Invigorate staff and clients with enterprising ideas

Congratulations are due this week to Ramsbottom-based Clock Creative Communications for scooping the Jean Wilson Award for Entrepreneurship at the North Manchester Business Awards.

We are quick to celebrate a consultancy’s success for creativity, voted on by its peers, and delighted when a group wins an effectiveness award for a project judged by clients. But not many in design even consider entering for business accolades, even though creativity can manifest itself as much in the boardroom as it can in the studio.

Clock’s honour is for entrepreneurship, that much- fêted quality usually associated with empire builders such as Richard Branson or innovators like Martha Lane-Fox or Anita Roddick. It is a word that is starting to creep into the college curriculum, with courses geared to bring out the entrepreneur in students.

It is a quality we tend to think that others have, mainly on the client side of the business. We consider entrepreneurs to be major risk-takers and people who constantly rise to new challenges. Yet a dictionary definition describes an entrepreneur as a person who undertakes a commercial venture, and this applies to anyone who has ever set up a design consultancy and, because design is part of a creative process, many of their staff.

The problem is that not enough consultancies extend themselves beyond that dictionary definition to fulfill the aspirations that the word entrepreneur has come to embody. With salaries to pay, in straitened times it is tempting to keep your head down and plod along in a client-friendly way.

But by applying a bit of entrepreneurialism consultancy bosses can make a real difference to the business, without risking all. It is a question of attitude as much as taking huge steps.

Take new business pitches. With everyone out there chasing clients, it helps if you can show a different face, reflecting your culture rather than one you think clients would like to see. It might be that, like Priestman Goode or Seymour Powell, you create your own products and use them to court the media, or that you take a broader view of a project than the pitch demands.

As for existing clients, some groups successfully use the downtime between actual projects to ‘partner’ their paymasters in new ideas to improve their business – and possibly generate fees that might not otherwise be available.

You have probably heard all this before, but are you doing it? If you can find a way to engage the client – or motivate your team – that is special to you then you could be on to a winner. We might then see more awards for entrepreneurship coming the way of design.

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