Design and Development

3 Business Lessons from the Benham Brothers

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Filed under: Business of Design.

A few weeks ago I was at a conference where twin brothers, Jason and David Benham, spoke on business and how to excel in your field. The Benham brothers, formally drafted by the MLB,  now turned business men have started many companies and have been featured in many publications including Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and more.

Benham Brothers

During one of their talks they focused on three guiding principles they follow in their businesses that has made them what they are today. I want to highlight these things and show how you can apply them to your work/business.

Breathe life into every transaction – Be a fountain not a drain.

Breathing life into every transaction – what a thought! That people would feel refreshed and excited after they have done business with you or used your product. That their life, their day would be better as a result of doing business with you.

Sounds great right? But how do you actually accomplish this on a practical business level?

One good way to start is to make sure any work your business does is actually helping people in your communities. For me as a consultant/designer this means, I am not going to work with a company that is trying to scam people or is promoting illegal things like drugs or harmful substances.

Being a fountain not a drain means that you are actually creating something that is of value to people. You are not out to scam your customers and extract every last penny from them. Rather you are out to make their life easier and improve how they do things.

One company/service that is a great example of this is Airbnb. They started a service that allows people to rent out rooms or their entire house for people who are traveling to stay-in. This service benefits not only the home owner, by providing extra money, but also the travelor, by providing a more meaningful travel experience than a hotel could provide, or possibly a backup solution if local hotels are full.

Airbnb

On of Airbnb‘s founders had this to say:

“What we’re doing with Airbnb feels like the nexus of everything that is right. We’re helping people be more resourceful with the space they already have and we’re connecting people around the world. We can see ourselves doing this for a decade to come – a generation.” The Telegraph

Produce more in value than you take home in pay.

This is a very different value-system than many businesses have today about money. But people can sense what kind of business values you have, and if they sense you care more about making a dollar than serving them, they will go elsewhere with their money.

So how do you bring more value to someone than you charge them?

First off you need to remember that charging money, even a lot of money, for a service or product you provide is not necessarily a bad thing. You just need to provide more value in your product or service than your customer is paying for it.

I think of an example that Neil Patel, Founder of Kissmetrics tells:

He was still in school working on his IT degree. A friend called him up and said he knew a company that was really struggling with their SEO optimization and wondered if he would come and share some ideas with them. Neil agreed and met with the CEO for several hours one morning. After they were finished the CEO said to Neil, “You know, this has been super-valuable to me, and I would like to repay you in some small way for helping our company. Does $15,000 sound fair for your services today?”

Neil says this is where he learned that businesses are willing to pay a premium for services, as long as you are providing huge value to that company/individual you are serving.

Secondly, you need to make sure you are actually meeting people’s needs with your services. Sure, you may be able to build an HTML5 standards-compliant, hand-coded website, but what does it actually do for your client’s business? How is it going to add value to their business?

If you can use their website as a tool to raise their reputation, increase their sales, automate part of their process or help them reach their target market – then you are truly providing them with huge value.

There is a whole lot more we could say on the topic of huge value, which you can read if you are interested.

Be faithful in the everyday little things.

Little things are the everyday tasks that seem unimportant when looked at separately. Things like being five minutes early for a meeting, answering calls on the 2nd ring, giving project quotes within 48 hours, or even working an extra hour to make sure your design is just right. You might wonder what good these things actually do for your business, and might consider them extra polish that is unnecessary.

The Benham brothers argue that a huge part of your success depends on doing the little things well. This is what makes you standout from other competitors, and gives you an edge in today’s extremely crowded market of mediocrity.

In my business, I am thinking of an example of how doing the little things well can go a long way. I am currently working with Ministry Sync, a company that sells SAAS applications for fundraising events – walk-a-thons, banquets etc. We are working hard to completely overhaul the design and experience of their fundraising apps. Our goal is to make the apps easy enough for a 60yr grandma to use them whether she’s using a laptop, smartphone or the latest iPad mini.

This means things like tooltip popups, subtle animations, and appropriate font-sizing are key to the success of this project in order to give our users the best experience possible. Little things like drop-shadows and subtle animations may look unimportant, but when viewed as part of the app as a whole, they create a product that is truly a joy to use.

Apple has really focused on doing the little things well in all their products and throughout their business. This video is a great example of their thoughts on doing the little things well.

Conclusion

Remember that no matter what business you are working for/managing that you are working for and with people. You are not just sitting behind a computer pushing pixels for a robot, or emailing some random corporation giant. You are working with actual real-life human beings – do your best to make that interaction pleasant. Look for ways to please your boss and delight your customers.

Be a fountain of life to your customers, produce huge value, and be faithful doing the little things well. Your business and life will be more successful because of it.

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