Arnaud Petrozzi, founder of Design Tork tells us about unlimited graphic design.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Arnaud Petrozzi: Everyone is fine, thanks! As good as we can be in these weird times, I would say.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Design Tork.
Arnaud Petrozzi: After getting an MBA in business strategy and marketing, I started my career in business development, sales, and then account management. I always knew that one day or another, I would start something on my own. But it was important for me to first get experience and learn from others before kicking things off on my side.
During my MBA, I had the opportunity to do an internship in India as a business developer in a small design agency. There I met George, who first became a friend, and later on, my business partner. With his technical skills and my business skills, we were equipped to get started! But it’s only five years later that we decided to start DesignTork. The original idea was to create a design and development agency. But we quickly realized that there was another opportunity to provide the same services under a different business model. If you have recurring design and development needs, what are (were) your options? 1. Agencies, which can indeed deliver an amazing job, but which can quickly get costly (and each time you need something more, you must pay for extra hours of work, not ideal for small companies and entrepreneurs). 2. Freelancers, who can as well deliver great work if you find the right person. We often hear about people/businesses that went from freelancers to freelancers, hoping to find the gem, in vain (of course there are many serious and good freelancers out there, but they can be hard to find, and as a business, you can’t really scale thing up efficiently with a freelancer). 3. Hiring someone. If you can, go for it! But it can be costly and hard to scale things up/down. This is, of course, a rough analysis of the market, but in a nutshell, we’re not far from reality. And that’s how we decided to found DesignTork on this specific business model: unlimited graphic design, web design, and front-end development services blend in an affordable monthly subscription.
How does Design Tork innovate?
Arnaud Petrozzi: We are innovating through the services we offer. We are trying to bring a new full-range service of design and development on the market. When we thought about the scope of work of our business, we truly asked ourselves, “how can we best support clients”. And we noticed that there were already several businesses out there providing graphic design and web design services based on a monthly subscription model. But not really others that were also blending development, which was a big pain point for a lot of small companies looking for price AND process efficiency. They would get the design done on one somewhere and the development done somewhere else. So we decided to include development in our business model. Then we quickly saw that the development needs of our clients go beyond “simple” coding: they need landing pages built in their marketing system, a newsletter created in their email marketing tool, a website built with a modern builder, etc. That’s why we’re regularly onboarding our team on new tools that our clients use to always best support them. And if we look at the current market, as far as I know, we’re the only (or one of the only) companies that blend these services and constantly listen to their client to support them with platforms and tools that they use.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Arnaud Petrozzi: We started operating at the end of 2019. Of course, 2020 was supposed to be our year to grow and scale things up. When Corona hit, we lost 30% of our client base, and it brings uncertainty about the future (not really about our future, but more about the future of our clients as we work with lots of small companies and entrepreneurs who have been impacted quite a lot). So our decision has been to stop the planned investment and to secure our finances and the work of everyone. In a nutshell, Corona slowed things down, but there was no major impact.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Arnaud Petrozzi: Luckily, no! The hard choice has been to decide to cool down development plans and investments, to not take major risks, and have to fire people. We didn’t want to put people without a job in the current situation. That was something really important to us. I believe that at some point, we (company owners) also have human and social responsibilities and that profit should not always drive all decisions. We slowed things down, we kept our people, we passed this through, and we’re back on track! 2021, here we come!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Arnaud Petrozzi: We work with clients all across the world, so our customer relationship management was already remote. Efficiency is a hot topic at the moment! Currently, we have our own dashboard where the client sends all their requests in, and we organize the work internally in Asana, a well-known project management tool. We’re looking into bringing all our clients into Asana along with our team to have everything and everyone centralized into a single place, which would truly increase our efficiency! But of course, it’s not the only thing. We’re rethinking every step of our working process and constantly trying to improve the way we collect, work on, and deliver client’s requests.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Arnaud Petrozzi: Unfortunately, no. Government grants were based on the previous year’s revenue in the same period. And as we were not yet launched one year before Corona, we couldn’t claim any supports. We could have it in Q4 2020. But we were already back on track and didn’t feel like we were part of these companies that truly needed financial help. Let’s leave the money for people/companies who truly need it to survive and pass this through.
Your final thoughts?
Arnaud Petrozzi: Let’s make 2021 brighter! 2020 has been a challenging year that none of us was expected, and it raised lots of questions, issues but also opportunities to start making things differently. We learned in 2020. Now it’s time to thrive in 2021.