Any start-up entrepreneur knows that getting a business off the ground involves wearing multiple hats and requires heavy involvement in the design process of your brand’s identity.
When I launched my first venture over 10 years ago, I designed my brand’s logo and worked on developing the company’s website. And that’s when I learnt to appreciate creative designers and the valuable inputs they bring to the table.
Fast forward to today and my entrepreneurship journey entails me working with creative designers on a daily basis. The creative economy was one of the most negatively impacted sectors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the resilience and adaptability of the designers I work with have taught me valuable lessons over the past 18 months.
When a door shuts, a window opens
The pandemic put a halt to multiple projects and my digital illustrator friend was one of the firsts to feel its impact. When potential clients told her that they wouldn’t be requiring her services amid the slowdown, she knew she had to improvise.
With more time on hands, she translated her friends’ frustration about the pandemic to comical illustrations. Soon enough, the posts she shared on her social media pages gained popularity. She reacted quickly and began selling posters and tote bags that carried her illustrations. Not only did she earn profit during the pandemic, she also captured a new segment of clients who were looking for product designers.
As challenging as the pandemic has been for creative designers, one thing I truly admire about them is how they improvised during the tough times. My parents always advised me not to waste time trying to force things to happen. When challenges hit, we need to find a way to go with the flow. In the case of my friend, it helped her expand her services and come up with a new stream of income.
Learn and adapt
When people ask me what I enjoy most about working in the branding and marketing field, I always say that it never gets boring and there’s always room for growth. Working with designers regularly reminds me that I shouldn’t rest on my laurels and that there's always room for knowledge and growth.
“If I don’t enhance my skills, I will fall behind,” a food photographer once told me. But this isn’t limited to the creative sector only. Businesses that don’t adapt, fail – and the pandemic put this to test. A challenging situation will not adapt around you, rather you need to adapt and adjust yourself around it. The faster you do it, the better.
Keep your customers close
Designers often work directly with customers and engage them in every stage of the design process. Working closely and directly with customers ensures that they are getting what they want. It also helps in fostering a relationship with clients, which often comes in handy in referrals and reaching out to new customers.
Unfortunately, this may not always be the case with start-up founders. Often, the customers are first introduced to the business just before or when it launches and potential customers may not be a part of the process. In many cases, this is the root cause why a business may not appeal to customers.
Designers remind us how important it is to work closely with customers. It doesn’t matter how great the idea is. It won’t take off if it doesn’t appeal to your customers. Engage your customers in different stages of building the business. Build a rapport and involve them even after the business takes off. Great customer service doesn’t only mean happy customers, it also helps your business soar to new heights.
Learning from designers reminds us to always put customers first. More importantly, it inspires us to commit to learning, to be agile and not to ever rest on our laurels.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi