As Design Inc celebrates 25 years of creativity, Dan Gilbert and Frank Norman reflect on the eight core business lessons they have learned along the way.
Dan set up Design Inc in 1997. Back then, he was the archetypal one-man band working out of his bedroom, but Dan’s relentless commitment to incorporating great design into every piece of work has proved to be the successful driver behind the company’s growth over the years.
Here’s what 25 years has taught Dan…
1. Success comes in all shapes and sizes We often think of success in terms of financial gain and status – big salary, luxury offices, big house, great holidays. But a company doesn’t need to earn mega bucks for it to be a successful business. Happy staff, loyal clients, successful projects and leaving work at the end of the day with a smile on your face – that is the true measure of success!
2. Face failure with humility We all make mistakes, it’s a simple fact of business life. Mistakes may hurt, they may feel like a knock back, but never be tempted to think that they signal the end of your business dreams. Failure is an excellent opportunity to learn, grow and do things better next time. Own your mistakes, don’t blame others and be receptive to offers of help or advice.
3. Trust your intuition You’ve been in business long enough to understand how things work but you feel that some things could be done differently. Sometimes, keeping the status quo is not good enough, so trust your instincts, follow your intuition and go down a new path. To borrow from Henry Ford: ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got’.
4. Stop chasing instant results The best things in life take time, care and a lot of patience before they yield the results we want. Don’t sweat over time, great things come to those who plan accordingly!
5.Learn to relinquish control ‘If you want something done well, then do it yourself’, so claims the age-old adage. But the more you empower other members of the team, the wider their knowledge and skills. It’s not the end of the world if they make mistakes so long as they learn from it – remember, even the world’s greatest skiers fell down on their first lesson.
6. Get to know your team Whether you’re working in a big company with hundreds of staff or a small company with just a handful of colleagues, getting to really know your team members will pay dividends. Knowing their individual skills, strengths, motivators, interests, passions, weaknesses, fears etc will help you connect on a deeper level and position them for greater professional development.
7. New starters are never ‘green’ There is always something you can learn from a new member of staff. Just because they’re new to your company doesn’t mean they don’t come with a set of impressive skills, processes and knowledge. Learning can come from even the most unexpected sources.
8. Competition is a great thing We all come across other companies that can do the same services as you. Learning more about their services and how they operate will only serve to help recognising your own advantage. Never be frightened of a competitor, but rather use the information to understand your place in a competitive market.
Frank is Design Inc’s client services director. He joined Dan in 2002, having previously worked together at another company. He’s also learnt a few things along the way…
1. Business does not always have to be serious Life is just too short. Having a laugh and having fun has a part to play in creating a good and positive working environment. We achieve our best results when we are happy and enjoying what we do.
2. It’s okay to stress, so long as its in moderation Stress often comes when there is a clear gap between where you are and where you are trying to reach. Stress is a normal reaction and, when used to its advantage, it can help you push towards your goals.
3. It’s okay not to be perfect There is always more one can do, there is often a better way. But the journey itself can often be more rewarding than the destination. Striving for perfection is admirable but it can also lead to disappointment.
4. Chase those goals It’s all very well having a goal but if you don’t do anything about it, it will just lay dormant. If you want something, go for it – put a process in place and set yourself achievable stages/milestones along the way. Having a vision without action is a dream but vision with action can change the world!
5. Be nice It doesn’t cost anything to be nice. To staff, client, suppliers, whoever. Keeping them on your side and showing respect will always pay dividends.
6. Honesty really is the best policy Unfortunate things happen despite the best planning. Perhaps something has gone wrong with an order or a deadline is going to be missed. Be honest about the situation – explain what’s happened and how you are going to resolve the issue. Clients will always appreciate your integrity.
7. Be open to different opinions and ideas Everyone’s different. And sometimes others will have different opinions to you. And that’s okay. There is huge value to be had in being open-minded and receptive to different ideas, processes and goals. It may help you see a better path forward or it may strengthen your confidence in the decision you have made – either way, listening to different opinions is always worthwhile.
8. Keep the focus on profit not revenue In business, profit is king. As such, it is crucial to have a solid pricing policy in place that covers all obvious and not-so-obvious business expenditure. Inevitably there will be times when a project may face a loss but if you keep the focus on profit rather than revenue, the company will always be in a stronger position.