Thoughts on the Fear of Being Copied
I have attended several industry gatherings and a recurring question surfaced: “How much is too much to reveal when discussing resources and details of our work in print or on the web?” Some owners feel if designers give away too much information either on their websites or in online communities like Houzz, their design services won’t be needed anymore and they will lose business. One incredibly talented designer told me she never publishes her work because she doesn’t want anyone to “copy” it. I don’t understand this fear at all.
If your nationally published work just gave someone an idea for their own home or gave another designer inspiration for a client they are working with, isn’t that the ultimate compliment, and didn’t you just provide a service with a much higher reach? Here’s an analogy — a true story that goes way back to the beginning of my career when I was teaching…
I was assigned a Business Law course and was replacing someone retiring. I went in to speak with her to see if she had any advice for me as a brand new instructor. I asked if she could perhaps share some of her favorite lesson plans with me. After all, she must have some fantastic lessons she’s created over her entire career. Wouldn’t it be fabulous for me to continue her legacy, use her expertise as a jumping point, add my own twist to it, and create an amazing experience for our future students? Surprisingly, the woman proceeded to empty her files into a hefty bag. She told me it took her a lifetime to create all those materials, and I would have to create my own. I was truly stunned! I couldn’t imagine why anyone would waste a career’s worth of work into a trash bag. From that day forward business colleagues, fellow professors, and interns I supervise all know if they could benefit from something I created, my file cabinet is always open for them to take anything they want. I once spent a year writing a study guide for a business course. After student reviews, colleagues asked if they could try it. If five other professors are using my guide to help their students, then my work just touched 600 lives in one semester instead of only 100. What purpose does it serve to be territorial if I could reach six times more people in one semester? Compound that over a several years, and my work becomes much more meaningful.
At Kitchen Designs, we put our work out there to share it, to get exposure, to allow others to be inspired by it, to set new trends, and to help people learn from our expertise. Short of proprietary formulas or secret sauces, why hesitate to share your knowledge base openly? We get a rise out of creating a new look in kitchen design and then seeing that style run rampant in the industry. Inevitably, we will publish a design and see it emulated in the magazines two or three publications later. We are flattered (not threatened) knowing our style was a trendsetter. If other companies around the US profited and other people’s lives were enhanced by our ideas, that’s fantastic! It inspires and motivates us to create something else that will stick. Did other designers who put their twist on it get praise for our team’s original ideas? (Probably.) Maybe they infused their own design style with ours and created something even more spectacular than the original. (We are glad to provide the launching point.) Maybe the next designer improves upon the first two designs and does an even better job. (Isn’t this how we progress in an industry? As a society?) When someone emulates our style, it is gratifying, and it is the ultimate compliment!
We once had a client (also a designer) whose dream kitchen sounded remarkably like ours. When we took him to our home, he fell in love with it. He asked if we could design the exact same kitchen for him. We were thrilled to re-create it in his home so he could enjoy it with his family as much as we do with ours. Do we care it looks like ours? (Not at all.) Did we save him endless hours of research and time finding the right parts and pieces? (Absolutely, and how great to have been able to free him up so he could create his wonderful designs for people instead.)
My father was on the front line in the Korean War. Despite my badgering, he would never discuss the purple heart he received. What he told me instead was what he believed it stood for, “Give and you’ll get back tenfold…but don’t expect it.” I keep his purple heart framed on my library desk as a reminder to stay grounded and not get too wrapped up in myself. His “Spirit of Generosity” message is so simple, so productive, and so liberating.
I don’t believe you will lose business by sharing your ideas and expertise openly. Maybe that information gives someone an idea or makes them a little better at what they do. Your clients will still be coming to you. People buy from you because they want YOU, they trust and respect you, they know what kind of reputation you have, and they seek your expertise because you are GREAT at what you do. Why hold back when you have so much to give?
Stepping down from my soapbox… Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our KD page on Facebook.
Posted by Grace Kelly in Kitchen Design, Chat with Us, Musings, | © Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly, Inc, Showroom locations: 26 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park, NY 516-746-3435 - 11 Bridge Street, Sag Harbor, NY 631-808-3116