I think it’s time we had a little chat about entrepreneurship.
What is it that entrepreneurs do? They identify pain points.
They get out of the building; they don’t build a business by sitting at their computer. Entrepreneurs go and talk to people and observe customer behaviour and immerse themselves in the world of their users and try stuff and fail and pivot and try again. Entrepreneurs solve a problem with a wide-angle lens.
It should, because that is exactly what UX Designers do.
At its heart, being a proficient UX designer is also about understanding users—meeting their needs and, if possible, exceeding their expectations. UX Designers find a need and craft a product or service that fills that need.
What this means is that having UX skills in your toolkit makes good business sense. As an entrepreneur with a focus on a particular product or service, a familiarity with business and user needs and the ability to communicate, lead, and inspire a team are all positive traits for success.
Of course, I’m not the first person to notice this overlap. The Lean Startup movement is all about treating product and business ideas as assumptions that must be validated by scientific experimentation as quickly as possible—prototyping, having iterative product releases, and acting on customer/user feedback—and Jeff Gothelf’s excellent book, Lean UX, builds on this premise, with advice on how to apply it to any organisation.
As a designer, you are in a fantastic position to start a company. However, not many designers I know are actually taking the plunge.
Why don’t more designers start businesses?
It’s possible that, with UX being so much in demand, there’s little motivation to take the financial risk. Why bother gambling on a brilliant idea, when there are plenty of risk-free UX jobs around that pay well, right?
The Ancient Romans were onto something when they said, “Fortune favours the bold.” I’d like to challenge the mindset that UX designers find success by landing a great UX job. They should also channel their skills into making entrepreneurial ideas happen.
The world needs more designer-led companies.
When there’s a designer in the driver’s seat, it’s more likely that the culture of the organisation will be user-centred, resulting in products that are more innovative. There wouldn’t be a need to convince management of the need for good UX processes and principles, because it’s already being cascaded from the top down, by us. We wouldn’t be fighting for a seat at the boardroom table.
We would be calling the shots.
Of course, it takes more than simply having a great idea and a user-centred approach to make a successful entrepreneur. Passion, clear vision, tenacity, confidence and restraint are all characteristics that improve your chances of making it as an entrepreneur. Sometimes it is just dumb luck. Being in the right place at the right time with an idea, be it a product or service, which resonates with consumers. But how you manage that idea—how you ensure that it satisfies people’s needs, desires and expectations—is a key success indicator for entrepreneurs. Those skills are at the heart of the UX mindset.
Entrepreneurs are everywhere.
The next successful entrepreneur could be you. It’s possible you have the right mix of skills already.
What do you think? Is your ultimate goal to create the next big thing—a product, service, company—for yourself? Or would you rather focus on honing the craft of UX design, and let others worry about the business stuff (and take the risks that go with that)?
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