Designing your Business to work for you

Hamish Mexted Odds & Ends

Countless hours are poured into designing a business’s logos, websites and marketing material. Business owners, designers and employees angst over whether something should be red, green or blue, or a heading size 14 or 16 font.

At the same time, much less energy is put into how the business itself should operate.

The problem

Usually the business owner alone creates the design for the business – this is the direction, structure and focus of the business. Often, the owner sets the design in terms of what minimises the risk of ‘fire’ in the business, and what suits employees, customers and suppliers the best.

Because their business design is driven by minimising fires, the owner misses out on the things they went into business to get in the first place – more control over their life, more time in their days, and more cash in their bank. Instead they end up feeling trapped in their business, with less time to spend with family, and with tight cashflow meaning they’re not paid enough to compensate.

What is design

Design is looking at how your business does what it does, how what you do makes people feel, and whether you’re operating as effectively as possible.

Put another way, it’s about the quality of your work, the process you go through, and people’s perceptions or feelings about those processes (including your own as the business owner).

Graphic designers talk about designing user experiences, marketing material and branding. Business design thinks in similar terms – it’s about how your business works, how it looks to people and whether it ticks the boxes you need it to tick.

Why focus on design

In short, focusing on business design lets owners:

  1. Achieve clarity in their direction and strategy
  2. Understand what’s going on in their business and separate fact from fiction
  3. Articulate the actionable next steps to move things forward
  4. Ensure that the business stays ahead of the competition

The consequence of this is that they’re able to better manage their time, people and money, so that they can take all personal and business opportunities available to them.

The Design Process

Improving the design of a business is a constant process – the “best” design changes as any business moves through the Business Growth Curve. Put another way, what suits a business now may not be what suits it next year. The Design Process is the constant, despite changes in a business.

Step One: Design Challenge
To improve the design, the first step is to unpack the clutter in a business owner’s thinking, and to understand the assumptions effecting their choices. This gives clarity to the business’s strategy and helps articulate that direction to themselves, staff and customers.

Step Two: Analyse the business
Once the clutter and assumptions are unpacked, the next step is to analyse the current position of the business and where they are on the Business Growth Curve. Rendering the data of the business shows the true situation of the business, and verifies the informed gut-feel of the business owner. If that gut-feel is off the mark, then you’re quickly able to separate fact from fiction.

Step Three: Facilitating Plans
Every business owner has a plan, they’re often held in the mind of the business owner, who can be a little distracted to implement them. By documenting the plan within a clear framework, the direction of the business can be articulated and distilled beyond just the business owner. Everyone can then buy into the next steps of the business.

Step Four: Designed Strategy
Most businesses have ‘next steps’ they’d like to achieve on their plans. Many however don’t implement those same next steps. Designed strategy means that the next steps fit within an overall strategy to get them executed. It’s also about designing something that’s different to the competition, avoiding your business converging with them – chasing best practice means everyone starts to look the same.

Taking action

Business design is about making deliberate changes to the direction, structure or focus of a business. This reduces the number of fires a business owner has to fight, putting them back in control of their time and money.

Ultimately it means the business’s processes are more effective, and people feel better about your business – staff enjoy their work, customers enjoy your product, and you enjoy owning your business.

The first step in designing your business is to understand where you sit on the Business Growth Curve, and to understand the effect of your assumptions in your business.

Read about the Business Growth Curve here.

Read about your assumptions here.

Contact us today to discuss.