The Small Business Experiment Part 4- Form Follows Function

the small business experiment part 4

Think about your favorite chair for a moment. What is it that you like about it? Is it the color and the shape? Do you like the particular designer? The comfort level? Now let me ask you another question. Why did you not purchase a better chair? That is a silly question, you say.

Don’t answer that yet. 

Now think about the chair you are sitting on right now. How well is it designed? Is it optimal? Another silly question. Optimal for what? Optimal is relative, and based upon what it is designed for. Perhaps you are sitting on a poorly designed chair. Poorly designed for what? Again, it depends.

You see, the chair in which you are sitting was designed as an answer to a whole gamut of concerns; comfort, appropriateness, color, style, how difficult it is to stack or move or store it, how well it supports your back without causing undo physiological stress–and at an affordable price point. All of which goes well beyond just holding you up. It was created to fill a specific need. Could someone have built a better chair? Of course. Any chair could have been created to be more comfortable. Perhaps uncomfortable office chairs are a boardroom plot to keep employees awake at their desks. But, if your employer spent good money on comfy designer chairs, you may not get that bonus in December. Hmmm. Maybe that much comfort is unnecessary.  Imagine an office filled with Lazy Boys? Nope. Wrong tool for the job. (And maybe you already have them!)

Now imagine a little slide show in your head of all the different kinds of chairs in the world. Library chairs with sturdy short legs and bar stools with tall legs. Overstuffed armchairs, and sleek designer conference room chairs. Rattan chairs on porches and lounge chairs on beaches. Wooden pews in cathedrals and artistic chairs in museums. Spinning chairs and bean bag chairs and rocking chairs and lawn chairs.  Each chair– designed to fill some particular service.

But what does thinking about all these chairs have to do with being an entrepreneur?

Form follows function. How something is designed controls how it behaves and performs. You can tell the purpose of a chair just from looking at it. You know before someone sits on it whether it is wholly appropriate for the person who wants to use it–or not.

The same is true in business. How your business is designed controls how it behaves and performs. The design of your company helps the customer to intuitively assess whether your business can satisfy their needs before they ever walk in the door. 

The problem is, many entrepreneurs reverse the axiom. Many small business owners begin business to make money–not to serve a purpose. Without a plan to serve and solve a problem for a specific group of people, they serve no one in particular. They lose connection, and may lose the very lifeblood they need to survive. 

What if, right from the start, these same entrepreneurs focused all their activities to serve a specific purpose? Now the business performs differently. Now, the business is seen as the answer to a problem. And the marketing would speak directly to the people with the problem–not to anyone and everyone.  

A business that sustains has lucid purpose.  Work in reverse. How would a business with this kind of  purpose behave? Design your activity accordingly. How your business is designed from the start will control how it behaves and how it performs, and how well it can connect with its customers.

Design your business as if you were designing a chair. Make it the optimal design for a specific purpose. You will find your customers will understand what you do, just from looking at your design.

Join us next time for the final installment of The Small Business Experiment!


Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about your business strategies?  Because no matter how beautiful your graphics, they will never make more sense than the clarity of your own vision. The clearer your vision, the more lucid your marketing will be, and the better connection you will make with your target customer. We want to help you find the gold in your business. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.