Is High Point Market only for designers? Have you ever wondered if virtual design assistants should attend? Allow Megan Cochran to share her experience and the value it brings to a designers business.

Hey there! My name is Megan Cochran and I am a virtual design assistant (VA). I had my first High Point Market experience as a VA, and let me tell you, I absolutely loved it! I attended the market to continue playing a crucial role in the design process for my clients. While designers enjoy the creative facet, they often dislike the administrative, operations, and procurement tasks that are part of the business.

This is where virtual design assistants come in. By educating ourselves on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the industry, we can bring added value to our clients. It’s important for us to learn about vendor price points, lead times, product quality, new trends, and attend panels for process improvements.

One of the most significant takeaways from the event was the ability to touch and see the products. I’ve purchased many items for designers online and found them beautiful, but there’s something about experiencing them in person that gives a whole new understanding of why the designer chose them. Each vendor has a different price point and product quality, so being able to make notes on which vendor to recommend to a designer makes my job a lot easier. It’s also essential to have an educated member on your team!

Building relationships with the representatives was another valuable aspect of the event. Many of the designers I collaborate with usually don’t engage in direct communication with the rep since I handle procurement and purchasing. However, meeting and developing relationships with the reps proved to be crucial for me. All designers appreciate having someone who advocates for them when it comes to placing orders, dealing with claims, and getting things done efficiently. Therefore, maintaining a good rapport with the rep is highly valuable. This aspect was particularly beneficial for the designers I accompanied to the market. They would express their desire for a particular account, and I would then locate their representative, engage in a formal introduction, gather their contact details, and follow up after the market. On a humorous note, I had the amusing experience of discovering that a rep I met shared the same last name as mine and, coincidentally, our families originated from the same area. It served as a perfect conversation starter.

Another favorite highlight of my experience was sitting in on the panel discussions – I absolutely loved it! While our current processes are going well, there’s always room for improvement. So, being able to hear the panelists talk about how they manage their business was really inspiring, especially when you’re doing the same thing! I remember one particular panel that I found really enjoyable, and I even ended up incorporating their proposal terminology into my own work. John McClain, CEO of John McClain Designs and Podcast Host of The Designer Within,  shared his secret sauce for preventing clients from doubting the “management” fees. He revealed that he changed the term “service procurement/project management” to “project fulfillment” and used “production” for ordering logistics. Isn’t that genius?! We all get a little nervous when sending proposals, especially when clients begin questioning the costs, so this was a nice change to incorporate on the proposals.

I believe that we, virtual design assistants, can’t truly provide extended value to our clients unless we stay updated on the latest trends, improve our processes, and expand our knowledge of our products, and High Point Market was a great experience doing just that.

So, here’s my advice to you… insist that your assistant accompanies you to events like this. Let them attend so they can increase the value they bring to your business and enhance client service.

Sandy Yen, owner of Yen Collective, Juli Brocato, owner of Brocato Design + Co., Lauren Valentine, Marketing Manager for Brocato Design + Co., Megan Cochran, Shadá Menefee, Flourish by Shadá Interiors enjoying High Point Furniture Market