Benchmarking to be more creative

Benchmarking gets a bad rap in the design industry. Many business owners see it as killing off creativity. The reality is it can increase the opportunity to be creative.

Benchmarking in the design industry compares your performance to others in the industry. This can identify areas where you shine and those in need of improvement. Its major benefit is in gaining a competitive edge by opening up opportunities, improving workplace culture, plugging performance gaps, reducing costs, increasing sales and improving workflow. All this allows you more time to be creative.

Open up opportunities

This can happen within your business and the industry. For example, benchmarking the skills within your studio can offer new services to clients or improve design skills. Benchmarking against your competitors can show you where there are opportunities for services they are not offering.

Workplace culture

Benchmarks can be just internal. Benchmarking the workplace culture by examining employee health and safety can show what is working or not working in the business. Asking everyone to do an employee journey map can define the current workplace culture and show what needs to be fixed. This is then a benchmark to continuously measure workplace health and safety.

Plug performance gaps

You can identify performance gaps in the studio by tracking specific KPIs. Using management software such as Streamtime allows you to benchmark project and employee performance. This is not a punitive approach but a way to set benchmarks where everyone can be their best.

Reduce costs

Benchmarking will show areas to reduce your overhead expenses. For example knowing industry salary standards can avoid over or underpaying designers. Reviewing salary benchmarks when you hire someone will make sure you pay a fair wage and possibly reduce your major expense; salaries. On the flip side underpaying staff will increase costs through inefficiencies and the cost of new hires.

Increase sales

For example using the Design Ladder for benchmarking can increase your sales by selling higher value services.

Improve workflow

Job descriptions are a form of in-house benchmarking. By using well written job descriptions with a process such as RASCI you can improve workflow. It also show who does what, when and why; great workplace health and safety boost.


Benchmarks are often seen as comparing clients between one studio and another. But they are internal and external. Benchmarking productivity, pricing,and processes is an internal activity. Benchmarking client revenue and retention, net profit, hourly cost rates and pricing are external activities. They are research based and deliver a healthier, happy more sustainable business.

Greg Branson

Contact me if you would like to learn more about benchmarking or join our Benchmarking Roundtables.

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Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.

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