Stray Dog Designs Namesakes

Stray Dog Designs Namesakes

Posted by William Pritchard on

Last month our beautiful and classic Doug Buffet Lamp was featured in Southern Living Magazine. The Doug Buffet Lamp is named for our friend Doug Self, creator of JDouglas, an agency representing the finest lighting and home brands in the country. Doug graciously took the time for an interview with Billy and his answers are engaging and enlightening. We love the Dougs!

Doug, we have been friends for over 20 years, brought together by a mutual love of the same dear friends. Jane and I were attending our first High Point Market and you were a sale rep for Southern Accessories Today, and we went to our mutual friend’s house for a party. I’m sure you thought we were a hot mess, but we could see in you someone who was assured of himself and someone going somewhere. Since that time, you have gone on to create one of the best market showrooms for decorative accessories in the US--in Atlanta and High Point. You have the whos who of manufacturers and they stay with you. You also do not shy from bringing new, rising talent into the fold. What struck me about you twenty years ago and has always stuck, is your professionalism. And as we have become friends I can say you are one of the hardest working, integrity driven people I know. You demand and expect the best from everyone in your organization: your behind the scenes team, your sales team, your manufacturers. You have won numerous awards. This is why you are successful. Also, people love you, and I think that is simply from being genuine.

You grew up in Durant, Mississippi and went to Ole Miss earning a degree in accounting. Now that’s smart. But how does a bean counter become a kingpin of an arm of the fashion world?

Wow, first of all, Billy, I am very humbled by your really kind words and let me assure you that I have never thought of Jane and you as a “hot mess”. I saw in you two way back then and still to this day a couple of really fun, hip (still envious of this!) relaxed, highly energetic and creative people that had found a mutual passion and turned it into your vocation. I have always adored your ability to do things in your own way, almost playfully, and make it a success!  

Now to get to your question, from a very early age I realized that I had strong creative and analytical skills swirling around in my head and I knew in my heart that my life would be defined by finding the right way to use both sides of my brain in my own business. I am the oldest child of three boys and my father would not let me leave the state for college so Ole Miss was the ONLY choice, and proved to be an excellent one. I decided that since their Accounting School was/is one of the Top 10 programs in the country, I would pursue an accounting degree as I knew that it would serve me well once I figured out what my own business looked like and it has, almost every day to be truthful. I love the creative side most of all for sure, but literally never a day goes by that I am not looking at numbers and analyzing what needs to be improved upon. I always know exactly where the business stands financially and keep mental notes on what is coming in and going out, who has paid me and who hasn’t, and on and on. As creative as I like to lean, even when I am running, which I do everyday, I am constantly adding numbers in my head! I cannot turn that off. As well, I am just a detail guy, whether it’s commission rates, the showroom playlist or the angle of an accessory on a bookshelf!  

There have been seismic changes since the days we started of the linear sales world: manufacturer/sales rep/store/end user...and the squeeze is happening in the do you see it playing out for the showrooms and sales reps?

Well, I have said this from the start and it hasn’t wavered over the years but change is the only constant we deal with in this industry. Not only does it come but because of technological advances it comes even faster these days and we have to anticipate it and try to stay ahead of as much of it as we can as well as be flexible enough to pivot and keep moving forward when unexpected change comes and it does and will! In many ways the showrooms are even more important today, though they are not the order writing meccas that they once were but more of a laboratory for ideas. People come to markets to touch and feel what they have already experienced online. Experiences are of utmost importance today so the most successful showrooms, and retailers too for that matter, are way more experiential. You can’t just change paint colors, wall coverings or your playlist and display new products. You have to give people more reasons to take time out of their very busy lives to visit you.  

As for sales reps, known as Brand Ambassadors at JDouglas, I think the fact that at our core people want to be with other people and this is still so relevant to our industry. There was a time when many feared that technology was going to replace the reps that are out there pounding the pavement everyday, but there is most definitely a place for good people to service clients. The model has changed and it’s not all about writing an order but more about keeping the clients current with all the tools they need to pull the order together when and wherever they choose, servicing them and being true partners, even design assistants. I always tell my team that our first responsibility to our clients is to be a Resource, the first person they think of no matter what they need!

Doug with Reps

{Doug with a group of his Brand Ambassadors}

What excites you about the home accessories world today?

I still love the creative process and to see it come to life in so many different ways today really fuels me! Product is my real love and being able to help our brands with ideas that I glean from listening to our clients, reading everything I can get my hands on regarding design and business strategy, exploring social media, and scouring markets in all my travels inspires me every single day! I love working with new brands and exposing them to all facets of the industry. So often creative people are just that, very creative but not that skilled at running a business. I like getting involved with them and helping them figure out how to do what they love and be successful with it!

It is rare that the days feel like “work” as most days I am so grateful to be doing exactly what I love and being energized by it. I am a person who thrives on change and challenge so this industry has plenty to keep me very stimulated, motivated and excited always!  

Because you are close to the ground, I always wonder, where are the young Billy and Jane’s? Where are the young Dougs? Who is coming up behind us?

This is a very interesting question as I will admit there was a time that I wondered if they existed. One precarious thing about what we do is that our industry has historically not had as much brand awareness as I think it does now with the advent of the social media platforms.  These have not only created new opportunities to become involved in the industry, but given a voice to many who might not have ever been able to express their creativity on the scale that these platforms allow and in turn has heightened the awareness of design, product, trend, interior designers, influencers and more. I see this as a way to bring more people into the industry. As well, there are so many “makers” out there who are creating really cool product, much of which has a great story behind it and I think we will see more and more of this. Younger people today are very socially aware and want to leave things better than the way they found them, which I find very encouraging! We bring in college students to work with us during the setup and execution of our markets and it is so gratifying to see the lightbulb go off in their eyes when they realize that this can be a career. So, I believe as stewards of our industry, it is up to us to open the eyes of the young to see what this world of beautiful things is about and inspire and empower them to become involved in it.  

doug and interns

{Doug with some of his interns in his showroom}

Your business would frighten the hell out of me, and I would be very, very terrible at it. I don’t know how you handle all the individual parts and personalities that go into what looks seamless on the outside--you have a showroom with maybe a dozen lines, and each market it looks fabulous. There is a trove of back office folks who make everything on the front look like it came out of the box just wonderful. Then you have all of your salespeople/sales reps, then you have all the manufacturers and their staff. I’m counting close to a couple of hundred people BEFORE your most important component: your customers! How do you keep up with all those ends?

Well first and foremost, I do not do it alone! I have surrounded myself with people that I want to be with and that I trust. My job is to give them all the tools that they need to make a difference, monitor that process and always continue to challenge them so that they realize there is more to achieve, new mountains to conquer! As I said early on, I am a very detailed person so that serves me well and I also am very intuitive. I wake up in the middle of most nights with new ideas, current situations that strike me as needing more attention or just a very long list of “to dos” so I keep pen and pad beside me 24/7 as I never know when I am going to be struck with this intel. God has been very good to me and I do lean on him to guide my every move. I have learned so much over the years and I really feel like at this juncture sharing my knowledge with others and helping others achieve more than they ever imagined possible is what I am to be doing on a daily basis. As I said, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like fun and a calling and I just roll with it everyday knowing that I am not in total control and focusing solely on the things that I can control.  

What do you do to relax?

I have learned that I have to do two things in order to do what I do successfully, rest and relax. I am a night owl and can work until all hours but I am not great early in the morning. Everyone who works with me knows this and is not surprised to wake up to emails from me, but I have to get my sleep so I am not the first one out of bed each day.

I am a runner and enjoy the challenge of half and full marathons, but on a daily basis this is my only real alone time, no technology, no music, nothing, just me and the streets. I also enjoy hiking and am always searching for the next great expedition. You know this next thing about me - college basketball, specifically Duke basketball, is my great escape and there is nowhere I would rather be during the Winter and early Spring than following the Blue Devils. I am a different person when I am at those games, (though I may not always be relaxed!) but I am totally happy and 100% focused on what is going on there, nowhere else. There was a time when I thought I didn’t have time to do this but I quickly realized it was one of the few things I do that really takes me away from my day-to-day. My other great love is Nantucket and I spend as much time there in the Summer and Fall as I possibly can. Honestly all it takes is landing on that island to wipe away any and all stress I have!  Yes, I do work most everyday that I am there but even on the craziest work day, I can still walk out on my deck, breathe in the fresh air and let go of it all. So, hopefully the future involves more time in Durham in the Winter and more time on Nantucket for 6 to 7 months a year. I love my family and friends and anytime I get with them is priceless. I don’t have children of my own but have made a concerted effort to have children in my life that I feel are my own, mostly children of very close friends. Seeing them grow and mature and being able to be a sounding board for them on anything is another life experience that brings me much joy!


Doug Self Runner

 {Doug after finishing the NYC Marathon}

You know, just answering your questions has been such a fun experience and has given me some time to really reflect on where life has taken me. It has been an incredible ride and I look forward to a whole lot more to come! Thanks for having me, my hip and very cool friend!


Thanks for the interview, Doug!

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