Having found the experience ‘transformational’, Andy Gray, MD of StudioLR booked himself and a colleague onto the DBA's mentoring scheme again last year.
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The DBA Twenty/Twenty programme has helped me learn fast from someone who really understands the design industry.
This is my second time on the programme. The first time I worked with Andrew Eyles (CEO / Co-Founder of Bluemarlin). It was transformative and helped me understand how to move StudioLR from a design studio to a design business (which just so happens to be called a studio).
This time round I’ve been fortunate to be paired with Myles Pinfold (Founder and MD of WPA Pinfold). Myles has been sharing with me his experiences of how he built a successful design business. Having Myles as a sounding board has boosted my confidence to make changes (and in some cases the confidence not to), which keep me focused on moving forward.
We also asked our Design Director, Dave King to join the programme. Dave is developing himself to take the step up to Creative Director and is working with a London based CD. He tells us the confidence he’s gaining is invaluable and he’ll soon have all the tools in his kit to make that step.
Be prepared … for blood, sweat and tears because a good mentor will challenge you. It’s not easy, but that’s what gets results.
The bottom line. Yes, financially we’ve had our best years since we started the programme, but the real value is in how we approach our business now. There’s a confidence and understanding in who we are and where we’re heading.
If you’re thinking about it, get your head up from the day-to-day and go for it.
DBA Twenty/Twenty pairs rising industry leaders with established design pioneers for a 12-month one-to-one mentoring relationship. Applications for the 2018 programme are open until 15 November 2017. Why not think about what you need right now, or what you can give and find out more and apply.
Image credit: Francesco Gallarotti | Unsplash
“What’s really special about Heineken, is that design innovation is in the DNA of the company.”
“For a beer brand that never changes its recipe, since over a century that’s always been the same, then design, designing the brand, innovating around the brand, creating the experience around it is of huge importance to keep it engaging and interesting and develop added value.”
“I think creative people will lead the concepts of the future, they will develop the propositions of the future, so I think more and more companies will see the value [of design].”
“Design thinking on its own is not enough. We call it the rule of three: Design thinking, design doing and design culture.”
“A rise in the number of clients in the last few years, asking us ‘please can you help us set up a design outfit?’”
“I’ve had numerous conversations with CIOs and CMOs, who are saying ‘I don’t actually understand where design should sit in the organisation. Who owns design?… all terribly important questions.”
“If it isn’t attached to the mother ship, it isn’t going to succeed.”
“If you’re going to embed a design culture in an organisation, you actually need to get the hearts and minds of the back office people as well.”
“Design thinking is really about a number of things – at its core I think its about putting the end user at the centre of a process for thinking about how to make sense of things.”
“If design is embedded early on, I think you’re going to end up with a better consumer experience in retail and at home.”
“Design culture is everybody working together to get to the best result.”
Why did you decide to get involved in the Twenty/Twenty mentoring programme?
My specific business challenge was improving business development. In a more general sense, I also wanted to benefit from the knowledge and experience of someone who’s already gone through what I’ve gone through – who could help me navigate tricky or unknown situations.
How would you sum up the experience?
Brilliant – so glad I signed up. I didn’t just get great advice and insights that helped me to improve key areas of the business, but also the ability to confide in someone who I trusted and who knew my business, but was outside of it – meaning they could offer advice from a rational and unbiased perspective. It also ‘forces’ you to work on the things that are important but not necessarily urgent – because you don’t want to to turn up to a meeting and say ‘sorry I haven’t done my homework’!
What impact have you seen on your business?
Improved sales, improved customer retention, help and advice on people/team issues.
What, if anything, has surprised you about the programme?
How good value for money it is. The fact this is a volunteering position for your mentor also means they’re not in it for any other reason other than they genuinely want to help.
What would you say to someone who was undecided as to whether they should get involved with Twenty/Twenty?
Do it. It will get you working on all the things you know you should be working on, but you keep pushing off due to lack of time, knowledge or confidence. It’s also exceptionally good value. What have you got to lose?
DBA Twenty/Twenty pairs rising industry leaders with established design pioneers for a 12-month one-to-one mentoring relationship. Applications for the 2018 programme are now open. Why not think about what you need right now, or what you can give and find out more and apply here.
In my design career I am most proud of… watching students in my classes transform into designers, and designers who worked on my teams transform into the design thought leaders of today.
My time at Disney taught me… the power of story-telling and character motivation. It applies to everything from Mickey Mouse to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It also taught me the importance of relevance. Keeping iconic characters and brands top of mind while maintaining their legacies is a really hard task for designers. You could easily go down the path of a trend and alter a story that has taken decades to build. Sometimes that is a great thing, sometimes it can destroy an icon.
When making the leap from hands-on designer, to design leadership I wish I’d known…to not try to jump in to solve problems for the people I hired to do the hands-on work. I found myself in conflict with some amazing creative talent. When I started to look at the work through the lens of “it’s not good work” vs. “it’s not good work because I didn’t do it,” my relationships, and the work, got infinitely stronger.
Being a fearless creative is… believing in your convictions without being too stubborn, proud or precious to accept that great creative ideas can come from anyone. Being fearless is also having the courage to fight as hard to ensure work you don’t believe in never makes it to your consumer.
A brand’s heritage should… inspire innovation by looking to the past and leave a legacy for those that will come after.
I’m inspired by… music, theatre and running. All take me to places in my head where I find my best ideas.
I wish I’d designed… The Printing Press.
I’d tell my younger self… chill out and enjoy what you’re doing right now.
I’m most looking forward to… the day we no longer have to prove the strategic value of Design. It’s just Design.
The Hershey Company is a member of the DBA. Ron will be speaking at the DBA’s Design: driving transformation in business event on 12 October in London. Find out more and reserve your place.
Image credit: © John Cassidy | The Headshot Guy®
The results of the DBA survey for DCMS demonstrate, that when it comes to immigration policies, design businesses are less concerned about accessing cheaper talent, or specific skills shortages in the UK – their priority is the ability to continue to compete effectively in the global marketplace, which requires access to a culturally diverse workforce of world-class talent at all levels of experience. Ever increasing numbers of international clients are commissioning UK design agencies, and a key factor is their understanding of the complexities and cultural nuances of those businesses’ marketplaces; an understanding which ensures the delivery of high quality creative and commercial results.
Kinneir Dufort’s characteristics of respect, pioneering openness and curiosity are rooted in multi-culturalism. Over half of our work originates outside of the UK, with a greater proportion targeting international markets. Techniques such as ethnography and contextual analysis kick off our understanding of the opportunities for tomorrow’s products and experiences but our diverse team of 12 nationalities are the cornerstone to unlocking successful delivery and growth in that international arena.
This isn’t about skill sets, this is about imperative credibility and diversity. Two years ago we were celebrating our global reach through our Queen’s Award for Export, now we are reassuring our international team on their value, whilst not yet understanding the raft of implications to follow.
British design is not only world leading, but is also central to the economy, helping to drive innovation and improve productivity. The design economy alone contributes 7.2 percent to the total UK economy and currently employs more than 1.5million people. Design impacts all sectors of the economy and touches every aspect of our lives through the products and services we use.
For the future prosperity of the UK and on going growth of the design industry, the DBA is focused on securing support and recognition for the sector in the government’s long-term plans so that design is rightly seen as a major contributor to the British economy in its own right, as well as a driver for growth in terms of both commercialising innovation and manufacturing.
Says DBA CEO Deborah Dawton, “UK design has earned a formidable global reputation, built on the depth and quality of talent and expertise found across the sector, which – as the DBA survey for the DCMS clearly shows – benefits from being a culturally diverse workforce. An immigration system that considers the country’s business needs, and encourages future growth and competitiveness is imperative.”
Read the survey report here.
The survey was completed by 21% of the 440 DBA member agencies. DBA members employ over 6000 staff in total.
There is a possibility that the survey appealed more to those DBA members who employ EU staff because their business is directly impacted by changes to immigration policy and they wanted their voice to be heard. However, the spread of agencies that responded matches the general demographics of the DBA membership as a whole so this is not deemed to be too statistically important.
Image credit: © Serban Bogdan | Dreamstime
There’s also never been a better time for selling the creative ‘big idea’ which is increasingly being demanded by clients as the key to addressing the new challenges and complexities of an always-on, multi-channel, real-time ‘brandscape’. Big ideas that can help unify, simplify and amplify the overall brand experience at a time when the traditional notions of marketing disciplines, channels, and agencies themselves, are being increasingly tested and challenged.
Not surprising then that I’m seeing more and more emphasis, time and effort being spent by agencies on the pursuit and high-stakes pitch of the ‘big idea’ that will matter most and make the most difference to clients.
Unfortunately, on such occasions there’s also likely to be a very big elephant in the room that all too often creative businesses completely fail to notice, respect or address.
And that is RISK.
For creative businesses RISK is the flip-side of the IDEA coin. One where, the bigger the creative idea, the bigger the client risk in buying it.
For decades, the Creative Industries have been wrestling with how best to sell and promote the business value of their ideas, the value of design, to nail their value propositions and then how to pitch these ideas with passion and confidence.
But value, like beauty, is always in the eyes of the beholder and in my experience clients can usually see the wider value in a creative idea – even if the agency presenting it struggles to fully appreciate or articulate it.
And once the dust settles on the ‘concept’ discussion – and usually once the agency has left the room – the client conversation will quickly shift from excitement around the potential of the creative ‘idea’ towards the consequences of the ‘risk’ it presents to the client company…the financial risk, the market risk, the technology risk, the consumer risk, the cultural risk, the capability risk, the political risk, the reputation risk (to the client as individuals and as a business). These will all be very real risks serving as potential fatal barriers or blockers that will need to be carefully evaluated and mitigated before any ‘big idea’ will be given a green-light to fly.
Unfortunately, all too often the RISK side of the IDEA coin is completely neglected or avoided by creative businesses when selling ‘big-ideas’ instead preferring to channel all their creative energy and persuasive powers into the upsides of their big idea – how it will transform the business, sell more products, engage staff and customers alike.
All too often this unbalanced approach to selling big ideas in itself betrays the ambition and intent of the creative business looking to position itself as a client ‘business partner’ and will all be for nothing if the client regards the risk as too great.
The agency upon rejection, then consoling itself in the misguided view that the client simply “didn’t get it” before embarking on yet another expensive and unbalanced one-sided toss of the coin.
The truth is that the average client understands risk far better than they understand creativity.
Because anticipating risk, understanding risk, taking risk, mitigating risk and managing risk – in all its forms – is inherently at the heart of what drives the leadership debate in all client businesses.
Given this, I believe that the creative businesses that will flourish in the future – and those that will have the greatest success in pitching ‘big ideas’ and partnering with clients for mutual benefit and growth – will be those that become as capable and confident in embracing the ‘risk’ side of their ‘idea’ coin.
On the one side setting out ever more compelling creative visions and narratives for what the client’s brand future and brand experience can become…
And on the other having the respect, responsibility and diligence to fully appreciate the risks and consequences implicit in bringing these ideas to life and who can put forward equally compelling proposals for how these risks will be mitigated and overcome.
In short, creative businesses no longer prepared to risk their creative future on the toss of a coin.
Sound like anyone you know?
Image credits: © Anton Skavronskiy | Dreamstime
This year’s DBA Annual Survey Report tells us that the average recovery rate is 78% – so, in essence, most of you are still working for free on a Friday!
But you shouldn’t have to: you can improve your recovery rate if you have the right systems and processes in place, providing you with reliable, real-time information on which to act.
As the project progresses at each stage there can be time or cost over-runs. You need systems that provide an alert before the cost over-run occurs at a predetermined % of the total – say 80%. Projects that are flagged need to be analysed to understand why, and then, if possible, the reasons should be shared with the client – often these are changes in the brief, additional tasks added or many rounds of revisions. If these issues are raised with the client as they occur it may be possible to convince the client to pay for them. All too often, these issues are left until it is too late.
Sometimes projects are made unprofitable by over-servicing and this too should be flagged and prevented.
This can also be described as Capacity Planning. To improve utilisation you have to know the projects in the pipeline, their deadlines and the resource each project requires vs the resource available. With thorough forward planning, projects can be juggled to better match resource and reduce the need for freelancers.
There must be a single source of truth within your business: running an agency requires real-time data to make informed real-time decisions and knowledge is power.
The most successful agencies will use this knowledge and will focus on the now and the future, not the past.
Pegasus provides a specialised marketing services software solution focused on exceeding our clients’ expectations, developing the system with our user base and building long term relationships through innovation and exceptional client support. Our clients include all major international groups, plus a growing number in the UK with notable agencies such as JKR and Droga5 amongst them. Supporting over 130 clients with 6,000+ staff globally in London, New York, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan, we are a private staff-owned company with over 30 years experience focused solely on the advertising and communications industry. All directors are previously agency FDs, all client service and product delivery staff have worked in agencies in senior financial roles. Our in-depth understanding of agencies’ processes is our strength!
“The experience has been more worthwhile than I could’ve imagined.” Stewart Steel, Digital Director, Good Creative
“My mentor was brilliant, and gave so much more than I expected. As a sole owner in the business, I don’t have peers with similar experience so it was brilliant to draw on his wealth of knowledge.” Ian Johnston, Owner, Quinine
“Having a design industry mentor has hugely benefitted my business. We’re more confident and clearly focused on what we want to achieve.” Dan Moscrop, Owner, Them
“Finding someone who is in the same industry but has an objective viewpoint on you and your situation can be invaluable. I don’t think you even need to go into it with a major business ‘issue’ to deal with. The chance to share war stories with someone that’s seen it and done it is worth the time in itself.” Stewart Steel, Digital Director, Good Creative
“My own agency Spring was emerging from a brutal recession into a new normal, and to receive guidance from Jim (Prior, CEO of The Partners and Lambie Nairn) was the equivalent of being taught chess by a Grand Master!” Erika Clegg, Co-Founder, Spring
“I’ve been hugely impressed by the calibre of the mentors on the programme. I thought the DBA would have good people, but didn’t expect many of them to be real industry names I’ve heard of and hold in extremely high regard. My mentor has been a perfect match for me both professionally and personally.” Dan Moscrop, Owner, Them
“I feel so privileged that I am a part of the DBA, and that we have access to it in the UK. My mentor has 30 years experience in the industry, and this just doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. The support the DBA offers is amazing.” Ian Johnston, Owner, Quinine
“You spend so much time thinking about how to please your clients, and not nearly enough time focusing on the business itself. My mentor was able to put everything into perspective – being reflective yet forward focused at the same time. As he had distance, he was able to bring observations and points that I would never have seen.” Ian Johnston, Owner, Quinine
“It was great to have someone spend time completely focused on our business and the challenges we faced.” Andy West, Director, MultiAdaptor
“Mentoring has been a bit of a catalyst. Once you see small things start to change, due to action you’ve taken, you build the confidence to tackle larger issues. These increasingly larger tweaks begin to hugely effect the outcome of your business.” Dan Moscrop, Owner, Them
“It was good to just have someone to really listen to you about your frustrations, or to get a business decision reaffirmed.” Andy West, Director, MultiAdaptor
“Having this programme specifically tailored for the design/creative industry not only benefits agencies of all sizes but also means that clients will see a step change in the quality and effectiveness of work delivered by the more robust agencies.” OwenTurner, MD, United by Design
Having a mentor with a vast wealth of experience, who helps you better understand the opportunities for your business and to tackle your fears in a supportive, exploratory way can help you take firm control of your agency’s future, and deliver transformational results.
The deadline to apply for Twenty/Twenty 2018 is Friday 17 November 2017. Read more and complete your application here.
The Events and Programmes Manager will lead the member programme that encompasses a portfolio of events, professional development and the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards. We are looking for an outstanding individual to lead the process from conception through to delivery, ensuring events are authoritative, engaging and meticulously executed. This is an opportunity to make your mark within a dynamic setting and demonstrate your creative credentials.