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Clear thinking for 2020

2019 will go down as a year of uncertainty. So to bring a bit of 20/20 vision to next year, here’s some handy advice from the DBA Experts to bring greater confidence and clarity to business practice. 

Be human

bacila-vlad-wtthc6umwei-unsplash-copyTrust – in business, politics and our institutions – has taken another battering in 2019. Leave the smoke and mirrors at the door and aim for transparency, communication and authenticity. 


Lucy Mann, Gunpowder Consulting

Rethink and reinvent

casey-horner-4rdca5hblcs-unsplash-copy2020 will be the year we move from climate and ecological breakdown to sustainability breakthroughs.

Designers must rethink and reinvent things not just redesign what we do today.

The era of continuous improvement and creeping incrementalism is over.

What amazing creative and commercial opportunities!


Chris Sherwin, Reboot innovation

Seek criticism not just praise

dan-gold-legu0r1v1gk-unsplash-copyPraise is an easy morale booster but it’s criticism that drives improvement. Ask clients, ‘How can we be more proactive? What can we do better next time? If you could give us one piece of advice, what would it be?’ Make 2020 the year for seeking criticism not just praise.  


Jonathan Kirk, Up to the Light

Seize the moment

chris-liverani-ybr-awm1hq4-unsplash-copyIn an era of uncertainty it’s all too easy to dwell on negatives. Remember that eras of social pressure have historically been the times where creative movements and innovations are born. Focus on what you believe in, make your mark and stand your ground. It’ll only be a matter of time before your maverick, eccentric creativity becomes the norm. Seize the moment.


Jeremy Paterson, IF Media Consultancy

Make it less lonely at the top

ryan-tauss-taprv9jqedw-unsplash-copyEveryone yearns to feel appreciated and leaders are no exception. Send a short note to your senior leaders to remind them of their value this year; how they challenged you, or won that pitch, or brought a fresh perspective. Make it personal – even if it is to celebrate your differences! 


Heli Heartland, Rock Your World

Challenge yourself

alessandro-bianchi-_kdtyfnufac-unsplash-copyChallenge yourself to consider Intellectual Property differently in your next pitch or project. Is it just your client’s problem? Is any new functionality (e.g. packaging) re-usable for other clients? Are there design elements the client could use outside the current brief? Do the proposed IP terms deal with all this?


Russell Edson, Withers & Rogers LLP

On a table put…

1. A glass cylinder     (TIME)
2. Some rocks   (MAIN PIORITIES)
3. Gravel   (DAY TO DAY STUFF)

If you, as most people do, pour the water in first, the sand second, the gravel third and the rocks last, what happens? Your main priorities don’t get done! Tackle the priorities first, to get your business on track next year. 


Gary Baxter, Lightbox Consulting

Keep it simple

chase-clark-dgqwuppesrq-unsplash-copyEvery new year brings fresh challenges and different ideas about the best way to tackle them. Never lose sight of your core message. Keep your focus on what makes your company stand out from the competition.


James Pearce, JP Media Training 

Find the balance

sidharth-bhatia-ybrd8qqem_y-unsplash-copyThere’s a wonderful synchronicity when what we love doing meets what we actually do. That’s when we do it brilliantly. So, for 2020? Take a moment. Breathe, review, sharpen your focus. Confirm or make changes. And perhaps consider doing less but doing it much, much better – and loving it.


Shan Preddy, PREDDY&CO

Pick up the phone

charisse-kenion-m-3qjn7ponm-unsplash-copyOvercome phone phobia in 2020 – two way real time communication is king! Pick up the phone more in 2020 to speak to new prospects, to current clients and ex-clients. Sell new clients ‘existing services’ and current clients ’new services’. You can ask and answer any questions prospects/clients may have about your agency as well as find out whether they need your services now or in the future.


Andre Yong, Angsana UK

2020: position and focus; an ode...

christopher-rusev-uv5ay8n73da-unsplash-copyThose who practice what they preach

Will still be standing at the breach

For agencies fighting for slim commissions

Be sure you have a clear position

Be at your wits, differentiate

Don’t scatter gun, for goodness sake


Nick Gray, Mr Gray Branding

It all adds up

josh-calabrese-ev1xqevl2wi-unsplash-copyThe New Year brings an opportunity to re-assess and renew. Sometimes even small improvements can add up to greater success. Athletes tell about their quest for continuous marginal gains. It is not only gains themselves that add up to better performance, but the mindset of striving to do things better that also has an impact.


Chris Lang, Flash Accounts

Exercise your values

daniele-levis-pelusi-311031-unsplashUncertainty is on the rise everywhere. That’s for sure. Now is the time to go deeper into your values. Bring them to the surface every day. This will allow you to flex and pivot in the face of change whilst staying true to your vision and yourselves.


Michael Thomson, Design Connect

Back to basics

annie-spratt-qckxruozjrg-unsplash-copyBusinesses should get back to basics in 2020 and focus on employee engagement and company culture. By putting engagement at the core of their culture, companies can boost productivity by 21%. Businesses should kick off the year with a review of the DBA Employee Engagement Survey 2019 results and create action plans to make improvements.


Aliya Vigor-Robertson, JourneyHR

Your business' most valuable asset?

mirza-babic-eyzptmc7hno-unsplash-copyIt is likely to be your intellectual property – designs, brands, and inventions.

Make sure you find out, look after, protect and, if necessary, enforce your IP.

The success of your business between now and next Christmas could depend on it!


Jeremy Pennant, DYoung & Co

Take the lead

ev-tom8x1njbqa-unsplash-copyTo tackle the climate emergency, we need to change personal, company and government behaviour. Take the lead within your life, your company’s behaviour and with your clients. Put sustainability on every meeting agenda, ensure it sits within all KPIs and measure sustainability exactly the same ways as you do profitability.


Erica Wolfe-Murray, Lola Media Ltd

Deliver change

crazy-nana-bfbamgepnpu-unsplash-copyThe New Year is the best time to introduce that big change you’ve spent the previous year talking about. To ensure you get full support from your team, involve them early on and hear their concerns and reservations. A modified plan is more likely to be implemented successfully.


Manish Kapur, Manish Kapur Ltd

Grow your pipeline

jj-ying-4xvazn8_who-unsplash-copyIf you are new to business development activity, it is better to plan to do ‘a little and often’, than have large ‘one-off’ campaigns. Remember marathons can’t be run from scratch. Start 2020 in a sustainable way, build up your skills and knowledge and your sales pipeline will grow.


 Natasha Ellard-Shoefield, The Hand Consulting

Act up

kyle-head-p6rntdapbuk-unsplash-copySign-up for a beginner’s acting course. It can give you confidence and improve the effectiveness of communications with clients, colleagues and business partners. And it’s great fun. 


Adrian Day, Consultant & Non-Exec Director 


jakob-owens-ciur8zisx60-unsplash-copyIf one listens to the news regarding politics, it is easy to be scared into perennially waiting to make the next big decision. Businesses and entrepreneurs adapt to the situation they find themselves, because inaction is far more dangerous than action. I think Pablo Picasso had something to say about that…


Jack O’Hern, Wright Vigar

Step up on the softer skills

*What Clients Think 2019-20

If 67% of pitches are lost because of softer factors over and above harder factors*, then why don’t we spend more time finessing these softer skills? Invest in your people and empower them to present and communicate better – it might give you that much-needed edge over the competition.


Catherine Allison, Master the Art 


A final thought...

jose-gabriel-ortega-castro-r2xnlnalcw0-unsplash-copyThe shiny bright exterior, eager hands grasping, a partner “reaching out.” Two sides, pulling in opposite directions, shatter the fleeting moment of unity with a bang. One party empty-handed, the other with a sense of anti-climax. And a single-use plastic.


The Christmas Cracker could be a metaphor for many things: free pitching, Brexit, social media. Whatever challenges 2020 brings, particularly when it comes to new business, ask yourself: do you need all those shiny ephemera?


Jeremy Davies, Little Train BD

DBA Experts

If you have a particular business challenge or are looking to move your agency to the next level, we’ll work closely with you to connect you to an expert, whatever the issue. We’ve identified expert consultants with sustained and relevant experience in supporting the design industry, so you can rest assured that we can introduce you to the right one to meet your needs. 

Read on and discover our Experts.

Image credits (from Unsplash): Crazy nana; Bacila Vlad; Sharon Pittaway; Casey Horner; Chris Liverani; Christopher Rusev; Ryan Tauss; Jakob Owens; Alessandro Bianchi; Chase Clark; Sidharth Bhatia; Josh Calabrese; Daniele Levis-Pelusi; Annie Spratt; Mirza Babic, Ev, Crazy Nana, JJ Ying;  Kyle Head, Hermes Rivera


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