Leadership programme takes design consultancy to the next level

More than Just Design is just what it says – a design company that offers much more than just a design service!

Having learnt his trade in traditional graphic design agencies, Dave Purkiss spotted their limitations and a potential business opportunity. “People may think of design as a tool to help them create marketing collateral which of course we have done many times. Increasingly, however, we find progressive clients are looking to us - via the strategic workshops we run which explore what they're trying to achieve and who they're trying to create value for - to help them design the business as well as the business brochure.” says Dave. So, he founded a design-led business consultancy that focusses on the “why”.

It’s a highly competitive industry – there are hundreds of design companies out there, so when looking for business premises, Keele University’s Nova Centre was the perfect location to grow in a supportive and sustainable environment. With a growing client base, Dave has benefited from Keele’s powerful programme for growing SMEs.

The Mercia Centre for Innovation Leadership (MCIL)* programme combines campus-based presentation sessions with action learning among participants and the input of a seasoned entrepreneur over six months. It’s fully funded - there are no fees to pay - but it requires time commitment and focused effort.

Dave thinks his business was at exactly the right stage to benefit, growing but still forming. “MCIL provides a quality environment in which to reflect on the direction your business is taking and run ideas past people who are going though exactly the same challenges,” he says.

MCIL has helped Dave refine his ideas for what he believes is a unique consultancy process and it has helped him tackle really practical issues too. “While charging for design work is usually based on studio hours, a key challenge in consultancy is how to price the service, thinking time if you like, and MCIL has helped with issues like that,” says Dave.

After each session, led by Keele academics and external experts, Dave gets a visit from Keele Entrepreneur in Residence David Townson. Participants are paired with an Entrepreneur who has a relevant background, and indeed David Townson has experience in the creative industries. The idea is to transfer the sessions into practical application. But for Dave it’s much more than this: “He gets us, so it’s the one-to-one coaching work that has bought it all together.” The business has again increased momentum, recently taking on a new full-time designer and adding retained clients month by month.

While stressing that a significant time commitment is required, something that small business owners need to think carefully about, Dave is clear: “MCIL has been brilliant; it’s pitched at exactly the right level and provided you’ve got an open mind, go for it.”

ERDF logo Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent businesses can benefit from a range of specialist support and funding. Interested companies should contact Keele University’s Business Gateway on 01782 733001 or business.gateway@keele.ac.uk.

‌*The MCIL project (ref: 32R15P00229) is part-funded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds England Growth Programme 2014-2020.