Updated: Mar 22
Ashley Jimenez talks about her business, overcoming professional obstacles and why she started working with a business coach.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Ashley Jimenez. I am the residential building designer and principal at Ashley J Design. I have been in the home building design industry for 14 years, 12 of which have been with Ashley J Design. My website is ashleyjdesign.com and you can also find my profile on Houzz, a lot of my reviews are there, and that’s where I keep my portfolio updated.
When did you launch your business and what was your motivation to start your company?
I created my company in the 2008/2009 recession. I learned how to start with almost nothing. As a service-based business, it’s really about my time, my talent and my expertise. I started my business with only 2-3 years of experience in this industry. My husband Joaquin is also an entrepreneur, always willing to take risks, and really encouraged me to start my business. It was his confidence in me that gave me the push to succeed.
In the downturn of 2008, the design company I was working for laid everybody off. It was really an answered prayer. Our first-born was just an infant, and I really didn’t want to go back to work. By launching my own business, there was a way I could keep making money and be home with my child. Little did I know, 12 years later, I would be back home with my child, working during a pandemic! He’s 12 now.
The motivation for my company, in reality, was to feed my family. It was a challenging time, but also a time that really got me to prioritize what was important to me and what I was going to put my energy into. When the crap hits the fan, you have to take inventory and figure out what you’re going to do next. My husband and I made it a priority that family is first. We wanted to be able to work from home and to have the ability to create our own schedules. We needed to be able to do whatever our kids needed, i.e., soccer games, plays at school, doctor’s appointments, vacations (which weren’t a potential back then based on finances). All these years later, we’ve really been able make vacations a reality.
Tell us about working with your Business Performance Coach, James Pagano. What was the primary reason that brought you together?
Before I started working with James, I was so overwhelmed. I was a young mom with a son under 5 who still needed a lot of hands-on time. The market picked back up in 2012/2013 and I became a lot busier than I had been, and I was taking on a lot of projects. Many of these projects were on the smaller scale, but I wanted the work.
My work life balance was out of whack, and I was running myself into the ground. I didn’t know how to say No, in my business life and my personal life. I needed to value my work.
Then I met James through another business owner. My husband, Joaquin, saw the potential and was the first to say “Okay, we need to make this connection. Maybe this is who Ashley needs to get things back to a place of balance.”
One of the first things James taught me was to know my worth and to stop saying YES to everything that came my way. He helped encourage me to raise my prices because I am worth more than this. He said it can be better, and then it was.
What benefits and value did you experience early on and what do you continue to experience when working with a business coach?
I think early on and all throughout our relationship, it was James' listening ear that allowed me to speak and be heard. It really showed that James cares and to me that is the Number 1 reason we still work together.
I learned so much in the beginning of our sessions and conversations. The value was in the little bits of education he taught me. One early take-away was so motivational – the illustration of boiling water - "it only takes one degree more to go from still water to boiling water." James asked me, "What is that one degree for you?"
James helped lead me through a lot of self-discovery in the beginning. As I said before, learning when to be able to say no to allow for the big YES. Understanding my true value and what my time is really worth (not only to me but to my clients as well).
I think women are raised to be a bit more people-pleasing. I still want to bring joy to people’s lives and help them to be happy when I’m working with them. At the same time, I have learned to set boundaries so that they can be happy AND I can be happy. I don’t want to give my happiness or joy away. We just have to verbalize what our boundaries are. That truly has come through my work with James, along with also age and experience…and learning who I am. I think that has been the biggest challenge in my business and personal life overall. I think the ability to say No to any misaligned opportunities and other things was a game-changer for me.
Now, the value is in the continual engagement of our sessions. I’m so busy yet I have to think about my business overall and not just daily tasks. Big picture thinking…I really need that right now because I am too involved in the daily tasks again.
I often think of James as my “business therapist.” But seriously, it is always refreshing to be able to verbalize what it is that’s in my way or bothering me at any given moment. Sometimes I don’t even know until we sit down where our conversation will take us, but once we engage and James is asking me questions…it’s like, “Oh wait, that’s it…that’s why!”
James continues to guide me in terms of strategy, tactics and setting goals. We would discuss ways to improve communication with clients, and how to leverage my marketing dollars. These components I use over and over again.
Who are your clients and what are the primary reasons they choose to work with you?
Whether that be through a large-scale renovation or new construction, my clients are looking to improve where they live and call home. It’s really not just about the investment on improving on a property but is more about this idea of creating their “dream home.” Who hasn’t thought about the castle they want to live in one day? And what that might look like to them in their mind? My job is I get to help clients make their dream a reality.
My job is fun and I love the process. I get to use all my artistic abilities, drawing, creativity and design. There’s also a science to it, as far as knowing how a building is built. Then there is a financial piece to it, understanding what the budget is and what material costs are and how we can create something that meets their budget, needs and dreams.
Clients choose to work with me because we connect on a level where they feel like I am hearing them. I share with my clients that I want to "crawl inside your head and find out what’s important to you.” That’s really how I feel. I don’t just want to draw a house that I think is beautiful. I want to draw a house that means something to them and will allow them to connect as a family in their new home.
I’m sure clients partly choose me because of my experience and what they see in my portfolio of homes, but at the end of the day, I really feel like my clients and I have a pretty special connection.
What do you see for yourself and the future of your business?
Well, when I sit down recently and look at my goals, I love where I’m at! I get to work from home, which I love… I love how efficient my operations are, how simple the system is. I just like that ease of work.
Being creative, I have to have a lot of that free space. I need room to move, literally - figuratively - mentally.
Not having a lot of weight, like the responsibility of employees and big overhead, is huge for me especially in my creativity and enjoyment in life. In the future, I see more of this.
Although I would love to retire at 50, I also find it challenging to say that I would ever want to stop doing this. I think I want to do it forever.
Do you have any advice for other professionals who may be considering hiring a business coach like James?
My advice is DO IT. As you could imagine, in our 12 years in business, there’s been some waves… some ups and downs… of energy levels and in business. Right now, it’s a very good time, we are growing, and it has been the highest hill we’ve been on in terms of business volume and activity.
I think people may look at business coaching thinking, “Perfect! They are going to solve all of my problems.” But it’s not like that. It’s more about asking the right questions, and knowing that YOU have to do the work. If you think about it, this is really where it needs to come from anyway. If I do the work, then I know - Yes, if I do this action, it will actually benefit me, my company and my clients. Whereas I feel like if someone were to come in and say, “You need to change this and this and this…” It feels like you’re being told what to do. I tend to buck that. So that’s my advice… Don’t expect them to give you all the answers. The answers are really inside of you. Your coach will help you discover them.
I want to say THANK YOU, James. You are so special and I want to work with you for another 6 years.