How time flies? It has already been just over a year since I left my cushy (well not that cushy) corporate job at Philips Design to turn Design Sojourn into a full time strategic design consulting business.
But before I go on, I better warn you that much of what you are about to read will be an introspective with an occasional dose of reflection. If this might be too much for you, do check out that cool featured article up top? Heh-heh, you have been warned!
The journey into entrepreneurship has not been easy, despite this being my 3rd go. While I had prepared both mentally and financially for this journey, I never expected how much of a roller coaster ride it was going to be. As they say, it is always different every time.
Have a great supporting cast.
One thing that I did get right was I had the good sense to surround myself with the right people, people who support you 100% in your venture, they include good friends, fellow design entrepreneurs and most importantly, family. This is because when you are knee deep in crap, they will be the people who care enough about you to help you keep the right perspective.
Unfortunately you never really know whom your real friends are or who will come through for you until what I call, the Test. Before I left corporate life, I hooked up with many people promising opportunities, but the moment I left, it all fell apart. When you do not have a big brand behind you, you will really discover who your real friends are.
Stand on the shoulders of giants.
I was lucky (or perhaps I made my own luck?) that many of my awesome friends who stuck with me happen to be giants of the design industry. Furthermore they graciously allowed me climb on their shoulders and lend their support to the things I was doing. I cannot thank them enough but to say I will never forget what they have done for me. I hope one day to be able to pay it forward and do the same for someone else.
Differentiate yourself and leverage on your strengths.
On hindsight I made the right choice to not compete with my more established counterparts.
I was the “new kid on the block” and my competitors were well established design consulting businesses with team sizes anywhere from 5 to 15. How was I to compete?
I decided that the only way forward was to do what Nintendo did with the Wii. Rather than compete by being bigger, better, faster, or even more creative for that matter, I decided to differentiate my business and focus on areas my competitors were not as well known for. All the better if this differentiation can leverage on your strengths somehow.
Therefore putting it all together, I decided to focus Design Sojourn’s business to helping companies leverage on design as a strategic competitive advantage, or more simply, design thinking applied. Thankfully, this is something my clients and partners agree that I’m very good at.
So it’s now one year on, and I can now look back and say that my business plan is working (though like any good design thinking exercise it has been tweaked along the way). At the very least, I should still be in business for another year, and hopefully pass that crucial 2nd year “make or break” mark.
Finally, I like to end this post by thanking you dear reader for your support in keeping this blog alive. Please keep your emails coming and do keep in touch?
Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.