Evaluating career ambitions
A company’s ability to use resources effectively within an every changing environment is crucial for success (Clegg, 2010). Christensen (2010) vindicates this use of strategic analysis within a person’s life, reflecting that “good theory helps people steer towards good decisions-not just in business, but in life, too”. Life will always place demands on your resources, however to truly strategise your own life it is imperative that you spend your time, money and talent on achieving your true intentions (Christensen, 2010). Jobs (2005) reflects how “the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work”.
Whilst I believe using external advice and guidance is hugely important in anyone’s career, it is also important to direct your valuable energy towards career aspirations that will make you truly happy. What exactly this entails for me has evolved during the course of ‘Designing a Business’ and I place considerable onus on this particular experience for evolving my career intentions. The journey I have been through with my team has made me realise a passion for social enterprise and the way innovation can be used within this section of the economy to have a positive impact on society. Investigating Greenblatt’s (2010) work on the ‘Impact economy’ within my blog entry ‘a Hero for Social good?’ made me realise that if I was to create a social enterprise that was self-sustaining (and not so reliant on government grants or donations) then the use of this type of positive impact, for-profit business model is the route I want to pursue. This type of model has considerable durability within society (Grennblatt, 2010) and I also believe it would give me a greater level of satisfaction in helping people.
In order to launch such an enterprise requires a plethora of start-up business skills, many of which I have acquired to some degree within the duration of the course.
Without a doubt the ability to use ‘Design thinking’ in such an enterprise, particularly in its creation, is a hugely valuable asset to have. The ability of design to be “both problem seeking and problem solving” within the innovative foundations of a start-up, enables a company to be built which inherently creates new forms of value to consumers (Heller, 2001, Brown, 2008). The use of the U.S.E.R model of design thinking proposed by Beaumont (2010) was reflected on within my “Becoming a USER” entry and demonstrates the unique way design thinkers exploit USER-centric design to formulate innovation. The process of mapping and understanding the problem stages when experiencing a product or service was elaborated on within the role plays and USER testing performed within Eewei’s start-up experience and Corrine’s lecture. The role plays highlighted to me how valuable altering our perceptual bias of a situation can be, demonstrating the daily ‘work-arounds’ we sub-consciously implement. This enabled us to form connections within a system and from this derive scenarios and personas to tailor offerings towards (Beaumont, 2010). I learnt from this stage prototyping can begin which Brown (2011) argues “should command only as much time, effort and investment as needed to generate useful feedback and evolve an idea.
The prototyping we performed initially for our product Hero was done within our team and consisted of brainstorming lots of ideas and bringing them to life with paper and sketches. However as elaborated upon within “Sequencing our Start-up DNA”; once we had decided upon a design we produced a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ to enable a full turn of Reis’s (2011) Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. This allowed us as a team to validate assumptions about our product by using Steve Blank’s (2006) advice of “getting out of the building”, talking to customers and validating our learning. An attempt to perform this type of validated learning was made by Team Hero in creating two designs and seeing very simply which design had more perceived value to the consumers via number of sales. However our team tried to validate our learning wherever possible, for instance within the website we created, we had a section to encourage customer comments which allowed us to further tailor the website to customer preferences i.e. a more user-friendly navigation toolbar. This ability to test assumptions early and cheaply was for me truly remarkable and implementing customer driven design into my future venture is an absolute priority.
Marketing and Branding
A fundamental credential my start-up company must have is effective, communicative and impactful Marketing which meet and exceed post-modernistic “customer needs better than the competition” (Jobber & Ellis-Chedwick, 2013). In order to achieve this Morel (2013) highlighted how segmenting your market of ‘prosuming’ individuals can be effective in identifying marketing techniques. At team Hero we used the social media medium of Facebook to conduct a survey which filtered based upon people who would buy our product and their “Behavioural, Psychographic and Profile” characteristics (Morel, 2013). This was an extremely useful and completely free method of gaining true insight into our potential marketing segment.
Upon validation of our business concept and our differing ‘tribes’, we decided to formulate these ideas into a ‘lean tribe canvas’, which served as an adaptation of the Alex Osterwalder’s business model canvas (Beaumont, 2013). With segmented individuals to market towards, we could design a tribe canvas for each demonstrating how our business model could work for this particular group. This example of further USER centricity enabled us to design a business model to target specific channels of tribes which had the resources to further our profits and influence (Beaumont, 2013). For instance one tribe appeared to be culturally and socially active urban lifestyle enthusiast who enjoys an entire product experience. Therefore we attempted to always engage customers in a multi-faceted social media interaction.
The branding of our company was the first element of this experience. Within our banding we needed to communicate the company Brand, DNA and Identity to target our market segment (Beaumont, 2013). I believe the use of ‘Hero’ was a good decision as the name itself was a powerful tool to capitalise upon. Hero also reflected our DNA as our products saved soldiers, upcycling the materials saves the planet and now it can save you on a rainy day. The journey of building this brand was an exciting and educating experience. Initially we wanted to go along with a cartoon theme and use a recognisable poncho character as our Hero saving people. Interestingly for me the response to our brand ‘Identity’ we received from our peers was of confusion and a fear towards the character we had designed (Beaumont, 2013). This was a memorable reaction for me moving forward and made me realise how easily absorbed you can become within a closed off group mentality and not realise what you are creating is designed incorrectly.
With a more focused Brand that illustrated our ‘Identity’, my ‘Scream-Shout-let a Hero out’ post detailed how team Hero were able to establish a variety of social media and selling platforms. These included an upcycling community ingrained twitter network, Facebook Page, Etsy shop and a website with a blog about everyday Heroes. Dillon (2014) describes the way digital media can be used to inject personality and recognisability into your brand. The pink army branding was consistent across all of these mediums and these were used synergistically to broadcast our company activities (Dillon, 2014). For instance when the team went to trade fairs, we advertised this fact across multiple mediums and even used these trade fairs to connect our customers to our Facebook group via a photo-booth event. As further marketing ammunition for our brand we also developed an advertisement which was targeted at connecting with our customer on emotional, physical and cognitive level (Beaumont, 2014).
Selling and Presenting
Aside from our on-line channels, the process of physical face-face selling was an incredible learning curve for my future goals of marketing a business. The first skill I learnt was how to effectively produce a trade fair design which clearly demonstrates you are selling items (pricing etc.) and also “creates a setting” (Beaumont, 2014). Whereas initially our design contained a confusion of too many ideas; our progress into a clearer, attractive and more consistent design was noticeable. For instance we made the products take more of a centre-stage and added an open umbrella to put our Heroes in their “natural environment” (Beaumont, 2014)
The ability to convince and persuade people is a truly a skill and reflects an ability to use emotional intelligence (Goleman et al, 2013). My goal is to become a leader within a company and therefore the importance of further developing this trait is essential, as Duarte (2010) notes “Your ability to shape your future depends on how well you communicate where you want to be when you get there”. The ability of figureheads in companies to use ‘Primal leadership’ in an emotional manner which motivates people’s open loop limbic systems is defining characteristic of any great leader (Goleman et al, 2013). This therefore represents the second skill that evolved from this experience, in the form of selling and presenting to people. We evolved as a team at selling to customers, becoming more persuasive and being able to give fluent product demonstrations, which elaborated on all of the advantages of our design (Beaumont, 2013). Many of these pitching skills we used within our presentations at the final Dragon’s Den. We aimed to try to inform and transform our audience in an imaginative way and deliver disparate parts of information in a cohesive manner (Duarte, 2010). This took the form of creating a real-time illustrative presenting where we simultaneously narrated an emotive story about the place our social enterprise has within the world. This experience as well as the 2 minute pitch I delivered has evolved my skills as an emotive and persuasive leader.
Certainly being able to manage finances within my start-up will be a crucial skill to master and due to my role as finance director at Hero I feel I have gained a lot of experience within this area. The ability to record information within double-entry book keeping and produce cohesive accounts to summarise within a business report has been a rewarding experience (Dyson, 2010). I have also realised the importance and potential ramifications of setting the ‘sale price’ of items, in terms of taking into consideration the unit cost, covering costs and psychological limits on what people are willing to pay. Husain (2014) also emphasised the importance of cash and liquidity within a start-up and this is certainly a factor I will be monitoring closely within my enterprise.
Consistent among much business literature is this idea of delivering ‘value’ to consumers better than the competition. Looking at myself as a product how can I now deliver ‘value’ to my company in a unique fashion? Looking back to ‘My infatuation with effectuation’, I believe it is clear that my effectuating principles have grown during this experience as I have new means, altered goals, through a variety of new interactions and commitments (Sarasvathy, 2001). This experience has enabled me to scan the environment for potential opportunities and try to formulate these ideas into an innovative and cohesive package of a product, brand, marketing and finance. It has enabled me to implement expert advice and theories first-hand into a real-life practical venture.
Within my post ‘What makes a great Ad?’ I reflected how the whole experience for me represents a consistent honing of perspective on every front to deliver a valuable commodity to the world. How valuable the commodity we created actually IS to consumers is indeed questionable…I do not believe we changed the world with our innovation and this has taught me that when I pursue my new venture I will ensure it is truly innovative venture that has been thoroughly tested for its scalability and profitability. Within my post ‘Innovatively Stagnating?’ I question whether true innovation is grinding to a hault, however at the end of the experience I can say that I do not believe this is the case at all. It has in fact highlighted to me the wasted potential of people not coming together and trying to find innovative solutions to problems.
Christensen (2012) reflects how there is a difference between being taught “What to think or how to think” and this statement is what I truly believe this experience has taught me. To not be told how to run a business but to be given the skills to guide me to make my own decisions and mistakes, so I can learn from these and make successful choices in the future….and for this I am truly grateful.
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