It was an absolute pleasure sharing my business journey with Jane Jackson of janejacksoncoach.com. We speak of my work history from working in the US and in Australia, both agency and client side.
I explain how we use tool to gather a deep understanding of our clients goals, strategies
and requirements to ensure the greatest success for any business implementation.
For your convenience I have added a transcription of the video audio below. You can find more about this video at https://janejacksoncoach.com/bernard-kassab/. Jane also makes reference to the following in the video:
3 Secrets to Personal Branding for Career Success is a FREE Masterclass that takes you through the essential elements to build your powerful personal brand. www.janejacksoncoach.com/3secrets
The Job Search Guide helps you, as a job seeker, to avoid the 7 deadly mistakes that job seekers make.
[Music] Welcome to Jane Jackson careers a podcast that takes your career to the next level. Here's your host Jane Jackson author of Amazon careers bestseller Navigating Career Crossroads.
Well hello and I hope you're having a great week, now before we hear what my talented new guest has to share about what it takes to get into graphic design and ultimately running your own successful graphic design business. I have some exciting career resources for you and I'd love to share them with you.
The first one is to help you attract the career opportunities and job promotions that you deserve you must build a powerful personal brand so that the opportunities come to you rather than you chasing after them, and so I have a free masterclass called the three secrets to personal branding for career success. It's only 40 minutes long and covers the most valuable insights for your personal brand those top three secrets so if you want to attend you can register for free at www.janejacksoncoach.com/3secrets and that's the number three, okay.
You can register for my free masterclass the three secrets to personal branding the career success and so you can learn how to attract those job opportunities and the job promotions that you deserve.
Secondly if you're really looking for your dream job and you're just not going anywhere I've created a job search guide for you so that you can avoid the seven typical mistakes that job seekers often make when they launch their job search campaign and so in order to download my free job search guide it's actually in my online membership site the careers Academy. You can download it if you go to www.thecareersacademy.online/freejobsearchguide.
I'll also have the links in my show notes for you at https://janejacksoncoach.com/bernard-kassab/ so it's easy to find okay let's get on with the show welcome back to my Careers Podcast where I interview fascinating professionals who have made amazing career changes.
Now today I have with me Bernard Kassab who has been working in the brand and design industry for over 10 years. He's worked in a multitude of business environments including corporate agency and running his own business Designer.iam. With this diverse range of experience he identifies obstacles within a business leverages design-led thinking and creates solid strategies to facilitate change or growth for a business across print, digital and social channels.
So whether you're a business just launching all your businesses become stagnant and need to hit the ground running, Bernard and his team that Designer.iam can help identify new opportunities to position yourself to connect with the right customer.
Solid processes tools and structures ensure many successful brand executions with outcomes always surprising client expectations.
Now I met Bernard at a LinkedIn Local networking event and I was really impressed with everything that he does so I wanted to podcast interview him for quite a while and I finally got him so welcome to the show Bernard.
Thank you for coming on the show let's find out about your career journey because you've had a really interesting creative career journey, so to kick us off how about you tell us a little bit about what your career aspirations were when you're a little boy.
In short it all kind of started in primary school and I found myself drawing a lot. I would spend hours and hours and hours every single day just drawing on my own at home, my family would call me to dinner and I would keep drawing.
From that it led me towards looking for career path in animation. That was something that I really wanted to do and back then it was still hand-drawn animation. It was something that I wanted to experience and when it came to year 10 and I had the opportunity to do work experience, I went and found a job with an animation studio here in Sydney.
When I was there I found that it wasn't exactly what I expected, the way that the atmosphere and the culture in this animation studio wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I found myself a little bit more commercially minded, a little bit more business centric and I wanted to know how how businesses work. I wanted to find a career pathway that allowed me to take advantage of my creativity, my artistic skills and my business skills.
After doing some research I found Billy Blue College of Design and I researched graphic design. That's what started the whole pathway down the graphic design journey.
Hmm...now Billy Blue was a wonderful place to get into really cut your teeth into graphic design. As you may know, I have to share with you many, many years ago, about a hundred years ago I also study design but I was no good at it. After two years I realized I needed to make a career change, however you obviously did really well because you've had a truly solid career history in graphic design. So when you graduated from Billy Blue, after toying with animation side of things for a while, tell us how your career started and and how difficult is it in Sydney to start out as a graphic designer?
Oh that is that is a good question.
I started my initial stages or initial learning in graphic design after I took a year off between my second year and third year of college. I found an internship for an engineering firm where I worked underneath an art director within a commercial comms team. It was basically himself and myself but he was pretty much set my foundations in all the skills that I use every single day. My design role really accelerated my design capabilities.
From there after going to a very very creative college, I felt the need to go into an agency. To this day I look back and I say, "Well that was that might have actually been one of the most productive moves in my career moves back then."
I moved to a small agency and the type of work and the way that the agency had been built it wasn't really structured for any kind of progression. I kind of found myself stuck. I stayed there for about 18 months and I needed to then progress.
I then started traveling. I traveled to the US and from there I found a opportunity to actually work in the US. That's when I started working for PostNet as a Senior Graphic Designer.
That would have been a fun time because I can see here on your LinkedIn profile you're at Steamboat Springs in Colorado.
Yeah, it was quite a lot of fun but because it's a small town, that was a real culture shock for me. 12,000 people live in the town, they don't even lock their doors there. It just blew my mind. People would just knock, then walk into the house. But being so close to the ski fields and being right in the middle of the peak season it was fantastic, you know. Hit the mountains every other weekend when I could, then drive back to Denver every other weekend and spend time with family and friends.
The work culture out there is is nowhere near as positive and as enhancing as working in the work culture here. The culture here, especially as an employee, there's so many more businesses that are looking to progress people, to teach, to invest in their staff, their employees, their teams.
Over there, there's almost this culture of everybody is replaceable and that was very distressing for me because well, I've got all these bills all of a sudden, I'm in a whole new country, I've got to support myself, I can't all of a sudden be out of a job.
That actually was kind of the factor that culminated to me not wanting to continue that adventure. I started applying for jobs in New York, in Colorado and in Sydney. I said, "Whatever pulls off this is where I'm gonna end up." About a month after that I get an opportunity interview with a publishing house here in Syndey.
I interview with them, two weeks later they give me a call and tell me I got a job, three days later I hopped onto a plane. I landed here, three days after that I did my orientation and a week after that I started working. It was great just to be able to come back and land a position like that which was a lead production position for a publishing house called BT publishing. I was producing two magazines for them a travel magazine and events magazine.
So you've gone from animation to graphic design to production as well, so you were really learning everything in the business weren't you?
Yeah, I kind of found myself getting bored in a role if I was there for too long and if it wasn't challenging enough or if it wasn't continually asking me to progress and add value, create new systems and create new efficiencies, then I would I would run out of things to do.
My first agency roll out of college, when I started working in them within the eight or 12 to 16 months that I worked with them, I was able to clear out all their residual briefs that they had lying around the office. By the time I had left, there was one brief left on the shelf and it was only there because I didn't want to do it.
Tell me Bernard, what's your favorite part of being a designer? Well what is it that you really, really enjoy doing the most?
I think the definite thing that I enjoy the most is working through obstacles. So a business owner comes to you and they're so lost. Either they've either they've been super successful within their business and they've achieved a lot but they kind of hit a plateau or there's a lot of change in their business and they don't know how to take advantage of it.
They may just be kick off and they need somebody to set them on the right path and just help them take advantage, leverage as much of their knowledge and experience and be able to communicate that effectively.
Being able to work through those little obstacles for a business and understand the value that they bring, understand how to communicate that effectively, understand completely new industries every day, every week, learning so much more. That's what is really exciting about my industry.
From that you get to basically turn somebody's dream into a tangible communication or visualize art or a creative piece that represents that business. Then you see that business become successful and that's the real kicker.
So it's not just the graphic design it's actually helping businesses to grow, that's a strong focus for you isn't it?
Yeah. All the way though my college experience I was always very commercially minded and all the projects I did I tried to focus as much on "How would this work in the real world?' Like if this was a real client there would be budgets, there would be an ROI that would need to be proven. You can't just walk out there and say I create 'cool' things. Businesses want to invest in something that brings an ROI, a return to the business. You know there's got to be some business acumen to a project that you create and that's definitely what I like to bring out through the work that we do. We're not just there to create cool things we create things that help you connect effectively with your customers and that helps you grow your business.
Yeah, you know what's interesting is looking through your career history before you actually start Designeri.am, your own business, as a senior designer and then you are a lead UX designer as well as working on client development, so there was a lot of relationship building as well as the creative side.
Yeah! Definitely. I don't know what it is about connecting with people but it's something that just engages me and inspires me. I love just understanding and drilling into all the little nuts and bolts of how a business works. That also has driven us towards starting a software and app development business to provide better efficiencies and communications within the operation side of a business.
It's not just about how your brand looks to your customers but if you promises something to your customers that becomes the expectation that you've set up. If you say we provide a quality product and we create a quality design for you to communicate that. Then on the back-end you can't actually facilitate that service or provide that product, well that just deteriorates the whole brand and all it does is create a really recognizable brand that doesn't fulfill it's promises.
That's right, you know it's interesting, I'm just looking at your career journey. You're working for other organizations for quite a number of years and then in Colorado and then back in Sydney again. And then you founded your business so what was it that prompted you to transition into entrepreneurship and start your own business Designeri.am?
I did have the business actually on the side for quite a long time, about 10 or 11 years. In the last four years I transitioned 100% into my business and it was really all about that client interaction.
When you work for an agency, you get so disconnected from what the actual objectives are of that business. You're literally turning around pretty work. "Now here's the brief, this is what the client needs, I need a nice brochure. Create the brochure." I'm like cool, I can create a brochure.
Oh, that's no trouble but then you end up getting all these disconnects where you're continually revising, revising, revising and that misunderstanding is that you don't actually understand what the goal of that business. You've just been briefed in from an account manager or something like that, to create a brochure.
So that's a really key part of my business too. All my people within my team have direct communications with the client, we have briefing documentation, we have our Brand Tool that we use which helps us really get a deep dive into those businesses, what they want to achieve, what their objectives are.
Then the team gets direct contact with that client so they're able to actually drill a little bit deeper to have a solid understanding what that business is trying to achieve. Instead of just creating for creators sake, you know. We end up having a much shorter turnaround time for projects because of that and a much happier client base.
They get the project quickly and it hits the market of what they're looking for. At times it surpasses what they what they think the opportunity may be and at that same time we're able to add a lot more value. Instead of spending it just going back and forth making variations on a brochure, we understand "What's your intention? Is it gonna lead to a video? Is it going to lead to a landing page? Are we going to lead to a product or a service that you've created?" How can we make that journey more effective and that's where the real benefit is.
That's where the real benefit of getting that deep understanding is. We actually know what you're trying to achieve as a business so we can create more effectively.
Yeah, it sounds like you've really evolved from being a designer in the early days to someone who has become more of a business partner to your clients so that you help them through this creative journey with their print and their digital footprint in order to be able to build their businesses. So tell me, what we can you talk about one of your favorite projects that you've worked on with one of your clients? What have you done that was amazing for them?
Mm-hmm, I got two examples that come to mind. Do you mind if I give you two?
I think one really great one that we've been working with recently is a cleaning company called Supercare. We were originally introduced to them to design an app to help with facilities management, which is very unique for a cleaning company to take on facilities management as part of their offering. It allows them to offer a business that they manage the cleaning service for, to also now manage reporting any facility issues within the business. Whether it's a leaky pipe to a broken light bulb, it's now managed through the app.
The cleaners have the most oversight over all areas of a business building. That's been an extremely successful implementation for them. They've grown now since we've been working with them for about just over a year, about 18 months, they've grown from 24 people to about 62 and just recently we just launched their new website.
So that turns into many more new developments. We do a lot of work with them. Everything from their collateral, to their online presence, to supporting this application for them. It's just created a whole marketing stream which you know they're competitors and the industry around them hasn't even really started to tap into.
Yeah, that's so exciting they've been able to triple their business. That's amazing. Incredible.
Now obviously we can't take all the credit for that. The business owner is fantastic, he builds amazing relationships. But it helps to have something that you can fall back on that builds confidence and that sets you apart from the rest. Having that, you know every time you approach a new project you're gonna be able to offer something that nobody else can. You're ready on the front foot as soon as you walk through the door.
Another one is an electrical company that we supported and launched. What was amazing with them was within their first year they were able to lock on an ongoing maintenance contract with Meriton for about $15,000, within that they also hired their first two staff within that first year. They literally from launched at zero, at minus - because we all know our businesses cost money to start, to being able to lock in not only guaranteed cash flow but to be able to then hire staff and feel comfortable hiring staff.
That was a real success story for us. We use them quite often as case studies for the work that we do because they do show with the proper follow-through and the proper consistency across the brand, you can really approach a market with confidence, with consistency, you create a brand that people recognize and feel comfortable with. You can be in business for less than a year.
You know, many people don't really understand the importance of branding you know. There's personal branding and then branding for an organization as well. Tell me what are your thoughts on branding itself?
That is that's another good question. So what's really interesting about what you said is personal branding and your brand name. What people have to be careful of doing is not confusing the two too much where you can't separate them because if you become your brand than the value of your brand is yourself. If you ever decide to exit or pass that brand on, there's not a lot of value there.
After creating a brand that has recognition, memorability, that stands for those qualities, those values that you want people to associate with your brand, that's what people buy. You know when you buy when you buy a pair of Nike you're not buying a shoe, you're buying into the lifestyle of competitive edge, of endurance, of stamina. You know you're buying a top athlete product.
When you're buying an Apple product, you're not buying a laptop or a computer, you're buying a lifestyle of creativity, of music, of freedom. You know that's the kind of position that they create, so that is the brand.
What is created behind that is the people and the people each individual of your brand has a personal brand that carries your business. If the employees you hire do not align with the lifestyle, the culture that you want people to associate with your brand, it ends up creating fragmentation and people then start to associate maybe negative things or maybe positive things depending on those values that they are projecting.
So when you're creating a brand you have to make sure that it's not just a pretty logo on a pretty brochure but that those values, those qualities and those ideas filter through all the people and the culture within that brand. Then that's the association that people make and it goes the same way for our personal brand. If you're going to become an influencer or the key focus to the way that you go to business, you also have to reflect the same qualities that people would associate with a business, they associate with you.
Branding is so important isn't it because it's the feeling, it's the values and you know what what, I conduct these road to entrepreneurship workshops as well. To people who are thinking about transitioning into entrepreneurship, I always say to them you've got to know why you're getting into business. If you're getting into business because you just want to make money or because you want to get out of corporate. Then that's not going to cut it.
It has to be because you want to do something that's going to make a difference to the community and really benefit someone or something somehow. It's got to be so meaningful and I think so many businesses these days if they're able to communicate that message of how much they care and why they're so passionate about something, then the customers will come because they'll buy into that story.
There's a great case study on that. Lore'l created their own trending tag on social media that was called #lorealcommunity and they had their people, every time they went out to do anything with the community. Whether it was a volunteer project, whether it was offering something to a local school or something like that, they would use the hashtag #lorealcommunity.
What it ended up doing for L'Oréal was they actually grew they're connected user base from around 60,000 people that were following their business pages to over 200,000 people in around six months because what it did is it invited people into the world, and the lifestyle, and the culture of L'Oréal. That's where people really connect to your brand. The logo is something they associate that sense at the time. The people and the culture behind it is what gets people to go yes this is something that I believe in or no this is not something I like.
Hmm...I love the hashtags. I like this #lorealcommunity. So Bernard, do you have a hashtag?
Not yet. We're we're planning to launch something in 2019.
Are you gonna give us a sneak peak?
We're working on a ton of content for next year, some really good business driven content. All in video, so it's really quick and easy to digest and what we're going to be doing is actually partnering with other professionals within the industry, Even ones that are similar, that provide similar services because for us it's not about fighting for the same chip it's about getting people to realize the value of what this industry can bring.
I think a lot of this industry is kind of being dissolved and deteriorated from so-called professionals. Especially early on in the design industry every person that could by Adobe called themselves a graphic designer and what that ended up doing was burning a lot of bridges. A lot of people don't look at our industry as business centric or as or having a focus around that kind of commercial side of a business of what is the ROI on design or creative communications? What can it do for a business?
So that's what it's going to be about and it's really just about delivering that message for people to gain a better understanding and take something away with them. Something valuable they can apply to back businesses.
There isn't anything specific I can give you right now but that's what we're working on for 2019.
And you should have content rolling out by the end of Jan? I can't wait to find out what your hashtag is and you better let me know because I will put it on Twitter, everywhere and add it to this our show notes for this podcast as well!
So Bernard tell me before we wrap up to this podcast I'd like to find out as much as possible about Designeri.am. So tell me what are the services that you provide and where can people find you?
Sure, well the name itself is the URL. So if you decide to type in Designeri.am, you will head straight to our website. That was kind of I wanted, to find something that sounded like a sentence. When we type it in and that was the best I could rustle up. The other option was design.me but that was $24,000.
Our main focus is to really target businesses that are looking to get an understanding of how they want to communicate. If you go to the brand strategy section of our website you'll see that the Brand Tool is on offer there and it's completely complimentary to take that tool. That allows us an opportunity to have a discussion with you about where you want to go as a brand and allows us to get a deeper insight on how we can help you get there whether that's using us whether that's us directing you to the right person to help you achieve. That's the key thing to what we offer.
From there we can look at doing workshops to get a deeper dive on your marketing strategy, we can offer a brand application so everything from logo to style guide, to the branded elements like iconography, patented patterns, etc. and how those apply for your brand.
That would then flow into everything from your printed collateral to your website, then social media content. As we spoke about before, after that if you're looking to go out to market with an app, what we do with our apps is we always look at making them cost neutral within 12 months of releasing the app. So we always look at opportunities or how we can partner with people or create some kind of subscription or sales where somebody can get better or leverage better content through your application and that way we kind of offset the costs of putting that app together.
Those are probably the key focuses of our business, from brand strategy, application across your media channels and then ensuring that comes through consistently. Communicating effectively to the type of clientele that you want to be working with. That's a broad view of what we do.
Well you certainly provide a truly comprehensive service from branding to all the different design collaterals, promotional, marketing collateral, web design, as well you do video editing and sound editing. Basically what you do is you tailor the solution to whatever people need. Yes?
Yeah, and it's all about targeting where they want to go, it's not about us selling them everything under the sun. It's about understanding, okay what is your positioning? Okay you're mainly an online business. How do we take advantage of your online presence and make the best investment there that's going to get you the best return for your business?
Or is it that you need a launch event? Is your kind of business launching a product? What kind of events are the best for us to target? Okay, we can then do the event layout for you, the booth design or all the merchandise and collateral.
We can help you just really communicate or get people to gravitate towards your event booth by using content, collateral that we can create. So we're always looking for what the opportunity is, what the potential of the brand is and then finding a way of positioning where it hits the most people.
Having seen some of the designs that you've come up with or your team have come up with, it's truly very very creative and amazing. So what a fantastic business. Congratulations on Designeri.am. Bernard now what I'll do is our on my show notes on https://janejacksoncoach.com/bernard-kassab/ . I will have all of your links so I'll have Designeri.am the link so you can just click through there as well as your Twitter handle, so that people will follow you on twitter. Now where else would you like people to follow you Bernard?
My LinkedIn page, we have a Facebook Business page. I'm happy for people to connect with me personally on LinkedIn, that's where you'll get the most of what we're doing and what's happening with the business.
Our Instagram very active too, we do post a lot on both our stories and on our page and that's where our most recent work will will end up. Follow our YouTube channel though a lot of new content coming up and again if you're interested in getting a deeper understanding of how our industry works and where are the benefits to your business, what are the things that you can take away and apply to your business straight away, then definitely check out our channel and get ready I'll have the links to all of these channels.
I'm just having a look in your Instagram account at the moment, its beauty, you need to fix mine up Bernard. Looking at ours as you look put me to shame. Honestly mines so random I just post all different coachie sort of things, but yours really looks beautiful. Oh, it's good. I suggest everyone goes to Designeri.am on Instagram. It looks fantastic.
Well Bernard, thank you so much for your time it really been a pleasure talking to you and thanks for telling us about your own career journey as well because you've had such a solid career trajectory in graphic design and now with this business mind of yours, helping other businesses grow too. I think it's absolutely fantastic! Lucky me to manage to grab a hold of you before Christmas.
Likewise, likewise, it's something that I've wanted to do for a long time. To be able to sit down and do a podcast with you. At our last meeting, I said no, that's it, stop saying one day, we're just gonna lock it in.
And now we've done it. Hooray, this is good. So I look forward to following how everything progresses for Designeri.am over the next year. I think you'll have to come back on the show and tell us more about all the apps that you've developed round about June next year. I think will be good and also I want to find out what that new hashtag is that you're keeping so secret and then we can actually we can share it together so thank you so much for your time.
Bernard, thank you, talk to you again soon.
I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Look for your career podcast on iTunes and leave a review and for all the career management support you need to create your dream career visit https://janejacksoncoach.com/ and join my Careers Academy for live career webinars, group coaching, one-on-one coaching support. As well as my online career development courses.
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