Established in Brisbane by two of the city’s university alumni, the company recently won international acclaim for its design of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton.
“It’s great when a piece of your work is seen by a global audience of 1.5 billion people,” Warren reflects, speaking from the firm’s West End hub.
The baton’s long journey from Buckingham Palace through to Brisbane mirrors that of Warren and his business partner, Alexander Wall, who both left London to return home, bringing Designworks with them.
“I’d studied in Brisbane before moving to London, where I joined the company’s UK office in 2000,” he recalls.
“It was a fantastic experience, but I wanted to come home. I convinced the UK operation to support us in setting up Designworks in Australia and returned to set up the business in 2005. Alex joined me a year later. We have since done all kinds of design projects, both big and small, from a child’s toy that ended in a production run of 13 million to one-off pieces, such as the Queen’s Baton.”
While the company may have been made in England, its significant Australian presence is thanks to two QUT graduates who always had designs on doing business in Brisbane.
What is your greatest business learning?
You can’t do everything yourself! Trust your instincts and surround yourself with awesome people who can help.
What is your greatest business success?
Being invited to Buckingham Palace to see the end product of our Queen’s Baton design process was pretty special!
It was a great honour, and seeing something that we designed inspire so many people was hugely rewarding.
What three things should someone consider before starting a business?
- You must be passionate about what you’re doing. If you’re not, you won’t want to put in the hard yards required to make it a success.
- Understand the business landscape in which you’re operating. Understand your competitors’ positions and be clear about the value you’re bringing to your customers.
- Make it, break it and make it again. Refining a prototype means you’re much more likely to get the finished article right – that goes for your product and your business model, too.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would probably have spoken to more people earlier on about our business model and how we could ensure it was as effective as possible.
Hindsight is great, but in a way your failures are more valuable than your successes, as you often learn more from them.
What have you found to be the most effective way to promote your business?
Be passionate about your work. If you’re passionate, then the quality of your work will speak for itself.
How do you stay up to date with the latest business information?
Read, attend and listen!
We obviously stay across trends in manufacturing and technology, for example in 3D printing, but perhaps less obviously we engage with people from outside our immediate industry to ensure we’re not missing out on transferable expertise.
In one case, we took some design principles and manufacturing techniques we had used on some children’s playground equipment and applied them to redefine the design of a personal safe.
What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?
Do your maths! Know what your break-even point is, when you will see return on your investment and, most importantly, whether what you’re doing is feasible in the first place.
What value do you place in business plans and why?
Your goals are obviously very important. They give you focus and a way to measure success. Have a plan that reflects your goals, but make sure you’re able to evolve it!