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Spoiltchild Design

Business ethics

Being a designer puts you in a very interesting position.
You are invited in to anothers business to work very closely with the core people involved. You get to see some very intimate details of not just their business, their plan, their customer relationship but also their view on the market and industry they are in.
These are details that you need to do the job effectively and deliver a solution that best suits them and the industry.

New clients would like to see examples of work you have done for others in the same market and industry so that they can be assured you understand it and can deliver. However existing clients would honestly prefer if you did not start doing any work for their competition. A competitor would kill for the knowledge that you must obtain to do a good job.

To succeed as a designer you need to learn the delicate art of diplomacy and being tight lipped. To reveal anything about another company is commercial suicide. Why would anyone work with you if you do that. Effective business relationships, especially ones between clients and designers are based on trust. Mutual trust. Part any sales cycle, in my opinion, is more to do with showing the client that they can trust you then that you are a good designer.

Also its just not a nice thing to do.

Thankfully I have never had a new client ask me what the competition is up to. I have to admit it would make me uneasy and put a sour note on the relationship with the new client if it happened.

However there is another angle and something that happened to me today.
If you have set up a design business, you are also in the business of being in business. You are looking out for new opportunities and ways to develop your own business. I am absolutely sure that Spoiltchild would not be shortlisted for the business excellence awards if I hadn’t been exposed to the knowledge, experience and example of the great ways some of my clients run their business.

When starting a new business, launching a new product etc, it generally comes about because you have previously worked in that industry/market before. You know the ins and outs and you see a gap, a gap that you can fill and hopefully become a success.
As a designer you get to work in many industries and markets. You get to know many ins and outs. But what happens if you see a gap in the same market or industry that your client currently operates in? If you followed it you might not be in direct competition but there would be some unavoidable cross over that it could look bad. What do you do?

I believe a big part of what makes me a good designer is that I have a problem solving brain. I especially like other peoples problems and spotting possible solutions. Design is about developing a solution to the problem a client has in communicating to their client about a product or service.
It also means that I spot gaps.

Seemingly we all have killer business/product ideas. One of the main difference between an entrepreneur and Joe Soap is the drive and stubbornness to actually go and do it. To leave the comfort zone, believe in something and work through everything to achieve it.

Most gaps I spot, I am not equipped to do, I have no interest in or I just don’t have the time. A simple suggestion to a client to look at something they are already equipped to follow up on and I look good. Happy client, repeat client, and more business for me anyway.

But what about the gaps you are equipped to follow up on, do have the time to do. What do you do?

Today I passed on the gap to the client. I will give them the opportunity to evaluate it first. Have first pick at it. If they are not interested in it or do not agree on the value of it I will look at it again.

What would you do?

  1. Depends on the potential of the gap :) I think any entrepreneur will see ‘gaps’ in markets and servcies – I know I do all the time (especially on holidays for some reason :) ) That said, in my experience, unless you are prepared to go with it 125% and fund it fully, it’s always better to let a partner or client ‘owe’ you one for the idea / scheme, etc.

    It’s important on the competitor topic, to weigh up the value of client 1 v’s client 2 and balance that against the potential for upset. Absolutely confidentiality is always a paramount thing, we look after many companies that do exactly the same thing and are fiercely competetive,
    Stephen    Oct 29, 12:47 PM    #
  2. Ethics are essential in business. No matter what business you are involved in you will become privy to information that varies in levels of confidentiality. If you fail to respect that you cannot expect your business partners or clients to respect you in return.
    With regard to “gaps”, I would have to agree with Stephen. Unless you can put the proper resources into them they will not bear fruit and if you are operating in a particular area there’s no point in making a half-hearted attempt at entering another especially if this could have a negative impact on your existing relationships, which may be more valuable in the longterm than any short-term gains.
    Michele    Oct 29, 04:02 PM    #