Buzz About Banko

From Melissa’s Desk: The Secret Sauce to Fast Growth

Banko Design was born in a small house in Kennesaw, GA in 2014. While it was a leap of faith, starting this business was a strategic move. I built a plan, then I built another and another. I knew going in that I didn’t have all the answers, but I was open to learning and I was also open to failing. You learn much more in losses than in victory, and the only true failure in my book is when you don’t TRY. And, of course, we’ve had failures over the years, but they were worth it. We’ve learned more from those than we’ve ever learned in any classroom.

So, with an open mind to learning and failing and with the guidance of capital partners with a lot of business experience, I made a plan, I took the risk, and I think I can say it absolutely paid off.

So, what have we learned along the way? Funny you should ask.

Build Strong Teams

I often hear, “Wow, you’re growing so fast!” but what I hear in my head is, “How can you possibly manage it all?!”

The secret is having a team who is just as passionate about the vision and master plan as you are! My team members are a wonderful blend of talents and personalities, and it has made our team strong and propelled us forward. There is strength in differences when there is a common goal AND a love for your brand! Our WHY drives our commonality.

I had a team member jokingly say to me once, “I am all in. I would follow you off a bridge if you told us it was the best thing to do!” I laughed, but what I heard was, “I see the vision, and I trust you.” It is so important to have team members who trust you but also have the skills to execute your vision.

Invest in Your Team

As a hands-on Owner and Principal, I also take responsibility for the happiness and growth of everyone who works alongside me. Because, news flash, success is not solo!

If you give your team the tools they require, the time off they need to rest, AND you take the time to understand their individual goals, family goals, and their personal struggles, you can better help them build a plan for where they want to go in a balanced way! This helps me as a leader because when I nurture, invest in, and support my staff, they give it right back. It’s the way humans are built – for each other.

Similarly, a company’s culture and tone are set by its leadership but FULLFILLED by all who work there. I knew I wanted a casual work environment where kids were often in and out, where dogs played in the office, where jeans and sneakers were the go-to work attire, and where you saw how raw and hardworking we all are. A place where beers crack open at 5pm and co-workers hang out together outside of work because they WANT to. A place where we build each other up, hop in and help without asking, and a place where people can THRIVE. This is what builds a long-lasting and successful business!

The Art of the Pivot

Yes, when you grow, you will have to pivot FREQUENTLY. We are constantly adapting and adjusting to keep all components of the business steady: the people, finances, projects, deliverables, marketing, PR, business development, mentoring, supporting leadership, accounting, and strategy.

Ever read the book “Who Moved my Cheese” by Dr. Spencer Johnson? It’s a simple read with a great concept of how to adapt to change. Basically, the book says you must anticipate, suggest, and initiate change, and then you must act quickly. Unlike some large firms, once we make a decision, we QUICKLY deploy it. If we hem and haw over change and new policy, we lose valuable efficiency and production. We lose time, and we all know time is money.

It is SO important to recognize and admit when you need to change something, whether it be big or small, for the greater good of the organization. As a group and team, we constantly talk about how to improve our processes. Not all change requires big moves, and if a plan isn’t working, we change the plan but NOT the goal.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!

If you hear nothing more, trust me on this, to be a successful leader, you MUST delegate! The biggest boom in our business came when I was able to LET GO of the nitty-gritty and trust my team to work on my behalf. Once I knew they cared as much as I did, I realized I didn’t have to be involved in EVERY day-to-day detail. Having my team focus on production allowed me the time to be in the places where I could add maximum value.

As team members grow into leadership roles, they can manage more when they have an efficient and solid staff helping them. As projects get added to a lead’s plate, I don’t ask them to work more hours to do it themselves. Instead, I TRUST them to delegate it out appropriately to their team.

Here’s an example: As our staff grows, project leads have more people to manage. So, we sit down each week, map out each member’s weekly responsibilities, and shift staff as needed. We work as a team to cover the tasks because we don’t want our team working overtime! We are responsible for deliverables as a team, and the only way to get it all done is if leads delegate.

Size Doesn’t Matter!

I have worked at firms with hundreds of employees, a firm with fifty employees, and a start-up with only three employees. I have seen how successful companies run, large and small, and I knew I wanted to build a boutique firm that does BIG WORK. We design boutique projects, we offer boutique service and we build boutique relationships, internally and with our clients.

With that goal in mind, I attracted likeminded team members that wanted true work life balance and who saw value in building a company on honesty and connection with clients. Within 7 years, we have grown from a team of 2 to 50+ because of a shared vision, purpose, and goal.

With that, Banko Design will continue to grow! You will see locations all over the U.S. start popping up, but we will stay boutique at each location. And we will continue to invest in team members, regions, and our industry.

How Do You Refill?

Of course, every owner and leader is driven by what we want for our team and company and the desire to make them proud, but how do you refill at the end of the day? I reset with my family, fitness, and my faith. This company is run by a faithful woman with a strong relationship with Christ, and you will see it (and hear it) in the way I lead and give back. I pray often for guidance and direction for the company and for my team.

I fully recognize that as passionate as this group is about our work, we all have lives outside of these doors. We are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, caregivers, dog sitters, athletes, crafters, brides, grooms, grandchildren, grandparents, volunteers, coaches, students, readers, hikers, lake go-ers, travelers. We are all individuals, perfectly and uniquely made, and that’s what makes our staff so special. Curated, blended, a perfect and unique collection of talents and personalities. We celebrate it and leverage it because it makes us better designers, leaders, and co-workers.

So, build a strong team of blended talents who share your vision. Invest in your people, and they will invest in you and your clients. Learn the art of pivoting and changing. Delegate, so you can do the things you’re best at. Recognize that size isn’t everything. And, pray (or don’t), but find what replenishes you, so you can be your best self for your team and your company!

Until next time,

Melissa Banko, Principal | Banko Design

Buzz About Banko

From Melissa’s Desk: What’s Up, 2021?

Hello, 2021. What’s up? It’s good to see you!

It’s safe to say that 2020 was quite a year, and you know what? We didn’t just survive, we THRIVED. We learned, we grew, and we rose to the challenge. We overcame so much to get here and we’re all smarter, wiser and ready to apply what we’ve learned in the past year. Now it’s time to use what we learned to focus on the future and realign our priorities.  

We’ve all heard the saying “time is money,” but it’s finally time to acknowledge that being overworked and exhausted shouldn’t be glorified or praised. In fact, it’s imperative that we prioritize and maintain work-life balance more than ever. We’ve seen professional and personal lives blending before our very eyes, and personally, I love it! It was no secret that we all had lives outside of work, but it’s been brought to light on camera and on calls with kids, dogs, partners and the mail carrier at the door. The backdrops are unfiltered and the yoga pants are on! It’s a refreshing reminder that we’re in business with real HUMANS. We’re all doing our best to run our companies and families and to push projects forward, all while building greater and more authentic business relationships.

The world has been forced to focus on our health and wellness like never before. There’s nothing quite like a pandemic to snap the world into “you better take care of yourself” mode! For years I’ve felt like my life was nonstop from the moment I woke up, but the pandemic has forced me to slow down and listen to my body. I’ve had to refocus on the essentials – eating well, exercising, and sleeping. (The sleeping I still struggle with!)

As everyone heads back to the office, I want to challenge companies to reconsider health benefits and ask ourselves if we’re providing the best we can to set our employees up for success. Consider wellness rewards, in-office health challenges, and encouraging employees to take the time to eat well, walk with a co-worker on their afternoon break, or exercise before or after work. In 2021, let’s take our health back!

As with many other industries, 2020 forced unforeseen changes on us in the design and architectural sector. Because of these changes, we learned more about our weaknesses and strengths as leaders and businesses, giving us clarity on our next steps. We saw resilient companies thrive, strong leadership became apparent, and solid partnerships endured. Now we know, without a doubt, who our ride or die partners are. While last year was difficult for many reasons, for Banko Design, this was a much-needed reset for our priorities, our verticals, and our industry.

In 2020, I learned the value of my opinion as a leader. I’m an individual first and foremost and I should never be silenced – and neither should you. All voices should be heard and respected, even if we don’t agree. Let’s hope that this is the year where we finally listen to each other and respect each other. Love thy neighbor. Period.  

2021 will bring political changes that will have a direct impact on our business. No matter your political leanings, I hope that everyone realizes the importance of empowering and incentivizing small business owners and their clients to grow and thrive so they can, in turn, protect their employees as best they can despite the setbacks brought forth by the pandemic.

The last year has reminded me, humbly, that I am a citizen of God and to no man here on earth. My faith has never been stronger. I’m one of those people who is much more comfortable in the uncomfortable. When we’re comfortable, we’re not growing. I never want to stop rising, learning or improving myself, my company, or my family. I thank God for that reminder.

My contribution to 2021 will be to honor every day with gratitude. This is a very exciting time! All verticals in our industry have much to recover from but all have unbounded potential. I challenge my fellow designers and industry partners to put 2020 behind you, make time for your family and your health, and be bold in taking advantage of the new opportunities before you.

I, for one, cannot wait to crush 2021. Who’s with me?

Melissa Banko, Principal | Banko Design

Buzz About Banko

From Competitors to Co-Workers: Banko Goes Midwest

Ask any developer or operator who has partnered with our Marietta, Georgia team in the past six years and they’ll agree that Banko Design is no stranger to thinking outside of the box.

Our Interior Design and FF&E procurement firm quickly gained a reputation in the senior living and multifamily industries by designing timeless, functional and elevated communities that a person of ANY age and taste would love to call home. We took this same thoughtful approach when we strategically added boutique hospitality and vacation ownership markets to our portfolio.

It’s this culture of creative thinking and saying “hell yes!” to good ideas that pushed Banko Design to the next major chapter in our history – the successful expansion of our firm to a new city during the height of a global pandemic.

Last month, we announced that Banko Design would be expanding into the Midwest. We’ve added 10 amazing women to our roster who will run our satellite studio in Minneapolis, MN under the Banko Design name. These talented designers and procurement agents all hail from former Henrik & Co., the highly respected interior design and full-service FF&E procurement division of Minneapolis-based Henricksen Furniture, established in 1962.

But what’s the story behind how this expansion came to fruition? Surely this decision wasn’t made overnight? The story behind our growth is one of shared values, positivity, and the conviction that everyone in the design industry wins when we combine forces!

It all started when Amy Bursey, an industry veteran and General Manager of former Henrik & Co., cold emailed Melissa asking to compare notes. Not only was Amy also a leader of an elite design studio, she too is the proud mom of a son on the spectrum. Amy and Melissa were both building studios like they operate their family units – with great partners and nurturing members who work together to help the group grow with love and respect. The similarities between Amy and Melissa didn’t stop there.

Amy Bursey (left) and Melissa Banko (right).

During their first phone call, the two chatted about the day-to-day of keeping their studios running during the pandemic, their shared adamance about the importance of doing right by their team (which in turn keeps clients happy), and their commitment to challenging the status quo in both senior living and multifamily design.

Both groups treat every project “resimercially,” by considering the comfort and livability of a residential space for the end user while ensuring every specification meets rigorous commercial standards. All projects have their own unique narrative. Never once has either team just cranked out a generic design to satisfy a deadline.

Like Melissa, Amy’s core group of designers and staff has been with her for years, which is unique in an industry that typically sees a lot of turnover. We believe this loyalty is a testament to empowering your staff and ensuring they have all the resources they need to grow professionally.

“Our connection was instant,” said Melissa. “I didn’t think we could click so well – we were competitors after all. But in speaking with her, I saw in her the same drive and passion I feel about my team and my personal life.”

Amy added, “I got off the phone and thought, ‘Wow! That exchange went better than I could have even anticipated. This woman gets me. She understands the struggles I’m facing and what I’m trying to accomplish at our studio and at home.’”

The next steps were clear to Melissa as she wrapped up the first call. Boldly, she asked Amy’s thoughts about combining forces.

Many more late-night phone conversations later, the duo ironed out the details. The talk track was simple.

“This partnership is a win for the design industry,” stated Melissa. “You now have two well-known firms that were formerly competitors comparing best practices, streamlining processes, and ultimately taking interior design and procurement to the next level in an underserved industry. It’s such a great story – ‘from competitors to co-workers, leading the charge in reshaping the design industry.’”

She continued, “Bringing on the [former] Henrik & Co. team presented a strategic opportunity for Banko Design to expand our reach geographically. More importantly, we’re excited about the ability to play in markets we previously overlooked, most notably Skilled Nursing or “SNF,” in the senior living space. Henrik & Co. had some really great SNF work in their portfolio so now when we tell new clients that we provide great design at any budget, we can say that with absolute confidence.”

Amy added, “This partnership started as just a crazy hypothetical but the more we compared notes the more we realized this undertaking, though ambitious, made complete sense. I am ecstatic about the blending of our groups for a few reasons – our Minneapolis studio will be able to chase projects that we didn’t previously have capacity for and will have access to the premier design technology Banko Design utilizes on all projects.”

“We have thought through all the small details to ensure this transition is as seamless as possible for our team members and our clients,” Amy continued. “Our clients will benefit immensely from this move. We couldn’t be happier about the future of Banko Design and the opportunity this presents for the senior living industry especially.”

Minnesota is a renowned healthcare hub and our team is thrilled to be able to call it our second home. This origin story is just the beginning and we can’t wait to see how this entire chapter plays out.

Want to stay up to date on all things Banko Design and Banko Design Midwest? Follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram for a behind the scenes look inside our studios and a peek at our current projects.