How small businesses can perfect their product design

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

By Sheryl Wright

If you’re in the process of building a small business, you know that each investment needs to pay back pretty quickly. Your capital and energy will disappear quickly if your products don’t create a following rapidly. To that end, you want to hire creative folks and let them get busy.

Allow creative people to work effectively

Design thinkers are versatile, fun, and invigorating co-workers. However, they are not linear. If you have designers working on your new product, make sure that they have the space and the flexibility to do their best work at their best time.

For example, you may have a designer who needs a whiteboard. Others may need additional computing power. Some may be working on a product design, start thinking about the packaging, and come up with a better product. Be ready for new designs to run a very hilly path in the early days.

Finally, make sure your most creative folks can work when their brains are freshest. If that means keys to the building or a home office, make it happen. If you have space for a basketball hoop on the back wall of the business, put one up. Encourage folks to get up, get out and work some oxygen into their brains to boost creative thought. Don’t let beige cubicles and blah activities keep your most creative thinkers from blooming as you need.

Use a turnkey service to test drive ideas

There are a lot of manufacturing options out there for your newest product. However, if you want a particular metal etching, glass shaping, or plastic forming done, your facility may not offer the tools needed to complete the job.

Consider looking for turnkey services where your designers can see the process. A person skilled in metal construction may not understand the options found in a facility that offers low volume injection molding services. Once your engineers and designers know what’s possible, you may have both a great product and terrific design improvements.

Create a safe space for ideas

Design thinkers are also often not interested in right vs. wrong. To foster a “good, better, best” way of looking at products, make sure that your meetings are run by folks who create a safe space.

Safe space meetings include the employees who

– design your products

– generate and test the first articles

– manufacture the production runs

– market the product

– pack and ship the product

If your facility produces assemblies that include custom plastic molded products, make sure that your assembly team has input on the different features of the molding, the layout of their workspace, and any information about the plastic item that may be time-consuming to work. You may be paying higher labor costs that could be reduced with a simple design change or even a work layout change.

Share responsibility

When something suffers a feeble launch, finding out why and sharing that responsibility will lead to better designs. Often, the best ideas for business improvements you could make come from customer needs.

If you hear from a customer that your new product is pretty good for step X but they really need something to help out on Y, you have a customer who is engaged in your product line. You also have free marketing once they’re happy with your Y.

Celebrate as a team

When your business has a great launch, it’s time to take a break out of the workday and have a party. Bring in lunch and pay folks to celebrate. Make sure that everyone, from the receptionist to your lead engineer, understands who important they are to your success.

One of the best things about working for a small business is that everyone on the team often has to wear multiple hats. Your design team likely has to work on everything from product to packaging. Your marketing team is probably helping with correspondence and bids. The accounting team is likely getting some data entry help from the front desk, and everyone has to pitch in during the crunches. Be ready to learn from the fizzles and celebrate the big wins together.


Sheryl Wright is a freelance writer who specializes in digital marketing, inclusive business, and interior design. If she is not at home reading, she is at a farmer’s market or climbing in the Rockies. She currently lives in Nashville, TN, with her cat, Saturn.

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