Communication is key! …what I wish I had known was the importance of listening and communication. You can be an amazing designer with a keen eye, but if you lack the ability to truly listen to your clients, and execute their vision, then you’ll always miss the mark. I have always been customer-focused, and listening comes naturally to me, but I must say, my listening skills have improved more and more with every job and every client.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gavin Brodin of Brodin Design Build. Originally from London, Gavin is an iconic designer and artist living in Los Angeles who conceives, designs and builds luxury spaces and lifestyle creations for an elite clientele worldwide. He’s managed large scale projects, including the famous Spelling Manor with a team of over 500 people and a project budget exceeding $315M.
Thank you for joining us Gavin. Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My design career started when I was 17 working in a fabric store selling discounted designer fabrics in London. I then started making draperies and doing the installation myself, then expanded into making slipcovers and reupholstering client’s furniture. My clients recognize my eye for design and the projects grew exponentially from there. By the time I was nineteen, I was designing embassy and heritage estates.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading your company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Initially, I was blown away by the amount of organization it requires to start a business in terms of paperwork, accounting and keeping records.
I learned how important it is to keep a record of everything — also of conversations with clients and sending them minutes of our meetings so everyone is on the same page.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
The design portion of a project is 15–20 percent maximum. It includes managing the client, merging your vision and taste with your clients, as well as getting the design aesthetic correct.
But the rest of it is really organizing the project, make sure all the paperwork is correct, and not making any procedural mistakes. You would be surprised at how much paperwork is required for an interior design change in your own home!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- No Short Cuts!
Hard work, dedication, patience and compassion! Be prepared for the highs and lows and it’s certainly not a breeze. You will need to do some soul searching and be prepared to be open with amending your path and goals as sometimes things can change for the best.
2. Balance of work and home!
It’s so important to take time for your family and friends along with yourself. Spending time with your loved ones is equally as important as work.
3. Responsive, communicative and punctual
I have a rule that I have kept too and it’s very important. Be punctual to all meetings and allow the time needed for unexpected delays. Always respond to emails, texts and messages daily. If you don’t have a response at least acknowledge the message and say you will respond the following day.
4. Build a dream team!
I wish someone would have mentioned the importance of blending the skills and personalities of your team. My entire team wears many hats and some of their duties slowly came about as I got to know their skills, passions and personalities. Every employee here at Brodin Design Build plays an integral part in every project we take on from start to finish.
Getting familiar with everyone’s unique skills sets, strength, and how they work is key in putting together an integrated and seamless team to create, design and innovate. Blurring the lines of the job descriptions, and not putting any member of the team in a box, gives everyone the space to expand to their full creative potential. Managing the BDB team in this nebulous and every changing dynamic is what makes our designs so exceptional because there are many creative minds coming together as one.
5. Communication is key!
Lastly, what I wish I had known was the importance of listening and communication. You can be an amazing designer with a keen eye, but if you lack the ability to truly listen to your clients, and execute their vision, then you’ll always miss the mark. I have always been customer-focused, and listening comes naturally to me, but I must say, my listening skills have improved more and more with every job and every client.
What advice would you give to colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Important to keep a 9–5, Monday to Friday work week. I have of course had projects where I have worked crazy hours. In the past, we have had two projects where we worked 7 days a week for 18 months straight and it was just too much.
In general, I try to keep a good work/life balance and I encourage my team to do the same. I am of course available to my clients as they need me but I try to also go offline to recharge. It is so important in the creative process to not push yourself to the point of burning out.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
You cannot be a success without having an amazing loyal team working with you and supporting your creative vision. I cannot do it alone, I create my projects together with my design team.
For design projects, you also need great vendors who can follow through on your design in terms of materials. Your design isn’t worth anything if you cannot bring it to life!
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Professionally, I would love to be doing yacht designs without limitations on budgets. Often the budgets for yachts are five times higher than for residential properties so that leaves a lot of room for doing amazing details. We love designing custom phenomenal details but that is very expensive and it is often the first thing to get cut when budgets are set.
I would also enjoy working on boutique hotels where we can design custom rooms and again focus on details.
Personally, I would love to travel more because travel always brings me a new inspiration.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
Timeless design! I would love for my people to forever enjoy our designs. We try to stay with a timeless and classic style so that our clients do not just enjoy it for a short time and then feel like they need to redecorate again.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I would love to be able to push my clients towards sustainability. Nowadays there are a lot of materials available that can offer you both stylish and sustainable, eco-friendly solutions when building homes.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow us on Instagram where we post from our projects: