Banko Design was born in a small house in Kennesaw, GA in 2014. While it was a leap of faith, starting this business was a strategic move. I built a plan, then I built another and another. I knew going in that I didn’t have all the answers, but I was open to learning and I was also open to failing. You learn much more in losses than in victory, and the only true failure in my book is when you don’t TRY. And, of course, we’ve had failures over the years, but they were worth it. We’ve learned more from those than we’ve ever learned in any classroom.
So, with an open mind to learning and failing and with the guidance of capital partners with a lot of business experience, I made a plan, I took the risk, and I think I can say it absolutely paid off.
So, what have we learned along the way? Funny you should ask.
Build Strong Teams
I often hear, “Wow, you’re growing so fast!” but what I hear in my head is, “How can you possibly manage it all?!”
The secret is having a team who is just as passionate about the vision and master plan as you are! My team members are a wonderful blend of talents and personalities, and it has made our team strong and propelled us forward. There is strength in differences when there is a common goal AND a love for your brand! Our WHY drives our commonality.
I had a team member jokingly say to me once, “I am all in. I would follow you off a bridge if you told us it was the best thing to do!” I laughed, but what I heard was, “I see the vision, and I trust you.” It is so important to have team members who trust you but also have the skills to execute your vision.
Invest in Your Team
As a hands-on Owner and Principal, I also take responsibility for the happiness and growth of everyone who works alongside me. Because, news flash, success is not solo!
If you give your team the tools they require, the time off they need to rest, AND you take the time to understand their individual goals, family goals, and their personal struggles, you can better help them build a plan for where they want to go in a balanced way! This helps me as a leader because when I nurture, invest in, and support my staff, they give it right back. It’s the way humans are built – for each other.
Similarly, a company’s culture and tone are set by its leadership but FULLFILLED by all who work there. I knew I wanted a casual work environment where kids were often in and out, where dogs played in the office, where jeans and sneakers were the go-to work attire, and where you saw how raw and hardworking we all are. A place where beers crack open at 5pm and co-workers hang out together outside of work because they WANT to. A place where we build each other up, hop in and help without asking, and a place where people can THRIVE. This is what builds a long-lasting and successful business!
The Art of the Pivot
Yes, when you grow, you will have to pivot FREQUENTLY. We are constantly adapting and adjusting to keep all components of the business steady: the people, finances, projects, deliverables, marketing, PR, business development, mentoring, supporting leadership, accounting, and strategy.
Ever read the book “Who Moved my Cheese” by Dr. Spencer Johnson? It’s a simple read with a great concept of how to adapt to change. Basically, the book says you must anticipate, suggest, and initiate change, and then you must act quickly. Unlike some large firms, once we make a decision, we QUICKLY deploy it. If we hem and haw over change and new policy, we lose valuable efficiency and production. We lose time, and we all know time is money.
It is SO important to recognize and admit when you need to change something, whether it be big or small, for the greater good of the organization. As a group and team, we constantly talk about how to improve our processes. Not all change requires big moves, and if a plan isn’t working, we change the plan but NOT the goal.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
If you hear nothing more, trust me on this, to be a successful leader, you MUST delegate! The biggest boom in our business came when I was able to LET GO of the nitty-gritty and trust my team to work on my behalf. Once I knew they cared as much as I did, I realized I didn’t have to be involved in EVERY day-to-day detail. Having my team focus on production allowed me the time to be in the places where I could add maximum value.
As team members grow into leadership roles, they can manage more when they have an efficient and solid staff helping them. As projects get added to a lead’s plate, I don’t ask them to work more hours to do it themselves. Instead, I TRUST them to delegate it out appropriately to their team.
Here’s an example: As our staff grows, project leads have more people to manage. So, we sit down each week, map out each member’s weekly responsibilities, and shift staff as needed. We work as a team to cover the tasks because we don’t want our team working overtime! We are responsible for deliverables as a team, and the only way to get it all done is if leads delegate.
Size Doesn’t Matter!
I have worked at firms with hundreds of employees, a firm with fifty employees, and a start-up with only three employees. I have seen how successful companies run, large and small, and I knew I wanted to build a boutique firm that does BIG WORK. We design boutique projects, we offer boutique service and we build boutique relationships, internally and with our clients.
With that goal in mind, I attracted likeminded team members that wanted true work life balance and who saw value in building a company on honesty and connection with clients. Within 7 years, we have grown from a team of 2 to 50+ because of a shared vision, purpose, and goal.
With that, Banko Design will continue to grow! You will see locations all over the U.S. start popping up, but we will stay boutique at each location. And we will continue to invest in team members, regions, and our industry.
How Do You Refill?
Of course, every owner and leader is driven by what we want for our team and company and the desire to make them proud, but how do you refill at the end of the day? I reset with my family, fitness, and my faith. This company is run by a faithful woman with a strong relationship with Christ, and you will see it (and hear it) in the way I lead and give back. I pray often for guidance and direction for the company and for my team.
I fully recognize that as passionate as this group is about our work, we all have lives outside of these doors. We are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, caregivers, dog sitters, athletes, crafters, brides, grooms, grandchildren, grandparents, volunteers, coaches, students, readers, hikers, lake go-ers, travelers. We are all individuals, perfectly and uniquely made, and that’s what makes our staff so special. Curated, blended, a perfect and unique collection of talents and personalities. We celebrate it and leverage it because it makes us better designers, leaders, and co-workers.
So, build a strong team of blended talents who share your vision. Invest in your people, and they will invest in you and your clients. Learn the art of pivoting and changing. Delegate, so you can do the things you’re best at. Recognize that size isn’t everything. And, pray (or don’t), but find what replenishes you, so you can be your best self for your team and your company!
Until next time,
Melissa Banko, Principal | Banko Design