Generate Design Workshop, Brisbane

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate in the Generate Design workshop in Brisbane. Generate Design is a series of workshops open to designers and business owners organised by Creative Partnerships in conjunction with Creative Industries Innovation Centre (CIIC) and the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA)

Attendees were primarily solo designers and small-medium size design business owners looking for ways to innovate or grow their business.

The initiative is a two stage process culminating in the award of a grant to help participants with their businesses. Yesterday's first stage workshop covered a range of topics rarely discussed in the graphic design context including marketing your business, generating sales, identifying IP opportunities, business building strategies and financial pitfalls. 

The day was facilitating by business advisors David Sharpe (@sharped) and Tony Shannon (@_tonyshannon). The pair did a stellar job of challenging us to think strategically about our businesses, something many creatives often neglect–to their peril–in favour our focussing on the creative side of what they do.

As a business owner I know it is all too easy to get comfortable. For me, this was a timely injection of critical thinking that demonstrated the importance of regularly evaluating where my business is, and where I want it to be.

The day covered a great deal and we were encouraged to take from it what we found to be relevant–I found it all highly relevant. Here are some 'takes homes' that stood out for me:

  1. We all love word of mouth referrals right? Be careful, WOM work should be the cream on a sales driven cake - great to have but don't rely on it. Generating business should be underpinned with a solid sales system that you have control over. WOM is largely out of your control.
  2. When talking to a potential prospect, take the time to gain an understanding of their problems and earn their trust–then discuss cost. By demonstrating your value, and winning them over early, pricing becomes less important when sealing the deal.
  3. Keys to sales success: Be organised and have a sales system in place, know your value proposition, understand the clients needs, sell the benefits–not the attributes–of why a customer should use your services. Finally, follow up leads. 
  4. Know what your profit margins are going to be on each job. Have a process in place that allows you to effectively measure this. Review how a finished job stacked up against your quote and review your quoting if you need to.
  5. My biggest take home - dedicate more time and energy working ON my business rather that IN my business. Something I guess many of us know we should be doing but that often gets relegated below client work. 

I have been waiting a long time for an event like this. As a solo designer (and previous studio owner) I have often found myself 'winging it' when it comes to running a business with little in the way of a strategy. This has woken me up.

As a industry we are quick to point out to our clients that they need a strategic direction but often neglect to apply the same thinking to our own businesses. Granted, it is always a challenge to find the time and resources to do so when you are trying to keep up with client demands but we have to for the long-term benefit of our businesses and the industry as a the whole.

There are some great resources on the reading list section of the CIIC website.

Bulgarr Ngaru Strategic Report

Bulgarr Ngaru Strategic Report

SLRC Annual Report

SLRC Annual Report