Creative Genius Podcast

Season 5 Episode 2

Get a Bird’s-eye View of Your Business (Garrison Hullinger)

Get a Bird’s-eye View of Your Business (Garrison Hullinger)

Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Changes and developments in your community take place every day that could impact how your business fares in the months or years ahead. Certain indicators can help you spot them so you can prepare to respond, guarding against setbacks or seizing new opportunities. Making time regularly to look at the big picture will give you more control and confidence to deal with whatever tomorrow may bring.

In this podcast, interior designer Garrison Hullinger, principal, Studio Garrison, Portland, Oregon, joins Gail and one of the Boardroom Mastermind groups to talk about trends inside and outside the industry that can affect designers’ businesses.  

Garrison has an extensive business background, including having helped to create the Old Navy retail chain before he started his interior design firm. Forecasting trends is a normal part of his business routine. He spotted the threat of COVID-19 to the larger economy and the industry well before it was detected in the U.S. and declared a pandemic, giving him time to adjust his operations for remote work before the first lockdown occurred.  

Forecasting begins with keeping an eye on indicators that reveal how different parts of the economy, whether national or local, are performing. For interior designers, those include data on how the housing market is doing, the number of new permitting requests for new construction, and news of new legislation that affects the built environment, such as changes to building codes or laws that restrict certain kinds of development. Also, make connections with professionals in related fields, such as developers, architects and loan officers, who see what types of projects are being planned for future construction.  

In addition, said Garrison, “get above the 10,000 to 30,000-foot level and look at the world.” Trends in manufacturing and overall production outputs signal which way the market is moving, as well as what products will or won’t be available down the line. Keep an eye on what’s happening with prices and consumer confidence. “Spikes in costs will predict fear in consumers,” he noted.

Garrison touched on a wide range of topics in his exchange with Boardroom members. To find out why he believes the stock market is not going to crash, who are the HENRYs and why they matter to designers, and what lies ahead for the industry post-COVID, listen to the entire podcast.

Mentioned in This Podcast

To learn more about Garrison, his firm, his team, and to view a portfolio of the firm’s projects in residential, custom-home design, multifamily and hospitality, visit the Studio Garrison website.

In an earlier Creative Genius podcast, Garrison talked about how he scaled his business from a two-person residential design service working out of his attic to a residential/commercial firm of 16 employees in just three years. He also explained how he selects the members of his team. 

Among the resources designers can use to get information about potential future opportunities, Gail recommended subscribing to the local edition of The Business Journal. For more information and for a list of cities covered, go to the publication’s website at

Building permit data is readily available online, although some sources are more current than others and some are for-fee services. For an overview of source options, see this article on the website for ATTOM Data Solutions, a provider of property and real estate data, that includes sources for both residential and commercial permits:  Where to Find Building Permit Data.

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