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This is a question that graphic designers often get asked by their clients. Although it is up to each graphic designer what they choose to supply to their clients, the vast majority do not release ‘original’ files, unless a significant additional payment is made by the client. This can sometimes come as a shock to clients, so the aim of this article is to breakdown the reasons behind this standard industry practice.


First, let’s clarify the file types being referred to:

Original files (which are also referred to as ‘native’ or ‘source’ files) are the designer’s ‘working files’, where designs are created and work product assembled. For print-related products (such as brochures, business cards, booklets, etc) these are likely to be InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop files (but there are many other design software programs).

Final product files are most likely to be PDFs (print-ready or web accessible), JPGs or PNGs. Once a design is finalised, a graphic designer exports the design as a PDF (or JPG or PNG), so that the final product can be printed or used in its intended manner. These files can’t be modified.


It is understood by most clients (I’ve only ever encountered one person who had a different opinion on this!) that all concepts and drafts developed in order to produce a design are the copyright of the designer or company who produces them. That is, if a designer supplies a range of concepts for a client to choose from, the client ONLY has the right to use the concept that becomes the final product. All the other concepts and drafts developed in the process to create the final piece are the designers’ Intellectual Property (IP).


But where much misunderstanding can occur, is concerning the ‘ownership’ of native files (the working/source files). In a nutshell, the native files belong to the design company or designer. This is because the native files contain expertise, and the ‘know how’ of putting together all the pieces that make up a design. The client has copyright over, and has the right to use, the final product. The native files are the designers’ Intellectual Property (IP) unless an agreement (usually involving additional costs) is negotiated.


The following points provide an overview of what Intellectual Property might include, using the example of a brochure:

  • Expertise in how to prepare photos and images for commercial printing (e.g. resolution of photos depending on final print size and print method)
  • What type of digital file to use for final product
  • How to best prepare the layout
  • Understanding which software best works for this job
  • Skills in and expertise in combining photos, text, and layout
  • Skills and experience in preparing the final prepress file for a commercial printer.


All of the above is the expertise that a client can expect from a graphic designer. But the client is paying for the final design work, and shouldn’t expect to receive the ‘know how’ as well. In this scenario, it would be akin to the client going to the commercial printer and asking for the film or plates that were used to print the brochure. When a client pays for printing, they receive the final product (the printed brochures), but they don’t receive the technology/hardware used to make them.


Here are a few other analogies that help explain the ‘native files’ scenario:

  • When you buy a Coca-Cola, you’re purchasing the drink, not the formula that creates that drink.

  • When you go to a restaurant, you pay for the meal, but you don’t get the recipe.

  • When you hire a baker to make a wedding cake, you get the cake, but you don’t get the design template for the cake

  • When a plumber fixes your leaking tap, he doesn’t leave instructions for how to fix it next time.


The same principle applies to graphic design work. A graphic designer is engaged to provide a client with a solution for a specific marketing need. If a client also wants access to native files, this is a separate issue.


So what happens if you want or need the working files for your work product?


Most graphic designers will have clear terms and conditions for their work so their clients know what to expect. Unless a quote (and/or the designer’s terms and conditions) specify that native files WILL be provided, you should expect that they WON’T. Most graphic designers will state what final files will be provided (e.g. print-ready PDFs). If you need native files (as well as completed work), you need to let your graphic designer know (preferably in advance) that you’d like the working files as well as the completed product. An extra fee is usually charged for providing native files.


The exception to this at Shel Design is logo design. We choose to provide our clients with an 'EPS' file within the standard cost of designing any logo (as well as JPG and PNG), as we know how important that file is for your business or organisation. If you need to work with sign writers, uniform companies and other promotional companies, an EPS file is essential. However, for all other work product, PDF, JPG and PNG files are provided. CLICK HERE to read more about logo design with Shel Design.


So what are native files ‘worth’?


Every graphic designer will have their own methods of working out what to charge for native files, and this may also vary from job to job depending on the complexity of the design work. But the following considerations are likely to be factors:

Cost of the original document design. Did the artwork have to be created from scratch or was it based on an existing design? Were there illustrations created as part of the process? How much work and expertise went in to creating the layout?

Additional benefits. What additional benefits, outside of the original agreement, is the client getting by having native files? How unique are those benefits because of the graphic designer’s abilities?

Third party items. Legally, graphic designers can’t provide fonts or licensed images associated with the final product. Licences for fonts and images need to be purchased directly by the client (or purchased separately on their behalf). The cost for fonts and images can range from a few dollars to many thousands. Obviously, if a client provides images for use in a work product, a client can’t be charged again for their own images! However, if a graphic designer edits, corrects or modifies client-supplied images, there has been value added to the images. These images can then be used across all a client’s promotions which means a client is benefitting from the designer’s work outside the original agreement.

Ease of repurposing. Providing files where a client can easily copy/paste elements from the native files, and use them in other applications, means a client is able to use the designer’s ‘design sense’ without paying for this each time – the client is benefitting from the designer’s work outside the original agreement. This is a commodity and has great value, and therefore incurs a cost.

Using a designer’s aesthetic without their control. This point is best explained using an example: if a graphic designer has promoted their services (or included a client’s artwork in their portfolio) with explanations such as "I’ve designed XYZ’s company Annual Report since 2018" and subsequent reports aren’t up to the same standard, it can cost the graphic designer business in an indirect manner by affecting their reputation.

The creation of unique, original images or illustrations. If original illustrations are created for specific use in a specific work product, providing native files gives the client access to those illustrations to be used anywhere outside of the artwork – again, the client is benefitting from the designer’s work outside the original agreement. This is an added value and therefore incurs a cost.  


Ultimately though, each artwork and client is unique and therefore graphic designers generally won’t have a ‘set price’ or even a ‘set percentage’ for supplying native files. For artwork that is primarily comprised of text and client supplied images, the cost for supplying native files will likely be much lower than artwork that has a great deal of original illustrations or complex design elements. Most graphic designers will be happy to have a conversation about your ‘native file requirements’ and will negotiate a price based on the factors listed above.

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Eleanor Roosevelt was a very savvy woman who made statements like: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”. What do you think? Is that true?

Particularly in business, I think it is most definitely true. Women in business can tend to let the opinions of others shape or even dictate how they feel about themselves. This can stem from a desire to be liked by everyone or from a general lack of self-confidence.

Early on in my business journey I experienced great support from family, friends and many other business owners. But sadly, I also have examples of negative and unhelpful comments from another business owner that at the time I let affect me. This person’s intention was clearly to make me feel inferior and unworthy of success. But I soon put those comments in perspective and realised that she was a lone voice – and I was letting that lone voice shape my confidence in my abilities.

Firstly, I surmised that she was acting like the classic bully with a lack of self confidence – if you feel bad about yourself, make others feel bad too. Secondly, I put her comments in perspective and realised her opinions were just that – opinions not based on fact or delivered with any desire to support my endeavours.

And most importantly, other than analysing that period in time to write this article, I have barely given those comments a second thought. A sure way to feel inferior is to dwell on negative comments and attitudes. All that does is give power to the negative person.

To be successful, surround yourself with positive and successful people. Don’t give away your power by listening to people who have no desire to help you succeed.

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Most of us procrastinate in our business. We all have areas and tasks we prefer to work on, and those less-than-pleasant things are often relegated to the bottom of the pile. So how do you motivate yourself and become more productive?

  1. Do tiny things. First write a list of a few things you can do that will make you feel productive. Then look down the list and do something tiny that is related to each of those things. For example, draft some emails, file some documents, do some research for an article (I’m talking to myself here!). This way you will have made a start on each item and the big jobs don’t feel so daunting.
  2. Look after your physical needs. Sometimes procrastination stems from lack of energy. So make sure you are getting enough sleep and taking regular breaks. Many proponents of ‘enough sleep’ suggest going to bed between 9pm and 10pm and rising at 5am in order to be the most productive you can be.
  3. Focus on the task at hand. As business owners, we are often ‘big picture’ people. We have a vision for our company or a big goal for our project. But this can sometimes cause us to be overwhelmed when we try to get working on the process and tasks. Get in the habit of focusing on the smaller tasks in front of you – break down tasks into smaller chunks if you need to – and then outline the steps, set a deadline for finishing the steps, have a coffee and then do it!
  4. Give yourself a break. I’m not talking about having a break from working in this instance, but a break from doing the same tasks. It’s possible that your procrastination is because you are bored. So do something out-of-the-ordinary and have some fun.
  5. Get inspired. Sometimes you just need to stop what you’re doing and get some inspiration, whether that’s from a book, a song, an article, a mentor, a walk in nature or whatever recharges you.
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As a business owner, over the years I’ve learnt that it pays to have a thick skin when it comes to receiving feedback on the work I produce for clients. I’m always proud of the work I produce, but there have been occasions when a client’s idea of “good design” doesn’t match mine. It becomes a balancing game of satisfying my client’s needs and not compromising what I know to be essential elements for a great outcome.

It comes down to trusting my instincts and remembering that the client is paying for my expertise. This is not to say that clients shouldn’t have an input into how a product or service is delivered to them. But allowing the client to dictate the direction in a situation where they don’t have the expertise is a recipe for disaster.

How do you handle situations like this? It’s useful to ask questions such as: Is this sticking point worth losing the client over? Are you happy to continue to deal with this customer in the future despite the possibility of further angst or stress on your part? Will the number of hours spent with this customer payoff in the end? Or do you need to “fire” the occasional client?

In some businesses you don’t get the opportunity to question whether you retain a client or not. However, you can still remind yourself that in your business, you have the expertise and allow that mindset to give you the confidence to deal with the variety of customers that will cross your path.

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I have come across a number of quotes and articles recently, purporting that almost every successful business person has one or more ‘failures’ under their belt. Most agree that the success stories of these business owners can be directly attributed to ‘failing’ and that they would not be successful without those experiences.

If you have children, or can cast your mind back to when you were a child, you have probably witnessed that the most effective learning comes from children experiencing negative experiences for themselves. Children don’t learn what it feels like to lose a soccer game from reading about it or from you telling them about it. When they lose a game, they truly experience how it feels and often have a greater motivation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

That’s not to say that in order to understand a situation or be successful you have to first fail at every possibly circumstance. But it does mean that you are more likely to be resilient, determined and motivated to do it better next time.

When you experience a failure, if you are smart, you will adapt what you’ve learnt from that situation to the next experience, even if it is a very different experience. This means that not only is there a positive and good outcome from the failure, each time you fail you can choose to learn everything you can from it and use it to achieve success.

James Cameron frames failure in an interesting way: “if you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success”

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Increasingly, more women are teaming up with their spouse in business. Doing this successfully is not an easy thing to accomplish. Even the most amicable of couples don’t always agree on everything, and when money and business decisions are thrown into the equation, tensions can rise.

A common reason for disagreements in businesses run by spouses is the different styles of decision making. Men are often more likely to look at ‘the facts’ and less willing to consider the emotional impact that should be factored into a business decision.

Here are some tips for making it work better for both of you:

  1. Treat your spouse with the same (or higher) respect and courtesy as you would anyone else.
  2. Set aside time at home that is ‘business free’. Make sure you have ‘dates’ with your spouse where there is no business talk and just enjoy being a couple.
  3. Above all, only go into business with your spouse if you have planned to do so and you both want to work together, not because you need someone to save your business. If your business needs saving, hire a consultant.
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"We're not flying, we're falling with style". So says Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 1 as he aims towards his goal of landing safely in his owner’s grasp. Buzz has realised that he can't fly, but he's making the best use of the resources he has and pushes on.

Have you ever been in a situation in business where you've made mistakes or realised you can't achieve a particular goal? Do you give up, feel like a complete failure and toss in the towel? Or do you imitate Buzz and make the best of your situation?

Many of the most successful business people can tell you stories of "failures", both when starting out, right up to the present day.  And the thing that they will all be able to tell you is the significant lessons they learnt from that episode. Sure, we don't want to intentionally set out to "fail".  But the learning that comes from a negative experience is often much greater than from positive ones.

Take Thomas Edison for example: he is reported to have said, "I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.". What a great positive spin! But also a great deal of truth. Who has all the answers every single time? Many of the best ideas and inventions come about after many trials and errors. And those experiences of "failing" teach those people what not to do, as well as instilling resilience, generating alternative ideas and possibly dreaming up some really successful ventures.

So don't be afraid to fail. You are likely to learn immeasurably and you will certainly not be alone! Every business owner has been there and either let it sink them or used it to grow

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Did you hear about US Olympic runner Alysia Montano? She wears a flower in her hair during every race. When she was a child, she raced against boys in her neighbourhood and she started wearing a flower in her hair to remind them that they were being beaten by a girl. Montano explained recently: “The flower to me means strength with femininity. I think that a lot of people say things like you run like a girl. That doesn’t mean you have to run soft or you have to be dainty. It means that you’re strong”

What a great example for women in business! Too often, women in business fall in to the trap of thinking you have two choices: be ‘tough’ (meaning ‘more like a man’) or be ‘soft’ (meaning ‘more like a woman’). Montano has captured a 3rd ‘choice’ brilliantly: run like a girl because that means you are strong.

Montano uses the flower to remind herself (and others) that it is possible to be both ‘strong’ and ‘feminine’ and that those two attributes are not mutually exclusive. In fact, as far as I am concerned they go hand in hand.The flower to me means strength with femininity. I think that a lot of people say things like you run like a girl. That doesn’t mean you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you’re strong

In other words, don’t hide from the fact that you are a woman in business. Don’t think that you have be ‘more like a man’ in order to succeed in business. Being a woman gives you a great deal of skills and attributes that you probably don’t even realise you have. The fact that you run a business in addition to all the other responsibilities in your life means that you understand what hard work is and what ‘being strong’ is all about. You have strengths as a woman that mean you already have the capacity to succeed.

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Do you really care about your customers? Or at the end of the day, do you just want their money? It is a question that publicly I am certain most business owners would answer ‘of course I really care about my customers!’. But is that really the truth?

Many business owners treat their customers well when they make contact or walk in the door. And they most certainly pay excellent attention to their ‘best’ customers, those who bring in the most money or are the easiest to work with. Of course there is nothing wrong with fostering those ‘best’ customer relationships. But often there are other customers who, while not as ‘lucrative’ as others, when added together, provide your business with a substantial proportion of your revenue.

The best businesses foster meaningful contact with their customers, rather than waiting for them to initiate a transaction or interaction. ‘Meaningful contact’ usually doesn’t include a sales pitch (although on occasion it might). What definitely includes is a genuine desire to inform, assist or connect. These days, this is most often done via social media (although for some businesses, face-to-face presence, or e-newsletters can serve the same purpose).

Social media, due to its primarily casual and informal nature, provides opportunity for your business to show personality. It gives a great platform for showing that you care about your potential or infrequent customers, by adding value to their experience of your business.

For example, your social media posts might include a ‘tip of the day’, or a relevant meme that gives food for thought, or an article that provides an opportunity for your customers to engage with you. This tells customers that you are interested in giving something back to them, not just waiting for them to hand over their money and purchase from you.

The balance can be hard to gauge, and depends on your industry and target group. Ideally, the person generating those interactions will understand who they are ‘talking’ to, and have flexibility to alter a strategy when it isn’t working as planned. In short though, the ‘strategy’ should not have as its number one goal ‘more customers’! Put aside the sales pitch and engage with your potential customers without expectation of a return. Your genuine approach is far more likely to then be rewarded with new devotees and increased revenue.

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There are many articles for business owners that describe the qualities it takes to be successful. And there are just as many articles detailing the qualities that tend to result in an unsuccessful venture. Ironically, those traits are often the same: that is, the same things that can propel a business owner to greatness, can also hold them back.

The two traits most likely to fall into both lists is confidence and self-reliance. Both of these traits are inherently good: but an abundance of one or the other can lead a business owner to think they are capable of doing everything with no help from anyone else.

Of course, many of us start out in business with no choice but to ‘do everything’. Limited finances and slow growth can create a situation where everything from marketing to accounting to product development is done solely by you! But some business owners fool themselves into thinking that this is the only way to operate, even after revenue does start rising.

This is often due to a couple of fairly common character flaws: arrogance and dis-trust. It may be difficult to admit that someone else might be able to do something as good as (or better than) we can. Business owners can convince themselves that no-one else can be trusted to do the job they way they want it done. The problem is, an overextended business owner will wind up producing inconsistent, low quality work. And it can cement a business in maintenance mode, rather than growth mode: who has time to strategise when you are entrenched in the day-to-day details?

The most successful business owners are those who have confidence in their own abilities, but who also have realistic views of their talents, strengths and weaknesses. They also recognize that there are limited hours in a day, and therefore delegation may be required, even in areas of strength.

Effective leaders exhibit humility. Humbly acknowledging limitations in time or skill sets has a twofold benefit: it creates more time for the business owner, and it shows employees and colleagues a willingness to learn and collaborate. Additionally, you allow your business to re-capture an invaluable asset: your leadership.

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With the rise of social media and online forums has also come an increase in the sharing of opinions. Or to put it more bluntly, there seems to be many more people quick to provide a snarky comment or an uninformed tirade. This can also spill in to ‘real life’, with back-handed compliments and less-than-constructive criticisms.

As a business owner, how do you stay strong in the face of these types of comments? How do you avoid wasting your energy on trying to work out other people’s intentions or motives?

The first way is to not give away your power; that is, don’t allow others to control the way your think, feel or behave. Make a decision that those remarks aren’t going to take up space in your head, or affect your day. Take deep breaths, and if need be, walk away from a situation.

Another important aspect is not to stoop to the criticizer’s level. Maintain your integrity and don’t be tempted to respond in kind. However, this doesn’t mean you will always keep your mouth shut! There are still times when you need to speak up when it is warranted. If your response is purely to get the last word in, it is not worthwhile. But if it is to call out inappropriate behavior, a constructive response may be needed.

Finally, you need to assess whether you are surrounded by negative and energy sapping people. Renowned businessman Jim Rohn once said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with”. Great relationships are reciprocal, where people bring out the best in one another. Constructive people ask themselves, am I acting in a manner that brings other people down, rather than raising them up? If so, what else can I bring to other people's lives to help them?

Although it is possible to build your capacity to deal with tough situations, constant negativity and stress will take a toll on your well-being. You need people around you who will challenge you and assist you to improve. If you are consistently associating only with negative people, it is far more likely that they will rub off on you, rather than the other way around.

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I’m in my apartment in New York, sitting on my bed with a laptop, writing my column for a New York newspaper. Okay, so I’m really in a hotel room, not an apartment, and my column is for The Western Weekender not a New York newspaper. But I am really in New York as I write this, having fun pretending that I’m fictional New York columnist Carrie Bradshaw (from TV show Sex and the City)!

Some readers might think I’m being pretty silly, but I think it’s important not to be ‘serious’ all the time. If you’ve spent any time with children under age ten, you will know that they generally have outlandish and crazy dreams for their future by adult standards. Some of the most successful people are those who haven’t let go of those ‘crazy’ ideas and let themselves continue to dream big (think Richard Branson).

So how about you? Do you let your thoughts go wild about the possibilities for your business? Do you let yourself ponder questions like ‘what would I do with unlimited resources?’.

Start with paper and pen (there is a lot of research which shows that creativity is better supported by using ‘old school’ writing methods, rather than using a screen). Write down as many ‘beyond your wildest dreams’ ideas for your business. When you do this, don’t let practicalities get in the way. Be child-like and jot them down with no other intention. This might just be a two minute exercise or you might like to let your mind wander for longer. You could either pin these ideas on the wall, or put them away and look at them every now and again.

If you have never done this, or haven’t done it in a long time, I encourage you to try it! It doesn’t mean all those wishes will magically occur, or necessarily change the current trajectory of your business. But what it can do is open your mind to the possibility of something bigger and better for your business. Dreams can only come true if you have them in the first place.

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Those of us who are parents have most likely read an article or heard from experts about the dangers of our children having too much ‘screen time’. Many of us have changed their children’s habits and put strategies in place to ensure that screen time is limited. But have you done the same for yourself?

Although most of us are not spending hours playing ‘mindless’ games or staring inactively at screens, our days are often spent viewing many types of information. Social media, podcasts, emails, videos, news feeds and so on, can overload our brains, to the point where we are distracted, irritable and constantly tired.

Research tells us that the promise of new information triggers the release of dopamine, which in turn makes us more alert to the possibility of more pleasure, creating a cycle that lays new neural pathways. That is, our brain has been taught to keep seeking out this ‘pleasure’.

In contrast, many of us rarely open a book for pleasure during our work periods. And when we do, we find it hard to slow down long enough to concentrate on what we are reading. For myself, holiday times are when I catch up on my reading when there are no other distractions vying for my attention. But reading books may just be the antidote to our fast-paced information seeking.

While books can help us to unplug from the unrelenting flow of digital information, it also takes discipline to change our digital habits. Few of us actually need to answer emails at night, so set a time after which you don’t check your phone or computer (in fact, turn them all off). Commit to at least two or three nights of no TV before bedtime, and read a book instead. And most importantly, never have your phone in your bedroom at night. This removes any temptation to check emails or social media at 3am!

Undertaking these changes is likely to reduce your stress levels and increase your energy levels. It is never too late to change habits – use the New Year to start afresh!

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The poet Maya Angelou once said Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently.

What do you think about this statement? Is it true for you?

I’ve been thinking about Maya’s quote this week in relation to being a woman in business and have to say I agree with her. Courage seems to underpin so many aspects, including the following:

  • Risk taking: in order to take risks we need courage and belief in our self and our goals
  • Excellent customer service: to respond appropriately and effectively to customers in the face of complaints or situations that need to be resolved takes tremendous courage.
  • Receiving feedback/criticism: it takes a lot of courage to receive feedback and even more courage to actively seek it!
  • Setting goals: it takes courage to think big and plan to be more successful than you are now.

Even on a day to day basis, women in business are being courageous. No matter what stage your business is at, ‘turning up’ each day is an act of courage. Operating a business is hard work! It takes courage to remain focused, to motivate your staff, to meet the needs of your clients.

It takes courage to know when to say ‘no’ and when to change direction. It takes courage to make decisions you know are good for you and your business, even when others around you disagree.

So be encouraged: you are already courageous even on the days you don’t feel like you are. Your success as a business woman is so much more about the journey than the destination and it’s the steps on the journey that show your courage. I’ll leave you with this quote from Nelson Mandela: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

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If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know that I do like my motivational quotes. I think they have the potential to keep me focused and positive, even when things are not going to plan. There is, however, a broad spectrum when it comes to the quality and usefulness of the quotes that we can come across.

For those on social media, you have no doubt seen your share of cheesy quotes, often accompanied by a background image of a rainbow or a cute kitten. The following examples spring to mind:

  • “Keep calm and carry on.”
  • “You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.”
  • “Be yourself.”
  • “Things only get as bad as you are willing to let them.”

Some of these have some truth to them and having a positive outlook on life is vital. But motivational quotes are subjective: what one person loves may go straight over the head of another. And when a quote is overused or offered as a clichéd response to a situation, they are far from useful. In addition, a sentiment isn’t going to change the world around you – often when you are in need of motivation there are circumstances out of your control. All the motivational quotes in the world are not going to change that.

However, here are some of my favourite quotes that are hopefully not in your ‘overused’ or ‘cliched’ categories!

  • “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business “(Henry Ford)
  • “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” (Maya Angelou)
  • “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” (Henry Ford)
  • “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” (Dr. Seuss)

And to give you a giggle, here are some that you probably won’t be printing out and putting on your office wall any time soon:

  • “If you give up on your dreams that may free up some time to get some actual stuff done.”
  • “You’re never alone so long as you owe someone, somewhere, money.”
  • “Don’t just accept your shortcomings. Embrace them as valid excuses.”
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For the past few months I’ve been really enjoying a new relish I found at the supermarket. I fleetingly wondered why each product had a different person’s name on it (for example ‘Steve’s Balsamic Beetroot Relish’). I recently discovered that after five years of service, staff members of this jam and relish company have a product named after them. So it’s not just a random name that’s been placed on each product: there is a real person and a real story behind it. When you go to their website, you can look up the person and read about them.

I think this is genius on a number of levels:

  • It is great for staff morale. Staff know they are truly a part of the company’s history and are rewarded for loyalty and service.
  • It relays the company’s values of being a family run business, and treating their staff like they are part of the family.
  • It makes the consumer feel like they are part of the company in a small way. That is, I can get to know the employees in a fun and somewhat personal manner.
  • It provides the company an opportunity to share their story.

The way to keep customers loyal is not only about their satisfaction with your specific product or service. Yes, I really like the balsamic beetroot relish. But I also love buying from an Australian, family owned company who has a sense of fun. So my loyalty has moved from just liking the taste of a product, to wanting to continue to support this company with my purchases.

There are many different ways to tell your story. Start by ensuring that your website includes a friendly and inviting ‘About Us’ page so that customers get to know you before they engage further with you. And think about ways to continue that story through every aspect of your business.

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As business owners, there can be a great deal of stress we place on ourselves to succeed. We often make difficult decisions by ourselves and can have the weight of responsibility on our shoulders, not only for operational considerations, but also employment security for staff. We may be sleep-deprived and working long hours. All those factors combined can result in business owners who aren’t paying enough attention to their own mental health and general well-being.

For those who have started their business from scratch, our identity can also be strongly linked to our start-ups (e.g. Michelle = Shel Design). Although employees can of course experience a great deal of stress in their workplace, it is far more difficult for a business owner to ‘walk away’ from what they’ve created. And most of us are not seeking to do that anyway! But as our business goes through troughs and peaks, it is inevitable that we will also follow that same pattern. This adds another layer of stress, as there is far more than finances at stake if your business doesn’t succeed: if your business fails, YOU fail. At least, that is how it feels!

It is important, then, to be aware of your emotions and enlist techniques to manage your mental health. It doesn’t mean you won’t still experience highs and lows, or be personally affected by what happens in your business. But it will help you to experience less unhelpful emotions, give you more optimism, have clearer thought processes and result in more creativity. Having your mental health in check will bring you to a more stable equilibrium and reduce the amount of ‘emotional swinging’ that you do.

This can be as simple as making sure you share your feelings, fears, worries and concerns with someone who will understand what you are going through. It is why it is vital to be connected to your business community (either local or online) in order to build relationships that can provide a listening ear and a sounding board. Or alternatively, it may be a business coach you enlist to help you work through the phases and seasons of your business, ensuring that you look after yourself in the process.

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There are many misconceptions that business owners hold. Successful ones challenge these myths and swallow their pride to admit they may have been doing it wrong. Here are some common misconceptions to consider:

  1. ‘Always maintain focus’. If you spend your whole day jumping from one task to another, finishing nothing, then you have a problem with focus. But we do also need distractions to boost creativity. If we force ourselves to keep focused on a task until it is finished, we may find that it takes longer to complete. Taking a break actually helps you to RE-focus and increase energy levels. As long as you don’t get too distracted, having ‘less’ focus may benefit you.
  2. ‘Don’t let the small stuff stress you’. If you have read my articles for any length of time, you would know I definitely disagree with this one! Although we shouldn’t get stuck on something genuinely unimportant, attention to detail, and being concerned with the seemingly insignificant things, can create great benefits. Customers will notice the extra effort and sometimes stress can increase your effort levels.
  3. ‘Always take on a new client’. I have learned the hard way that it is not wise to accept every project or customer that comes your way. If you take on work that is outside your scope, or that you loathe to do, you will soon create a business that you don’t want to be in. Or if you take on more than you can handle, you will gain a reputation for over-promising and under-delivering. Neither scenario is good. Be clear about your capacity to accept extra work and be prepared to decline work when necessary.
  4. ‘You need to know how to do it all’. No you don’t. I have yet to meet a business owner who hasn’t started out this way. The ones who stay in business longer than five years soon work out that delegation is the key to success. No-one is an expert on everything. And no-one has infinite hours in the day. Delegation will create more productivity and improve customer satisfaction. It can also create opportunities not possible if you are frantically ‘doing it all’.
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Some people have an enormous capacity for creative thinking and analyse the world differently than most. They have epiphanies about solutions to everyday ‘problems’ or an ability to produce products and services that society doesn’t know we ‘need’ yet.

But great ideas do not necessarily translate into a great business. If you have seen any episodes of the TV show ‘Shark Tank’, you will know it is a common theme: someone presents a great idea, but they haven’t created a viable business model for it. Although there are many paths on the business journey, there are some important steps that are vital to success, to move from a ‘big idea’ to a viable business:

  • Identify and develop a customer base before you develop the product. You may think you have produced the most amazing, brilliant and essential product ever created. But if you haven’t tested your idea with real customers, you will almost certainly waste time and money fixing mistakes. Find people in your target market who can give you real feedback on your product. And then hone your product to meet their needs, not just your perception of their needs.
  • Find out if your idea exists and whether it can partner with an existing concept. Sometimes you won’t know if your ‘big idea’ has already been done by someone else until you start. So be prepared to find ways that your idea can be adapted or can work alongside an existing product or service. This can be a smart move particularly in relation to marketing costs/success, as well as providing your new concept with a higher level of trust.
  • Work on a ‘business model’ before a ‘business plan’. This will demonstrate how you will create, deliver and capture value. If you need to involve investors, this information is far more valuable than resource allocation, organisational structure and financial predictions. These are really all guesses anyway – it is far better to explore possibilities than to try and predict.

The overnight success stories that we sometimes hear about are very rare. And some are not as ‘overnight’ as they appear. Take heart that most great success stories are borne of courage, determination and years of honing to find the winning formula.

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Have you ever thought how awesome it would be to start up a business with your best friend? Or to go into partnership with your spouse? While these arrangements can work well, it is very important to analyse those relationships thoroughly before embarking on any business relationship. Here are some things to consider:

  1. 1.Can you communicate well? You need to ensure that you can talk openly and honestly with your potential partner. Any communication issues that exist outside the business relationship will be massively magnified when you are working side by side. When (not if!) issues arise, you will both need the ability to have frank conversations without egos being bruised.
  2. 2.Do your values clash? You may have different personal values to your potential business partner, and for many of those values, this may not be an issue. But it is important to ascertain core values from the outset, as those values will influence your actions and decisions. If your business partner has a value that is in complete opposition to yours, you both need to decide if that will be a deal breaker.
  3. 3.Do your goals align? If your partner’s goal is to work part time and create some extra ‘pocket money’, while your goal is to create a company that will eventually be listed on the stock exchange, you may want to have a re-think. Although your goals may not be as extremely different as this example, it is still imperative that you have identical (or very similar) goals for your business venture. You goals should (and will) determine the direction you take and the decisions you make. If those goals are not the same for both of you, it will make your ability to progress very difficult, if not impossible.
  4. 4.Do your skill sets and personalities complement one another? If you are both ‘creative’ and avoid spending time on details, you will immediately have gaps in your operations and processes. If you both hate sales, you will soon come to a stalemate. As time progresses, and your business builds, you can add various skill sets to your team. But to start with, it is wise to choose a partner who can balance your weaknesses, and vice versa.
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Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142, Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mon-Thurs 9am-4pm
ABN: 88 695 161 542

Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142
Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABN: 88 695 161 542

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