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Struggling to drive change in your business? Here’s how DBA Member EDIT achieved it.

DBA Member agency EDIT was approaching its 5th anniversary when its founders got in touch with the DBA for advice on a challenge many design businesses encounter. What followed transformed their agency and has impacted on the founders’ own lives.

When we spoke towards the end of last year, the two founders Khadija Kapacee and Karen Hughes told me the business was doing well but they were experiencing frustrations. EDIT was a profitable business employing 5-6 staff and using a regular bank of freelancers, but decision-making was tough – everything seemed to take so much time – inevitably leading to sacrifices with their personal time. It was exhausting and although they were ready to move on from their start-up phase, they were struggling to drive forward that change in the business.

Directing them to the DBA’s Register of Experts, they found DBA Expert Ralph Ardill, who immediately made an impression, sending a short email detailing how he could help over a 9-week period and what the outcomes would be. “It was very compelling,” says Khadija.

Both founders felt the business had outgrown its start-up phase and they wanted to kick on to the next stage – whatever that may be. They both had an idea of what sort of growth they were after, but despite their best efforts to move the business on, every time they tried, they couldn’t get any traction.

“Because we reposition organisations and brands as part of our day-to-day work, we thought we should be able to do it for ourselves,” says Karen. “But we were too close to the problem.” That’s where an external perspective, like Ralph’s, can be really valuable. Someone who can facilitate, inspire and hold you to account to things get done.

The work would involve a complete review and re-imagining of the total Edit experience – from purpose, positioning and service offering to commercialisation, culture, methodology, sales/marketing, pitches, proposals, and presentations. “It seemed like a huge commitment.” said Karen. “Especially as it was our busiest time of year, but we had been making excuses for a long time.” Ralph was impressed with the attitude of Karen and Khadija, “They were prepared to fully commit, be challenged and find the time and discipline to engage fully throughout the process.”

“Early on I always have to defuse the ‘growth monster’,” says Ralph. “Hiring more people, making more money and filling more office space are no longer the KPI’s of the design industry. Agencies should be looking at how they improve their culture, become more profitable, be better places to work – these are the new definitions of success, not how big you are.”

Ralph is also clear that agencies need to “find the place where they have the greatest right to win” in order to strip back and find focus. Once this space is defined it allows you to make decisions much quicker – and makes it easier to say ‘no’.

“We had always seen the diversity of our work and clients as a positive,” states Karen. “We always said we liked the variety, but through our work with Ralph we realised that trying to be too many things to too many people can hold your business back.”

 

Rather than hide in a darkened room to emerge 3 months later with a new positioning statement, EDIT’s transformation happened on the job, and in real time. As they developed their positioning, or learnt new skills, they tested them out in real-life situations to build their confidence. In this way there was never a big reveal. They just started doing some things differently, and after a couple of months were doing a lot of things differently. “We can’t become EDIT 2.0 overnight,” says Khadija. “We have to earn that right through our actions – we are currently EDIT 1.6 and improving all the time”.

Early in the process Ralph implemented a one-page proposal approach, and the team tested it straight away. “Who wants to read a 20-page proposal anyway?” says Khadija.  “Our new methodology focuses on outcomes and shows we can solve problems quickly. Clients are willing to pay a premium for quick solutions.”

The two founders admit that in the past they were over thinking and over delivering – sometimes giving 5 or more creative routes to the client to decide on. “Agencies tend to turn on the tap and let their creativity run,” says Ralph, “treating it as a utility rather than a precious resource.”

“We look back and can’t believe we thought that was a positive! Not only was it time-consuming, it was confusing for our clients,” says Karen. Now they are confident enough to reduce the number of creative routes – often to just one. There is no passing the buck to the client. “We are the experts, so we make the call”.

Alongside the confidence gained, the biggest change according to Karen, is the realisation across the whole team that narrowing their field was not a sacrifice of ‘interesting variety’ – “it has created an ethos that allows clarity and focus” she says, which enables them to attract and approach clients where they have ‘the greatest right to win’.

As part of the process Edit have put their agency name front and centre. “EDIT” is both an ideology and a methodology. Rapid testing and adapting through a 4-stage process:

E – Explore

D – Distil

I – Idea

T – Translate

“It’s not a gimmick, this is the way the business works – we live and breathe it,” says Khadija. “It is the foundation of everything we do.”

EDIT is not looking back. The business now knows where its strengths lie – where it has “the greatest right to win”. It is easy to say no to opportunities outside of that space that might distract them and concentrate on the work that is exciting, profitable and where they can make the greatest difference. The frustration has gone. Karen and Khadija have gained clarity in their working life and are no longer finding themselves making unnecessary sacrifices to their personal time for the business.

 

 

Images copyright – EDIT

Clear the way to re-define and re-set your positioning at this two-part workshop, as you deconstruct and harness an authentic purpose for you, your business and your team with Ralph Ardill.

 

Taking place online on 10 & 12 May from 10.30-12.00. Find out more and book here.

About: Karen Hughes

Co-founder and Creative Director at EDIT. Specialist creative partner for arts, culture and knowledge.

www.editbrandstudio.co.uk

About: Khadija Kapacee

Co-founder & MD at EDIT. Specialist creative partner for arts, culture and knowledge.

www.editbrandstudio.co.uk

About: Ralph Ardill

Ralph is an accredited member of the DBA Experts Register. He is an internationally recognised independent expert on brand transformation, culture change and experience design. He is also a respected writer and speaker with over 30 years experience in the creative industries on both client and agency side.

You can find out more about Ralph, and the other consultants who specialise in a range of areas to support your business, in the DBA Experts Register

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