That’s a track record of consistent effectiveness at the highest level that we’re really proud of and it’s encouraged us to approach remuneration for our work in a different way. When appropriate, we’ll put our money where our mouth is and back ourselves, taking the long view with equity stakes, profit share and deferred bonuses to hopefully recognise the true value of our work at a later date.
These arrangements are true partnerships, with shared risk and reward, so choosing ‘who to get into bed with’ has never been more critical. Interestingly the big boys talk a good game, but if you open a discussion on ‘a percentage of uplift’ more often than not they’re suddenly more than happy to go with your original quote. Its enthusiastic start-ups who understand the value of brand and good design who offer the real possibilities.
These guys have the vision, guts and entrepreneurial spirit to match your own, but generally don’t have the fees necessary to engage with you and give themselves and their product or service the best possible start in life.
Honesty from the outset is key, as is fit, you’ll be working together for the long term and success is commensurate on everyone delivering on their side of the bargain. This agreement needs to be legally binding at the outset and the more detailed the better. As the creative ‘sweat equity partner’, you’ll be the first to be diluted should more investment be required as you grow, but your services will also be deemed, ‘on tap for free’ for the life of the business if you’re not careful.
We have two arrangements currently in place with a software company and a new drinks venture. Both have enthusiastic and talented individuals at the helm and both relationships work because we share the same values and have watertight legal agreements in place.
Once aligned, with roles, responsibilities and deliverables agreed, you can crack on with a work plan, stakeholder meetings and hitting your pre-determined goals. It’s exciting, like starting up all over again, lots of new learnings that can inform your dealings with other clients and your fate is literally in your hands.
Standard fee based arrangements are necessary for simplicity and to keep cash flow fluid, but it’s only by exploring these equity and performance based arrangements that design can mature and really reap what it sews.
Choose your ground carefully, take calculated risks, insure against over servicing and perhaps, with a fair wind, you’ll see a solid return in investment before you retire.