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@
How the Best Get
to the Top
Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
16,000
U.S. Census
“About half of all new
establishments survive
five years”
The Small Business Administration
“Only a 1/3 will
survive to 10 years”
The Small Business Administration
@
Get Out Before
It’s Too Late
and other cautionary tales
Not just survivors
but leaders
Digital Design
Leaders
16,000
U.S. Census
16,000
U.S. Census
Vision Skills
Culture
Values
Talent
LeadershipMoney
Balance
Planning
75 interviews
45+ hrs video
225,000+ words
60+ surveys
1 long bus trip in a skirt
Qualitative &
Quantitative
and we’re only half
way there.
So why bother?
For one, it pays more…
and you’ll be happier…
…but only if you’re an
above-average entrepreneur.
1
23
It only makes sense if
you’re one of the best.
Do designers make
good business leaders?
Nah!
11%
5%
37%
47%
Possibly
Very likely
Definitely
But it doesn’t really
matter what your job
description says.
DD
“Just because you’re a Dive
Master, doesn’t mean you have
mastered the diving business.”
- Guy Fotherby
“Just because you’re a master
designer doesn’t mean you have
mastered the design business.”
- Some Other Guy
Professional
Business Managers
The Best Are:
"Until I was able to speak the
CPA’s language, we were just
another cog in the wheel.”
- Carl White, Think Brownstone
“We hired a team of financial
experts that helped us
understand how our enterprise
clients do business”
- Aaron Quinn, eHou...
A deep interest in
the craft of running
a business.
Always improving
on their skills
The Best Are:
How would you
describe your
leadership skills?
Still got lots to learn 47%
16%
37% Pretty decent
This is where I shine!
“I usually like to warn people; I’m
a really, really bad manager. But
I’m a particularly good leader.”
- Matt Bertulli, De...
Knowing what you’re
good at and what
needs attention
The Best Are:
Guiding their teams
with vision and values
We are the very best!
“It starts with having values that
are very specific, and then you
create a culture that values that.”
- Jon Lax, Teehan + ...
“My leadership skill is visionary
consensus. I provide a vision
and I try to build consensus
around that vision”
- Karim M...
“Actions reveal the path. I’m
here because I work fucking
hard and I can communicate.”
- Nancy Lyons, Clockwork
You inspire
me to be a
better person
Set a clear vision &
values, then show
the way
The Best Are:
Actively involved in
sales and marketing
Do you take an active
role in sales?
No
5%
32%
16%
47% Yes, that’s the
principles job!
Yes, but only because
no one else wants to
Sometimes
“Saying you’re not in sales is an
aspirational statement that has
nothing to do with reality.”
- Jennifer Dary, Plucky
Prioritize sales in
good times and bad
The Best Are:
Focused but flexible
How would you
describe your
leadership style?
Flexible on some
things and immovable
on others
Super adaptable. Call
me a chameleon.
26%
74%
“I’m part of it, I get involved, to get
my hands dirty, to assess things.
But at the same time, I’m not a
micro-manager.”
...
Be clear and
focused but be
ready to adapt
The Best Are:
Evolving their Roles
“While I don’t get to write as much
code as I used to, I’m becoming
increasingly comfortable and
proficient in my revised r...
“I didn’t need to change my
personality, I needed to
change my perspective on
what my role was.”
- Dominic Bortolussi, The...
The Best Are:
Embrace Tough Choices
(but rely on advisors)
How do you make
tough decisions?
Weight options then
make the decision on
my own
79%
21%
Discuss with advisors
before moving forward
“I fully understand that I don’t
have all the answers, nor will I
ever, nor do I want to.”
- Ethan Smith-Gillespie, The Pr...
“I’ve never really thought about
myself in terms of leadership
but because I tell the truth
there’s leadership in that.”
-...
Rely on advisors and
mentors to provide
perspective
The Best Are:
Curating Culture
How important is
culture to your success?
Culture matters, I just
don’t know how much.
79%
21%
Very important.
Culture is everything.
“Putting a Foosball table in a
room doesn’t create culture.
Culture is created by the people
in the room at that time.”
- ...
“I realized the culture of the team
wasn’t what I thought it should be and I
realized that maybe that was because I
wasn’t...
Gently guiding the
culture without
smothering it
The Best Are:
Finding balance and
reducing stress
How do you find
balance in your life?
What stress? I live for this
More work
Hit the bar
Exercise
Vacations
Scream and shout
Play with my kids
Other
0 15 30 45 ...
“As more of an introverted person I
thrive on down time. So I’ll ensure
that I will always have a certain
amount of time d...
Building support and
resources through
exercise, family and friends
The Best Are:
Building a Talent
Pipeline
What is your approach to
hiring new design talent?
Other
Hire young and
train them
11%
11%
21%
37%
21%Job boards
No strategy for hiring :(
Our own network
“Hire people, not skills.”
- David Cancel, Driftt
“The core team actually seeks
out other people that they want
to work with and invite them in
to work on a project.”
- Car...
Talent is like sales; you
never stop working on
the pipeline
The Best Are:
Creating safe spaces
for work and discussion
“There’s something lost in today’s
electronic communication and that’s
the human aspect of just trying to
make sure that w...
How important is physical
space to team success?
28%
72%
Somewhat Important
Very Important!
“We needed to take management
into our own hands and become
proactive. Especially in
communicating with the team.”
- Peter...
Safe, productive
spaces to be creative
and supportive
British Cycling
2010
1
23
David Brailsford
DD D
D
D
D
D
D
D
1%
Adapted from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Aggregation of Marginal Gains
Adapted from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Aggregation of Marginal Pains
British Cycling
2012/13
1
23
Bradley Wiggins:
2012 Tour de France winner
British Olympic Team:
win 70% of cycling medals
Chris Froome:
2013 Tour de Fra...
“Success is a few simple
disciplines, practiced every day;
while failure is simply a few errors
in judgment, repeated ever...
digitaldesignleadership.com
My grandmother, she had that
business for like 40 years. She just
still just shrugs it off. She’s like,
“You’re never gonna...
Thank you!
richard@freshtillsoil.com
@freshtilledsoil
How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
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How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success

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What makes a leader of a digital design team successful? How do they build the best possible team? What was their journey? What is their approach to culture, process and management? What are the core factors that influence their decisions? For a long time Richard Banfield has been fascinated by Digital Design Leadership, so he made it the focus of a two-year long study. The objective of the study was to gain insights into what makes leaders of successful digital design studios and digital product companies different from the rest. He is half-way through the study and so far and has interviewed 50+ studio founders, digital product company CEOs, and product leads. The interviews have already taken him to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Portland, Boulder, Denver, NYC, Austin, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Bristol, Boston, London and Madrid. In this talk, Richard will share what he has learned so far and will begin to reveal the patterns of how we can all mimic this success.

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How the Best Design Leaders Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios Success

  1. 1. @ How the Best Get to the Top Insights into the Top Design Studios Success
  2. 2. 16,000 U.S. Census
  3. 3. “About half of all new establishments survive five years” The Small Business Administration
  4. 4. “Only a 1/3 will survive to 10 years” The Small Business Administration
  5. 5. @ Get Out Before It’s Too Late and other cautionary tales
  6. 6. Not just survivors but leaders
  7. 7. Digital Design Leaders
  8. 8. 16,000 U.S. Census
  9. 9. 16,000 U.S. Census Vision Skills Culture Values Talent LeadershipMoney Balance Planning
  10. 10. 75 interviews 45+ hrs video 225,000+ words 60+ surveys 1 long bus trip in a skirt
  11. 11. Qualitative & Quantitative
  12. 12. and we’re only half way there.
  13. 13. So why bother?
  14. 14. For one, it pays more…
  15. 15. and you’ll be happier…
  16. 16. …but only if you’re an above-average entrepreneur. 1 23
  17. 17. It only makes sense if you’re one of the best.
  18. 18. Do designers make good business leaders?
  19. 19. Nah! 11% 5% 37% 47% Possibly Very likely Definitely
  20. 20. But it doesn’t really matter what your job description says.
  21. 21. DD
  22. 22. “Just because you’re a Dive Master, doesn’t mean you have mastered the diving business.” - Guy Fotherby
  23. 23. “Just because you’re a master designer doesn’t mean you have mastered the design business.” - Some Other Guy
  24. 24. Professional Business Managers The Best Are:
  25. 25. "Until I was able to speak the CPA’s language, we were just another cog in the wheel.” - Carl White, Think Brownstone
  26. 26. “We hired a team of financial experts that helped us understand how our enterprise clients do business” - Aaron Quinn, eHouse Studio
  27. 27. A deep interest in the craft of running a business.
  28. 28. Always improving on their skills The Best Are:
  29. 29. How would you describe your leadership skills?
  30. 30. Still got lots to learn 47% 16% 37% Pretty decent This is where I shine!
  31. 31. “I usually like to warn people; I’m a really, really bad manager. But I’m a particularly good leader.” - Matt Bertulli, Demac Media
  32. 32. Knowing what you’re good at and what needs attention
  33. 33. The Best Are: Guiding their teams with vision and values
  34. 34. We are the very best!
  35. 35. “It starts with having values that are very specific, and then you create a culture that values that.” - Jon Lax, Teehan + Lax
  36. 36. “My leadership skill is visionary consensus. I provide a vision and I try to build consensus around that vision” - Karim Marucchi, Crowd Favorite
  37. 37. “Actions reveal the path. I’m here because I work fucking hard and I can communicate.” - Nancy Lyons, Clockwork
  38. 38. You inspire me to be a better person
  39. 39. Set a clear vision & values, then show the way
  40. 40. The Best Are: Actively involved in sales and marketing
  41. 41. Do you take an active role in sales?
  42. 42. No 5% 32% 16% 47% Yes, that’s the principles job! Yes, but only because no one else wants to Sometimes
  43. 43. “Saying you’re not in sales is an aspirational statement that has nothing to do with reality.” - Jennifer Dary, Plucky
  44. 44. Prioritize sales in good times and bad
  45. 45. The Best Are: Focused but flexible
  46. 46. How would you describe your leadership style?
  47. 47. Flexible on some things and immovable on others Super adaptable. Call me a chameleon. 26% 74%
  48. 48. “I’m part of it, I get involved, to get my hands dirty, to assess things. But at the same time, I’m not a micro-manager.” - Neil McPhedran, Gray
  49. 49. Be clear and focused but be ready to adapt
  50. 50. The Best Are: Evolving their Roles
  51. 51. “While I don’t get to write as much code as I used to, I’m becoming increasingly comfortable and proficient in my revised role.” - Bryan Mahoney, Dynamo
  52. 52. “I didn’t need to change my personality, I needed to change my perspective on what my role was.” - Dominic Bortolussi, The Working Group
  53. 53. The Best Are: Embrace Tough Choices (but rely on advisors)
  54. 54. How do you make tough decisions?
  55. 55. Weight options then make the decision on my own 79% 21% Discuss with advisors before moving forward
  56. 56. “I fully understand that I don’t have all the answers, nor will I ever, nor do I want to.” - Ethan Smith-Gillespie, The Program
  57. 57. “I’ve never really thought about myself in terms of leadership but because I tell the truth there’s leadership in that.” - Nancy Lyons, Clockwork
  58. 58. Rely on advisors and mentors to provide perspective
  59. 59. The Best Are: Curating Culture
  60. 60. How important is culture to your success?
  61. 61. Culture matters, I just don’t know how much. 79% 21% Very important. Culture is everything.
  62. 62. “Putting a Foosball table in a room doesn’t create culture. Culture is created by the people in the room at that time.” - Warren Wilansky, Plank
  63. 63. “I realized the culture of the team wasn’t what I thought it should be and I realized that maybe that was because I wasn’t doing anything to shepherd it in the direction I wanted it to go.” - Alex King, Crowd Favorite
  64. 64. Gently guiding the culture without smothering it
  65. 65. The Best Are: Finding balance and reducing stress
  66. 66. How do you find balance in your life?
  67. 67. What stress? I live for this More work Hit the bar Exercise Vacations Scream and shout Play with my kids Other 0 15 30 45 60
  68. 68. “As more of an introverted person I thrive on down time. So I’ll ensure that I will always have a certain amount of time during a day or on a weekend that I can recharge myself.” - Warren Wilansky, Plank
  69. 69. Building support and resources through exercise, family and friends
  70. 70. The Best Are: Building a Talent Pipeline
  71. 71. What is your approach to hiring new design talent?
  72. 72. Other Hire young and train them 11% 11% 21% 37% 21%Job boards No strategy for hiring :( Our own network
  73. 73. “Hire people, not skills.” - David Cancel, Driftt
  74. 74. “The core team actually seeks out other people that they want to work with and invite them in to work on a project.” - Carl Smith, nGen Works
  75. 75. Talent is like sales; you never stop working on the pipeline
  76. 76. The Best Are: Creating safe spaces for work and discussion
  77. 77. “There’s something lost in today’s electronic communication and that’s the human aspect of just trying to make sure that we understand each other; what’s important to each other.” - Karim Marucchi, Crowd Favorite
  78. 78. How important is physical space to team success?
  79. 79. 28% 72% Somewhat Important Very Important!
  80. 80. “We needed to take management into our own hands and become proactive. Especially in communicating with the team.” - Peter Kang, Barrell.
  81. 81. Safe, productive spaces to be creative and supportive
  82. 82. British Cycling 2010 1 23
  83. 83. David Brailsford
  84. 84. DD D D D D D D D
  85. 85. 1%
  86. 86. Adapted from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson Aggregation of Marginal Gains
  87. 87. Adapted from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson Aggregation of Marginal Pains
  88. 88. British Cycling 2012/13 1 23
  89. 89. Bradley Wiggins: 2012 Tour de France winner British Olympic Team: win 70% of cycling medals Chris Froome: 2013 Tour de France winner
  90. 90. “Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” — Jim Rohn
  91. 91. digitaldesignleadership.com
  92. 92. My grandmother, she had that business for like 40 years. She just still just shrugs it off. She’s like, “You’re never gonna know what the hell you’re doing.” — Matt Bertulli, Demac Media
  93. 93. Thank you! richard@freshtillsoil.com @freshtilledsoil

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