Consultant or Employee?


I recently met with a design agency to explore their challenges and discuss how we may be able to work together. During our conversation they made reference to having ‘consultant fatigue’ which has made me question how the land lies for consultants.

I’d like to hear how owner-founders and leaders feel about engaging a consultant or coach to help them develop and grow their business or address other challenges. What are the preconceptions, and are firms more interested these days in hiring such experience into their firms on an employed basis rather than consultative?

Design agency owners and leaders: Lonely at the top?


Running a design firm can be a rewarding but sometimes lonely experience when you’re at the top.

Do you have a coach or adviser to turn to and share the challenges of leadership? Someone to check in with, as and when required, that understands the business of design and how to bring out the best in design agency leaders?

The tangible value derived from my external perspective can be gauged in these testimonials from some owners and leaders of firms I’ve worked with since 2003.

If you could use another voice in the room to help you reflect, plan and move forward, then contact me on 07957 627052 or email

Role Model #4 – Radley Yeldar


Before I get to why I see Radley Yeldar (RY) as a role model agency, a quick recap on the purpose of teer Role Models

In a time starved world, communicating brief insights on those we see in our industry that serve as role models – whether for their behaviours, actions, tools, intellectual property they create, etc – is one way of constructively expressing ourselves, communicating some value, standing out, and building positive perceptions.

Driven as-and-when by observations, inspiration and day-to-day experiences, teer Role Models aims to trigger thoughts and ideas and to provide useful guidance from a business development perspective. Designers may want to consider how to apply this thinking in their own outreach.

One of the many reasons it’s easy to pick RY as a role model agency is this…

We all know and experience how brands relentlessly compete for our attention. With so much ‘noise’ in our daily lives we are forced to critically review the content we receive. Equally, in a business development context, we must be critical of the content we create and share ourselves – question resonance and value, especially when we are nurturing our intended audiences.

In this endeavor we call nurturing, our aim is to build value. We do this by ensuring our behaviours and communications resonate and are positively received. Understanding the drivers and motivations that trigger positive movement through the buying process helps. In this nurturing phase that can lead us towards new clients, we balance appropriate frequency of contact with sharing content that we know will be mostly relevant, insightful and interesting. Occasionally, it’s ok to talk about ourselves!

Blindingly obvious? Well maybe, but to what extent are we doing this and building value, honestly?

For over 30 years RY has built a track record for helping clients improve their annual and sustainability reports. Fundamentally, for the past 12 of those 30 years the firm has shared its expertise and experience by publishing an annual review of Annual Reporting trends called How does it stack up? (HDISU). This review of FTSE 100 annual reports has been a leading piece of research since RY’s early days, and is now widely recognised for its comparative analysis, impartiality and forthright approach to the challenges in the sector.

RY are not the only agency I’ve seen reviewing annual reports, but I see them as a role model communications agency for having the foresight to plan and consistently invest their time reviewing FTSE 100 annual reports as a self-initiated industry research exercise. The outputs help RY to quietly promote the agency in a professional, informed and useful way whilst positioning and reinforcing RY as a go-to firm in its field of expertise. I have little doubt that HDISU is an effective marketing tool for RY and see how this may be used by the agency to great effect.

HDISU is a good example of how a creative business can impart knowledge to create following, nurture audiences, demonstrate expertise, attract inbound enquiries, enhance reputation and build value.

In conversation with…


I’m inviting owner-founders and leaders of small design firms to explore with me, in a 1:1 conversation, what aspect/s of your design firm could work more effectively in 2018.

Why? Well as we head into Q4, it’s time to think about and plan how you shape next year. And time perhaps to review how you might gear your firm in 2018 to be more exploratory and proactive by nature across three specific client groups – your past/dormant, present and future/new clients.

Sceptical, or maybe confident you have everything covered? There’s no catch, just a one-off chat during October that gets our heads together to see where a conversation takes us. If I can add some value the conversation may run for an hour or so and prove worthwhile for you. If I can’t help I’ll say and we won’t waste each other’s time.

I’m honest, straight-talking, I work with integrity, I get to the point, I’ll respect confidentiality and sign an NDA if you wish, I’ve worked with designers since the mid-80s and I’m a great listener. Here’s a few testimonials from owner-founders and leaders I’ve worked with since 2003.

Interested? Then get in touch and we’ll get something arranged.

Where small design firms struggle – growth strategy ‘implementation’


Today, there’s a wealth of free resources and advisers in the market offering growth-related support and strategic guidance to owner-founders and leaders of the many small firms in the design industry.

Some of the many invest time and money exploring these resources and/or engaging an adviser to help them develop a strategic growth plan which is all well and good for those firms that are going to ensure they do manage to successfully implement the plan.

My day-to-day conversations with these size firms frequently reveals just how many struggle to implement a growth strategy in the ongoing consistent manner that’s invariably required. This is all so familiar and often painfully clear to see how a change of mindset and more structure can help those that do struggle to get out of the blocks and purposefully drive the marketing and business development function/s to help deliver on their plan.

This may seem blindingly obvious, but it needs saying because I see the same problems today that I saw back in 2002 when I started my consultancy by writing an article called Development Policy. This was published in 2003 by newdesign and made reference to how…”creatives get wrapped up in what they do best – using their skills to meet the day-to-day demands and deadlines of their ‘here today’ clients – yet in doing so, they neglect NBD, the essential driving force behind any business.”

Around this time, I offered design firms a combination of research, strategic thinking, planning and implementation. This worked well for small design firms as it allowed them to concentrate most of their time on what they often do best and enjoy most – client projects.

Today, advisers typically don’t put into practice and implement the plans they shape for design firms. Some design firms simply don’t engage the right marketing and business development resources or structure any resources at all to put the strategy to work. Others see themselves implementing the plan but fail because they become consumed by or choose to focus their time on client projects.

These are just some of the realities and pinch-points I see, and many will be aware of, that influence the successful implementation of a growth strategy.

So, if you’re mulling over the subject of growth and need a plan, think ‘long term’ and think as carefully about the ‘how’ and ‘who’ will put this plan to work as you do about what strategic advice you might engage to help you shape the plan.

Augmented Reality for my client: Future Fires


A recent development I’ve organised for my client Future Fires – moving their beautifully contemporary wood burning stoves into the Augmented Reality space…

Thinking of buying one of our wood burning stoves but having trouble imagining what it will look like in your home?

Using the free Android and iPhone app Sayduck, you can now view a 3D model of our Panoramic FX1, Panoramic FX2 and Bollente stoves, in your choice of our six standard colours. Sayduck is free, easy to use, great fun and helps you instantly visualise whether our stoves will be a good fit and how they’ll look in your home before you buy one.

Download the app and give it a go…

Get Sayduck on the App Store here

Get Sayduck on Google Play here

Developing ‘new services’ from the inside-out

Diversify Image

Owners and Leaders of design firms, are you thinking about how to develop ‘new service offerings’ utilising your employed resources and expertise/knowledge pool?

Employed Capabilities + New Services = Profitable New Revenue   

No free thought-piece or step-by-step guide on this one. Instead, my practical experience and support for those interested in exploring the potential that may need a helping hand, like CCD….

Design Agency Owners and Leaders: Succession Planning to-do?


This may be on your list, but are you making the necessary time this needs to; ask yourself the right questions, find the right answers and formulate a plan?

How and when you start to build this picture is clearly a significant consideration that warrants engaging some external perspective to; hear your thoughts, observe your set-up and help you explore the options to bring clarity amid the day-to-day challenges of running the business.

Here are some testimonials to evidence the value of external perspective if you see the need to plan and could use a sounding board that understands the business of design.