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DBA Blog

Welcome to our blog pages. The issues covered are drawn from conversations with creative agencies, clients and those businesses and advisors that serve them. The aim is to stimulate debate and useful ideas around better relationships, outcomes and returns for design businesses.

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Entry 68 - 13.01.17


Another year over and what have we done?

This time of year is seen as a time for new beginnings. New Years resolutions are already starting to get tested, but have you spent enough time really reflecting on 2016 to make the right changes for 2017? Read more

Entry 67 - 18.11.16

Skilling up for business growth
What happens when you align staff development to your long-term growth strategy? DBA member Uniform did just that three years ago and have since doubled in size. Read more

Entry 66 - 26.10.16


Playback to fast-forward: the value of knowledge sharing for your team 

There’s no denying the value of developing your team, but learning shouldn’t stop when someone leaves the training venue. The DBA's Hannah Paterson explores ways to embed learning into practice to maximise your training investment. Read more 



Entry 65 - 24.08.16

When is it right to write?
I recently received a tweet (from a professional writer) commenting on a DBA course helping agencies develop and write content marketing. The writer’s argument will be familiar to many a designer – “leave it to the professionals” – a phrase many DBA members will level at their own clients when it comes to design.

However, most agencies cannot afford to employ a full time writer, so this got me thinking – when is it right to write? Read more

Entry 64 - 20.07.16

Deep breath, then move forwards
There has been a lot written on Brexit so I was tempted to avoid the subject for this month’s blog, but it is too big an issue to ignore, so here goes...

Within the DBA membership a large majority were in favour of remaining in the EU, and in the creative industries as a whole the proportion of “remainers” was even higher. But the cards have been dealt and regardless of which side of the fence you sat, we all now have to look to the positives going forward. Fixating on the result itself will reduce the ability of the UK to negotiate the best possible result for the country. So what to do now? Read more

Entry 63 - 15.06.16

Future exits
Even if you have no intention of exiting your business anytime soon, have you thought about its future beyond your involvement? Could it operate without you? The DBA's Adam Fennelow explores succession planning, and why starting early is key. Read more

Entry 62 - 03.05.16

How well do you know your design agency?
Can your business ever truly be a success if you don’t understand your own personal needs and desires in relation to it? How, as a business owner, can you make work work for you on a personal level? The DBA's Services Director, Adam Fennelow, caught up with Jack O'Hern from Wright Vigar to find out. Read more

Entry 61 - 15.03.16

Seven dimensions of pitching
When pitching is discussed in open forums, the definition of pitching is rarely if ever considered. What do people mean when they talk about pitching or the pitch process?

There are several different types of interactions between a client and an agency that could be described as a pitch. For an agency, developing a better awareness around what can be meant by pitching could lead to more choice for them and a better overall outcome. Read more


Entry 60 - 23.02.16

Where does design business confidence come from?
I’ve recently had conversations with two design business owners who revealed where their confidence comes from and I wanted to share the interesting findings. The consensus suggested confidence is a result of action - doing something, and not waiting around for it to strike. People can create their resolution to act and are in control of it. Read more

Entry 59 - 02.02.16

The magic and logic of successful networking
Using networking to grow your business is about combining logic and magic. I spoke with Adam Smith, Managing Director of Buzzword Creative to uncover the blend of science and art that he and his team use; an approach that has led to the growth of their business. It turns out to be an efficient combination that gives them plenty to do when they’re not actively engaged with their clients that puts them in a good place to be engaged at a later date. Read more

Entry 58 - 12.01.16

Nurture your network and manage the merry-go-round.
How many of your clients came back to work this year with the intention of moving jobs? If Marketing Week’s Salary Survey 2015 is anything to go by, it could be almost 40%.

You can’t control your client’s decision to move jobs. But you can manage your behaviour around the situation of a client move, and take action to maximise your chances of benefiting from the changes. So what can you do? Read more


Entry 57 - 01.12.15

The power of feeling listened to.
Last month I wrote an article about a business that wanted to move from one place to a different place. It was about how they decided what to do and why they needed others to provide the stepping-stones for them to move forward.

This week I was thinking about the foundation of those stepping-stones: how they talked to each other, worked out how to move along and in what direction. The foundation in other words, being ‘conversation’.

With this in mind, I wanted to look at two fundamental aspects of conversations: questions and listening. Read more


Entry 56 - 10.11.15

Sometimes you can't make it on your own.
How many times, as a design business owner have you discussed how you should re-do your website? Or rejuvenate your brand? Or how changes are required? But then in the same breath said “But client work comes first.”

I’ve heard this a number of times in my conversations with agency owners and what strikes me as interesting is this. Read more


Entry 55 - 19.10.15

Take to the stage - Part 2: How to make speaking pay off.
If I told you that with a little hard work and application, you could create a speaking strategy that would start 80% of your new business conversations, would I have your attention?

If you’re still reading, then settle in, because this is the story of Portland Design. Read more


Entry 54 - 29.09.15

Take of the stage - Part 1: Why speaker engagements develop better relationships.
I spend a lot of time listening to creative business leaders talk about their challenges and there are two comments I hear most often. "There are fewer briefs out there" and "we tend to get work by word of mouth or referral."

Do these ring true for your business? And if they do, do you see them as a problem or an opportunity? In reality they could be either, but it’s down to your approach.

Read more


Entry 53 - 08.09.15

The dance of the elephants: better ways to start conversations with clients
When is the best time for agencies and clients not working together to be talking? The answer could well be when there is no pitch or project in the offing.

So why might the pitch not provide the best structure for a conversation between agency and client? What can the agency do that would work better? Read more


Entry 52 - 14.08.15

Are Creative Directors natural born sales people?
Do Creative Directors have the potential to be the best sales people in a design business? And if so, why?

John Scarrott spoke with two DBA members about why they believe Creative Directors are the right people to drive new business for an agency and how to put this into action. Read more

Entry 51 - 27.07.15

Creating a fresh buzz
Once upon a time, there was a design agency and a client. They decided to work together. There was optimism and excitement on both sides. The agency and client set to work managing the constraints of a tight budget. The project came to fruition and together they compiled the evidence to enter a prestigious design competition. They went for it, and they won an award for their work. The agency was thrilled. The client was pleased. It was a great start to the relationship.

Time passes and slowly, the lights started to go down on the relationship. Read more

Entry 50 - 07.07.15

A playbook for creating belonging at your business. Part 4 - Putting your values to work.
This is the final piece in a four part series about how to create a sense of belonging at your creative business. We’ve been focussing on the journey of Bow & Arrow, seen through the eyes of Natasha Chetiyawardarna, Ben Slater and their team of 34.

This last installment is about what you do with your values once you’ve developed them, and how they can be the engine that drives your success. Read more

Entry 49 - 15.06.15

A playbook for creating belonging at your business. Part 3 - Uncovering your values.
This is the penultimate in a four part series about how a sense of belonging is achieved at a creative business. It’s about how Bow & Arrow Partners, Natasha Chetiyawardarna and Ben Slater, together with their team of 34, developed clear ideas about their values and why they matter. It’s about the difference that this makes to them and how you can create this point of difference at your business. Read more

Entry 48 - 22.05.15

A playbook for creating belonging at your business. Part 2 - Get your set up right.
Back in March, DBA Membership Director, John Scarrott, spoke with Natasha Chetiyawardarna, Creative Partner at Bow & Arrow, about the strong sense of belonging that bonds her team together, where that comes from and how it is sustained. This follow up article is the second in a four part blog series that will break down the story of the business that Natasha and her business partner, Ben Slater, and their team, have created. It’s an inspiring journey, and a useful road map for creative business owners who are just starting out, as well as those that want to change direction. Read more


Entry 47 - 24.03.15

The ingredients of a successful client-agency relationship: #1 Trust  

The success of a design project depends largely on the quality of the designer-client relationship, but what are the criteria for such relationships and how might designers and clients cultivate these qualities in their relationships to positive effect?
At the Design Effectiveness Awards last month, I caught a glimpse of the trust that exists between Ian Thompson, head of Thompson Brand Partners, and Victoria Robertshaw, joint owner of Keelham Farm Shop, who together collected a Gold Award. Read more


Entry 46 - 02.03.15

The inner game of creating belonging in your business
In the first of a series of articles, the DBA’s John Scarrott looks at what is required to build the inner game playbook for your business, creating the ‘belonging’ necessary for high performing teams.

If life is a series of moments, strung together by time and meaning, it’s a fact that a good proportion of those moments will happen at work. So what does being ‘at work’ mean to your people? Do they see it as a transaction where they appear at a certain time, sell their individual labour and then at a later time, disappear again? Or does it mean more to them than that? Do they ‘belong’ to something bigger, a team endeavour that is striving to achieve something together? Perhaps they have days when they feel it’s more one than the other, and vice versa. Read more

Entry 45 - 09.02.15

Are you suffering from Start-upitis?
What were your first priorities when setting up your business? My guess is that they centred around getting some potential clients interested in you, commencing working with them and ultimately putting some money in the bank account.

That was then. Where are you now several years down the line? Are these still your priorities and are they crowding out other things? If so, you might be suffering from Start-upitis. Start-upitis is a debilitating and somewhat addictive state that, if maintained, slows the progress of your design business and prevents you from reaching your full potential. You can still function but it’s a slow, hard trudge towards a destination unknown and obscured by fog. Read More

Entry 44 - 21.01.15

How to make ‘well-being’ a KPI in 2015.
January can be a tough month for creative leaders and their teams. Christmas is a dot in the rear view mirror, the mornings are dark, days are short and although it’s a new year, many of the challenges of working in the design industry seem anything but. To quote Daniel Pink, in his book ‘To Sell is Human’, ‘buoyancy’ (not Beyonce as I almost read it) is what’s required in heaps to sustain the momentum of creative businesses in the face of the many and varied bumps in the road they face. Read more

Entry 43 - 25.11.14

Reframe the pitch game
Saying no to a free pitch doesn’t mean walking away from a chance to win work. You can say no to a free pitch and still compete for the project. What’s more, by doing so you save yourself the money, time and heartache caused by doing the work to win the work. Does this sound like a better way to work than your current approach? If so, what follows will be of interest to you. It’s an example of how one design business changed the pitch process. Importantly, it did not require the client to change their process, in fact it barely caused a ripple. It worked for them, why wouldn’t it work for you? Read more

Entry 42 - 25.11.14

What’s the most important competency for an MD or CEO of a design agency?
An effective leader needs an awareness of all corners of the business and the competencies that create top performance. But does spending time on any single competency deliver proportionately more to a business when compared with any other or an even focus across all? Read more

Entry 41 - 31.10.14

What are the pros, cons and challenges of introducing flexibility into your work-place culture?

I spoke with Vicky Bullen, CEO of Coley Porter Bell who told me about the changes that will be taking place in their working environment, why these changes have come about and what they might mean for the future workplace created for their people and business. Read more

Entry 40 - 30.10.14
The secret of success for design business owners
Has the following happened to you?
You’ve been running your design business for a while and its all ok, pottering along. You take a holiday and while sipping a beer you discuss with your partner, the shape of your lives and the business you’re running and actually a revelation emerges. You realise that you’re not happy with pottering along. You describe the vision of your future business, something truly successful and return to the studio determined to make it happen.
You get back to the UK and it’s Monday morning. What do you do first? Read more

Entry 39 - 16.10.14

Growing pains
As an agency targeting a continual growth pattern for the next three years, how is this best achieved? By slow and steady organic growth or rapid and risky acquisition strategy? What works, what doesn't? I spoke to Simon Barbato, CEO of Mr B & Friends. They launched in 2006 and now have 25 staff based in Bath.

We began by looking at why growth is desirable. Why do you need to grow? Why have you got your foot down on the gas? Here are Simon’s three growth drivers and the rationale behind them. Read more

Entry 38 - 03.10.14

Behind the scenes at the Apprentice. Why one design business said, “I’m Out” to Lord Sugar.
As a follow up to a recent article that looked at the role of business reality shows in shaping the perception of design, I was curious to know what really goes on behind the scenes of the show. After all, we only see the final edited version. I did some digging and found an agency that has been involved with the Apprentice for the first seven series. Their principal shared with me his experience of being involved with the show. Read more

Entry 37 - 01.10.2014

The truth about who causes free pitching
I have proof that designers can be their own worst enemy; that those who undertake free pitching create the expectation of just that. And unless they stop doing it, it won’t stop.

This is of course good news: killing off speculative creative is in the hands of agencies, not clients. All they have to do is stop agreeing to do it, offering to do it or talking about it. And replace it with something else.

Ah, but I hear you cry, where is my proof? Here follows a real life example of a client-agency interaction on email. Read more

Entry 36 - 17.09.2014

“Are we equipping our senior people to manage, lead and inspire?”

This was a great question posed recently by Dorothy Mackenzie, Chairman of Dragon Rouge, London. I asked Dorothy why this was an important issue for her and what Dragon Rouge have been doing to address this.


For Dorothy, there are a number of reasons why this is such an important issue. Read more

Entry 35 - 17.09.2014

I’m a Designer Get Me out of the Apprentice Now! The unreal world of design in business reality TV
I have a confession to make. I quite like reality TV shows. I’m drawn towards them like a moth to a flame and some, like the new show “Tumble”, which features celebrities doing forward rolls are so extreme you can almost picture the concept meeting that created it. “It’ll be like ‘Dancing on Ice’ but with Nadia Comaneci. And the guys that did the DOI theme music are available”.

Read more

Entry 34 - 01.09.14

As advertising agencies move into territory traditionally occupied by design agencies, how should the design industry respond?
In conversation with some of the CEOs of DBA member businesses recently I asked them what business issues they would like to discuss. Raising the value of design; a unified yet distinctive approach to design; and the very real competitive threat from non-brand specialist agencies going for brand work all surfaced as hot topics.


I spoke with Dave Brown, Head of FMCG at The Brand Union who shared his perspective on the competitive reality facing brand specialists. Read more

Entry 33 - 01.09.14

How to secure a paid credentials meeting
How pleased would you be to see the following email in your Inbox?


Email from client to agency

“Many thanks for your email and your explanation of credential pitches as the most suitable approach for all parties to submitting proposals. We fully understand your comments, and as such would like to invite you to submit a credentials pitch based on the format outlined in the Design Business Association article you shared with us (‘the 5 Cs’). Read more

Entry 32 - 06.08.14

The outsider

Just as designers can bring a fresh perspective to businesses, so non-designers can bring some fresh business ideas to agencies, such as strategic links to higher education which add value to clients.


Jerry Hall, Managing Director of design and brand agency DECIDE. is one such person. Jerry heads up this business with 42 staff based in Newcastle and London. Twenty years ago, he found his way into The Design Group, (as they were then known and a 40 year old design business) when he was asked to advise on a management buyout.  He put the buyout deal together and they asked him if he wanted to join the business. Twenty years later, he’s steered them through a tough economy and overseen a repositioning and rebrand. This is the story of how they survived beyond 2008 seen through the eyes of a non-designer. Read more

Entry 31 - 22.07.14

Be the change
In recent times design businesses have been faced with a stark choice: adapt or die. One area of the creative sector where this has been acutely felt is in digital design. These businesses are routinely required to lead change as opposed to simply respond to it.


I met up with James Downes, a Director of Pancentric, a digital design business of 60 people based around the corner from Shakespeare’s Globe on the banks of the Thames, and he shared his thoughts on what factors influence the landscape for digital design businesses and how Pancentric manage these. Read more

Entry 30 - 27.06.14

Creating your future
What does it take to keep a mature, international design agency relevant and successful? And how do you respond when your route to future success is challenged?


I spoke with Michael Sheridan of Sheridan and Co to find out. He set up the business 31 years ago with his wife Julien. They now employ 80 staff in London, New York and Shanghai studios. Like many businesses, they had their best ever year in 2007, then in 2008 hit ‘the wall’. It’s been tough work for the last 5 years but they’re seeing the results with growth now on par with pre-recession levels both in UK and US markets. Read more

Entry 29 - 10.06.14

Evolving visions
I recently had a conversation with the owner of a 10-person design business based outside of London. We talked about the vision they set for the business when it started in 1998, what is changing for them and how they’re managing the change. They kindly gave us permission to share the conversation. Read more

Entry 28 - 19.05.14
The time travelling designer

The creative leaders we speak to are often at the point where they want to change something about their business.


This point may come along 5 years or 15 years into the life of their business. I wondered what they might say to their younger, more carefree selves - mentoring by time travel if you like. So we asked Tina Keeble at Valiant Design, and this is what she came up with: Read more

Entry 27 - 9.05.14
Kick free pitching resources


We support design businesses and clients that want to, or are in the process of, turning away from a free creative pitch process for commissioning design.

We know it’s a critical issue for you. That’s why we’ve gathered together in one place a range of tools to help you more confidently approach the issue of free pitching next time you’re in a conversation around being engaged by a client. Read more

Entry 26 - 29.04.14
Ditch the free pitch and make the gaps between projects more profitable for your business.


How do you move away from free pitching? One way is to recognize when the opportunity might arise and then replace it with something that will be more fulfilling, to your spirit and to your bank balance. I spoke to Tina Keeble Managing Director of Valiant Design and a newly joined member of the DBA. Tina has grown her business without undertaking free pitching.


I asked Tina about the circumstances when a free pitch might be tempting and how Valiant resists the impulse to do it. Read more


Entry 25 - 25.04.14
Design at any price?


I recently spoke with a DBA member about his business.  When he started off in 2006 he charged £30 per hour. He struggled for a long time. Now he charges £110 per hour. He works with large international businesses. How did he manage that leap and what can other design businesses take from his experience? Read more

Entry 24 - 22.04.14
Why I won't create any work for you yet


How do you kick free pitching and what do you replace it with? James Gilbert of design agency Studio Contents has a suggestion.


James’s approach is very much led by his experiences as a Creative Director at his first agency, where he was involved in some free pitches.  Having experienced a run of bad results from this approach James was keen to avoid this way of winning work when setting up his own business.


James explained a recent pitch scenario. It started with an enquiry, (in this case a referral from a satisfied client) from a company he was interested in working with. The project was very appealing. Read more

Entry 23 - 08.04.14

Free: it's never a magic number


We recently spoke with Michael Greenland of Greenland Studio, who shared the following true story. The names (and a few of the details) have been changed to spare some blushes:

“Our Head of Sales called us and told us about a new peice of business that was on the way. The brief was ‘We’re Acme Co INC - and we’re looking for an agency to help us market ourselves more effectively’.
Read more

Entry 22 - 03.04.14

How to win work on your own terms


How you go about winning work is a central part of your identity as a design business. It affects the way you work when you’ve secured a project and shapes your sense of self worth. Given this and the proportion of your time spent trying to win work, the way you go about this process matters. Read more

Entry 21 - 13.03.14

30 days for clients and agencies to kick the free pitching habit

We recently brought you two stories, one of a design agency's decision to decline free pitch contests, and one of a client who refuses to request them. Both successfully managed to steer away from free pitching, to the benefit of their businesses.    

Did their stories make you think? Did they make you want to change your approach? Are you keen to do less speculative pitch work, drop it altogether? If you are, then we're right behind you and can help you navigate the common barriers to change, whether you're an agency or client. Read more

Entry 20 - 25.02.14
The power of yes

We recently told the story of Exesios a design agency and how they respond to requests for speculative creative. We thought it would be interesting to get a client's perspective and asked Tom Foulkes, Marketing Director of Peter Brett Associates about how he buys design expertise. Tom has an equally compelling argument against the value of speculative creative work. Here's the advice he'd give to other clients. Read more


Entry 19 - 03.02.14
The power of no

Blair Enns spoke for the DBA recently about the ‘power of no’. Blair is the founder of Win Without Pitching and works with creative agencies that choose not to part with their thinking for free. Blair believes that saying no to requests for free creative and explaining how you work, puts power and control into your hands as an agency. When you win a piece of work it’s because you’ve decided that the relationship is balanced, you’re selling your expertise for it’s true value and on terms that will work for you and your client.


Nice in theory you might say. Turns out it’s nice in practice too. Read more

Entry 18 - 16.01.14
Bowie, The Shard, Gaucho - all in a days work for Become....

Taking the team out of the office can be a great way to get outside the business and lay plans for the future. I spoke with Sue Pilgrim, Managing Director of Become, a recruitment consultancy with offices in London, Manchester, Sydney and Melbourne (with Hong Kong due in the first half of 2014) and asked her about how and why they run their team strategy days. Read more

Entry 17 - 09.12.13
Bean bags, breakout rooms and baristas have all come and gone. What is important to creative businesses about their place of work today?

IC Design has been going for 15 years and has 6 full time staff. They last moved offices 3 years ago. Their MD, Alex Haddon describes their studio space, why it is much more than just a place to come to each day and why she believes culturally it’s good to move offices regularly. Read more

Entry 16 - 13.11.13
Your Russian client gifts you a 3ft chocolate rabbit as a thank-you. What do you do?

When McDonald’s opened in Moscow in 1990, a reported 30,000 people came through the doors on the first day and more queued for hours for weeks after. Back then the Russian appetite for McDonald’s was one example of the kudos associated with Western things and this is something which still rings true today. Read more

Entry 15 - 01.11.13
Turning Points

Webb deVlam is a leading brand strategy and design agency with offices in London, Chicago and Singapore. They’ve grown from 12 to over 30 staff in the London office in 3 years. What underpins this change and what did they do and learn along the way? I met with Tim Perry, Managing Partner to find out.

I asked him about the key moments for the business in the past 3 years and how they contributed to where they are now. Read more.

Entry 14 - 24.09.13

Knowledge for design businesses

How do you learn to run a design business? One way would be by doing it. Is that what you did? Perhaps you worked at one, maybe two other agencies and then thought, ‘I want to do things differently’. You observed what you could in your current place and then you decided to take the plunge and set up your own business. For many this is quite an exciting process. You’re building something from scratch and it’s yours. Read more

Entry 13 - 18.09.13

Commerce and the mystery of creativity
To many commercial businesses, creativity is a bit of a mystery. Something they don’t necessarily know much about and often don’t see the need to solve. But your ability to help them unravel the mystery, to help them understand what creativity means for their business, will be key to giving them the confidence to invest in design and in your expertise. Read more

Entry 12 - 04.09.13

The paradox of commercial creativity
Did you realise that your business is a bit of a riddle? A riddle, that needs to be managed. And it’s how well you’re able to manage it that determines in large part your success.

The riddle. Within every creative business there exists a fundamental paradox. This is the challenge of marrying the inherently contradictory elements of creativity and business. This applies as much to the inner workings of a creative business as it does to its client relationships.
Read more

Entry 11 - 07.08.13

New markets - Brazil
Brazil is the country of the moment, with the Olympics and World Cup providing the spotlight. Significant increases in cultural exchange are taking place and companies are heading out to Brazil to discover what makes the country tick. And, coming the other way are Brazilian businesses and agencies looking to share and learn with Europe.

Marco Loschiavo of Casa Rex introduced me to his Principal, Gustavo Piqueira. Gustavo heads up the agency with offices in London and Sao Paulo and shared with me his ideas on agency and client life in Brazil. Read more

Entry 10 - 03.07.13

How not to drop your price and win the work

Dropping your price to win work can lead to a choice between either reducing the quality of your work or reducing your profit. Either way someone loses out. The problem is that clients are under pressure to cut their costs which can lead them to make choices and requests that under normal economic conditions they would not make. So what can you do to raise your chances of winning work at the price you propose. Read more

Entry 09 - 21.05.13

Risky business
If one of your clients were to come to you tomorrow at the end of a project and ask, “Can we have all of the materials related to the work?”  What would your answer be?

If you’re asking “Who owns it? What are they going to do with it? Why have I got it? Was I obliged to store it? What is involved in retrieving and supplying it? Should I be charging for this?” and coming up short on answers, maybe it’s time to think about your position on these issues. Read more

Entry 08 - 21.05.13

We are family
Family businesses can be fantastically rewarding to work for, offering a compelling combination of heritage and passion on which to apply your creative thinking. But, what about entering a relationship with a family business? Is it the same as for other businesses or are there unique nuances to be aware of? I asked Leo Turner of Downey and Co, a family printing business established in 1903 and one of the DBA’s Supporters to share his perspective. Read more

Entry 07 - 26.04.13

Economic down-turn.. take that!

Some great things have come out of Stoke-On-Trent. For foodies there’s the oat-cake.  Or for pop fans Robbie Williams. I recently discovered another success story to add to the list; design business Exesios and how they turned their business around in the face of tough economic conditions.

I talked to Exesios’s Director Paul Bremmer to see what other design business owners could draw from his dramatic turn-around. Read more

Entry 06 - 08.04.13

Are lawyers different by design?
Lawyers are generally perceived to be trusted, qualified experts with a bank of knowledge to draw on. What do they do to create and maintain that impression? Is there anything that designers could apply to their client relationships? I called Chris Shipley of Downs, recent recruits to the DBA’s Experts Register, to find out. Here’s what we talked about. Read more

Entry 05 - 28.03.13

Look who’s talking...Why listening matters and how to do it better.
I was chatting with two Directors of a creative agency recently where they talked me through what they described as ‘an incredibly difficult pitch meeting.’

Here’s what happened. They’d made the final three and were asked back to present their creative ideas. They decided that wasn’t what they were going to do. They wanted to win the business and they wanted to win it in the right way for them and for the client. They knew this would lead to a better outcome, but it wasn’t what the client was expecting. Read more

Entry 04 - 14.03.13

The Humble Sausage
I met David Rogers of Pure last week. Over a coffee and a sandwich he told me the following story.

Five years ago David decided to leave the agency he’d helped to establish. He wanted to start over, to launch a creative business that was independent, quirky and creative as well as profitable. In thinking this through, something else struck him.

Clients were coming to him when much of the thinking had been done to fulfill the brief in terms of artwork etc but what interested him was ‘What happens before I get the call? What happens out of sight of me? How can I have an influence on that?’

He found a whole interesting world. So interesting in fact that he decided to launch a brand of his own. Read more

Entry 03 - 28.02.13

‘We could really do with £50k....’
I was chatting to one of our ‘Experts’ at the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards when he recounted the following story to me. I’ll tell it from the expert’s perspective.

“One of my clients, a small design agency of 5 people, was asked to quote on a piece of work. They’d not worked for this client before. They took the time to carefully cost the project, based on their normal charge out rates, and the time and level of commitment required - 2 days work in itself. The price came to £100k.

At this point the agency experienced what I would describe as a ‘slight degree of nervousness.’ It seemed like a big number to them; a lot of money. It was. In fact as a project it would be one of the biggest projects they had undertaken. But, they took a deep breath and sent the proposal off. Read more

Entry 02 - 24.01.13

Creativity inspires, collective values reassure.
I was speaking with a design buyer for a blue chip business recently. They were looking for advice on what to pay a shortlist of prospective agencies to produce some creative as part of their selection process.

I asked about how they had found their way to us. This is what they had to say. Read more.

Entry 01 - 29.11.12

How taking a walk in your client’s shoes can shape your brand.
The number of design businesses I speak to who are in the process of revamping their websites is stunning. It makes me think about what happens when an agency becomes their own client, the questions that they ask themselves and how they get answered.

An important factor is how you get in sync with the hearts and minds of your clients without losing your identity. Maybe this is one of the trickiest questions to answer. It’s often the stuff that doesn’t get discussed, because doing the work takes priority. But this information is like gold dust to an agency looking to transform themselves.

I recently caught up with Ralph Ardill who specialises in transformational change. He's got some great advice on how to take a walk in your clients' shoes.

Click here to read Ralph's advice.

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