I joined a group of DBA (Design Business Association) members in Bristol this week, for a discussion about business growth. A panel from Kinneir Dufort, Taxi Studio and Workbrands shared their experiences, reflections and words of wisdom.

Below is a collection of the points that I noted. They are unattributed to specific people as I would be in danger of mis-quoting – but I will reference Brian Mansfield, Chairman of Taxi Studio, for the title of this post, as that was one of his succinct points.

These discussions are an important reminder that building a successful design agency requires a focus on handling the money, the people and the internal processes on top of doing great creative work.

Employing people means growth.
Growth ultimately comes from doing great stuff.
Always protect the culture and your values.
Know what makes you special. Collaborate with other specialists.

What is your personal sense of growth and success for your business?
Go for a beer and talk openly about the business you want.
Start there and work back to make a plan to achieve it.
Let your team know the common goal – it’s all about communication.

Take care in recruitment. Don’t rush to fill a gap.
Build a team that will grow with you and share that journey.
Create a team of people with good personalities as much as anything else.
Trust and flexibility. Treat your people like grown-ups.

Be yourself, but don’t just hire more people like you.
Hire to fill the needs and weak spots you have.
Be ready - who would be the next three people that you would hire?
Set clear roles and responsibilities.

Build a sustainable pipeline of incoming business.
Where is the money coming from – be clear on that.
Share the financial situation and goals with everyone. It helps people focus.
Get outside advice and support – ask other people who’ve been through it.

Look after the day-to-day – the processes, the IT systems… the boring stuff.
They take time and money to sort, but are worth the investment.
The space you are in effects your team – a lot.
Make your building somewhere your team want to be.

Reward the right behaviours. Face and deal with bad behaviour swiftly.
Health and well-being for the team – fruit? flexible hours? - take care of them.
Let people develop their skills and their creativity.
Then they will stay, and spread the word about your business.


Books recommended:

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big
by Bo Burlingham

Good To Great
by Jim Collins

A Win Without Pitching Manifesto
by Blair Enns

For more resources on growing a design business see the DBA website with news, agency listings and membership details: