How to Grow a Business and a Digital Product [Founder Interview]
Marketing Strategist, Author.
Find here answers to the key questions often asked by novice entrepreneurs and product developers. The bare truth about entrepreneurship, a bitter taste of failures, the sweetness of triumphs, and first-hand experience - everything is blended here into a cocktail of product design and development insights.
Conducting interviews with founders of product design and development companies, we gather their incredible brand growth stories.
Today we meet with Dima Venglinski, Founder and CEO of Fireart Studio
, a boutique design and software development company.
Taking the leap into entrepreneurship isn't for the faint-hearted. Despite this fact, the bravest decide to start their own business.
What has triggered your decision to become an entrepreneur?
"You can be a great professional and earn thousands of dollars working for somebody. However, you may face the moment when it becomes boring to you because you want to scale opportunities and move the world toward innovation. Then, you first think of starting your own business.
I like scalable things, so I have tried to scale my design expertise too. I have seen a no better option to scale my skills and ideas than to found my own studio."
Share your journey from a solo designer to a founder of your own studio?
"To work over 16 hours a day was a common thing for me. I just wanted to deliver the best quality without any delays for clients since I knew that they counted on me. So I worked as much as needed to meet the client’s needs.
Fireart Studio was founded very naturally. The orders from my clients were quickly increasing, and I needed the help of other cool professionals who could help me manage everything. That small team became a logical continuation of my attempts to scale design expertise, projects, and opportunities."
Many businesses overcome hard times that leave "scars" but make them stronger and less vulnerable to the pitfalls on the market. Has Fireart Studio also experienced such a period?
"Yes, it happened in 2014 when we lost almost all our clients in one month due to the sudden financial collapse in Russia.
At that time, all our clients were only from post-Soviet countries. Dealing with them was easier for me because I was born in a post-Soviet country too and I had a good understanding of their mentality.
In 2014, the ruble (Russian currency) dropped down twice overnight. For our clients, it meant the twice higher price for our services because they made payments in US dollars. That was a shock for both our team and clients because they had no option but to freeze all the projects. Fireart saw the bankruptcy in the face. We stopped even renting an office and started working from home.
The studio continued working for the next 5 months in the hopeless attempts to save a situation. We decided to challenge fate and tried to re-position Fireart on the US market. We threw all our efforts to redesign Fireart’s online presence, created a new website with the content in English, and registered the studio on the US business directories.
In February 2015, we could only cover the employees’ salaries. I was forced to inform the team that they should look for new job opportunities. Being an entrepreneur for many years, I was ready to create a CV and apply for a job in other companies, like other team members."
WOW! It seems, the company has revived like a phoenix from the ashes.
How have you led the company out of the crisis?
"It was nothing but magic. The wonder happened the last night before the team was going to stop existing officially. I got an email from Webdesigner Depot, a Canadian design magazine. They ordered 11 illustrations and 6 icons. The promised budget was three times higher if compared with our previous projects.
Walter, if you're reading this interview, I just wanted to say that your email has been the game-changer for us. You don’t even imagine your contribution to our company. Thank you!
It was a turning point, after which the number of clients from countries all over the globe was continually increasing. That period felt like a complete reset. We rethought our goals, updated appearance, and drastically moved to the next stage."
This brand revival story evokes wordless excitement.
Another big challenge for companies is cooperation with top brands. What was your experience of working with a giant, such as Google?
To communicate with Google's representatives was a pleasure. The process was well-organized. We stuck to weekly sprints, frequent meetings, and calls. We did our best to satisfy Google's needs and requirements but, frankly, it was not easy.
Later, we got a few other orders from different Google's departments that came to us independently. Commonly, departments in global enterprises don't communicate with each other tightly. In our case, Google's representatives didn't also know that their company collaborated with us earlier. We were happy to know that Google came to us again.
It's an especially memorable case for us since Google is our first big client. Today, we take pride in presenting many cases related to the world-famous brands in our portfolio, such as Atlassian, Rolls Royce, EY, and Huawei."
Working with big clients often means that a company is ready for scaling. Share your vision on how to scale business.
"In general, business scalability much depends on the entrepreneur's inner drive and growth mindset. Many business owners perceive money as opportunities for scaling their ventures. No matter how much you’ve earned, you consider it as a future investment into the company’s growth.
From my experience, transitioning from a small business (10-30 employees) to a middle-sized company (50-100 employees) is the most stressful. Your thoughts are messing around questions, like "How to hire all these people?" or "How to control the quality and delivery process in the growing company?"
After this point is overcome, business scaling happens less stressfully. You stop overthinking about coming problems; you just try to solve them. Later, you pass over other business scaling phases easier by following a particular algorithm based on your own experience or experience of people who are smarter than you. Particularly, I would recommend a book "How To Solve The Mismanagement Crisis: Diagnosis and Treatment of Management Problems."
Founded as a design studio, Fireart has experienced a fundamental change and transformed into a full-cycle software development company.
Why have you decided to take the risk of changing the company's strategy and direction?
"If you create an only design, you don't participate in other product development stages. You have no clue whether the code is done correctly or if a product needs improvement.
We didn't want just to make a pretty design but to take control over all phases of product development. We involved our software developers into communication with the clients, so they could get a deeper understanding of the clients' needs and suggest better solutions. We don't only create design and code, we really care about the client's success."
In your opinion, what's most important for product success?
“To be successful, the product should be “flexible” and timely injected by a dose of required changes. It's the only way to find a perfect market-fit and offer target users exactly what they need.
The product is made not only by people but also by a dynamic improvement process. It is like a living organism that needs your care and commitment.
Designers and developers should provide micro-transformations and improvements at different product development stages. They must continually check whether each interaction is well-done and all features function properly."
"The perfect combination of both lies in the preliminary Product Design Research. It is a detailed market and competitor research that includes the evaluation of risks, costs, and time needed to build a market-ready product.
It makes you step in the client’s shoes, think from his/her perspective, and take a more complex approach to product development.
After design research is completed, you get a clear understanding of what is better for the product's health and what can break the initial concept on the way to its implementation."
You have a fantastic team behind all your initiatives. Tell us more about these amazing people.
"First of all, they are polished professionals who are always hungry for innovations and new experience. They are entirely dedicated to their job and often still working after a business day is finished. These guys do it just because they love and enjoy it.
An excellent example is a recent story about our illustrators. In October, they participated in an Inktober
drawing challenge. The artists from different countries had to do one ink drawing a day during the month. After managing the huge workload at the office, Fireart designers continued drawing illustrations at home every single day, just because they enjoyed a creative process."
What inspires you as an Entrepreneur?
"I am inspired by dedicated and talented people in our team as well as our clients who are extremely smart and interesting people. At Fireart, there are incredible people on both sides of every project. To collaborate with them is a real pleasure to me."
According to you, what are the 3 most important things that a product design and development company should follow to run a successful business?
"Communication, engagement, and professionalism. You can put down "communication" as the third factor again since it's essential to product success and collaboration with a client.
The teammates should be able to communicate with each other and clients efficiently. Otherwise, we would create what a client has wanted but not what his business needs indeed to succeed. The team should know how to deliver their ideas to a client. It's the only way to build a product that meets business objectives."
What is your motivational success mantra?
"Work hard and never give up. Don’t believe anybody who claims that it's easy to do something really valuable. Success is not magic but hard work. Good things take time and effort to happen.
All successive entrepreneurs who I know are hard-working people with the incredible ability to revive after plenty of failures."
There is nothing to add more. Work hard and never give up. The fruits may not be easy to gather but the taste is definitely worth all the attempts. We are extremely thankful to Dima Venglinski for sharing this incredible brand growth story that is full of inspiration.
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