13 November 2006
Linda Fisher, Design Management Resources, Inc.
Linda Fisher, Design Management Resources, Inc.

We are speaking to you. The design firm principal. You say that you want to be a leader. Leadership is measured in deeds - not words. The leader's path to success is strewn with obstacles: good intentions unfulfilled; unexpected twists and turns causing delays; missed opportunities and missed deadlines due to lack of prioritization, etc. But the true leader stays the course - and ultimately finds success.


Once the design firm principal has set his/her mission statement - commitment comes into play. Commitment is all about a personal pledge that is made, every day, to carry the mission out. It means that the principal of the firm actually does what he says he will do. And it is crucial that he rises above the daily challenges of running his business to make the absolute commitment to 'under promise and over deliver' consistently for his clients. In a day and age when a pledge is seen as a fleeting promise - the business person who is true to his word, and absolutely committed to 'making it happen' - is seen as a valued partner to a corporate client.

Why? Because every business partner knows that true commitment is constantly challenged, and true commitment has to go above and beyond the call of duty over and over again. Net result of living out one's design firm's commitment at this level? The positive PR this generates via word of mouth, is an incredible asset to the design firm, and makes it stand head and shoulders above its competitors!

True focus. Another rare asset. The design firm principal who is a true leader has a clear vision, and remains focused on it to realize his dreams for his business. Focus creates a sense of purpose and a realization that certain actions must be taken if the firm is to be perceived as a valuable asset to corporate clients. Clarity - or focus - builds a strong foundation for any business. It is aware and in tune with national and global business trends. It monitors its competitors. And no matter what happens, it remains on message with its brand image.

Clarity and focus are reinforced by consistency. Clarity does not allow momentary whims and fads to change the direction of the firm. It remains true to its brand and its mission. All of this focus creates a tremendous amount of energy and passion for the design firm. The most important net result of all of this is that its brand is protected and nurtured. Ergo, the design firm has long-term sustainability.

Adding this asset to commitment and clarity sets this leader's design firm apart - as a force to be reckoned with. Real competence in business is more than achieving design projects with creative excellence. Real competence anticipates the clients' every need and more than meets them.

Real competence delivers on time, every time. Real competence turns information around quickly, as well as returning phone calls and e-mails on a dime. Real competence creates a feeling of security and confidence on the part of the design firm's clients!

Speaking of confidence... Confidence isn't cockiness. Confidence isn't arrogance. Confidence is the projection of the knowledge that the design firm leader can and will deliver, and over deliver, for his clients. Every time. Confidence at this level, in turn, inspires trust on the part of the clients toward the design firm. Confidence is contagious. The whole staff can catch a bad case of it from their principal(s)!

Now, that's our kind of contagion! Confidence acknowledges that in day-to-day operations, problems will arise and unforeseen circumstances occur, yet it positively asserts that all of these things will be overcome. It doesn't conclude this on blind faith, but it actively seeks solutions and works on problem solving.

Confidence never loses its focus (clarity) on the big picture. It exudes competence. And most of all, it remains true to its commitment.

Design firm principals don't automatically cultivate commitment, clarity, competence and confidence. So, where does it come from? It comes from giving their businesses a firm foundation. Meaning? It starts with a marketing plan. This defines their firm's positioning, goals and tactics ... and how to realistically attain them. It clearly spells out the services they are selling and aligns them to what their clients really need and want.

The goals are put into financial terms, and then budgeted for. A marketing budget is committed to promoting each unique design firm's brand and positioning, through the methods determined by the marketing plan. That maximizes their marketing budgest, utilizing them for the ultimate effectiveness.

Thank you to Claire Ratushny, for helping to write this tip!

For more information about Design Management Resources, contact:

Design Management Resources, Inc.
PO Box 423
Thompson, CT 06277
T: +1 800 230 3603, +1 860 923 0423
F: +1 860 923 3800

About Linda Fisher
Linda Fisher is founder and president of Design Management Resources, Inc., the leading consulting firm in the design industry, specializing in consulting, Living Marketing Plans, Living Public Relations and a full menu of services for design businesses.

She is a regular on the speaking circuit and has made speeches at national conferences, as well as regional chapters of AIGA, IDSA and GAG among others. Ms. Fisher also accepted an invitation to speak at the 5th European Academy of Design Conference in Barcelona in April, 2003, a national "Brand
Identity Package Design" conference in June, 2003, as well as a national "Leadership Summit" in October 2003.

Ms. Fisher also conducts intensive workshops, since her primary focus is on educating design firm principals in sound business tenets. Her reputation as a design industry leader and educator has led to several invitations to write articles for publications in the United States, Australia and France.

She also writes impactful articles for internationally recognized publications including How Magazine and Communications Arts, as well as the DMI and IDSA national newsletters. Ms. Fisher writes a newsletter, which is international and currently read in over 32 countries: "Marketing and Public Relations Tips Exclusively for Design Firms."

During her 25 year career, Ms. Fisher's philosophy has been: "Design is a core value in all products and services." She forms strategic partnerships with her clients by consulting with design firm principals to define their mission, position and business goals. Through her expert knowledge, Ms. Fisher helps clients to establish brand identities, brand trust, leadership initiatives, sustainability.

In order to compete in today's global marketplace, differentiating strategies are critical to sustainability. Ms. Fisher is also interested in identifying design leaders, or those who want to be, to help them achieve the top billing they deserve.