A few years after I started Brian Sooy & Co. I found myself answering questions about running a firm by younger AIGA members in our local chapter. Some of the answers, although I don’t recall all of the questions.
A design firm, like any other business, has to be managed like a business, and not a design firm.
The business community is enamored with fast growth. Is a business to be grown like a hydroponic tomato plan or a bonsai tree? I’ve opted for controlled growth, which helps me stay sane.
After 10 years I’ve realized that these are the first steps in the development of a business:
1. The Great Idea (also know as ” ‘What was I thinking?’ after a year or so.”)
2. The Bungie Cord stage: At this stage, you’ve made the jump into running your business, but you’re not certain your cord is short enough until you reach the end of the jump.
3. The Treadmill Stage: This stage can last several years, while you maintain the momentum you’ve built in a steady manner. Not too fast, not too slow. Similar to running a marathon: plan for the long haul.
4. The Plate Spinning Stage: Once you’ve got the firm running well, with staff to enable you to manage more projects, you end up moving into the role of manager and business developer (at least in a firm of 4 to 8, but that’s not a universal principal) and you have to keep all the plates spinning on the sticks. This stage is inseparable from Stage Three.
Stage 4 is difficult for designers, as David Baker (Recourses) claims we all have EADD (Entrepreneurial Attention Deficit Disorder). It’s true. Focus on the business as business, and develop other interests outside of the office. Not only will you have a more successful business, but your life will be more balanced.
I will have to append to this post in the future, but after another year or so or after I realize what the next stage is. Best wishes for your success!