Nurture your team and understand the importance of a strong culture before you dive into the serious stuff

Serious Business Agency design & branding agency

Please introduce yourself and your startup Serious Business Agency to our readers!
Hæ/Olá/Hej/Hola/Servus, we are started as six creatives with six different passports that met at the Interactive Art Direction program at Hyper Island, a Creative Design & Business School in Stockholm. After graduating in June 2016 we recently founded our own strategic design & branding agency, Serious Business. As a multidisciplinary design team, we like to see the whole picture in a project from strategy to execution. Our core expertise ranges from Brand Strategy and Visual Identity to Digital Design, UX Design, Brand Activation, Concept Development, Digital Product Development and Design Workshops.

How did you get the idea to Serious Business Agency?
Part of our studies was a 3-month industry experience. We all felt we wanted to create our own experience and do something different than the typical internship. To show how it could be done in another way we created a serious business. We did so by exploring what the design agency of the future could be and travelled around Europe for 3 months to collaborate with five different clients on 3-week projects in Spring 2016. Serious Business was born and since summer 2016 we are located out of Munich to bring some new blood into the design world.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
Fortunately, we had the support of our school to create our own industry experience and we had been working on different project groups together throughout the months before. Therefore we were able to build our team culture and establish our service before taking off.
On the other hand it was challenging to start an agency completely from scratch within 3 months, struggling with formalities such as work permits in different countries and sharing Airbnb’s while living out of our suitcases for 3 months straight. The largest weight on our shoulders was the responsibility to find 5 clients who were willing to work with us for 3 weeks and pay for our expenses. In the end, we made it all happen and we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat, we’ve never gained as much experience and built our network in such a short and intense time.

Who is your target audience Serious Business Agency?
We’ve been working with startups to big corporations and every client and project are unique and we love that challenge. Our target audience are all businesses that believe and want to work with design as a path to solve the big and challenging questions of the future. An audience that acknowledges that today’s world is shaped by digital environments where businesses brand themselves not only by the way the look or communicate but by the user experiences they provide and the actual products they deliver, we call it branding by doing. We love working with clients that are curious and willing to learn and work together to build memorable digital experiences and products.

What is the USP of your startup?
What sets us apart is our flexibility and speed. Growing up with digital as our second language embracing this world in our eyes requires adaptability and a focus on quick iterations to develop digital solutions and products. With our established process we develop fully functional digital prototypes in just 2-3 weeks which enables our clients to experience their digital future and make better and faster choices before making any expensive commitments.
Apart from our focus on digital projects we truly believe in the power of good and personal relationships with our clients. The positive impact on a projects’ success while working 3 weeks in our clients’ offices during our internship has been the most valuable learning for us. Close collaboration with our clients has made our projects not only more fulfilling and successful for both sides but it has created lasting relationships with the people we have been fortunate to work with.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
A workday always starts with a short check-in a great way of understanding the current status and feelings of group members. If we’re on location with our client we’re most likely moderating a half-day workshop using our own tools and later interviewing different stakeholders while enjoying a cup of coffee.
If we’re at our office depending on the process step in which we are in we might be sketching ideas on paper, filling our 4 walls with inspiration and sketches or simply staring at our screens working on designs or doing research. During the day we have regular updates and discuss our challenges, get feedback or support from other team members. Not to forget taking regular breaks, eating healthy and refreshing our minds with some ping pong or fresh air outside. Then check out at the end of the day with a short reflection and discuss improvements for the next day(s).

Where do you see yourself and your startup in five years
We’d love to see ourselves as a grown design agency with new members bringing, even more, diversity and different backgrounds with strong personal connections in the team. We want to work on meaningful projects that shape the digital future of our planet and have a positive impact on people’s lives and the way businesses think about design. We strive to build lasting relationships with clients and hopefully being able to establish ourselves in different cities around the world.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
1. Nurture your team and understand the importance of a strong culture before you dive into the serious stuff. The first thing we did was to rent a cabin for a week and get together to align our personal expectations, talk about potential conflicts and to build our team culture. Invest the time and give your team culture an absolute priority. It’s still possible to fix your product or process in a later stage, however if you want to fix a broken culture after a serious conflict in the team, it’s most likely too late.
2. Start early! Why not start your first business while you’re still at school? You’ll never be in such a safe and comfortable place in life again. Don’t make up excuses that you’re not experienced enough. Start before you’re ready and the learnings and experiences will reward you beyond expectations.
3. Talk and reflect daily to learn and to adapt fast. Daily check-ins and reflections not only help us to get things on the table that slow down our productivity or strain us but they enable us to move forward more quickly and develop our team. If something in your work process isn’t working today why not react fast and try to change it tomorrow.

Thank you Sebastian Degenhart for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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