a good start. And again as of September, it is free.  There are a lot of articles about this on the web, but here is one from Forbes. It has the names and telephone numbers of the three credit agencies you will need to call. (End of article)

Categories: Best Practices


Edit Images Within DesignSmart!

Let your annotated images speak for themselves

image editor 5


It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you need to enhance the picture by adding your own words or by making annotations. With DesignSmart's new image editor you can now annotate your images within the program itself. Add text, shapes, lines, symbols, arrows, flip, crop and more.  ​

Categories: Best Practices


QuickBooks Pro Hosted

A smart option for certain firms

A few months ago we posted an article about why we think the desktop version of QuickBooks Pro is still a better option for most design firms over QuickBooks Online. You can read it here

Recently we've had a few clients opt to have their QuickBooks Pro file hosted on a "Virtual PC" in the cloud. There are several advantages to doing this:

  1. It allows the owner, bookkeeper and outside account the ability to log into QuickBooks Pro from their work computers or home computers. 
  2. If a firm only has Mac computers, they can use their Mac computers to log into the virtual PC and run QuickBooks Pro.
  3. You don't have to purchase a PC just for running QuickBooks.

Below is an image of a Mac desktop running a Virtual PC window with QuickBooks open.


Using QuickBooks Pro on a virtual PC is no more difficult than running it on a local PC and the cost is very reasonable. And to make it a simple turnkey process, we'll setup the virutal PC so all you have to do is log into your QuickBooks file. 

If you'd like to know more about this option, please contact us.


Categories: Best Practices


A Unique Perspective

No two design firms are alike

Because we can customize DesignSmart to a client's specific requirements, we attract a wide range of interior design canstockphoto483120
firms. There are the small residential firms that deal in high-end projects, to the large national firms with dozens of staff in regional offices that specialize in commercial projects. Some focus on hotel remodels, some have dozens of salespersons, some pay their designers commissions, some have multiple warehouses, some only issue specifications and some provide procurement services. DesignSmart has features for all of these different requirements that can be customized.

Through the process of customizing our software for our clients, we learn a great deal about our client's workflow processes. This is an interesting aspect of our work and after having worked in this field for ten years it has become abundantly clear that no two firms are alike.

Recently a client made what seemed to be an unusual request: she wanted items that had already been invoiced to appear on new proposals. At first, it seemed like she and I were speaking completely different languages because what she was requesting seemed counter to standard practice. In fact, for a number of reasons DesignSmart goes to some effort to ensure that invoiced items are not allowed to appear on proposals. Yet from her perspective, putting invoiced items on proposals had been the norm for as long as she had been in the design business and it was surprising to her to learn that no other DesignSmart clients had requested this feature. Eventually, she was able to articulate why they did what they did, and as is frequently the case, oddly enough it made sense in the context of their workflow.

Most of our clients would not be able to use a project management system that was not customized to work the way they needed it to work. If you'd like to learn more about DesignSmart,  we'll be happy to discuss your workflow processes and how DesignSmart can be modified to reflect those process and, perhaps, by brainstorming together we can even improve on them. 

Categories: Best Practices


Version 6 - New and Improved

New features added monthly

Since we released Version 6 six months ago, the following new features have been added:

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  1. Adding predefined PO notes based on the category of the item being ordered
  2. New ability to set the order for rooms so they appear that way on reports
  3. A new more efficient way to replicate room distributions (for the SmartHospitality clients)
  4. Ability for designers to setup their email signatures for outgoing emails
  5. Improvements to the Finish module for replicating finishes
  6. More control over how specifications are generated and what they include
  7. New task entry and task tracking module
  8. The ability for users to create custom reports
  9. The ability to add notes to proposals
  10. Hyperlinks for shipper tracking numbers

What is in the works?

  1. Ability to look up sales tax rates by address
  2. A more efficient way to enter vendor deposits in QuickBooks

If you would like to see these new features or discuss a feature you think your firm might need, give us a call.

Categories: Best Practices


There are only two tools in the world

What are they?

Recently I was tasked with opening dozens of old messy paint cans that had accumulated in our basement over the years and filling them paint can openerwith cat litter. The litter absorbs the paint and solidifies it so the cans can be thrown out with the trash. 

The first tool I grabbed to open the cans was a regular screwdriver. It took some prying and finagling, but with some effort I managed to open the first lid. The second lid took more effort, more twisting, and more prying but it eventually yielded. Looking at the dozens of remaining cans before me, it seemed like surely there was a better way to open them.

And fortunately there was and it was called a "Paint Can Opener" (queue sound of hand hitting forehead). Most paint stores give them away because they are very simple pieces of metal with a small "J" hook. With this device you simply need to pry and because of the way it is designed, lids come off easily. 

This experience reminded me of what an old farmer asked me years ago, "Son, there are only two tools in the world. What are they?" As usual, I was clueless, so he explained, "The wrong tool and the right tool." 

Our philosophy about software is that any serious design firm will be unique and they will require that their software work the way they need it to work. We customize our software for all of our clients because when you are going to use a software program day in and day out, and the program is critical to the operation of your company,  having the "right tool" can make all the difference in the world. 



Categories: Best Practices


Easy way to safeguard your web based email

A reposting of a 2015 blog post that is worth reading


Recently a  bright person who keeps up with these kinds of things explained that he had switched his email account from Gmail to a free email service called Protonmail. He was concerned about the overall dominance of Google and who had access to his emails. Prontonmail is based out of Switzerland and encrypts all emails so theoritically no one can read his emails. 

Maybe I should be more concerned about who can read my emails, but honestly it is very hard to imagine anyone wanting to read them. So our firm will continue using the Google suite of business applications, Gmail being one of them.

What does freighten me much more than someone reading my emails, is someone hacking my email account and holding it for ransom.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago and the issue has not gone away. The good news is that there is a fairly simple way to protect yourself.

Click the "Continue Reading" button to view the archive blog posting and to learn the solution!

Categories: Best Practices


Custom Modules

Our clients can be very clever

creative IdeaOur clients are constantly surprising us with interesting new ideas for DesignSmart that will help make their firms more efficient and profitable. While we can't go into the specifics, the two below are indicative of the kinds of bright ideas that clients come to us with:

1. CRM / Dashboard module

A new client was initially leaning toward a well known CRM program for their sales team, when they recognized the benefits of having custom built CRM features within DesignSmart. This would make their sales and quote generating processes seamless. And sales staff would only need to learn one program. Sales management could track sales activities and sales goals in the same program. And when quotes result in sales, the sale details will be pushed to QuickBooks electronically.

They came to use with very specific requirements of what they wanted in their CRM module and after a few rounds of mockups and conference calls, we collectively came up with a dashboard layout and features that will work well for their unique workflow. And the cost was only nominally higher for the hybrid version of DesignSmart and CRM module, than the stand-alone CRM program they had been considering.

2. WooCommerce Integration

While it is unlikely you have heard of  "WooCommerce", you've been to websites that use it because it is the most popular "web-store" module for WordPress websites. With the new DesignSmart Products module, it is easy to set up the products you want to sell through your website and through your designers. A client recently asked us to develop a module that will integrate DesignSmart's products with a WooCommerce web-store in real time. What this means is that as soon as a product is added or updated in DesignSmart, it is instantly added or updated on the website. And when orders are entered on the client's website, DesignSmart will pull them down from Woo, mark them for review, then with a click of a button they are processed into QuickBooks.

 Do you have an idea for a module or feature that you can envision adding to DesignSmart that will take your firm to the next level? If so, then give us a call. We enjoy hearing new, creative ideas.

Categories: Best Practices


Version 6 is released and unlimited training is free!

freeWe are pleased to announce the release of DesignSmart Version 6. It is by far our best version yet and not only because it works on the web. It has more features, more speed and is overall a better project management tool.

Ready to jump in and take it for a spin? Then sign up for the free trial and register for the free training. Each day we cover a different aspect of the system. By the end of the week you will be a DesignSmart guru!

Categories: Best Practices


Speery Chalet


This post is not about project management or design. Rather, it is to share with you a wonderful park in hopes that you might consider going there yourself.

The park is called Glacier National Park and it is located in Montana. I'd heard of the park for years, but was overwhelmed by the park's indescribable natural beauty when I visited it last month. We hiked the Gunsight Pass trial to Speery Chalet.

Speery is one of those special places in the world that is in such high demand that you have to take your chances with a lottery every January to determine if you can get in. Our lottery number was 856. We started trying to book when the website went live at 10:00 AM, but it was so swamped that we had to keep trying till our request for lodging finally got through at 10:30 AM. By that time 855 other people had had better luck and registered before us. With such a high number, we didn't think we would have a chance to being assigned a night, but perhaps because we gave a wide date range that we could be there, we were assigned two nights!


Categories: Best Practices


Slanted Foreheads

ernie2There is an old joke that goes something like this: "Do you know why computer programmers have slumped shoulders and slanted foreheads? If you ask them a question the shrug their shoulders and say, 'I don't know'. And when you tell them the answer they slap their foreheads".

My forehead became more inclined last week when I finally got around to replacing the hard drive in my middle aged laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD). For years I had read that replacing the mechanical type of drive that comes with most computers with a SSD drive makes the computer run much faster. (Solid state drives have no moving parts and are pure, fast, electronic memory.) But for one reason or another I put off upgrading. Then last week when I could no longer ignore that it was taking my Windows 10 computer forever to boot, a decision was required: either take up knitting or get a new drive. So I...


Categories: Best Practices


Doing what you do best

Maximizing designer's productivity

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One of the first questions we ask prospective clients is who in their firm is responsible for creating purchase orders. The answer usually boils down to either the designers or the back office staff like a bookkeeper. Or in the case of larger firms, the purchasing department.

In general, we find that the more efficient firms strive to limit the amount of paperwork designers have to handle so they can maximize the time deisgners have for design. For this reason, in DesignSmart there is a system for designers to simply "flag" the items that are ready to ordered. Then the back office staff can see all the items that need to be ordered and push the corresponding purchase orders into QuickBooks.

It is a simple process that ensures that items are not ordered until the designer is certain that the details are correct and, in the case of commercial projects,  all required approvals have been satisfied.

The main benefit is that this process frees up the designer's time for more productive work.

(End of article)

Categories: Best Practices


Getting to Yes

34484156 sBecause no two design firms are alike, we customize DesignSmart for each client. Recently a new client asked us to develop an interesting feature.

To ensure control over purchasing, this firm requires that a Purchasing Manager, a Project Manager and a Senior Manager approve every purchase order before it is released to the vendor. If a manager was away from the office and could not view the printed copy of the PO, the approval process would bog down. And there was the issue of the occasional purchase order being denied and having to inform the design team of what needed to be changed in order for the PO to be approved.

The solution? Allow managers to view the POs awaiting their approval in DesignSmart for iPad so they can view and approve them from anywhere. And the issue with letting designers know why a PO is denied? Managers simply enter a note on the iPad, and the design team is automatically sent an email with the manager’s note.

Does your firm have a work flow process that might be made more efficient by DesignSmart? Call us today so we can discuss possible solutions with you.

(End of article)

Categories: Best Practices


New Weekly Timesheet

No matter how you do it, keeping track of your time is not easy. In hopes of making the process a bit easier, we are pleased to announce a new weekly timesheet entry screen. Here you can enter all of your time for a week and/or review your time entries for a given week. (End of article)

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Categories: Best Practices


Customize DesignSmart To Work The Way You Need It To Work

Make it yours

woman at desk SmallPeople not in the interior design industry could reasonably assume that all design firms essentially provide a similar service. Namely, they pick out fabrics and furnishings for a home or building so the interior is pleasing to the owner. And at a certain level they would be correct. Where they would not be correct is thinking that at the operational level all design firms have the same work flows.

For just one simple example consider how the "Client Deposit" is might be calculated:

  • Some firms have a fixed 50% or fixed 100%. Or the percent might fluctuate depending on the type of item. So a fabric might be 100%, but a sofa might be 50%. Or the client deposit might be determined by the vendor's deposit when the order is placed.
  • Is sales tax to be included in the Client Deposit?
  • Is freight to be included in the Client Deposit?

There are an infinite number of variations in how a design firm runs their business. The good news is that DesignSmart has been developed so it can be customized to work the way you need it to work.

Please click the "Continue Reading" button below.


Categories: Best Practices

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