We were delighted this month when Dom Littler of Designerati gave Ripples sales director Nicola Crow a chance to open up on some of our trading secrets. A full copy of the interview is below or you can view it on their web page https://designerati.co.uk/designerleaders-nicola-crow/

Connecting with people together with a strong motivational drive helps to create a successful business. How does this play out within your business or role?
As someone who has spent most of their career working in the business that was founded by my parents, I’ve never been short of passion or motivation.  In fact, sometimes I have to turn the dials down a little! Because of our franchise model, the motivational drive has always been in ample supply and it has helped us create a fantastic culture that our designers and operational colleagues can all contribute to and of course benefit from.  Without doubt, it is the energy, talent and motivation that this culture brings that has been a core component of our success.I personally train all new designers that join the business and to make sure from day one they are tuned into our company values and how to share these with the customer.  I do like to be hands-on and visiting showrooms often as I recognise the importance of sitting with our design team one on one.  Likewise, I am a huge fan of weekly team meetings being held and you can often find me surprising a showroom to join in these as it’s a great way to ensure everyone knows what is going on.  It’s not always in the showrooms though, a day I particular enjoy is the Designer Conference that I host every year as we have a lot of fun and it’s proven to be a great platform to share ideas and I also bring in influential guest speakers that can raise the excitement levels whilst also ensuring we continue to learn from others.

What are the key success factors that have driven business growth in recent years? What part has design and creative thinking played?
We have a great marketing machine that is constantly creating enquiries for our franchisees on a daily basis and that has really served our business well for many years.  Likewise, we have a team of designers that continue to amaze customers with their extraordinary design flare – they really are a talented bunch and I feel incredibly proud to work alongside them. All of this has been backed up by putting in place the systems and support required to meet the desired customer experience and of course as you can imagine the main ingredient to that is a lot of hard work by everyone in the business.

What important creative characteristics does a business need in order to remain competitive?
It’s critical that we follow trends and pay attention to what our customers want.  Trends obviously can reflect colour schemes, bathroom usage, textures, materials and technology and we must therefore ensure we are keeping our eyes and ears open on what is happening around us.  The products we offer must evolve, as must our own knowledge and how we personalise the customer experience matters hugely today and is in itself something that has to continue to evolve.  Our work is never done!

It has been said that ‘collaboration’ is key to a successful business – how can this be achieved and how does it influence the design process?
However big the team and whatever the role of the individual, everyone has to understand what we believe in as a business and that can only be achieved through company-wide engagement.  Whether showroom meetings, franchisee quarterly meetings, training days, designer conferences or our two-day business conference, we talk, listen, share and act.  I’m proud to say that we have fostered a really great culture in Ripples and it’s something that I have worked hard for.  I do though, love what I do and who I work with and I’m sure that’s a big part if of it all too.

How do you plan to make your vision a reality, and how central will design and creativity be in this process?
For a small business we are very strategic.  We do though recognise that we can’t know everything and therefore we proactively work with external specialists that can help us articulate them and put them into place.  We use specialist trainers to help our designers understand the luxury sector we work in, interior designers to broaden our perspective on consultations, presentations and the use of mood boards (for example).  We use external architects to help us create our new franchise showrooms and we outsource creative work for our marketing.  By tying these experts together to the spine that has become Ripples formula for success, we can provide cohesive direction to our franchisees.