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Greg Quinn is the CEO and Principal of X-Design Inc., a highly regarded interior design firm in Canada. As a founding principal of the company, he has overseen the successful execution of more than 3,000 projects for clients across the globe, delivering innovative and effective solutions that meet their specific requirements and expectations. Greg possesses a strong background in strategic planning, design development, interior design, and project management, with over 29 years of experience in firm leadership. He has also served as the President of The Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario.


tune in

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [02:48] Greg Quinn talks about X-Design Inc.
  • [03:42] Career paths in architecture and interior design
  • [06:24] How X-Design Inc.’s services have evolved 
  • [08:11] Greg shares how they navigated the .com era and the 2008 recession as a business 
  • [12:47] How the pandemic impacted X-Design Inc. and the overall business world
  • [15:43] How X-Design Inc. acquires clients 
  • [20:48] Greg explains how they navigated the business through challenges with transparency and teamwork
  • [26:52] The future of the workplace post-pandemic
  • [35:05] X-Design Inc.’s process designing a flexible workspace for a company with examples
  • [44:34] Growth strategy, mistakes, and lessons learned from acquisitions

In this episode…

Designing commercial spaces is a multifaceted task that people should not take lightly. It is a complex process requiring a deep understanding of the company’s work, culture, and the overall objectives of the space. Fortunately, some experts specialize in designing commercial spaces for businesses, companies, and organizations.

According to Greg Quinn, a seasoned architect and interior designer, these professionals possess the knowledge and skills to create functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces that meet a company’s unique needs. Commercial interior design and project management firms have the necessary expertise to conduct research and design spaces that meet your specific needs, enhance productivity, and promote growth. He shares his experience in growing X-Design Inc., navigating through the .com era, the 2008 recession, and the pandemic.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz is joined by Greg Quinn, CEO and Principal of X-Design Inc., to discuss how he’s grown his commercial interior design firm through various economic cycles. Greg talks about X-Design Inc., its process of designing a flexible workspace for a company, and its growth strategy through acquisition.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments: 

  • “To successfully deal with clients or vendors, you need to be egoless.”
  • “The future is flexible.”
  • “When you start introducing flexibility into people’s lives, you’re giving something pretty powerful, giving time back in a work day in terms of commuting and interacting.”
  • “Mergers and acquisitions normally do not go well.”
  • “Build a community of other practitioners and business people that are either exactly in your space or adjacent.”

Sponsor for this episode

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We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPOEOLending TreeFreshdesk, and many more.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs leaders today is no different. I’ve got Greg Quinn of X-Design, you could find an And Greg, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast. So my favorites I actually did with Adi Klevit, she runs an agency where she helps businesses create SOPs. It’s the non-sexy thing that makes things work. So we geeked out on our favorite tech stack. how she thinks about operations and SOPs. That’s a good one. Also, another one Kevin Hourigan of Spiniutech. He’s been in the agency world, Greg since 1995. I know you’ve been doing this for almost three decades now. Over that at this point, but he talked about the evolution, evolution of his agency, what it was like the evolution of services throughout, even bust and everything else. So that was a very interesting episode with Kevin Hourigan. So check that out. And more and This episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. And how do we do that? We actually do that by helping you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast we do the accountability, the strategy, and the full execution. Greg, we call ourselves the magic elves at work in the background and make it look easy for the company and the hosts so they could just create great content and develop amazing relationships. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. I’ve found no better way over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, you can go to to learn more, and I’m excited to introduce today’s guest, Greg Quinn. He’s designed spaces for some of the world’s best-known companies and brands. He’s led his Toronto-based studio for over 29 years. And over the last 7, X-Design has been one of the fastest-growing interior design firms in Canada. They work with companies like AT&T Disney Cruise Line Nine West courtyard group, and I can go on and on and on. You could check them out at And Greg, thanks for joining me.

Greg Quinn 2:41 

Super happy to be here. This is very exciting.

Jeremy Weisz 2:43 

So just tell people a little bit about X-Design and what you do.

Greg Quinn 2:48 

Sure, we’re a commercial interior design and project management firm. So we focus on designing commercial spaces, mostly for businesses, companies, organizations, about 80% of our business is in corporate workplaces. So we’re really focused on offices. We do have divisions, though that specialize in health care, long-term care and senior living. So that’s another niche that we have a little squad that works on those things as well. We also do some retail and hospitality, which we find all of those things are, bleed into the corporate world these days in that those spaces for years for the past decade, have really been starting to bring in those features and amenities that so much of the hospitality and frankly, even sometimes living spaces need to have to support people that are working.

Jeremy Weisz 3:39 

How did you get into this?

Greg Quinn 3:42 

That’s a really great question. I graduated in ‘94. And there wasn’t any work.

Jeremy Weisz 3:47 

What did you think you were gonna do at that time? Because, not everyone’s like it, especially in the agency world, like, I want to be whatever, when I grow up, what did you think? Or what were you looking at doing before you got into this?

Greg Quinn 4:01 

Well, I studied architecture with architectural science and a major in project management. So I knew I was going to be in the built environment somewhere. But being in your young 20s, your frontal lobe isn’t fully formed yet. So, I would say that there was very, very little direction and a little bit, maybe too much serendipity, if I look back at it, but when we graduated in ‘94, we’re graduating into a recession that was pretty brutal, particularly for the built environment here in Toronto, where we’re based. And so there wasn’t much work to be said it had so much hanging up a shingle, within a few months of graduating to just do something and the original scope of work that we put out was to do 3D modeling and rendering. So computer rendering for architectural projects was fairly new at the time. Some of us had a bit of a skill set because we’d learned that at school, drafting for other firms as well as doing project management. And so we’d like to joke that we kind of built our design firm backwards, because we kind of started with all the back office stuff. And then within a few years we graduated into well, having trying to have our own relationships with clients, because we didn’t want to be the third party in the background forever and ever, because we needed more control over how some of the projects were being run. So that we just naturally grew into the firm that we are today. But there was a point where I just kind of woke up one morning and realize, “oh, crap, we actually are an interior design firm.” So then I became an interior designer and went through the process of taking my architectural background and formalizing the registration and all that sort of thing to become an interior designer. So, I always kind of joke that the original business plan got thrown out the window within weeks, and we just kind of have been not winging it ever since, we do some pretty good strategic planning. But it’s interesting where life takes you as you move along.

Jeremy Weisz 6:01 

I mean, as you take projects, you learn, and you see what the market is asking for, too. And you evolve. So walk me through the evolution of the services. So first, you’re doing 3D modeling, and project management and drafting. Are you working in that point for architecture firms, like you’re kind of like, outsourced?

Greg Quinn 6:24 

Yeah, other architecture firms and interior design firms. So and it’s interesting, because that is in our DNA now, we had to learn how to be very collaborative, very egoless, because we’re working on someone else’s IP effectively, and making them functional and shine. So, if that kind of got bred into how we approach projects, where we’re dealing with clients, or vendors, or you know, the ecosystem, around our projects, that ego lessened to focus has really, really kind of become part of it. And so that really started, we were working in those markets. And that’s exactly what happened, the clients just started to kind of say, hey, we like what you’re doing there, can you do that directly for us over here, and it’s was really about keeping our ears and eyes open for where those opportunities really were, and how were we going to be able to grow and get services and get kind of revenue? I mean, there’s obviously, like, starting in ‘94, we started in a recession, and we also live through the, you know,, you know, kind of boom, bust as well. And 2008. So, going through all of those different things and, and enabled us to really understand how to keep our eyes open for new opportunities and, and really watch out for stuff that might be coming. Who could imagine.

Jeremy Weisz 7:55 

You bring up a good point, because you saw, you saw 2008, with the real estate, and then the pandemic, how are those different, or the same of how it affected your business.

Greg Quinn 8:11 

I think each one, interestingly, like the first couple, like,, and even the 2008, there were, are really reduction in work, I can’t necessarily directly attributed to that, like those crises, were actually the icing on the cake. We were at the time of kind of focused on, it’s a slightly different niche that really wasn’t much of a market, but it seemed like it was pretty sexy. What was the niche at the time? Well, it was really taking trying to take design, it was the beginning of design thinking and design strategy thinking where corporations were really starting to get interested in the actual process, and logic behind how designers, architects look at the world and being able to kind of break down problems beyond just the built environment, but also within business. So, we were getting into some opportunities where a bank would ask us to say, what’s the future of banking, and there’s a built environment component, but there’s also an operational component that includes technology and people and unions, all kind of other factors that are going to factor into how do you change the operation of a bank. And those things are very, but you can kind of build them around the concept of, well, what does this look like physically, but then we can talk about all the other operational stuff in there, and it lets people envision these futures a little easier. So there’s kind of a futuristic strategic planning piece. But as there’s very little of that necessarily out there where and it’s a very competitive market, that companies sometimes like listen, I don’t need to necessarily create a new vision 100% I just need some modifications to what’s going on today, and it’s also generally a lack I find of strategic thinking in most organizations where they’re people are really focused on what’s happening this quarter is happening next quarter, how are we kind of getting these companies continuing to just roll? You know, they have very little time to kind of take a step back and really understand things. And I think, you know, the, you know, the question of what’s common between those three things is, I’ve always been fascinated by the lack of imagination in business of what possibly could go wrong, right, there’s a lot of optimism, and human beings are really, our brains really work on optimism, and that’s a good thing in a lot of ways. But when you’re overly optimistic about how that economy was really working, and how far away from fundamentals that was getting 2008 Very similar, where people are, like, oh, this can just continue to go up, in the 2008, to 2010 timeline, we were, we were working in the Middle East, we had an office in Abu Dhabi, as well as Toronto, and they were, like this heightened bubble of just the entrepreneurial frenzy, where you could buy a building and flip it on the way to your car, you know, for 20%. And it was just like this, just this, you know, kind of craziness, but because we were coming in, in and out of it over, you traveling in, you got to see the bubble from the outside, and you kind of realize, it’s like guys, this doesn’t necessarily go on forever. This is like this pops. And, and I think with a pandemic, that’s also one of these things where people were just so shocked as to what could actually happen and what the implications would mean. And I mean to the planet’s credit, I mean, people adapted pretty quickly, which is, kind of one of the big, you know, kind of interesting findings, I think that we have this great experiment of what the heck does society do when you’ve got to shut down?

Jeremy Weisz 12:10 

What was your niche, or what were you focused on at the time of 2008?

Greg Quinn 12:15 

We were doing a corporate workplace, but we also had multi-unit residential projects going on. So we had a large condo development in Cochin in India. We had a couple of other commercial projects that were kind of bubbling around in Chennai, as well in India, and then in multiple commercial office and development projects going on in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Jeremy Weisz 12:41 

And what about the pandemic, before the pandemic hit? What were you focusing on?

Greg Quinn 12:47 

Pandemic against a mostly workplace but we, really after 2010 we retrenched back to Canada and said listen, like I call the our Middle Eastern experiment my Middle Eastern MBA that was kind of it cost $100,000. And it was very exciting and very interesting. But really retrenching, in Canada, we’ve been retrenched. We bought five firms over seven years to diversify some of our client bases to build some larger account work where we’re managing larger accounts across Canada for companies like Citibank, in Scotiabank, and those sorts of things. So it enabled, we were working through a lot of those kinds of very corporate type projects, as well as some, still a lot of tech work, we were working on Instacart achievers was another big Toronto tech company that we were in the middle of doing a 300 person office for at the beginning of COVID. The Disney’s crew line project was a big one that we started, just as COVID was breaking out where it’s a practice facility for musicals here in the city that we built the original facility and we’re expanding and doubling the size of it. So a lot of those things were like the relatively large projects, and then some smaller office things as well. But they were all pretty much hit pretty hard, like things kind of come to came to a grinding halt.

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