Daniel Kushner is the winner of the MOO Award in the US – and a very worthy winner he is too! A designer and musician, Daniel is the CEO and founder of MONO - a premium luggage brand for touring musicians. He invented their signature product, the Hybrid Guitar Case, and has been branching out ever since.
A former design consultant for big brands and multinational companies at IDEO, Daniel found this part of his background the most useful transferable skill when starting up MONO. He says “Business owners are often too emotionally engaged in their company to make objective decisions. I’ve developed a practice of viewing my company’s challenges through the lens of the consultant – objectively.”
Here are Daniel’s top five tips for being your own consultant.
1. Understand that challenges and difficulties are normal
My mindset used to be always trying to get to an ideal state of business where the challenges stopped because we were so well organized. I realized early on that it wouldn’t ever happen. Challenges are a daily occurrence, so you have to change your attitude, and welcome them – like in a batting cage; you’re always saying, “What’s next?” I have to hit it out the park over and over again. There is no even keel – you need to enjoy multiple challenges because challenges are what business is.
2. View your setbacks as “design challenges”
As a design consultant I’ve been raised to solve problems using the design process. When I was given another company’s problem to solve while at IDEO, it was fun to think outside the box. But when it’s your own company, challenges feel different – they feel like huge problems. The stress can be crippling, until you remind yourself that its no different than how it was before, and you simply have to apply the design process as in past experiences – as you would if you were being paid by someone else to do it.
3. Take a deep breath
Your first reaction may not be the right one, so just ruminate for a while before you act. As an entrepreneur, you may pride yourself on your good first instincts, but there’s no need to be reactionary. Take a deep breath, and take a moment – an hour, a day, a week – however long you need to understand the problem, and work out how you’d like to respond to it.
4. Don’t be scared to choose a path
It may seem like the exact opposite advice to “take a deep breath” but save that for something really momentous – which means, don’t be so scared to make regular decisions that you end up spending days, weeks or even months letting them keep you awake at night. There will be many, many forks in the road as your business grows – and if there aren’t, then something is wrong! When you face decision after decision on a daily basis, you’ll learn that it’s often better to be fast and efficient than to be right 100% of the time.
You need to get comfortable with the idea that success means moving forward all the time, and moving forward means a never-ending flow of decisions. So go forth and be confident – make decisions quickly because even if you’re not right, no one wrong decision will bring about your downfall. If you’re right, great, and if you’re wrong, you’ll learn what you need to learn to avoid the mistake next time (and there will be a next time.)
5. Assess your choices regularly
Look back at what seemed like difficult decisions at the time, and remember how profound they seemed – and how much easier it would be for you to make the same decision now. We left a really big distributor in the US not long after we started and it was a really difficult decision to make – one that I put off for ages They were big and established and getting in with them had been a big coup, But after a year we weren’t happy - we wanted to pull out but we were terrified. In retrospect I see I could have quit two months sooner and saved myself the anguish, because ultimately it wasn’t that big a deal – but at the time, it seemed ominous, make or break and momentous. Its only later, after years of making several hundred decisions a week, that you can see it for what it is - Just one in a series of many. And eventually, you develop the strength to know which are the best decisions to make, but you only develop that through making some wrong ones, fast, and eventually you’ll recognise patterns and know that its all going to be fine.