Here's the next chapter of the The Business Plan Kit for the Designer's Brain.  Please post comments and suggestion, I would really like to hear your input and feed back.
Step 2 The Mission Ahead
Defining Your Business

A successful business is easy to explain, has consistent messaging and a good plan. The key to all three is to have a clear idea of what your business is about.  Creating a mission, vision and values statements will set a strong foundation  to build your plan on and they are the keys to your strategic plan as well.  You may be fooled into thinking that your business’ mission and vision are obvious and you may be tempted to skip this step but these are harder to craft than you think.  You will gain valuable insight while going through this process.  Finally, your vision and mission will guide you when setting  goals and actions creating a path to achieve success.

TIP: Lots of people get confused Mission and Vision statements confused.  I have found an easy way to differentiate between them is the add the suffix “ary” to the end of each word.  This simple step helps clarify the purpose of each statement. 

Visionary – someone who creates a message or goal

Missionary- someone who carries out and delivers the message

Once you have laid the foundation for the company with the mission and vision, you will describe what your business does, your primary products or services and who your ideal customer is to complete your business definition.

Mission Statement
Mission StatementWhat you are here to do

A mission statement is a declaration of the company’s core purpose.  It should be easy to remember and written in a tone that embodies the spirit of the company.  It can be very simple or have more detail but should define for both the employees and investors what you do and for the public what it should expect from you.

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”

Patagonia’s Mission Statement

Vision Statement
Vision StatementWhere you are going

A vision statement is a single sentence that synthesizes what you do in your company down to it core element.  Think of it this way, if you meet someone for the first time and they ask you what your company does, this is your answer.

“Bridge design research, studio practice and education to explore the connection between the body technology and the environment.”

RPF Design Studio Vision Statement

Values Statement
Values StatementWhat you will or won’t do to get where you want

A values statement is a simple direct declaration of why you do what you do.  It’s a list of the beliefs and principles that you hold for your business and for yourself.  It defines why you choose to do what you do and how you plan on getting things accomplished.  A simple bullet pointed list is sufficient. 

A Values Statement should not change as your company grows and or shifts focus or product assortment.  It is a statement of basic beliefs that hold true over the long haul.

Designing with a purpose, for a purpose’


Creating a Mission, Vision and Values Statement
To get started on writing your mission statement answer these questions:
  • What exactly do we do?
  • What services/products do we offer?
  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What is the benefit to our customer we provide?  Do we meet a specific need in the market?
  • What is the geographic area/market we serve?
  • What sets us apart from the competition?
  • What’s the best thing a satisfied customer can say about our company?
  • What are we the most excited about in our company’s future?

Then using the worksheet as launching pad fill in the blanks and start crafting a statement that feels right.  Remember the tone of your writing reflects your brand as much as the message.  Do you want a conversational, technical, caring, professorial, expert, corporate or any other tone and company image? Choose your vocabulary and word combinations to reflect your message.  Here’s a simple example:

At b-LAB We provide website design
For small creative businesses and design entrepreneurs
Who are looking for a unique brand identity and to generate income
Unlike the do-it-yourself online companies
We offer an individual site tailored to your exact needs and can guarantee a 25% increase in traffic to your site in 2 months.


Pretty basic but it's a start, now it just needs re-writing to make it more personal and give it a flavor to match my company image.

Moving on to your Vision Statement, imagine that it’s 3-5 years into the future of your business and answer these questions about your company:

  • How big is your business?
  • How do you measure the success of your business?  Industry ranking? Personal financial success? Company financial success? Product quality? Contribution to the community?
  • What are your most important product lines or services?
  • What products or services do you refuse to offer?
  • Who are your customers and how do you find them?
  • If your customer were asked to list 3 noteworthy things about your business, what would they be?
  • How would you describe your management style (participative, top down, family style?
  • What kind of people do you hire?
  • What is your relationship to with your employees? What do they say about their jobs?
  • What do you do every day? How much do you work?
  • How does your community view your business?
  • What do your suppliers say about you?

Once you have answered these questions draw up a bullet pointed list of the top three to four most important values for you and your company.  You can leave it as a list or craft it into a sentence.  Here’s an example:

b-LAB is committed to the following values:
To engaging with the community
To delivering the best possible original design solutions
To creating designs with a sustainable consciousness
To have fun and work hard

Using Your Statement to Create Goals and Actions
The last step in this phase of defining your business is to set basic business goals and objectives or actions to take to achieve your goals. 

Goals & Action – set the mileposts that help you get what you want

Using your mission statement underline the key passages that highlight your core competencies and market differentiators.  Create three goals that correspond to your underlined passages.  Then for each goal outline a few actions to take to achieving that goal.  In the following example, the underlined portions are extracted to create goals.  From those goals a number of actions are created to achieve those goals. 

Victoria Cox, LLC Mission Statement:

Victoria Cox, LLC is an interior design firm(1).  Our talent is creating warm inviting relaxed spaces that people can enjoy.  We believe that good design improves the quality of your life and should be accessible and affordable.(2) We approach each project as collaboration between the client’s taste and needs, the home’s architectural style and the designer’s vision.  We provide help with the complicated and often overwhelming renovation process(3) for homeowners with a dream who are frustrated with the high costs associated with good design.


1.   Increase Brand Awareness

2.   Create an affordable design product “design in a box” and simple consultation schedule

3.   Create a planning kit for clients to guide them through the renovation process.


Actions for Goal #1: Increase Brand Awareness

1.   Develop website with informational blog

2.   Publish articles in local and national magazines

3.   Speak at ‘Home Show” engagements

Actions for Goal #2: Create an affordable design product “design in a box” and simple consultation schedule:

1.   Analyze design process and create a step-by-step list of each stage of delivering a finished design

2.   Write the documents describing the service and create a submission form

3.   Test product on friends and family

Actions for Goal #3:Create a planning kit for clients to guide them through the renovation process:

1.   Write a one pager for each stage of the process

2.   Write blog posts about each topic

3.   Promote the kits on website, blog and in speaking engagements.


The Elevator Pitch
Now that you have done all this hard work, the elevator pitch should be a breeze.  Imagine you are in an elevator, you have from the time the door close until they open, on the say the 10th floor, to answer…”Tell me about your company?” from someone you have been wanting to meet.  Perhaps it’s a possible investor, or it could be a friend of a friend who is in banking or a colleague who is in the business sector you are entering.  What ever the situation, the next 15-20 seconds count, so having this pitch prepared so that it runs off your tongue and feels conversational is key to a successful follow up with the potential lead you have just encountered.

Start with these questions and then create a 2-sentence pitch that includes the most important information about your company.

·      What business are you in?

·      What is your product or service? (Don’t get hung up on details)

·      Who is the target customer?

·      How large is the market?

·      What problems does your product/service solve and what are the benefits to your customer?

·      What makes your business unique?

·      Who are your competitors and how is your business different and better?

You don’t have to focus on all of these questions, just the ones that are the most important for your business.  Here’s the one I developed for my design firm:

“RPF Design Studio is forward thinking multi-dimensional design practice that brings a fresh perspective to each project, from performance sports products to interiors. Everything we design begins with the body—how it works, how it moves through space, the way enhanced performance enriches experience.”
RPF Design Studio Elevator Pitch

Business Description
This section is an in-depth description of your business.  Here you will go into detail on what your business does, who buys your products or services and what sets your products apart. Describe whether your business can grow and how fast. Be sure to include how you plan operate your business and describe your market potential.  Finally, include a description of what stand in the way of your business success. 

Your Product or Service
Describe in detail your products or services, they are the core of your business. Describe what benefits your product or service provides for your customer.   This is the time to go into detail and really explain your product, what it does, why it’s amazing, what set’s it apart.  Do you have a proprietary technology or a unique design?  Do you own a patent?  Have you identified a hole in the market or a customer need that isn’t being met?

Talk about future plans in product development and product extensions.  Start with describing the services/products that you will feature, then map out how you see that product evolving.

Will you add new products or new design elements to and existing product (product extensions) to keep market interest?

Will you introduce new product names or packaging/labeling to re-inspire the market?

Growing your product offering can result n higher sales but it can also grow your customer base so make sure that you describe how your product extensions will be positioned to grow your business.

Describe in detail your target customer and what problem your product will solve for them.  Next describe how you will communicate with your customers.  Where is your business located, what geographic location will you serve?    

Click here to link to Chapter 1: Getting Started

bout the Author:  Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman is a successful designer and entrepreneur of 25 years and founder of RPF Design Studio.  To receive Rebeccah's newsletter, subscribe here.

New Book Draft! Comments Please

I'm writing a book and Im almost done with the first draft.  The Business Plan Kit for the Designer's Brain.  I'd love some feed back.  I' m going to post the chapters here. Getting Started, then Steps 1-5 and Putting It All Together.  Please send me you thoughts!

Getting Started

Getting Started

Welcome to the Business Planning Kit for the Designer’s Brain.  This kit will make writing a business plan for your design driven business a breeze.  It explains all you need to know about the business side of design in simple clear language and easy to follow worksheets.  I created this book out to save my fellow creative from the frustrations I suffered writing business plans for my business over the years, knowing there had to be an easier way.

When I first became a design entrepreneur, I read business books, took classes met other people starting business and it all made sense until I had to start writing the plan.  Writing a business plan and understanding 

spreadsheets was about as far removed form design as I could get.   I didn't have any other creative people to go to for guidance.  I found the things that were hard for me were easy for the non-designers and the things that came easily for me were hard for them, like designing a new product or creating packaging or brand identity.  

Basically creative people are very lucky when it comes to starting a business because for us the hard stuff is easy, coming up with new ideas, products and ways to communicate with our customers but the easy stuff for others comes harder for us. Because we are visual and kinetic learners the skills needed for traditional business planning are more challenging.  So I have created this kit that maps out in diagrams and pictures using words that evoke images what is needed to create a compelling business plan.   If you stick with it, and complete the kit you’ll walk away the outline of a plan for a viable design driven business after just 5 work sessions.

Each of these segments in the kit has descriptions, examples and exercises with worksheets to help you gather all the information you need to build the components of your business plan.  The idea is to complete a segment of the kit in each work session and have an outline of a business plan in 5 work sessions.  Are you ready for the challenge? 

Think of business plan as a expedition or military mission, you are preparing for an attack and need to prepare every aspect of the mission to ensure your success.  After all you are trying to gain (take-over) market share from one of your competitors and the terrain may be hostile.  

Click here to link to Chapter 2 : Chapter 2 The Mission Ahead

About the Author:  Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman is a successful designer and entrepreneur of 25 years and founder of RPF Design Studio.  To receive Rebeccah's newsletter, subscribe here.

Learn secrets to successful entrepreneurship from Debera Johnson, founder and executive director of Pratt’s new Certificate Program in Design Entrepreneurship and Rebeccah Pailes-Freidman, adjunct associate professor in Fashion and Industrial Design and Design Entrepreneurship instructor.
Monday, May 20, 2013
1 PM - 2 PM EST


About the Author:  Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman is a successful designer and entrepreneur of 25 years and founder of RPF Design Studio.  To receive Rebeccah's newsletter, subscribe here.

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Effective Marketing Starts With A Strong Foundation
5 Foundation Steps To Building A Marketing Plan

  By Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman
    Published April 5, 2013
I recently was asked by the owner of small business to help them build a marketing plan.  They had a great idea for a business, set up a website, printed brochures and business cards but couldn't find their first customer.   They thought that taking an ad in the NY Times would be a good solution to jump start their service business.  But the business was located in Florida.  I was so happy that I got the call before they bought any print advertising and wasted their money.

So what are the first steps in creating a strong marketing plan? 

You have to start with a solid foundation.  Before you can promote your business you have to make sure all your ducks are in a row because once you start advertising it is going to be very difficult to change your business model and/or pricing structure.

Here are the 5 steps I took to help this business secure it’s foundation before we built a marketing plan.

Step 1:  Identify your client.

In this case,  the business was providing services to aging seniors who want to remain in their homes but don't have family members that are in a position to help them do it.  The core question is, who is their target customer?  In this case the primary customer was not the elderly person needing the care, it was their family members, an important difference, the secondary customer is the client the business services daily.

Step 2:  Who is your competition?

It is very important to look at all your competition.  Your competition can come in many shapes and forms.  Once you identify your competition, study their businesses for valuable information like; what they charge, what services they offer, how big is their business, what is the geographical area they service and how do they advertise. Finally do a strengths and weaknesses analysis of each of the companies you’ll be competing with for business. In the case of this business, their competition came from various visiting nurse services, managed care homes, social workers and even meals on wheels and other social services.  It's abroad array competition but all serving the same market segment.

Step 3:  What are your selling points?

Now that you have looked at the competition, you are able to clearly define what you offer your customer that is unique.  This is the point of differentiation between your business and theirs.   This fact (or facts) is the foundation of any communication and marketing you will be doing to promote your business. Take the time to describe your selling point in a paragraph (for website and brochure), a short declarative statement (the infamous elevator pitch) and an even shorter version as a tag line for your business card and print advertising.

Step 4:  Determine Your Pricing Structure.

Often start-ups will choose arbitrary prices that are just below the prevailing prices they have found in their market analysis.  Although this may seem like the logical approach, they haven’t taken into consideration what it will take for their business to be profitable in both the short run and the long run.  Take the time to determine all your operating costs on both a monthly and annual basis INCLUDING the cost of growth.  (Maybe you can start in the garage but eventually you will have to move out.)  Try to plan for 3-5 years in your financial projections.  Be optimistic and plan for a successful business that will need to hire a few employees, pay rent and utilities and be covered with the proper insurances.  With all of this information, create a pricing structure that will cover the cost of running your business while creating a profit.   Although much of the first year or more you may go without a salary, when pricing your product or service you must give yourself  an income.  Including an income in the calculations is not only necessary, it will also create a goal (more on goal setting later!) and make all the hard work worthwhile.

Step 5:  Establish a Visual Identity.

Finally, you will need a visual identity.  I think of it as a Brand Palette.  It will include a logo with a tag line and an elevator pitch, a collection of 2 or 3 fonts, one each for Titles, Sub-titles and Body text and a color story of 3-5 colors that will never changes across all your communication.  Decide on any other elements like boarders and separators and choose their line weights and colors.  You can choose to create your logo and palette yourself or hire a communications designer.   Either way, you will need a consistent color story, typefaces (fonts) and logo elements to establish a strong brand image when you start your marketing and communications.

Once you have completed these five steps, you are prepared to go to work on the specifics of building a marketing plan.  

Click Here to return to the RPF Design Studio BLOG.

About the Author:  Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman is a successful designer and entrepreneur of 25 years and founder of RPF Design Studio.  To receive Rebeccah's newsletter, subscribe here.