Being in the design field myself I often observe that in order for the business to succeed, we have to craft an excellent “user experience” for the product. If the “user experience” is bad, customers will stay away from the product and the business will fail.
A designers responsibility
Designers are strange creatures that are passionate about creating beautiful and functional products. We love our job so much that we tend to tweak nitty gritty details and craft a product to perfection. Unfortunately many times our vision is too narrow and we often tend to forget to think about the design of the business system of a product, because it’s not our main area of expertise. If you are working for an agency / consultancy firm you will not always get exposed to all departments and will likely not have control over everything. Clients come to you because they want to get your ideas and they want you to design the most “beautiful and outstanding” product for them.
But being a designer also means taking responsibility which means that we should help our clients to create a successful business by not only focusing on the product but also on the bigger vision. Only putting the product in the center of the stage, even if you client wants it, and ignoring all other aspects of the business system around it will not always lead to success in the long run. A great product may indeed increases value and contributes to the success of the business, but it shouldn’t be the only focus.
What do I mean by business system?
Let’s have a look at one of the most successful companies in history: Mcdonalds. Everyone knows McDonalds and everyone probably knows that there are better burger stores out there. And every day, another one is popping up with the claim to have the best burger in the world. It is fair to say that most of them probably do have better burgers than the Big M (and most likely many of us are even capable of creating better burgers), but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can create a better business system. McDonalds is so good at handling millions of customers and meeting the demand every day, because their logistics and distribution channels are running like a well oiled machine.
It is amazing to think about that you don’t even need years of kitchen experience in order to create a burger because the thought-out training program and the specialized kitchen appliances gives everyone the ability to create the most sophisticated burger on the menu in no time. And there are so many things that are running in the background that we never questioned and just take for granted. For instance when McDonalds introduces a new product and you go to another country you would expect to have the same products available. They make sure that stores across the world has the same offering with minimum delay. How is that possible? Only by putting a lot of thoughts into designing the system. McDonalds is a great example of a blueprint for creating a great business system.
If you look at big brands you will most certainly notice that many of them don’t necessarily have the best products in the market, but all of them have solid business systems in place that allows them to operate and serve the customer more efficiently which in return increases profit that allows them to grow. Creating the best beautiful product and crafting the best user experience is therefore not a guarantee for success and good business.
Taking a look at the BI Triangle from Robert Kiyozaki, which illustrates the components of a successful business, you will see that the product plays the least important role in building a successful business. The most important elements that build up the foundation are: TEAM, LEADERSHIP and MISSION. Do you have a reliable and trustworthy team? Is leadership doing a good job of taking care of your people? What is your companies vision?
The BI Triangle is a good illustration that shows without having a strong foundation in place and only focusing on the product, the business is likely to fail. As you can see, the product is on top of the pyramid and therefore has the least focus. The Bi Triangle can be a great guide if you want to build a solid business.
McDonalds and the BI Triangle
Let’s get back to the example of McDonalds and see how that would look like if they would only focus on the burger: Imagine the burger has everything that makes a perfect burger – the finest patty, crunchy and fresh baked buns, a delicious homemade barbecue sauce, fresh cut vegetables and cheese melting down on the side. But now imagine it would take up to 30 min to create a burger for one customer: someone has to form the patties, put them on the grill and turning them every minute to ensure the meat is not burning on the outside but still soft and juicy inside. Another one is cutting the vegetables and preparing the sauce. Two more are responsible for preparing the buns. Customers would spend a lot of time waiting and after a while they would probably get annoyed. The cashier needs to keep them in the mood by offering free drinks. Customers would then decide to go to another store in hope to get served faster. And maybe it is, but now the burger doesn’t really taste the same, because another person with less experience is making it. The taste is inconsistent and you never know what you get.
You can probably guess where this is going. After a while, customers would stay away, because they simply don’t want to spend much time on waiting. Since customers are staying away, cashflow is going down. Increasing the prices to survive would not solve the problem and only make it worse and in the end not enough profit is generated. The company need to let go people because demand is low and one person is now enough to do the job that before three people were handling.
Empathy and Trust as the business foundation
I have to admit it is a very simplified example but I hope I could get the point across. If we work with clients we should ensure that we also understand his point of view and try to look at things through his lens. As designers we learn to create empathy for the users but we also need to develop empathy for the people we collaborate with (btw, empathy in general is not only a skill reserved to designers but everyone should apply it in real life 😉 ).
It is our responsibility to ask the right questions and give him valuable and reasoned advice that makes his business grow and not only teaching him about the value and importance of design. In the end if we are able to make our clients more successful, he in return will make us more successful and trust is created which is the foundation of all successful businesses.