The business of selling a client’s one clear message more effectively

Small Business - Future ProofDarren Doyle, owner and creative director Studio93

Darren Doyle, owner and creative director at graphic design and web marketing company Studio93. photograph: liam kidney

Darren Doyle, owner and creative director at graphic design and web marketing company Studio93. photograph: liam kidney


What distinguishes your business from your competitors? I want our clients to experience a level of service that surpasses their hopes and expectations, even from the first meeting.

We help them answer one question: where will tomorrow’s customers find you today? Every client, whether they are a butcher, baker or hairdresser, has one clear message to portray to potential customers.

My background is in graphic design, but there is a lot of psychology involved in what we do. There is always a core message behind every piece of graphic design.

What has been the biggest challenge you have had to face? I started the business in 2006. In October 2009, I got a call from a friend saying: “Your business is on fire!”

I stood in front of the building until 3am, watching it burn to the ground. I lost everything except my laptop. I had to get up the next morning and decide whether that was the end of the business. But it was never really a choice. I had to keep going. I had amazing clients who stuck with me.

And there was a silver lining. I had to look at everything from a fresh angle, to re-evaluate things.

If the fire hadn’t happened, maybe I wouldn’t have changed things. Now the business is much stronger than it was before the fire.

And your major success to date? We have managed to keep going during very hard times. I was definitely afraid during the recession, but we grew every year. I try to be prepared for uncertainty and have as much foresight as I can.

What could the Government do to help SMEs in the current environment and stimulate the economy? Ireland, for a small country, has some hugely successful businesses.

I would love to see high-level business people involved in policymaking. The best and brightest have started businesses from nothing. They know what SME owners are going through – the crazy hours, the risk-taking, the ups and downs. It’s important for the Government to really understand what that’s like.

Do you think the banks are open for business at the moment? I do, as long as people are prepared to put in some work to reassure banks they are not throwing money down a hole. You have to show them a clear business plan at the very least. Banks will always take a slight gamble, but they need to know the odds are in their favour.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business? I actually don’t believe there are mistakes. There are lessons about what you don’t do next time. One of the first lessons I learned was to listen to people.

In the beginning I was too anxious to tell clients what I thought, to advise them. Now when I meet with a new client, I listen more than I talk. When I really listen, it ultimately leads to a much more effective solution.

Who do you admire in business and why? I really admire Jon Loomer of Jon Loomer Digital. He’s American and leads the way in social media for businesses. He took it upon himself to be “the Facebook guy”. He identified one thing he was going to be the best in the world at. If you’re looking for Facebook marketing tips, his name will come up first. I admire him for his immense knowledge in one area.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? It’s very hard to score without a goal. Someone told me that long ago, and it always stuck with me. For new clients who have a service or product, the first thing to ascertain is the realistic, concise goal for the campaign.

How do you see the short-term future for your business? I’m excited about the short-term future because we have a new member of staff coming on board soon. She has a background in graphic design and has just finished a degree in journalism. She’s going to bring new skills to the company.

We will be able to take on new jobs and broaden our offering. We will be able to move more confidently into certain areas of communication such as content creation for websites.

What’s your business worth, and would you sell it? Someone said to me once: “anything is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”. I couldn’t put a monetary figure on it. Not to take away from the team, but the business is really rooted somewhere in my chest. If someone bought the company, I am so entrenched they would need to buy me.

In conversation with Erin McGuire