Is your business fit for purpose?

Your design is winning awards. You’ve brought new clients onboard and looking to expand. You’re making a profit each year and growing steadily. So why should I ask if your business is ‘fit for purpose’?

A fit for purpose business is in the right market at the right time. It has the right pricing structure, the right people in place and systems to make sure your business delivers today and in the future.

The ‘fit for purpose’ design business

One of the biggest mistakes when developing new businesses is in writing a business plan, creating lengthy financial projections, and then immediately diving head first into executing their plans. This only maximises the risk of failure since in many cases they’re launching a service that clients don’t want and their business model can’t support.

Building something nobody wants is the number one reason for new business failure and it’s no different for design businesses. But even if you do build something that clients want, you can still fail to build an appropriate business model around it. So before you begin executing on that “next big thing” you need to test your ideas to be sure you’ve achieved the proper fit with the market and for your company.

Three kinds of fit

Every design studio should aim to achieve three kinds of fit before they begin to market themselves:

Problem-Solution fit,
Product-Market fit, and
Business Model fit.If you achieve all three you can’t help but have a studio that not only adapts to change but leads the pack and sets some of the changes in motion.

Problem-Solution fit

This occurs when you’ve analysed the industry sectors where you have deep expertise. You then conducted face-to-face research that shows clients care about specific jobs to be done (your service); pains, and gains (your solution). To reach this stage you’ve proved the existence of a clients’ problem (eg. falling sales) and have a design value proposition that addresses your clients’ job needs, pains and gains.

Perhaps you have developed an integrated campaign that will help sell their product. This is the job to be done. You have also identified the pains that the client has; for example an under motivated sales team that you will fire up with a creative campaign. You have also identified that the gain the client will get is increased sales and more motivated sales people. Unfortunately you still don’t have definitive proof that your client cares enough about your value proposition to buy it.

Typically you will examine your problem-solution fit with an empathy map and a design value proposition canvas.

Product-Market fit

This happens when you have proof that your design value proposition is creating value for your client by doing the jobs they wanted done while lowering their pains and improving the gains they wanted.

You now have a product (design thinking), some tools (empathy mapping, value proposition canvas) which are beginning to get acceptance in the market. However you need to do an iterative process of running this process with other clients. This will prove or disprove the various assumptions underlying your design value proposition.

Business Model fit

The business model fit occurs when you have proof that your design thinking process is embedded in a profitable and scalable design business model. You’ve done the research, trialing, pivoting and retrialing of your design value proposition to prove it creates value for your clients. From this you have built a design business model that creates value for yourself and your team. You have found the right business model that delivers optimal profitability.

Getting fit

Putting these three types of fit into your studio requires you to go back and forth between your design thinking approach and the outside world of your clients, getting out of the studio as often as possible to directly test and experiment with clients.

Though the process of building a design value propositions and design business model is iterative and messy, but this process is absolutely crucial to the success of your business.

Want some help with this. Contact Greg to discuss how we can help you develop fit for purpose business.

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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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