Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Stellar, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

One of the most satisfying aspects of business has been the contribution people make daily. The team has been a true force in my sphere of experience. Reflecting on where we started and who we are today the team has always played a profound role and a sustaining role keeping the company vital.
So looking at the team what are the attributes that make the team a success in the design organization? I’ve been reading a really fabulous book by Felix Dennis self made millionaire who created his fortunes in the publishing business.
I discovered Felix being a subscriber to “The Week” a super condensed topical review of the worlds current events weekly. Really smart piece of work that takes excerpts from the worlds great newspapers and condenses it all together for a quick fix weekly. Anyway we are in the early days of building our publishing empire and in some ways I can relate to how this Brit mogul went about building his. The notion of hiring people who are smarter then you in areas you need expertise is certainly one important axiom of team building Felix establishes this point early on and its something we follow.
For example we have engaged expert, English plain language writers, (they could help me with this activity) expert designers, expert accountants, expert sales people, expert formatting professionals, expert production managers, expert project managers, expert photographers and expert illustrators. The expert list could extend for a full page. In order to get the dynamic squarely grounded I also engaged in an expert partnership which contrary to many myths the partnership has been very gratifying and proved quite rewarding. Again partners brought smarts in areas that I have not.

The thing that delineates this whole team idea is the classic notion of the
“the sum is greater then all of its parts”

Team building can turbo boost growth of the organization when you get it right.
In our first few years the one thing that I found extremely fascinating was the dynamic output of the team. This output drove sales paid bills, salaries, and profits. Team output leveraged growth and stabilized the business in our start up period which contributed to building the backbone of what we have today.

So thanks to everybody out there who was around in those early days and contributed to the out put. That would be from about 1987 to 2000. You know who you are and regardless of what circumstances you have found yourself (hopefully great) I feel a profound appreciation for the contribution and leadership you brought during your tenure within the organization. Thank you. We worked together and the out put contributed to the legacy that has brought the organization to where it is today.

Output seems to me hardly reflects the nature of the team dynamic but it is a functional dynamic of what you need in an organization especially in the early days of start up.

Drilling down to design within the organizational dynamic it may be that not everyone shares passion for this aspect of life. Or it may be that what you view design to be is quite different from what I view it to be. Practicality sets in though when you need to sell the stuff to make a living. A core offering of our business has been design and we have worked in a focused resolve to ensure the quality of our product beats the average. In context with output design boils down to three things.

The Good ,The Bad, The Ugly

Sustaining your brand supporting output, building your enterprise can only be achieved by resorting to The Good. In fact the good is not even adequate you need stellar. The team out put is judged by the weakest link. You do not want that to be the design function. We recently engaged in a adventure to bring aboard a new creative director. There was no guarantee of a stellar design person walking into the organization. Recruiting through typical channels attracted the excessively compensated commercial Creative Director from the large agency platform type who would be searching for alignment in our mid size operation. Alternate to these folks we had a bevy of applicants who essentially had made their mark in our local market but didn’t bring the stellar component we needed into the mix. One great long time friend and affiliate who I have great respect for and who could bring the right balance of stellar skill and as well people skills did negotiate with me. After years of freelance he simply couldn’t go the route of the team. So after much exhaustive interviewing I turned to my colleagues and acknowledged that we would likely not have a “Design Saint” arrive at the organization. This was a compromise unfolding after all we did not want design to be a weak link. Then a miracle happened. I received a box of tasteful packaged goods on my desk while I was away at a meeting. Long story short an individual who was not in my recruitment sphere or an immediate contact from our recruiting networks happened to “just arrive in” from Toronto having just fulfilled about ten years of commercial design tenure for some very resourceful and design centric business’s in that market.
The creative director role has been filled and we have exceeded the output expectations that I had ( with all due respect) contemplating previous candidates abilities.

The point to all of this missive is that to get the design value imperative you may need to put the brakes on. Wait or work harder to source. Or at the end of the day get lucky with who comes across your organization. Design is fickle and as well it is open to everyone’s interpretation. Ultimately our team required the multi disciplinary skills from someone who has expertise in traditional media combined with an excellent grounding in interpersonal skills. This combination is essential for the output of the design organization.

Miracles can happen if you wait but the bottom line is people who are leaders want to work with other leaders for a variety reasons. We have attracted these top performers because our brand has evolved the market is driving us to respond with great output. That’s a very dynamic cycle!

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