Our humble path to growth
We, at Ampersand (&), try to do things differently; we’re a team of young designers that have never worked at an agency. Self-education and empirical learning are our only sources of knowledge, and we’re very happy to see that the paths we’ve chosen have got us to enlightening destinations.
Some of them are slightly atypical conclusions, some are commonplaces and many are not novel. But we believe documenting and sharing what we learn helps us materialize our thoughts and grow further.
Like understanding that by focusing on our user’s experience, building a generous culture and engaging with the community, we’d be able to grow economically and professionally in a sustainable way.
We’re branding and digital designers, so UX is a big deal for us. Our job is to create enjoyable and efficient products to empower and improve the lives of our clients’ customers. So while crafting interfaces and interactions for others, we realized we should also improve our own service design.
By doing it, we experienced the obvious: fulfilled clients generate more work opportunities. Not only by asking for more work but also by recommending our services to others.
We understood the evident: retaining is cheaper than acquiring. Less overhead, stronger relationships, greater understanding, more motivation.
And we envisioned the imperceptible: referrals build a trust network that adds value to both parties. New clients find a faster path to certainty; we spend fewer resources trying to gain their confidence. Most importantly, a better fit is achieved, because the connective tissue (old clients) do a filtering job that neither marketing nor commercial efforts can accomplish: they couple two trustworthy nodes that are compatible and pertinent to each other.
We started investing in our clients’ experience instead of paying to advertise. Most businesses’ only way to growth is by raising their voice, our way to growth was to strengthen the dialog.
We crafted it from the inside out. We began with the core: understanding our purpose was the base for our values, language, tone, and goals. Then we designed the timeline: identifying the key moments and optimizing for real and perceived value led us to create a journey of meaning. Finally, we executed: over-communicating, using the right tools and being attentive to detail helped us generate reliability, synergy, and joy in equal amounts.
However, the single most important feature of our UX was the culture: take care of your team and your team will take care of your clients…
There’s a big gap between short term and long term optimization, mainly because networks and individuals have memory. If you play an infinite game (as markets are) the cumulative nature of most relationships, resources, and expenses makes it mandatory that you eventually optimize for the long run. You can’t burn people in a sustainable fashion. You can’t trick your way up without being remembered. Once a thing becomes a theme, doing good is good business as well.
We firmly believe in the importance of creating a healthy work environment. Folks spend about half their awake time at work, we can’t pretend it’s not our obligation as leaders to provide them with a meaningful and engaging purpose, we can’t ignore the influence eight hours a day have in a person’s life.
Let’s stop despising Mondays and worshiping Fridays; let’s replace fear with motivation as the fuel for productivity.
Investing time and energy in wellbeing and professional growth became a part of our culture. It will always seem like there are more pressing issues, but if you think taking care of your own team is expensive, try the cost of finding a new one.
We build and nurture a culture of disagreeable givers. We embrace new challenges, encourage autonomy and look for passion. Since infinite learning is our goal, generous knowledge is a must. We learn from others but compare only to our former selves.
This set of core principles has materialized into spontaneous and incentivized rituals. Some shallow, some profound, but all meant to accomplish our purpose.
A meaningful culture is not only a nice thing to have but also an effort as profitable as any investment.
As we get more opportunities for ourselves, we feel compelled to generate more opportunities for others. We like to say one of our dreams is to help clients fulfill their dreams, but we’ve come to understand our purpose must also impact nonprofit organizations, universities, our fellow designers and society in general. That’s what an ampersand (&) is all about: addition, inclusion, collaboration.
Therefore, participating in positive-sum games is something we really aim for. All the times we’ve given our time, knowledge or energy to somebody else have shown us that:
Generosity gives us strength. Helping others is a great source of improvement. We think of it as carrying a heavy weight: we may take more time to arrive at our destination, but we’ll certainly get there stronger.
Gratitude teaches us humility. We’ve got lucky: the city we live in, the schools we attended, the industry we chose, the clients we’ve landed, the people we’ve met. We’ve been extremely and unfairly fortunate, and being aware of that is a never-ending fuel for development:
- An environment where individuals are appreciative of the number of factors contributing to each successful outcome has no place for toxic egos. Removing ourselves from the center of everything has proved to be not only humbling but also insanely motivating.
- Although, as humans, we have an evolutionary bias towards the negative stimulus, being intentionally conscious, sensitive and thankful for positive events gives us a whole new perspective on how to manage failure and deal with frustration; as we grow aware of the always present serendipity we give less importance to the inevitable adversity.
So we can’t stress this enough, generosity makes us strong, gratitude makes us humble.
The experience, the culture, the community… we’ve just begun this quest but we can’t wait to face new challenges, learn new things, meet more people and find more meaning. This story is to be continued because for us it’s not about the end, it’s all about the adventure.