A roundup of need-to-knows, industry expertise, and exclusive resources, along with details of the direct support the DBA can provide to your design business.
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Having insurances in place is all about managing risk – both for your own business and your clients. On a simple level we can all understand the benefits of a product such as office contents insurance – especially if we have fallen victim of burglary or disaster such as a fire. Products such as Professional Indemnity insurance, as well as protecting you and your business, are also about reassuring clients. Buying design services can be difficult enough so a client is often looking for every opportunity to mitigate their risk. Knowing an agency is well covered for professional indemnity can help a client make that final leap of trust with a new agency.
Going back to basics, Professional Indemnity, or PI, insurance is there to cover you should you be sued for professional negligence. This could arise by complaint following delivery of a project or a demand for compensation should your client be unhappy with the work undertaken.
PI therefore provides cover for the legal costs and expenses in defending claims for alleged professional negligence, and also the compensation that may be due to your customer if it’s proven that you were at fault for a loss through the provision of inadequate advice, services or designs.
The design industry has unique insurance requirements when it comes to PI, and that’s why we’ve teamed up with Bluefin Professions to develop a product that meets the needs of member businesses.
Although not compulsory for DBA members, it’s highly recommended you have PI insurance in place. This is important for the following reasons:
– Client expectations – There is a growing trend of businesses only employing the services of a professional who carries adequate professional indemnity cover. Clients want to minimise their exposure to risk as much as possible.
– Financial prudence – Professional Indemnity insurance can protect your business against compensation sought by a client for your alleged failure to carry out a service or for your actual or alleged negligence. More importantly, Professional Indemnity insurance provides the legal costs involved in defending such claims.
– Safeguarding your reputation – No one likes to think that they make mistakes but the reality is that we all do. The fallout from a claim being made against you can also be severely damaging to your reputation. In most cases the sooner a claim is dealt with the better the outcome both financially and to your reputation. Professional Indemnity insurance means you can respond quickly to any allegations made against you.
The following claims case studies are real-life examples provided by the DBA’s scheme underwriter, Hiscox. They bring to life how DBA members could be impacted by PI claims when going about their business and, even if there is no fault on their part, shows how having a good insurer in their corner to fight the claim was invaluable during a stressful time.
The Claim: A website designer was sued by a customer who was unhappy with a project.
The resolution: We swiftly confirmed cover and instructed our panel solicitors to defend the insured. We were able to negotiate a settlement of the legal proceedings, with the insured’s client agreeing to drop the lawsuit and accepting terms of confidentiality around the settlement.
The Claim: A creative agency worked with their client on a global marketing campaign to launch its new brand. This included placing adverts in print and on billboards. Shortly after the launch an artist contacted the brand, claiming that the adverts were a copy of his works.
The resolution: Almost as soon as the claimant announced himself, he began legal proceedings in France against the client alleging copyright infringement. The creative agency, due to the contract agreed with their client, owed its customer an indemnity to defend such claims. We immediately instructed specialist local lawyers to defend the claim. The French lawyers advised that the claim was a poor one and could be defended. After almost two years of litigation, the court recently dismissed the claim, finding no fault with anything the agency had done.
The Claim: A graphic design agency created marketing material for one of its clients. The designer obtained the appropriate licences for photographs used in that material. It subsequently received a complaint from an individual claiming they owned intellectual property rights for one of the images used. The agency’s client demanded significant damages to compensate them for the alleged infringement. The agency’s client was understandably concerned about the allegations.
The resolution: We swiftly confirmed cover in respect of the claim and advised the insured on the merits of the claim. The complainant had problems with establishing that they actually owned the rights asserted and, in any event, the amount of damages sought was highly unreasonable. We drafted correspondence for the agency to send to the complainant rebutting the allegations and were able to negotiate a settlement with payment of a nominal sum to dispose of the claim. The agency’s client was reassured and the agency relieved to resolve the issue.
We’ve made it easy for members to arrange PI cover with our partners, Bluefin Professions.
They understand that the insurance needs of DBA members are different and will work with you to negotiate a policy that meets the requirements of your contact.
They have developed an insurance scheme that’s underwritten by Hiscox, one of the UK’s leading insurers, with exclusive premium rates and the following benefits:
• Easy application process.
• Free first excess on Professional Indemnity claims.
• Crisis containment cover extension.
• Business HR facility.
• Ability to bespoke cyber cover as part of Bluefin exclusive office cover.
• Interest free instalment facility.
Plus, clients of Bluefin Professions all receive as standard:
• Free tax and legal advice helpline available to all partners.
• Free counselling, health and medical advice helpline available to all staff.
To get a quote for PI, office or cyber liability insurance:
Call: 0345 894 4684
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 2019 programme are open until Friday 23 November 2018 so why not think about what you need right now, or what you can give. Find out more and apply.
After briefly discussing the pros and cons, Paul and I came to the conclusion that us both taking part concurrently in Twenty/Twenty might be an interesting exercise and hopefully a beneficial one. Having a mentor each at the same time gave us a lot of points of views and avenues to explore, it had the potential to be disruptive, but more often than not it provided interesting points of cross reference, deeper insights and validation.
We wanted to scrutinise ourselves individually and as a business, improve our leadership skills and build a better studio. Our mentors came from very different backgrounds and experience, but ideally matched to Paul and my differing roles. They both were very generous with their time and keen to share their knowledge. Over the course of the year, as the conversations became more involved it was really evident just how invested they’d become in their mentoring role and their desire to see Ape make real progress.
The impact on the business has been profound and significant. We’ve recruited proactively so we had the skills already in place for our projected growth. Operationally we gave everything an overhaul, in particular we introduced some new time management software that completely changed how we quoted and planned projects, which in turn means our reporting is now vastly improved. We also introduced better staff reviewing practices and incentives. Our business planning now has a sharper long and short term focus, that is reviewed more regularly and as a result I believe there is a very visible shift both internally and externally in terms of energy and intent that Ape now projects.
The process helped shine a light on our individual roles and helped us refocus, I like to think I’ve improved my approach and with that comes more confidence and resolve. Part of the process has meant that I’m consciously looking at how and where I invest my efforts best during the day.
The prospect of Twenty/Twenty felt a little daunting, but the reality was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience. You can’t overstate how powerful it can be to have the support and encouragement of a mentor, whatever stage of your career. The lasting impression was just how much invaluable information was shared by my mentor, so willingly and just how much of that we have instilled into our day to day.
We’ve been members of the DBA since the early days of Ape, largely driven by the training and workshops so from that perspective, I’d been aware of the Twenty/Twenty programme since its inception. But putting myself out there for external scrutiny was another thing entirely and a very challenging step.
It was the second year I’d thought about it seriously when we decided to take the plunge and complete the application. By now the business was about nine years old and I had the confidence to know what I was good at and where some of the gaps lay, and crucially, was ok about exploring that.
Ape’s Creative Director and myself as MD, are equal partners in the business. We share similar ambitions but different skill sets so our responsibilities have always been naturally defined but we lead the business together, albeit in different areas. Nonetheless we still had some nervousness about allowing third parties into our partnership, not knowing what they would say, how we’d feel and react and what that could lead to.
We did know though that we had different mentoring needs we wanted to explore and that if we kept our regular and honest dialogue going, we had the potential to really learn and grow. Essentially, if one of us was going to do it, we both had to.
I had a little anxiety at the beginning in as much as Russell’s mentor was relatively quickly identified and mine took a while. I needn’t have worried, the matching process was spot on. I can happily say that whatever the process, both of our mentors were very well suited to us individually and as a business. I felt that my application had been read carefully and understood and matched me with a mentor whose rich and deep experience included much of what I hadn’t experienced and more. His interest in me and our business and his questioning was revealing, insightful and sometimes uncomfortable. His advice and support was at times practical, other times thought provoking and occasionally guided me to the retrospectively bleedin’ obvious! It was always delivered with skill, kindness and purpose. And I only really scratched the surface in 12 months.
The impact on our business has been marked and profound. Firstly, we have both grown in confidence: we put ourselves out there for scrutiny and found it as validating as it was insightful. We got practical advice that led to us evaluating and bedding in new processes and systems. We planned for and committed to growth, hiring people before we truly needed them. We started reporting on and analysing the business in a way we had never done before. We began to focus our attention and prioritise our management efforts; and we put plans and targets in place that we’d previously never committed to. In short, we’ve become much better managers and directors of our business.
If anything surprised me about the Twenty/Twenty scheme, it’s just how much I got out of it, in such little time, armed with little more than a few questions and an open mind. Its value since the scheme ended is hard to quantify but we know it’s been significant. Long term, it could be transformational, but that’s up to us.
DBA Twenty/Twenty pairs rising industry leaders with established design pioneers for a 12-month one-to-one mentoring relationship. Applications for the 2019 programme are open until Friday 23 November 2018 so why not think about what you need right now, or what you can give. Find out more and apply.
My heart sinks every time I see an email entitled ‘RFP project opportunity’.
Most people will tell you that this type of engagement is a waste of time and money, for both client and agency. So why do companies continue to use such outdated methods for procuring creative services?
Of course, an RFP is perfectly acceptable for items that can be accurately and consistently compared. Things like paper clips, pens and toilet paper! As well as catering operations, security systems and specialist equipment. But is an RFP the right way to secure an expert to consult on complex design problems?
I understand the need to assess different creative agencies when looking for a partner for your latest, most important project. I understand the need to get this decision right … even that your future may depend on it and I understand how difficult it is to measure the success of an idea that has yet to be realised.
However, an RFP rarely delivers the value it sets out to achieve. The process spreads the risk among the group, but such consensus decision-making is very slow and ineffective. No one is taking full responsibility. When you run a traditional RFP process to find an agency, you are not doing yourself or your business any favours.
You can read my thoughts on a simple, yet effective alternative approach to RFPs below, but first, to help you understand from an agency point of view the limitations of RFPs, I’ve outlined ten points on why they fail to deliver.
1 You cannot read the label from inside the jar
I’m always cautious of self-diagnosis. Most companies are inward looking, influenced by their business culture, approach, brand and mission. Often, they can’t move from this filtered viewpoint. And nor should they. An internal filter combined with an agency’s external point of view is the best way for a project to meet the demands of the business.
Some RFPs are very prescribed. They may even contain sections that describe the solution, the process, the timings and the budgets connected to solving the problem. But this is like someone arriving at a doctor’s surgery with stacks of documents recently downloaded from the internet, telling the doctor what action is required.
Even if you do understand the full extent of your issues, you still need an external agency to validate and confirm your assumptions, and to recommend the best way to arrive at a solution. Conducting this due diligence is the minimum requirement and will help minimise risk and save time and money from the start.
2 Don’t prescribe before a proper diagnosis
Most RFPs ask their shortlisted agencies to prepare creative solutions, using this as a means of differentiating between candidates. This ‘see before you buy approach’ puts the agency in an impossible position — they are being asked to come up with a solution before properly diagnosing the problem. In most other professions, this is tantamount to malpractice. Inevitably, creative routes that emerge from RFPs have no fully formed strategic foundations, hindering their ability to offer fresh insight.
3 Get to the root of the matter
Often with an RFP, the problem has been identified, but the reason it’s come about hasn’t been discussed or quantified. Which means you are missing a key opportunity to explore other solutions. Before answering a brief, any agency worth their salt, will first want to investigate it further themselves. You simply can’t solve a problem without first-hand insight of the business, brand, customers and staff. But an RFP doesn’t allow for access to key information and stakeholders.
4 Don’t keep agencies at arm’s length
The RFP process keeps participants at arm’s length and focuses on presentations rather than conversations. It’s not a collaborative process. An agency needs to understand your problems through a deep dive into your company and the particular area of the project in hand.
5 An RFP is ineffective for complex problems
An RFP submission rarely achieves the right solution for your problems. Information gathering and analysis underpins all robust design solutions. This level of insight can only be acquired through first-hand interactions with the company project team via structured discussions, brainstorms, interviews and workshops.
6 You can’t compare apples to avocados
No matter how rigid your RFP forms are, all the agencies taking part will be trying to stand out. They want to grab the inside track and your attention. They will all define their services in a slightly different way, using different language and different metrics. This makes it very hard to compare agencies’ RFP submissions. An RFP sets out to level the playing field, so that you can compare and contrast different approaches, capabilities and skills. But, in the end, the resulting decision is likely to be based on information or feelings that have nothing to do with the RFP.
7 Cheapest or best?
An RFP rarely reveals the budgets involved. This is partly to discover which agency is prepared to do the job cheapest. But this totally overlooks the role of value or innovation.
In what other part of your life (business or personal) do you set about hiring an expert based on how cheap they are? You are either searching for best price or best quality. Rarely, if ever, do these two objectives align.
8 Nothing comes for free
It’s amazing that so many people think RFPs produce free work. Let us be very clear — it’s not free for the agency or the client. Let’s say that each agency wins one of every five RFPs they take part in. How do they recover this cost? The cost, of course, is hidden in their proposal. And not just the cost for your RFP but for the other four RFPs too, because agencies have to inflate their fees and additional costs elsewhere to recover the cost of RFPs.
This is bad news for the whole industry as it encourages artificially inflated pricing, which is exactly what happens in all discounted or free-design marketplaces, like cars, antiques or kitchens.
9 Putting the cart before the horse
Not only are creative agencies being asked to answer questions without having all the access and information they need, they’re also being asked to provide thinking, ideas, ways forward and solutions before being paid for them. I can’t think of any other industry where this happens. This is what we do for a living, so we shouldn’t just be giving it away.
10 Regurgitated ideas
Because there’s so little time or resource for RFPs, and agencies have to create solutions before they’ve had the opportunity to fully investigate what’s at stake, when an agency presents their creative strategy, you should ask yourself: where does this work come from? What insight sparked the concept? Is it previously shelved work from the bottom drawer? Are the concepts fresh and relevant to your brand and project?
It’s worth noting that many professional design firms around the world are against free-pitching, though rightly not against genuine, well considered RFPs, such as those that follow the best practice process outlined in the DBA’s ‘How to buy design’ guides.
There is another way. And it’s simple. Turn presentations and form filling into conversations and workshops. In today’s world, it is important to find an agency that fits your business. An agency you can build a relationship with. One that you can turn to in sickness and in health.
Have conversations (not presentations)
Research a broad range of agencies — current, past, new and ‘rising star’ agencies. Reach out to colleagues, friends and professional associations for recommendations. Working from an initial list of 10–15 agencies, visit their websites to understand their capabilities and expertise. Working with your internal team, refine your long list to seven agencies max.
Email and set up conversations with each of the agencies. Make sure you set up the call as an initial discussion about a project you are conducting. Describe the purpose, the project activity and aims, the timescales, the budgets and the process. The clearer you can be, the easier it is to understand the agencies’ suitability and willingness to engage with you and your project. Good agencies will ask good questions. So be prepared. If you are not able to answer the question, let them know why.
Meet face to face
After initial discussions, refine your list down to your top three or four agencies. Work with your internal team to discuss this beforehand. Meet the agencies to discuss the project further. Tell them that they are on a shortlist. An open and honest approach will naturally encourage agencies to accentuate their own perceived points of difference.
If possible, meet the agencies at their offices/studios, even if this means travelling out of town. It’s amazing what you can glean from visiting the creative den of a potential agency partner. Once you’re there, ask to see the studio working environment. Plan and schedule a tight agenda for this meeting. Discuss how the agency’s process links to successful results. Ask them to walk you through a case study of a project similar to yours.
Hold a workshop
Select two agencies for half-day workshops at your offices. Expect to pay the agencies for their time. Defined and delivered by the agency, this workshop is about understanding combined dynamics and getting a feel for what it’s going to be like to work together.
Hire the agency that’s best for you
Once the workshops are done, have a discussion with your team to decide which agency is the best fit. Commission the most suitable agency to work alongside you, to get to the heart of the issue at hand.
The RFP process is flawed and outdated, and wastes everyone’s time and money.
Ditching RFPs and using an alternative approach will attract the brightest agencies from across the globe; as well as providing the best opportunity for the work to meet the project needs and to exceed expectations. The best agencies produce their best work if their client works alongside them with a shared goal. Collaboration is the key to making success happen.
Positioning your company, your brand and yourself as an innovative thinker, willing to move away from traditional procurement methods, is no bad thing and will help towards long-term, continued success.
Glenn Carstens-Peters | Unsplash
For the event, a group of influential individuals from across government, industry and education will be attending and participating in a showcase of Design and Technology put on by the Design & Technology Association. They will showcase the very best of the subject within education by demonstrating a range of creative digital and technical skills from CAD CAM through to robotics, 3D printing and examples of iterative design solutions.
The showcase will link to a series of talks and discussions emphasising the recommendations laid out in the report to highlight the importance of design within the education system to build the skills society will require to tackle future societal challenges. DBA Chief Executive, Deborah Dawton, will present a keynote speech at the event.
Recommendations for the report came from valuable roundtables held with members over the summer period that discussed education at all levels and the impact of a skills deficit on the industry. Thank you to those DBA members that took part.
If you are available and would like to attend the launch event at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from 9:45am, please register here.
The report will be available in October after the launch.
If you’re thinking of entering the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards, the first thing you’ll need to do is thoroughly read the 2019 Entry Pack. It contains all the information you’ll need to write your entry, including rules for entry, information on how the awards are judged, suggested metrics for proving design effectiveness and more.
DBA Chief Executive Deborah Dawton delivered a webinar on how to enter the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards and how your business can consistently prove value through effective design. You can view it here.
If you’d like to talk to one of the team about your entry in detail and have a draft reviewed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book your 30-minute conversation. Conversations can be booked once you pay for your entry online and will be accommodated on a first come first served basis. These calls are free for DBA members, £75+vat for non-members.
A conversation with one of the team can help with the following elements of your entry:
What we can’t help with:.
You can book one of a very limited number of Design Effectiveness Surgeries with DBA Chief Executive Deborah Dawton. This hour-long slot can either be an in-depth discussion around embedding effectiveness into your everyday practices, or you can use it to discuss a previous entry. Free for DBA members, £125+VAT for non-members. Please contact email@example.com to schedule a surgery.
“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 2019 is Friday 23 November 2018. Read more and complete your application here.
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. Why not think about what you need right now, or what you can give. Find out more and apply.
Image credit: Francesco Gallarotti | Unsplash
Marcos Luiz | Unsplash