Great Companies Don’t Just Happen
To build a sustainable company you love, you have to design it that way.
Entrepreneurs are some of the most creative and driven problem-solvers. But we have a problem when we try to translate these skills into business: we love to build and experiment, and we don’t really like to promote ourselves.
Making stuff is fun. But it doesn’t automatically attract people who are willing to fund our evolving ideas. To survive, we need the right kind of traffic. To flourish, we need a more sustainable way to build.
As a designer and entrepreneur, I’ve spent over a decade building things for myself as well as for other entrepreneurs, startups and all the way up to Fortune 100s. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that process is everything. If there’s two things I’ve learned, it’s that companies that don’t invest in their brand will struggle to define their process because they don’t know what ideas to prioritize. They will bleed resources, run around in circles and drain morale. This will also show up as incoherent or inconsistent messaging. Can you think of any brands that confuse you? This is why that happens.
Without a good process in place:
- Important information gets overlooked
- You have to start over or redo work
- You find yourself “pivoting” several times
- Customers and investors get disappointed
- You feel ashamed and guilty if you can’t meet expectations
- You keep reinventing your approach, so you’re never very efficient
- You waste valuable energy and time and neglect relationships
- You don’t know where to focus, so it’s hard to finish anything
- You feel like you’re always missing opportunities
Bottom line, the outcome will not be great. What kills morale faster than knowing you’re making something that’s not as amazing as you want it to be? To a creator of any kind, that is the most frustrating thing in the world.
When you start a new company, you have to make the most of your limited resources. The design process helps you do this—no artistic abilities required.
What is the Design Process?
When you build anything, including a business, you are acting like a designer. To build something of quality you have to think like a designer and keep in mind three things:
- Desired Outcome. What expectations should you have? How will you measure success?
- Limitations. What can you achieve with/within your limited time, energy, money, skills, resources and relationships?
- Context. Nothing you make exists on its own—how does it compare with what’s around it? How will people encounter it in the wild?
When you start building a business or product with this defined criteria, you filter out ideas that don’t fit your goals. This leads to better outcomes and more efficient ways of working.
I started designing professionally in 2006. Following this ideology has continued to save me from any fear or doubt I might have about tackling the next project. I mean, think about it—my job is to build something compelling out of someone else’s abstract, and often meandering business ideas on a daily basis. I have no time to waste, and I must deliver within their budget and expectations as much as possible. Over a decade later, I’ve successfully completed hundreds of projects using this process. I work with many clients for 3+ years at a time, and have managed to keep my doors open since 2010.
Who’s Behind Lean Design for Startups?
Just little ol’ me. My name is Kari and I’m the Founder and Creative Director of Plot Creative Studio based in Seattle. I accidentally found my dream job as a graphic designer and brand strategist in 2006, and worked as an independent designer for nine years. In 2015, I moved to the West Coast to get closer to the tech industry and build a boutique agency for progressive service companies.
Who is Lean Design for Startups for?
Lean Design for Startups is the packaged-up version of my branding services, aimed at teaching new entrepreneurs (entreprenewers™?) how to design sustainable businesses around their limited resources and natural strengths.
I want to help you avoid the fates of so many entrepreneurs who failed to see their ideas succeed in the market. Design a company that sustains you—don’t just build things to sell.