Building A Profitable Business With Design And Process Thinking
Over the past decade, I’ve discovered a very interesting observation in the course of my professional work in both engineering and entrepreneurship.
I have found that ‘process’ is a common thread which connects life, work and business.
How did I arrive at this?
It is often said that life is a continuous process of growth and change. To be static is to no longer live.
Similarly, businesses must continuously grow and evolve through the various stages in order to sustain life.
As you may know, at the core, any business is simply a collection of processes and systems which combine to deliver value to the marketplace by solving a customer’s problems – ideally in a way that is profitable to the business and affordable for the target customer.
These processes may or may not be documented and standardized, but they happen.
Two people can be in the same business, selling the same product with two different processes and achieve two completely different results.
Isn’t that interesting?
Now, here’s the beautiful thing about processes – they can be engineered or re-engineered at any time.
However, if they are well planned from the early stages around a clear long-term objective, a great deal of time, money and energy can often be saved later on.
This leads us to design – one of the cornerstones of engineering.
If we can apply this fundamental concept to our process-oriented thinking, it’s possible to add tremendous value to our businesses and grow more easily with less pain.
So, what is design?
The work of designing draws upon the creative talents of the individual or an organization to identify a need, brainstorm a solution, plan its implementation and complete its construction.
It doesn’t stop there.
After building, there’s testing, refinement and iterative improvement of designs over time according to results obtained and ever-changing needs.
- Practically, what does that mean for you and your business?
- When you think of your business, what are you building?
- How far can it take me?
- Can you imagine how it looks and performs?
- Is it built for ‘heavy lifting’ like a truck or is it fast and flexible like a motorcycle?
- How fast does it produce cash and how often?
- How safe and/or stressful is it for the owner to operate?
- Is it strong enough to take some damage, like 6 months or more of low revenue, as we’ve seen in the 2020 pandemic?
- Does this business align with your lifestyle and life goals?
Asking the right questions and giving careful thought to the answers can help you to create a strong design that is customized and right for you.
Why is good design important?
A design enhances your vision and probability of success.
Like a house plan or car design, it provides a picture and projection of the future. It is a reference for your planning and strategic goal-setting.
It’s common to hear the words “business model” being tossed around loosely, but in truth, the model often provides the starting point of your success.
If you’ve already started building your business, it is important to reflect and decide whether you need to discard, re-design or simply upgrade your model based on the answers to your design questions.
Many of us started building our businesses based on a dream in our minds.
However, having it on paper always adds value. This gives the mind a chance to objectively analyze the integrity of your creation. Your human intellect transforms a dream into an actionable design.
I am highly in favour of taking action, but I also strongly recommend thinking before writing and subsequently doing.
Would you trust a contractor to build your house with only a plan in his head?
A good design minimizes the risk of errors, waste and disappointment caused by unmet expectations.
Remember, your written design or business blueprint should be able to easily communicate how and why your business works to any employee, customer, partner or investor.
The written specifications of your business design can help you to be confident about its performance and sustainability, especially when financial feasibility is considered.
Finally, what contributes to a good design?
Here are three ideas…
Without a doubt, simplicity is one of the most important traits of good design.
In mechanical engineering, we have a rule of thumb which says that the best designs have the fewest moving parts. Each additional moving part is a chance of failure, increased maintenance and an additional cost to manage. This applies to your business as well.
Secondly, a good design must be able to meet the required needs. Being simple is important, but if it stops you from achieving the objective in your business, then the design is ultimately failing.
If you’re like me, you can probably think of a time when the use of technology caused productivity to suffer instead of increase.
What if you made a car that was cheap, simple and affordable but would only last one month and could not go faster than 10 km/h? This would frustrate the average car owner. Is your business designed to deliver the results that you want with the speed that you need?
3) Flexibility and Scalability
Lastly, it’s wise to have a business design that is flexible and scalable. As I wrote this, I thought of the “Transformers” movies with vehicles transforming into robots and upgrading themselves over time as required, based on the challenges being faced.
Whether you’re now starting out or you’re leading a larger company, being agile and alert to the ever-changing environment surrounding your life and business is important so that you can make strategic changes based on the feedback information from your internal and external environments.
Having a strong design for the problems your business is solving is a critical step that can lead to huge rewards in the future.
In my own business and career, changes in our organisation’s processes, as well as my personal daily routines, have completely transformed what I’ve been able to achieve, often by simply making better use of the same resources but with processes that were better designed
Now, it’s time to take put that business model on paper, build it, give it a test and get your hands dirty.
I challenge you to find at least 3 ways to improve the design of your business’ most important processes.
Do the required work to build a better business and “engineer” the success that you ultimately deserve!