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Vince Frost has built a successful design business by saying ‘yes’ and meaning it. He discusses the benefits of a building a positive culture, the importance of moving outside your comfort zone and why it pays to think twice before saying ‘no’.
Vince Frost has built his business by saying one word.
“Every day in my studio I say ‘yes, we can do it’,” he says. “I believe that ‘yes’ opens up opportunities and that ‘no’ shuts them down.”
An Internationally-recognised designer, Frost established a successful career in London before relocating to Sydney in 2004. As CEO/Executive Creative Director at Frost Collective, he now employs over 40 people and has a client list including City of Sydney, Qantas, Frasers Property and Sydney Opera House. He’s also written a book, Design Your Life, published last October, to help people use the principles of good design to transform their business and their lives.
“To me ‘yes’ has always symbolised openness, excitement and positivity while ‘no’ suggests a closed mind,” he says. “That doesn’t mean I say ‘yes’ to everything that comes along. It’s more about building a culture where everyone is open to change and unforeseen opportunities.”
Frost recommends listening with an open mind to what every prospective client, customer or partner has to say.
“It’s dangerous to take any approach at face value,” he says. “If you’re too quick to judge you can easily misinterpret or misunderstand what someone has to offer and miss out on a great opportunity. If you think of every proposition as being potentially good for your business you’ll be motivated to give them careful thought.”
There will always be a tension between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and it’s vital to find the right balance.
“First, you have to be realistic about the way your business operates,” says Frost. “For example, in design there’s very little long-term certainty. You can never project your workload beyond the next month or two so, even when you’re extremely busy, you can’t afford to say ‘no, thanks, we have enough work at the moment’. If you had that attitude, you’d potentially be out of business altogether.”
At the same time, it can be counterproductive to put your staff under too much pressure or say ‘yes’ to something you can’t deliver. “I focus on bringing in enough projects to keep my guys busy, excited and motivated,” says Frost. “Then, when there’s more work than they can handle, I build the business by recruiting new staff.”
In his book, Frost quotes Richard Branson’s advice that, if someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes then learn how to do it later. “I totally agree with that philosophy,” says Frost. “When you’re prepared to step outside your comfort zone saying ‘yes’ will invariably help you to grow.”
By saying ‘yes’, Frost has been able to compile an extremely broad portfolio of work and an extensive network of relationships.
“When I look at all of the projects I’ve worked on over the past 20 years I can see that most of them have opened to door to other jobs,” he says. “It’s like the domino effect. For example, we’ve just started work for a client who came across a project I did over a decade ago. Saying ‘yes’ back then is still helping to generate the work I’m doing now.”
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