top of page

Building an in-house team with Lisa Alward

Hello Boss, today I’m joined by special guest Lisa Alward. Lisa is an interior designer and published author with years of experience working on residential properties throughout Australia. Lisa heads up Bella Vie Interiors, a design studio with headquarters in Brisbane, and is committed to creating beautiful homes for her clients. Lisa has built an incredible A-team of in-house employees and in this episode shares her experience of doing this.

In our conversation, Lisa shares how she knew that she needed to grow her team, and the phased approach she took moving from contractors through to part-time and full-time employees.

Transitioning to having part and full-time employees is a big commitment and Lisa details the ways she prepared and set her business up to accommodate her new team members. She runs through office space, hardware, file management systems, software and most importantly - standard operating procedures. Lisa shares that every part of her business is documented from administration, business development, onboarding, design and offboarding which ensures consistency and continuity.

When it comes to hiring, Lisa shares what she looks for in new team members, highlighting that the most important thing is that they align with her values system - loyal, hardworking, diligent, open and honest, and have a high level of attention to detail. She also shares that flexibility and a great skillset, as well as a willingness to learn, are also incredibly important.

Lisa also details the important tools and culture that she cultivates in her team around communication. She shares her vision, is constantly updating her team and is open and transparent regarding client fees. We also discuss how having a listening culture is so important.

Lisa shares her top three lessons that she has learned as a people leader which are:

  1. It takes time and patience to train people properly.

  2. Trust is vital - everyone needs to know that they have each other’s backs.

  3. Systems are key.

Boss, I know you are going to get so much value from what Lisa shares in this episode and her own experience of growing the most fabulous team.

Topics We Covered:

Kristy Robinson  00:00

Hello boss and welcome back to the run your business like a boss Podcast. Today I'm joined by special guest, Lisa Alward. Lisa is the author of Beautiful Life as well as the business owner of Bella V interiors. Lisa is a successful interior designer based here in Brisbane, Australia. And she has built an incredible in-house team. And so I had to have her on the podcast to share her experience of building her team and all the things she had to put in place in order to build what she calls her A-team. I know you're gonna get so much value from this conversation where Lisa shares all her insights. So are you ready? Let's go

Kristy Robinson  00:47

You're listening to the Run Your Business Like a Boss podcast. Hello, and welcome. I'm Kristy Robinson, your host I'm here to advocate for you the business owner who's knee-deep in the messy middle. If you're tired of feeling stretched, overworked and overwhelmed, you're in the right place. My goal is to help you streamline systemize and create a strategy that enables you to step from stressed-out worker to the boss of your business. Now let's dive into today's episode. Hello, Lisa, welcome to the Run Your Business Like a Boss podcast.

Lisa Alward  01:22

Thank you. I am so excited to be here, Kristy.

Kristy Robinson  01:25

Oh, you know what I'm so excited for today's conversation as well. Lisa, I know that for many business owners out there who are thinking about growing an in-house team or bringing on employees, this can feel like such a daunting prospect. And so I know that the boss who's listening to this episode today is going to get so much value from what you have to share with your own experience of growing the most fabulous team. So I want to get right in. How did you know that you needed to grow your team via employees or here in Australia, we call a PAYG. Instead of bringing in contractors, which I think is often the case for many business owners, they start with contractors, but You've obviously done it with employees.

Lisa Alward  02:09

Well, you know, I initially started using contractors. But for me, I found that as I got busier, I found that I needed an in-house team to work more closely with me on client projects, it was more cost-effective. It was a simpler process than outsourcing is. And I found I didn't have to spend as much time preparing detailed scopes to provide to contractors, there's a lot of work that goes into what we're doing. And a lot of things can change really quickly. So having an in-house team makes us a lot more agile, also needed team members to be able to meet with me on-site with clients and sort of be able to come back to the office and document everything afterwards, after a meeting. It's more effective, or it's more cost-effective to for me, because once we've got all those notes, you know, it's either my hourly rate or their hourly rate to be able to, you know, get all that information down on paper so that we can refer back to it later on. So I started off with casual employees. And that was sort of my first stepping stone with PAYG. But then I sort of got to have gone on to full time and part time employees next,

Kristy Robinson  03:12

I love that you really did step us through this, this phased approach that you had from First of all, having contractors, then knowing that for your particular business and your requirements, you really did need that employee as opposed to contractor. So you started then with casual, and then you moved into full time, when you were thinking about transitioning into having permanent part time and permanent full time team members. What did you need to have in place in order for that to happen

Lisa Alward  03:40

Systems. So my husband's in the army, he calls them SOPs, our standard operating procedures, space for them to work was really important. And so that took a bit of rearranging. We're working in a studio space in my home at the moment, but we're about to move into an office. Also tools of the trade computers ArchiCAD we use a software program that we needed that setting up file management systems. So I used to have them all on my own computer, I set up Dropbox, project management things that we could, you know, tools that we could use together was also really important. So I did a lot of research around that and landed on asana and having zero obviously, we needed pay people. So we need to have the right you know, programs in place to be able to do payroll, and then probably the most important was time and patience to train them.

Kristy Robinson  04:31

Yeah. So you mentioned their SOPs, standard operating procedures, and will tell us a little bit about that. What does that look like?

Lisa Alward  04:40

Every part of our business is documented. So we have one system or one SOP that sort of takes you through all the administrative side of the business one that is talks about business development, so I'm doing that even for me as I'm growing even though I'm the person that sort of looking after that area, the business one that focus is on the design phase. And so every single step that's involved from the moment a client first contacts us to, you know, how we take them through onboarding, the design, the schematic design, process, design, development, you know, everything that is involved in the design process, and then offboarding, as well, just so that we don't miss anything in the process of our client interface.

Kristy Robinson  05:25

Yeah, you raise such a valid point in that standard operating procedures are fantastic for team members to be able to keep that consistency and continuity between what you do and then what they do. But also, even if you're a solo business owner, having those standard operating procedures in place is key. I think that often as business owners, we're using a lot of working memory in doing the same things over and over again. But if you do have that standardised in and documented in a standard operating procedure, it certainly makes it easier. But even more so when you've got a team member. And you mentioned that time and patience is also key. But if you do have that documented, it's going to make that process easier.

Lisa Alward  06:06

Yeah, exactly. 100%, I actually used it when they started, I sort of said, here's the book, start at the beginning. And when you get stuck, talk to me.

Kristy Robinson  06:16

Yeah, and look, this is the thing that takes away the ambiguity of what you expect from you know, the process. And as you said, it's so important that every single client is coming into your team, from onboarding through to the actual design process right through to offboarding, that every client has the same experience with you, whether they're working with you, or whether they're working with a member of your team, that standard operating procedure is really the baseline of how you want things to run in the team. And you've already put in the work to design what the process looks like, documenting it is just a really great way of ensuring that, yeah, like we said that continuity flows through. So when it comes to hiring team members, what is it that you look for Lisa.

Lisa Alward  07:01

Look, most importantly, it's got to be as someone who is a good fit with my value system, they have to be loyal, hardworking, diligent, probably open and honest, and particularly in our industry have a high level of attention to detail. Also, I need someone who wants to learn is flexible, and has a vision to developing their own skills. So you know, not somebody who's sort of just like, Oh, I'm just gonna come along and do what you want me to do every day in that seat. I want people who are passionate. And I also want somebody who has the skills that I don't have, or is maybe better at the skills that I might have, but they can sort of do the work that either I don't like to do or don't have time to do.

Kristy Robinson  07:42

I love that. I think there's this tendency to want to have all the boxes ticked. But the key pillars that I'm taking away from what you're saying is a good fit, that shared value system is so important, because if someone takes all of the boxes in terms of skill set, but then the value system isn't shared, it's inevitable that you're going to run into problems. So I think that you definitely lead with that. So I think that's, you know, a key thing to pull out of here. And I really loved what you said about the skills that you don't have, you really want to be able to build that team around you that you know, has all of the skills and to have someone that comes in with the ability to plug in maybe some of those gaps is key. And then the third thing that I took out of what you said is the willingness to learn, even if they don't have all of the things, then if there's this willingness and capability and capacity to build on those skills, you as the leader, or you as the head of the business, can most certainly plug in those gaps for your team as well. So I loved them. Thank you. So communication is a key part of running a successful team. And I know you mentioned before, we touched a little bit on systems, but how do you, you know, ensure that all the team is singing from the same hymn sheet? So what would you say is some of the important tools or cadence or culture that maybe you have in your team around communication?

Lisa Alward  09:01

You know, one of my strengths, if you've ever done one of those Gallup strength tests, is communication. And it's no secret that I like to talk. I do rely a lot on that, you know, I always find I really want to explain things, I want to describe things, you know, like to speak in public and I and about writing I like to write as well. So for me, communication is really, really important. We have an open office, open plan office. So you know, we're always talking, I'm always listening. They're always listening to what I'm talking about. So you know, even if they're not involved in meetings, they're hearing you know, what's going on. So for all of us, that's important that we're all on the same page. They also know what my vision is for the business. You know, I'm pretty full on like, I'm a bit of an achiever as well, I sort of like to say, well, this is what we're doing next, and this is what we're doing next. So you know that that's actually really important. We also are very open we openly discuss our client fees. You know what I owe overheads are, you know, when there's issues or tight spots, we might say, Look, we really are going to have to, you know, get to work together to achieve this. So for me, that's really important. And the other things that I think are being, you know, responsibility, actually, you know, taking responsibility for, you know, what we're all doing, you know, I expect everybody to sort of be accountable for what they're doing. That's actually quite important for me, and also significance. You know, I think everybody you know, is significant in your team, that they all have a role to play. I don't expect them to do anything I wouldn't do you know, anything that I haven't done? So, you know, for me, that's actually also really important expectations, I guess.

Kristy Robinson  10:38

Yeah, I think one of the things that I really pull out, there's, oh, there's a few things. But that vision piece is so important. I think that sometimes we can keep that really tight lipped. But the fact that you have shared that so openly with the team. And the whole concept around vision is that it's supposed to be something that everybody rallies around that everybody in the team and within the business is working towards. And when you share that with your team, then every person who sits within the team knows what their contribution is towards working towards that shared vision. So I really loved that you said that, and I loved also the fact that you shared with the businesses that I think that there's this tendency, again, to keep things behind closed doors, but knowing that everybody's working towards that common goal of how's the business operating, where are some of our gaps, and being really open and transparent about that you have a small team, maybe that's not entirely appropriate if you have a larger team, but you know, really letting everybody know where you're at in the month in terms of new clients and things like that, I really love that you have that openness in and amongst the team as well. And then the third thing that I really pull out, you sort of briefly touched on it, but listening, everybody listening to each other, so we can all talk but if no one's listening, then the Talking is kind of pointless, right? So from every level from you to them to each other. And having that listening culture is so important when you're running a successful team. I love to them.

Lisa Alward  12:04

Thanks. So I think you're right, actually listening is is vital. And I think having a small office, you can listen in, I sort of hear the girls talking about things when they you know, designing projects, and I say, Oh, I actually thought maybe this and you know, so then we'll toss out ideas and get to the bottom of what we actually need to do. And just having that listening ear is actually always it was great.

Kristy Robinson  12:24

Yeah. And I think when you like tossing around those ideas, you can pick things up quickly before you progress. And that is, again, like you said, the benefit of being in a small open-plan office is that you get to have your finger on the pulse. And likewise, they're not going to miss things that happen on your side of the fence as well. So what would you say is your top three lessons learned as a people leader?

Lisa Alward  12:45

First of all, it takes time and patience to train people properly. Second, is trust me trusting my team, and them trusting me, that was really important, you know, we have to know as a team, and especially a small tight knit team, that we have each other's backs, you know, I need to know that, you know, if I do sort of say something, and you know that they can quickly grab onto that and go yep, that's what she means here. And, you know, I trust that they've got all that information. And third, is systems, systems are KEY.

Kristy Robinson  13:17

Oh, the trust one is a big one. Actually, I think that you can't underestimate the power of trust in a team trust that everybody's intentions are good. Everybody, the intention of anybody doing anything is going to be a positive intention, but also trust and accountability, that everyone's going to do what they say they're going to do. Because when you're working in a team, you're just one piece of the puzzle, you know, for a client piece, for instance, you know, you're one part of the chain. And if your link is missing, then it's really not going to make the connector point come through. So I think that that's such a valid point around building that culture of trust is is something that should be so intentional integral for anybody who's looking to build a team now. 100%. For anyone who's looking to grow their own in house team, is there any other pearls of wisdom that you want to impart on our boss who's tuned in today?

Lisa Alward  14:09

Look, realistically, the only way to scale your business is to grow your team. And from the day you start your business, you really need to set everything up as though you already have an employee. So document everything you do every day, even if it scribbled in doc points. And then when the time comes to write your SOPs, they are there you know what you're doing every day, you know what tasks you need to outsource. So it helps you with your job descriptions. And it also helps to have that process in place before people actually start with you. So you know when you get your first employee you can be like me, you can sort of your say your usual SOPs, you need to use them to train, find the holes in it updated, to be honest, we still use them, I still use them. I do emails that you know all the time to new clients, but I use my systems because you know, it's not something I store in my brain. This is how I write the email. These are these are the things I want to cover Raffan, I personalize it for everybody, but I use the system still. So you know, we're always refining them, you know, we might get new updates with our CAD program, and we need to refine them. So we're continually looking at better ways to do things.

Kristy Robinson  15:16

Such good advice. If you are listening today, this is definitely a key takeaway, I think, from today's conversation is to start out where you want to land. And even as Lisa said, document everything, even if it's in dot point, because then you're not starting starting from the ground zero because I think there comes this point where you almost reached this urgency where you're like, Oh, I'm, I'm nearly at capacity, I have to get that person in. And then if you're starting from the ground up, without anything documented, or any processes or systems in place, onboarding a new team member or bringing a new person into your business is going to feel so daunting and so overwhelming. So even starting 2023 with that view, if you haven't started documenting your standard operating procedures or the way that you do things in your business, now is a good time just to start making those notes because growing a team is you know, this is not something you want to do when the time comes to bring a new team member into your into your business. I love them. Okay, so lastly, you have not only grown a successful business and an incredible design team, you've just recently released your first book, a beautiful life. Can you quickly share with our boss who's listening today, what your book is about and how you've come to write this book.

Lisa Alward  16:36

But firstly, I love that you introduced it as my first book. So now the expectation is there that there will be more. Thanks, Kristy. Beautiful Life is a practical room by room guide to creating a beautiful functional home no matter which stage of life you're in. So in the book, I share design advice and practical tips to help people on their journey to transforming their home. I focus on practical solutions as well as pleasing aesthetics. The book guides people through room specific chapters with advice for couples, families and empty nesters, because I believe it's these transitions through stages of life that impact our lives and the way we use our homes. I apply also the design principles and Fung Shui principles to each room in an easy to understand way so that people can create and choose what's right for them and their family. So whether people are renting or a homeowner, this book is for everyone who believes their home contributes to their own idea of a happy and beautiful life. Because I want people to feel confident in their decision making knowing their home, they ultimately suit their lifestyle and the way they want to live in it. So whichever stage of life you're in beautiful life is the essential design book to help you create your beautiful home with confidence.

Kristy Robinson  17:53

Yeah, what's really amazing about this book is that it is that guidebook, it's really beautiful. I've got a copy at home. And it's just got so many nice, beautiful pictures in it. But also it's so consumable is the word I'm looking for there in that, you know, you can go through it, there's prompts, it's really something that can get you thinking about, you know, what your space is going to look like, how does it fit in with your lifestyle, as you say, and, and it's really for everybody with all of those stages of life covered, as you said. So it's such a beautiful book, if you're thinking about renovating, or even if you're just wanting to have this really beautiful space, I definitely recommend getting your hands on a copy of that book. And congratulations on writing at least her and getting that out there. And yes, it was highly intentional to say your first book that was the intention behind that question. So yeah, congratulations on your new book. Well, you've given our boss who's listening to today's episode, some really good starting points for how to get ready to grow their team in terms of operations and also touched on some leadership styles as well, which I think is really valuable. I think that anybody who's looking to bring team members into their team, it's a big responsibility to look after people and to ensure that you create a beautiful workspace maybe that could be your next book creating a beautiful workspace. So yeah, you know, I think there's some really great tips in here. So thank you so much for joining us where can we find you and connect with you

Lisa Alward  19:17

elevate which is also where my book is available. Instagram my handles at my underscore Bella V. I'm on Facebook with LV interiors, and I can be found on LinkedIn and Elisa all word and Bella V interiors.

Kristy Robinson  19:33

If you want to make your newsfeed incredibly beautiful, do go and connect with Lisa. Lisa, thank you so much for joining us for today's conversation. I appreciate you taking the time to be here with us.

Lisa Alward  19:43

Thanks Kristy. I really appreciate your time too.

Kristy Robinson  19:47

And to you boss, thank you so much for joining us for today's conversation. I hope that this has given you some insight in what to put in place ahead of building your in house team as well as what it might look like to add your own a team. If you enjoyed today's episode, May I encourage you to please share it out on your Instagram stories and tag both Lisa and I, Lisa's Instagram handle is down in the show notes. Thanks again for joining us and I look forward to chatting with you next week. Thank you so much for joining me. If you enjoyed today's episode, please consider leaving a review and if you're not already doing so connect with me over on Instagram. My handle is Kristy Robinson underscore consulting and listen up. If you're keen to learn more about how I can support you to run your business like a boss, check out the website Christy Thanks again and I look forward to chatting with you next time.

Links and Resources

Tune in today on

download (21).jpeg
images (23).jpeg
download (25).png
download (22).jpeg
download (23).jpeg
Business Transformation.jpg

About your host, Kristy

Hi, I'm Kristy, thank you for tuning in to the Run Your Business Like a Boss Podcast. My purpose for the podcast is to help Business Owner’s in the growth stage of business (messy middle) have a sustainable business, they love.


I’m an online business coach, based in Brisbane, Australia. I provide 1:1 business coaching, to Service Based Online Business Owner's and a group coaching program commencing in 2022. I believe whole heartedly that having a Business Coach is what gives you the competitive edge. As your coach I support you to overcome challenges quickly, uncover blindspots and make business decisions with confidence and clarity. All of which keeps you moving forward and maintaining momentum. 

As your Business Coach, my role is to help you organise and formulate your ideas, turn them into a goal and then into an actionable plan! All while meeting you where you're at and providing you relevant tools and support along the way.


Thank you for tuning in to the Run Your Business Like A Boss podcast!

bottom of page