August 13, 2020 / by Keith Gordon
NoMad Business Adapts and Succeeds: Robert Kaner
NoMad business owners have had to adapt to succeed in these rapidly evolving times. We spoke to a number of business owners with offices in NoMad who are successfully weathering the challenges of business today. They shared, their approach, philosophy, and insights.
In this series of articles, we will hear from a variety of successful business leaders across diverse fields. Some of their efforts are industry-specific, but most of their winning approach can be applied to any business.
Among these successful business leaders, we spoke to Robert Kaner of Robert Kaner Interior Design.
Kaner shares that at the beginning of the crisis, his firm saw a number of things go on hold, including all construction. Fortunately, there was some ongoing activity. Now, projects that were on hold are back full speed ahead. Kaner is also receiving inquires from existing clients who are spending a lot of time at home – clients looking to improve and update overall living situations. Specifically, there is interest in home offices and outdoor furniture. He is receiving new inquiries, too. How did he help to cultivate this?
Use Downtime Productively
When work slowed, Kaner made sure to use the downtime productively. He used it to think and strategize about his business and to connect with a lot of people he works with in the industry.
Foster Connections – Referrals are Key
Referrals continue to be Kaner’s largest source of new business. This extends beyond existing clients to connections within the industry such as architects and contractors. Staying connected and continuing to foster connections, even during lockdown, was something Kaner made sure to do.
Throughout the pandemic, Kaner has been active on social media. He began featuring makers and craftspeople on his Instagram feed, including live video events where he had discussions with makers. This allowed Kaner to feature the work he does with makers, which showcased the caliber of talent with whom he collaborates. Clients and potential clients responded with interest and excitement as they learned more about artisans and creators. It also provided them with a deeper appreciation for not only the result, but the process.
Industry Peer Engagement – Shared Support and Ideas
Kaner is part of Design Trust, which is a member-run group of established designers from around the country. They held regular Zoom meetings to share stories about what was happening in different regions across the U.S. and how firms were coping. Hearing each other’s stories, and how each firm was navigating these times, helped with both information and moral support. Kaner points out that earlier in the year, members in Texas were supportive, helpful, and encouraging when New York was being hit hardest. Months later, when Texas began to experience similar challenges, New York members gladly reciprocated.
These peers continue to discuss business concerns and revised approaches. For instance, an issue of concern that all members share is the financial stability of vendors. Designers want to deal with those businesses that are stable, so they and their clients are not left holding the bag if a vendor does not survive. One best practice they reached is to provide smaller deposits upfront, which limits risk.
Team Building – More Important in Virtual Times
Kaner knows the wisdom of the adage, a business is only as good as its people. Throughout these uncertain times, Kaner has made a conscious effort to focus on team building with his team of designers. This is more important than ever with so much business taking place virtually.
Thankfully, prior to the pandemic, the firm had adopted a number of remote platforms and a cloud-based management system. These systems helped make a smooth transition to more virtual interaction. Some key designers on staff had already been spending significant time out of the office in other cities. In these more virtual scenarios, a key to success is staying connected and keeping the team feeling like a team.
Health issues were and continue to be the one of the firm’s biggest concern, but both he and the staff didn’t let this impede their work. As part of his effort to manage morale, Kaner makes sure to keep his staff well informed about how the business is doing, and the staff is stepping up beautifully and rising to the challenges of the time.
Moving forward, Kaner will continue team building efforts and, of course, safety. Kaner shares that he will be even more flexible with remote working, pointing out that virtual meetings with clients can save a lot of time. However, nothing can completely replace the in-person presentation to clients, especially when reviewing the touch and feel of materials. Though duplicate sets are sent to clients for virtual presentation, the excitement and romance of presenting ideas in person is unmatched.
Back to Business in His NoMad Office
Kaner’s business has been based in NoMad for three years. He recalls when he saw his office in the historic St. James building, he fell in love with the light. Now that he is spending time in the office again, which has a custom build out that reflects his modernist aesthetic, he is reminded what a great place it is to congregate and design.
He’s happy to return to the NoMad neighborhood, which he feels is exceptional for design. With design resources and inspiration nearby, plus the neighborhood’s wonderful restaurants and Madison Square Park a short walk away, Kaner is glad to again spend time in his NoMad office.
NoMad Businesses Adapt and Succeed
In closing, Kaner offered sage advice to other any NoMad business regarding how to adapt and succeed during these unique times: “This is an opportunity to take stock of business, what you’re doing, and what you want to be doing. Stay thoughtful, focus on what’s working and what you do well, and respond positively – all of this will benefit you and your business.”