From The Business of Design

In his book The Business of Design, Studio Designer CEO Keith Granet draws on his decades of successful design business consulting to lay out in detail the essential elements necessary for the foundation of a design practice. Keith believes that success in design comes from the successful fusion of creative talent and good business sense. Founded in 1991, his firm Granet & Associates is a consulting practice focusing on business management and product licensing who has helped achieve success for over 400 design firms in the country and placed over 70 product lines in the marketplace with sales of nearly one billion dollars.

Keith believes that it takes confidence, discipline, organization, and good planning to run a profitable design business and that there are specific business practices to consider. Keith shares the ten business practices he believes are absolutely essential for any successful design enterprise. He expounds on each of these practices in greater detail through the rest of The Business of Design. While you may not be able to manage all 10 right away, achieving this full list would greatly benefit your business whether you are a novice designer or an industry veteran.

“Few books exist to guide you through creating a business foundation for your firm that gives you greater space to focus on design.” Keith Granet

Top 10 Business Practices

  1. Friday Bookkeeping
    Record (or get from your bookkeeper) the bank balances, list of checks received in the week; plus accounts receivable and accounts payable statements.
  2. Unopened Checking Statement
    As the owner of your company, to ensure trust you must receive the checking statement directly before any other employee. Make certain that your financial person gives you access to your statements online and that they know you read them monthly. You might consider picking a few entries to ask questions about so that they are aware you actually read the statements.
  3. Review Finances Monthly / Analyze Quarterly
    Regular review of your finances at this regular and fixed schedule will keep you on top of your financial health, allowing you to address trends swiftly, and have the ability to avert a major financial crisis well in advance.
  4. Learn to Say No
    Although it seems counterintuitive to ever turn down work, sometimes it is good business practice to say no. Keith ventures to hint it may be the single most crucial lesson you get from The Business of Design. Your gut instinct is an essential tool in pursuing work and too many good designers have learned the hard lesson in ignoring their intuition. Save your well-being, reputation, and business by saying “no” to the wrong client or project.
  5. The 10 Percent Financial Rule
    Apply the 10% Rule to two places—project budgets and checks received. If you take 10 percent of your fees out of your project budgets, you have a contingency that doesn’t affect profits. Putting 10 percent of checks received into a savings accounts allows for easy and surprisingly quick accumulation of money.
  6. Communicate
    Become comfortable in sharing information, data, and purpose behind the data with employees. Open sharing information, knowledge, and wisdom about your numbers gives your staff a greater stake in the process and makes them more successful.
  7. Review Staff Regularly
    To promote your employees’ growth, it is most vital to review and set goals for theme. Address problems as they occur and keep disciplinary actions out the review.
  8. Promote from Within First
    Growing your staff from within your organization has always proven to be more successful than looking for outside talent.
  9. Look for Work When Busy
    To keep your business running, it is essential that you make the continual effort of looking for work one of your main priorities even if you are swamped. You want to make sure that you have a steady flow of work as one project winds down, another can gradually wind up. Develop the instinct to know when to take on work, when to make clients wait until you are less busy.
  10. Say Good Morning and Good Night
    Common courtesy is a good, increasingly rare thing in this modern age as it affirms our humanity and respect for each other’s dignity. These warm notions should infuse our work relationships and saying good morning and good night to your staff goes a long way in showing your gratitude for their hard work. A simple “thank you” from a boss can do wonders for an employee’s self-esteem.

“Saying good morning and good night to your staff goes a long way in showing your gratitude for their hard work.” – Keith Granet

This is the first in an occasional series of blog posts drawing from ideas explored in Keith Granet’s books The Business of Design and The Business of Creativity. To get more detailed insight on best practices for your design business, you are encouraged to read both books and they can be found at your local bookstore or the following links:

The Business of Design

The Business of Creativity

Alternatively, if you have already read either book and want to share your experiences using its advice, send an email to Lauren Espineli at