Garuda Design

Suzanne Garuda, Managing Director, Garuda Design

“MAP is not a magic wand which can transform a business and its management overnight, but it is an excellent evaluation tool which can help businesses take stock of where they are and how small changes can make big impacts.”

Sector Interior Design
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland but with global clientele
Status: Completed MAP programme 2009

The Organisation

Garuda Design is a unique interior design service that has evolved over 20 years to meet the needs of a varied clientele. Suzanne Garuda is the owner and creative director of the business which opened its first creative design studio and retail store on Belfast’s Ormeau Road in 2003.

Specialising in bespoke interior design services and drawing from prestigious international experience including contracts with the Sultan of Brunei, designing state rooms at the Kremlin and the extension at the K Club Hotel to house competitors for the Ryder Cup, Suzanne’s artistic experience is second to none.

The Challenge

Although an accomplished designer, artist and business woman, when it came to the future growth of the Business Suzanne felt that she needed some additional support. Suzanne explains, “For years I travelled the world building my experience and clientele and the business grew around me, almost as a side effect. As demand grew for my work I reacted by growth in staff, systems and sub-contractors but the framework and ethos of the business hadn’t developed at the same pace. I had been submersed in the project for over 20 years but never really considered its framework or formalised a clear plan for the future. With the launch of my Belfast design house 7 years ago, more than ever I saw the need to take stock of my business and develop a plan.

Suzanne GarudaI have always had a lot of drive and vision and therefore I was able to integrate into new markets, develop a superb client base and build professional relationships. However when it came to forward planning and direction I had always relied on market demand, which was always there." The turning point for Garuda Design came when Suzanne realised the company had reached saturation point. She identified the need for her growth as a leader, as well as a need for the strategic awareness that perhaps the business had lacked to date.

The Strategy

As very much the lynchpin of the business and working in a hands-on capacity, finding the time to step back and evaluate the business was the first step of the process. “I knew that to move forward I had to almost take a step backwards and take stock. I had considered investing in an outside consultancy, so when I was made aware of the Department for Employment and Learning’s (DEL) Management Analysis and Planning (MAP) programme, it seemed to tick a lot of the boxes I was looking for – and had the benefit of funding.” The MAP programme works by providing companies, like Garuda, with an experienced business adviser, who will objectively audit the company’s operations and then recommend tools to help the business meet its objectives. A comprehensive training plan will also be provided to assist each company. This will be delivered by DEL in conjunction with its business advisers and training partners.“Having an objective observer evaluate your business can be a difficult but enlightening process. My business is a highly personal and complex one, so, of course there would be limitations to how much our mentor would understand the business; however I was impressed by relevant advice and insights that he brought. There is common ground in the make-up of most SMEs, which I had never considered.”

The plan outlined a structured framework that provided for management training, a tightening of human resources and an improved approach to buying and outsourcing. Suzanne says “As a business we had to approach this exercise with an open mind and almost re-train. It is a normal human response at first to resist change especially if the evaluation and changes mean extra work and a change of routine. However within a short time we settled in to the process and immediately began to see a structure forming.”

The Results

For Garuda Design the biggest advantage of participating in the MAP programme has been gaining the perspective of on objective observer. “I have always believed it is good to listen to the opinions of others, however it is how you use this advice ‘day to day’ which counts. MAP is not a magic wand which can transform a business and its management overnight, but it is excellent evaluation tool which can help businesses take stock of where they are, where they have come from and where they want to be, and how small changes can make big impacts.” Since stepping back to evaluate the business Suzanne has opened herself up to a wider range of opportunities including appearing on a television design show. She hopes to engage in ongoing management and leadership training in the future, both for the business and personally. “I now feel more aware of the strategy and direction of the company, and how I can work within a team to get there. Garuda Design has more confidence and clarity since coming through the programme, we are more in control of our own destiny, and I would highly recommend other SMEs to consider getting involved.”

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Made Not Born - Developing Northern Irelands Leaders and Managers