Handling Operations in a Design Studio
Ok, let me start this write up with an honest question to all the “DESIGNERS”– How much do you love numbers?
If I am not wrong, majority of you would answer “Not very fond” or in similar lines. Though, I am not sure of what you have answered but as per my experience of working with as many as 50 plus designers and after networking with other few hundreds; I am pretty confident that answer is more on the negative side; for the past year, I have made sure to ask this question to every designer I met in person (once we are comfortable).
Yes, the obvious question is why am I so obsessed with numbers and designers? Because, I handle the ‘OPS’ wing of Lollypop Design Studios and if you haven’t already guessed, it is my struggle to gauge if the ‘Hate-Love’ relationship between Designers and numbers is universal; Well, my experience has almost pushed me to the corner of stereotyping (I know, it’s darn stupid), but, in my defense here are few fun and serious examples from my encounter as I head the department of Finance and anything and everything to do with numbers in a dedicated design studio, Lollypop.
Every business has its core and support wing, basically, the team that generates revenue and the team that keeps the process in place but does not generate revenue like HR, Finance or Marketing. And, for obvious reasons “CORE” is always of utmost importance, they are like the screen actors. But, you can never pull together a movie without the backstage team, yes, we are really important and we are called “Operations”. Being in operations is not an easy task, but being in operations in a company full of designers is even more difficult.
Here, I have tried to take you all on a laughter roller coaster along with some food for thought. I would definitely love to hear the agreements and disagreements.
The first and foremost trouble and nightmare of my life is TAXATION. My team is young, vibrant and full of fresh graduates but also extremely passive when it comes to paper work. I am not even exaggerating; I have been doing the employee taxation for almost 2 years now and I have taken at least 7 sessions with the entire team on Income tax and what needs to be done for saving taxes. But, alas all efforts are wasted! Every single time they come with question and not papers.
Ok, here is another one, designers have all the right to be super fussy with designs and I suppose that is what brilliance and perfection is all about. I secretively admire them for that, but (there is always a BUT) have pity on us too. Even if we are these super designers, do not forget that at the end, it is a business after all; in the sense, that we must pay salaries and cover all the fixed and variable costs. And, this can be only done when we make revenue, let’s be practical! But, of course who cares about numbers, right? Designs must be at par, irrespective of any circumstances; be it going that super extra mile, designing things that were never promised in contract be it adding those illustrations, branding; actually, let me not even begin with that never-ending list. I sit and crack my head on those unbilled hours, project timelines, cash inflows and outflows. And, the best part of all is we do not even get to complain because they say “Eh, I don’t understand all these numbers, your head ache, you manage”; it cracks me up but there are times when I feel like almost killing them and I mean it.
If I wasn’t enough, the marketing team joins my band wagon (we are the jokers of same number circus). So, marketing has two facets – numbers and goodwill; When it comes to goodwill the team can’t stop praising the designers and they love them to bits. Again, there is another big fat “BUT” and obviously, it is the hardcore crunching figures that ticks the marketing wing. The spend on marketing is directly proportional to the ROI (Do I see few readers searching the term on google?). So, one can basically reinvest only when they have enough revenues and if it is a start-up, we all are little stingy in marketing spend and more focused on other core activities. Imagine the fight!
Another interesting struggle of Marketing team is to get designers for its social media activities. It’s fun to see the tom and jerry fight between project managers and them for designer’s time. But, I can just imagine how stressful it can get!
They don’t even spare the HR. She has to keep mailing and answering about the leaves each one has. Team knows how many leaves they can take and they have the calendar, but, queries somehow never end.
And, the last and the most funniest of all is the TOOLS. For us we are proud users of Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF suite and our love for windows is unparalleled. The fight between the mac and windows users is hilarious and fun just gets multiplied when we fight against PPT and Photoshop, Excel and Google Sheet and so on…
All said and done and probably after taking out my frustration here, honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Love for perfection is hard to find and I suppose every startup has its own challenges and this one is ours!!
Challenges make us worthwhile and yeah how can I not mention that (though we have not been successful in influencing designers with numbers), the support team at Lollypop is definitely the most design oriented non-designers you will ever find.