Collaboration is the foundation to any businesses’ success. As a startup, we understand how difficult it can be to launch a brand or product when certain limitations such as budget, market relevance, expectations , conflicting ideas, or even time hinder immediate success. We get it. We want those product ideas to hit the shelves just as much as you do. Challenges will always arise in many forms, and while we cannot prevent the inevitable, there are aspects we can control that will ensure a startup’s success. So, how do we at Hatch Duo make our collaborations happen despite these pitfalls? Have no fear! We have some useful tips to help make the best out of any collaboration. No longer will you need to worry about limiting your creativity as designers and/or engineers!
Setback 1: Limited budget & Resources
We’ve seen it before: a company has a brilliant idea for a product, but money prevents them from pursuing that idea any further. Budget almost always plays a large role in a startup’s inability to launch a product idea, and oftentimes, we fear making costly mistakes. This is a human behavior, and normal for many of the clients that we work with.
Empathize with clients, and work together to find ways where you can lower upfront fees. In addition, set early expectations! It makes everyone happier and less stressed. Clients don’t want to spend a great deal of time with a developer, only to later find out that they are either too expensive, or the costs of shipping products are unachievable to follow through. At the beginning of any client-design team relationship, committed partnership is crucial. To supplement for lack of capital and if companies are able to offer equity, convertible debt / SAFE notes, or revenue or profit share, we can creatively assess a possible partnership. In return, design teams must communicate what they can do with the project for “X” amount. Often times, if the client truly believes in their idea, and is serious about their startup, there will be a way for both parties to meet in the middle, and involve joint stakes in the venture. On the contrary, sometimes, design teams may find that maybe they are not the best fit for a specific client, or vice versa, and that is completely okay, too.
Setback 2: Market Relevance
As product designers and engineers we try to seek opportunities for innovation while, many startups quickly rule out non-convention due to risk profiles, budget, or competition. Some may feel ill-equipped, or are simply uncomfortable with creative thinking, which is understandable. In the end, however, we know design will inevitably shape our world.
First and foremost, understand the “human problem” and frame it. After that, research, research, and more research! Know the problem that needs to be solved: behind every great product is an even greater story. Take wearables, such as headphones or earbuds, for example. Almost everyone has them, but nowadays, there are so many designs out there, how do you put new ones out to market? The answer: cross-pollination. Borrowing technology from various fields, and applying it to the consumer is one way we can stay innovative without having to reinvent the wheel. Research and think about what the future of that industry will look like five years from now. Any time spent researching and learning, is never time wasted. Additionally, we find that the more you collaborate with various companies and businesses, the more opportunities you have to learn about new technology, testing that new technology, and keeping up with the latest trends. It is all a domino effect: you enter new markets, earn brand recognition, and you learn to “stay competitive.”
Setback 3: Collaborative knowledge
Some clients who come to design firms don’t always know a great deal about industrial design or mechanical engineering as it relates to product development. Similarly, design firms may lack certain experience in designing or developing a product they have never done before. Because of this, both parties may feel overwhelmed with certain tasks at hand, and will need help in the following areas: the client, with how to set foundational expectations and think beyond the product, and the design team, with how to develop the product properly.
This can go hand-in-hand with our second tip. Research, research, research! Not only that, but trust your design process! From a design standpoint, we build confidence by fully immersing ourselves through proven research methods. This reassures us that if the product is something we have never done before, this process will give us the answers we need to develop the product properly. For example, as we mentioned in our Robin Healthcare case study, going into the designing and engineering process for Robin, we knew we would need to take a deep dive into the medical industry, and essentially, role-play as a doctor or patient. By doing so, we can better understand user experiences, and brainstorm various iterations for the product.
On the other hand, when it comes to clients whom have yet to learn about industrial design as it relates to mechanical engineering, we got you covered! We fully embrace the idea of assuming the coaching role, and building your confidence by sharing with you our firsthand experiences across industries.
Setback 4: Conflicting Ideas
We’ve seen it all before. Egos get in the way, design teams, and clients may have contrasting opinions on how a product should be designed, or debates on who should take on a leadership role in certain circumstances. Conflicts will always arise in any collaboration, and it would be a huge disservice to you and this blog post if we were to completely ignore one of the biggest setbacks for design teams and clients.
During initial meetings with the client, finding common ground and setting early expectations in terms of product and marketing requirements, will allow both parties to keep top priorities in mind. It is all about synergy: take aspects from both worlds into the design process to ensure both teams know what to compromise on. In doing so, trust is built between both the client and designer. Trust that you both possess the right knowledge in your respective industries, and stay focused on the common end-goal.
Setback 5: Time To Market
Ah, deadlines. Some people love ’em, some people despise ’em. We at Hatch Duo embrace deadlines. We find that most startups are in a “sink or swim” situation, so we need to work quickly and efficiently.
Getting a product to the addressable market in a timely manner is of great importance because it’s the primary factor that drives sales. Let’s bring back the “domino effect” analogy. By being late on deadlines, the intended market shrinks, thus making competition more fierce, and leading to a decrease in sales. With startups, specifically, a decrease in sales is critical to their overall business model. So, whether the end-goal is to surpass a fellow competitor, be the first to market, or just to save time, money, and ultimately, jobs, we aim to be nimble in the design process by fully integrating both mechanical and industrial design whenever possible to reduce risks and delays for a successful product launch.
On the topic of saving time, distance can also be a tricky thing. There are zone alignments, scheduling conflicts, and an inability for clients to thoroughly test prototypes by the design team. If/when design teams find themselves landing clients out of state or overseas, location may make it difficult to keep communication alive, but thanks to the advancement of technology, it doesn’t have to be this way! To save time, we utilize digital / remote methods of communication (i.e. Skype, Google Meet, Slack), so whether you are right here in Silicon Valley or on the opposite side of the world, we are saving you travel time by increasing project productivity.
All For One, One For All…
Collaboration should be more than just a “give-and-take” relationship–it’s about building a foundation for trust. It is a process that encourages teamwork and company growth, and essentially, permits an ongoing learning environment for past and future employees. This being said, collaboration comes with its fair share of difficulties, but with our five tips, we hope to make the process run like a well-oiled machine. In the long run, being known as “great collaborators” will be better for your business because clients can provide positive testimonies that will increase dependability in your industry. Sharing resources, talent, and even profit has the power to increase market reach, thus increasing connection with clientele. Through collaboration, we find new ways to communicate, innovate, and problem-solve, so aim to take full advantage of any collaboration that comes your way!
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