NFIB Maryland Member Spotlight: Phyllis Hartman, Hartman Design Group

Date: February 15, 2017

Phyllis Hartman, president of Hartman Design Group in Rockville, Maryland, started her company in 1987. At that point, she had 12 years of experience, many loyal clients, and a vision to own and operate her own interior design firm.

“Other than a love of design and an independent spirit, what inspired me was a desire to fully service my clients in a way that brought them outstanding results for their design projects,” she says.

When Hartman launched her business, her clients consisted of high-end residential, corporate, law firm, and multifamily developers, giving her a chance to learn much about multiple practice areas. Over the years, HDG transitioned to an interior architecture firm specializing in design for multifamily properties, but the experience of working on commercial interior design projects taught her and her staff the importance of function, ergonomics, and durability, as well as how to create interiors that perform but also evoke feelings of intimacy, warmth, and comfort.

Today, HDG employs close to 30 employees after years of gradual organic growth, but when it began, it was just Hartman and one assistant working in her home. She remembers those days fondly: “What fun we had in those days of little overhead,” she said. “We worked so hard to build the business and laughed a lot. … Having the good fortune to work with so many inspired people, including my staff, clients, suppliers, and multiple disciplines, makes every day exciting and different. It is what gets me out of bed at 5 a.m. each morning and keeps me going into the night.”

Of course, like any business, it has its challenges. Hartman says her most memorable ones had to do with learning survival techniques during the recession as well as learning how to run a business in the first place.

“I studied art and design and had about two business courses in my life,” she said. “When I started my business, a client told me to hire a great attorney and accountant. That was good advice. I continue to learn much from them.”

In fact, Hartman says recognizing how much she doesn’t know and how much she has to learn from others is the most significant lesson she’s learned over the years.

Hartman says she loves owning her own business, but is concerned about the ever-increasing costs of doing business.

“We have all heard that small business drives the U.S. economy, though I have not found that small business gets the support that it needs and deserves from our federal or state government,” she said. “Small businesses pay an inordinate amount of tax and frequently cannot take advantage of the loopholes available to large corporations. Taking care of our employees by offering health insurance, family leave, and the many benefits that they deserve and expect becomes more challenging every year. I love Maryland and find it a very pleasant place to live and work, though the taxes and insurance costs are quite high.” 

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