We mentor to help designers build business capabilities.

The words ‘mentoring’ and ‘coaching’ are interchanged. We know there’s a difference.

As mentors we act as advisers. We work with you to identify the challenges. Then we provide insight and guidance based on our experiences: first running a successful design studio, and then mentoring hundreds of designers through the DBC.

Coaches, on the other hand, have predetermined game plans, plays and strategies to tackle a specific issue. A coach often wants you to play to their game plan. Safe to say, we come to the table with an open mind and no game plan.


The Chair program

Need an alternative view?
Want access to information about our industry?
Want more work? or different work?
Maybe you want to test a new business strategy?
Or need help identifying the way forward?

These are all roles for a Chair of the Board.

Problem is, you probably don’t have a board, and you are not alone. Research into the Australian design industry shows 85% of studios have less than three employees. That means most designers are on the tools or fronting clients, with no headspace to work on their business. That’s where the DBC Chair program can help.

What does a design Chair do?

A Chair’s role is to understand, but be independent from the operational running of the business. We give an objective and critical perspective to your studio and it’s position within the Australian design industry.

Our role includes:
Strategy: We use our industry experience to challenge and contribute to your vision and business strategy to build a clear, robust and sustainable future.
Performance: We monitor and question your personal and business performance against key objectives.
Risk: We identify and manage the major risks like cashflow and your new business funnel.
People: Managing creatives is perhaps the biggest challenge of all creative businesses. We help in onboarding, job descriptions, contracts, management and exit strategies of employees.


Carol and Greg have a proven history of founding and managing an Australian design business, and more recently meeting with and mentoring many Australian design businesses. Their value is in their knowledge and experience working in and on Australian design studios.

The Australian design scene is different to others. And what works in Brisbane doesn’t necessarily work in Perth and my not work in Melbourne. Our strength is we have worked in and with Australian design businesses for over 30 years.

The design Chair process

The design Chair is a six-monthly commitment that involves monthly meetings to discuss your business. It starts with a set of agreed objectives. The meetings are scheduled, have an agenda and minutes. The accountability delivers results. Between meetings, the Chair is available for phone, skype or email support as needed.

Some studios participate for six months, have a break to get stuff done and then return for another set of meetings. Others have been part of the design Chair program for over 4 years, using the program as an ongoing presence. It’s like having access to a 30-year design management knowledge bank that can help manage your studio, plan growth and even help negotiate with staff.

Greg Branson

Greg was a co-founder and MD of Mackay Branson design for over 25 years. For most of that time, he had a Chairman that held him accountable. Monthly meetings discussed business direction, finance and cashflow. It was not only scheduled time to plan the direction of the business, it meant the difficult tasks couldn’t be shelved. The studio prospered under the additional eye(s). Greg used that knowledge to build the Chair program.

Greg’s value to creatives is his knowledge and experience working in and on Australian design studios. He’s a walking knowledge bank of everything from salary benchmarks through to tried and tested new business strategies.

Carol Mackay

Carol was the co-founder and Creative Director of Mackay Branson Design. When Greg started DBC she continued the studio to bankroll the new business. That means she clocked up 34 years of managing clients, a studio, and a team of creatives before pivoting from client-focused projects to rejoin Greg.

Her role in the DBC is to research international creative business trends and share her knowledge and experience from a designer’s perspective.

The chair program is bespoke

Sometimes designers work with Greg, sometimes Carol, sometimes both. That’s the benefit of the Chair program – it’s bespoke. It’s specifically about you and your business.

The next step

The success will be in the relationship. Let’s meet to discuss your studio and whether a design Chairman program will work for you. Email Greg or Carol


The business capability program

This program is unique: it’s about building management skills

This is a structured mentoring approach that supports business owners and managers to build their business planning and management capability through review, coaching and business planning.

It’s a six month program:

  • starts with a phone call to discuss the issues
  • involves up to 3 x half-day one-on-one sessions to gather all the information needed to write your business plan
  • by the end of the final session, we’ve co-created a plan specific to your needs
  • studio management team implements the plan
  • hourly meetings over next three months discuss the progress.

What the program covers

  • an analysis of your current clients
  • competitor analysis
  • identification of your competitive edge
  • an analysis of your current business planning
  • an analysis of your management systems
  • an analysis of your workforce skills and strengths
  • identifying the potential to expand your markets
  • strategies to grow your business in existing markets
  • an action plan to gain more business.

The next step

Greg has run this program with more than 50 design studios across Australia. All report the dramatic difference it made to their business. To get more information and find out whether this program is right for you email Greg or phone 0412 762 045


Issue-based mentoring

Walking knowledge bank

We offer a bespoke, issue-based mentoring program for design studio owners. This program is tailored to your needs. Some studios needs help growing, others need help planning, and still others may just have a short-term staffing issue.

Typical topics sometimes raised include:

  • growth strategies: how does a studio grow? Should you find the clients first and then the staff, or is it better to recruit and then market specific skills?
  • staffing problems: managing creatives is not for the faint-hearted. Greg can help from everything from identifying gaps in studio skills to negotiating productivity, job descriptions and salary packages.
  • marketing / self promotion issues: spruiking your own business has to be the hardest. Greg can help you identify your studio’s point of difference.
  • financial planning: sustainability is the key to business success and that is only possible with goals and strategies in place, which leads us to…
  • business strategies: even micro-businesses need to plan, with documented strategies and tactics. It takes the stress out of day-to-day management.

An initial discussion will identify your specific challenges and talk through possible plans to address them.

Greg Branson explains Design Business Council mentoring.


The next step

The success will be in the relationship.  Let’s meet to discuss your studio and mentoring will work for you. Email Greg or phone 0412 762 045

Not ready to commit?

That’s fine, but stay in touch … we produce a weekly newsletter about the business of design you might find useful. It’s written specifically for Australian designers. It’s an easy way to stay current and learn skills and tools to help you manage your business better. Subscribe here.

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