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Lessons from a Seasoned Entrepreneur

Brian CombeManaging Director and co-Founder of product design consultancyi4 Product Design offers up some of the lessons he has learned during his 17 year journey as an entrepreneur.

It was a real pleasure to represent i4 Product Design as a judge at the 2020 Converge Kickstart Awards as well as an honour to be a design partner for Converge, who truly provide remarkable support to a diverse range of entrepreneurs. The enthusiasm that radiated from each entrepreneur as they pitched their business plan took me back to nearly 17 years ago when my three co-founding directors and I created i4pd. The drive to succeed that I saw on the day resembled what I had experienced when we first set out, all those years ago. As we nurtured our business, we matured as entrepreneurs; and we gained the experience to grow our company from a humble four to a creative team of 21, with an enviable track record for consistently producing high quality, commercially successful products.

We’ve grown with our valued clients by building our Edinburgh-based team of designers, innovators, and engineers who collaborate as one team to deliver product solutions that are not only beautifully designed, but also beautifully engineered. Through our multidisciplinary services, we add an extra dimension to our clients’ vision and strategy, using the best creative and engineering design talent to bring both new concepts and improved products to market.

More than two hundred products brought to market later, we find ourselves at a pivotal point in our business journey. i4pd transitioned to an Employee Owned business model in April 2018, and with two of the co-founders preparing to step down as directors, we will empower the next generation of i4pd management to become Intrapreneurs in their own right.

Our team is really starting to embrace the fact that i4 Product Design is now Employee-Owned and that we’re all in it together to overcome possible business challenges. When circumstances outwith our control begin to interfere with business plans, the Coronavirus being a topical example at this point in time, true teamwork and entrepreneurship emerges.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a few ‘Lessons Learned’ on my journey to hopefully offer encouragement and resilience when faced with your own transitional challenges.

When in Doubt, Bring it back to the Basic Goal

Constantly ask yourself ‘what am I trying to achieve?’ and ‘what am I doing to help achieve it?’

Keep a Close Eye on your Finances

Use your cash wisely and seek value for money. But remember, the cheapest is not often the best. The old proverb: ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves,’ serves as good advice and can provide valuable breathing space when things start to get tough.

Build a Team and a Network that you can Trust and Rely upon

Relationships in business are no different to personal relationships; you wouldn’t want to work with someone you don’t get on with or couldn’t trust!

Always Question whether there’s Room for Improvement

You need to be flexible in your approach and nimble to changing circumstances. Work hard and smart.