Creative Genius Podcast

Season 1 Episode 7

Going Up! (Garrison Hullinger)

Going Up! (Garrison Hullinger)

How do you scale a new business up quickly? How do you find the people you need to make your business grow and succeed? What do you do if things start to go wrong?

In this episode, Gail and Erin talk with designer extraordinaire Garrison Hullinger, founder and principal designer of Studio Garrison in Portland, Oregon, specializing in residential, commercial, and hospitality design.

In this episode, Gail, Erin, and Garrison discuss the following advice:

  • Focus on the service that you can deliver to someone.
  • Determine what your value-add is. You have to sell yourself and your service. What’s unique or special about what you’re offering?
  • Examine if the person on your team who is taking the call or answering the email is the right person to do the job. Can they turn that inquiry into a business opportunity?

About ten years ago, Garrison was a successful project manager with Old Navy, which he helped to create, when he suffered a work-related brain injury that required him to relearn how to walk, read and write. During his recovery, on the advice of his physical therapist, he undertook a small home remodeling project and discovered he had a passion for design. He started offering design services out his attic, and today is one of Portland, Oregon’s most sought-after interior designers, with a team of 17 employees. Gail and Erin asked him how he was able to grow his business so quickly.

“Hire experts,” says Garrison. “Gather and collect the people who support you,” such as a bookkeeper or CAD specialist. “Create an organization that you hold accountable, and then deliver on what you promise to clients.”

While at Old Navy, Garrison was responsible for hiring more than 3,000 employees. Gail asked him what was the most important lesson he learned from that experience that he applies to hiring in interior design. The three qualities he looks for most in a candidate, says Garrison, are compatibility, the determination to follow through, and accountability. He added that it’s not necessary to hire everyone as full-time staff. “There is value in hiring someone whose talent or expertise you need for only a measured amount of time.”

Having overcome adversity and accomplished so much, Gail asked Garrison what was the biggest life lesson that helps him to run his business the way he does. “Move forward,” he says, “take risks. You have to put fear in the corner where it belongs. You can’t always react, so pro-act.”

In a lively and far-ranging conversation, Garrison had a lot more to share about how to lead a successful business and team. Listen to the full podcast for more great insights.

Mentioned in this Podcast

You can find out more about Garrison, his firm, and his projects at the Studio Garrison website.

At the start of their conversation, Gail and Erin mention that on a visit to Garrison’s studio in Portland they took in a performance by Darcelle XV (aka Walter Cole, age 89), recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest drag queen. To learn more about him and the historic 1896 Queen Anne home where he resides, check out this recent article, Can Darcelle, The World’s Oldest Drag Queen Still be Fabulous …, from The Oregonian.

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