Put effort into every opportunity that is in front of you, no matter how large or small you perceive that opportunity to be.
Chris Belli leads the Strategic Marketing and Business Development for one of the Midwest’s fastest growing design and product agencies—Studio Science. A native of Melbourne, Australia before Studio Science, Chris led the Sales and Marketing team of an international racing enterprise with representation in Australia, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. He has over 15 years of experience serving in executive leadership roles and is known for his expertise in implementing business strategies, re-calibrating existing brands and leading teams requiring high volume sales. Find him on LinkedIn.
Where did the idea for Studio Science come from?
In the late 90s, we saw a need to apply the same level of design acumen that had historically been reserved for consumer facing products and services applied to business-to-business companies, and in particular software and tech. We saw a big opportunity to apply our trade in middle America, focusing on the centers of commerce in the Midwest.
While the services Studio Science offered today have developed from the services we offered 20 years ago, we continue to solve complex problems for fast growing business-to-business technology companies in the area of strategy, innovation, digital product and brand design.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We begin each day with a round table discussion among Studio Science’s individual practice areas, so that everyone is aligned specifically around client work and deliverables. Once I know that each team can deliver on the work that they have ahead of them, I sit down and write down tasks that need to be completed by the end of the day (and don’t leave the office until they are done).
Next I review opportunities in the pipeline, and work out how best to nurture those relationships, spending time working to truly understand the client’s pain points to ensure that our proposed solutions exceed their desired expectations. I aim to have a conversation with each of our practice area Directors throughout the day for greater insight into the client work, but also to identify areas where I can be helpful. Then I sync up with the marketing team to constantly shift our marketing efforts to address changes in the landscape, but also to analyze campaign performances etc. My day is usually rounded out with client meetings, prospective clients meetings or a networking opportunity.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We have a pool of design methodologies that we use to solve problems or bring ideas to life dependent on circumstances. We use the same methodologies whether we are bringing internal ideas to life, or whether we are assisting our clients with theirs. We are fortunate to have some brilliant minds that work at Studio Science that can lead design thinking exercises, work shops or sprint weeks, focused on taking ideas to prototype and then to product.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Customer Centricity and how Design Thinking, Service Design and User Experience Design need to be adopted to understand customers and provide them with personalized experiences—what they want and when they want it as an uncomplicated experience.
We are noticing companies engaging us to learn and understand Design Thinking so that they can begin to shape their customer experience offering, before the customer knows that they need it.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Putting as much effort into every opportunity that is in front of you, no matter how large or small you perceive that opportunity to be. Treating all opportunities equally ensures that you bring energy to your interactions, which naturally leads to better conversations and promotes creativity.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked as a part-time builder throughout college, and continued full-time while I was searching for my first professional job. The work was physically demanding but highly rewarding. It has given me perspective on my career and makes me appreciate what I do now.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Even though I am a risk taker, I’d take more risks, and that applies to life in general. If I were to start again, I’d jump on more opportunities at the earlier stage, whether it be real estate investments, or supporting a young bright spark with an idea.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Carve out time each week to meet with as many people as possible that can make a positive contribution to you both personally and professionally, and likewise return that favor by making yourself available to people for the same reasons. There is a lot that we can learn from each other. Also, create a disciplined schedule and stick to it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Focus the same amount of attention on the Sales Operations (process, development, communication, metrics etc.) as you would on the actual sales. Have a deeper understanding of your ideal customer and their trends and behaviors, as well as understanding your own metrics to forecast success.
By keeping a close eye on the current and future state of the sales pipeline, and by having holistic knowledge of your ideal customer, your sales cycle will dramatically improve.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Personally—not being up to speed with certain technical aspects of our industry. Things move quickly so to overcome this I make it a point of meeting with the different practice area Directors to understand what’s changing and what they are noticing in the latest trends. If it’s something that I believe I need to be proficient in, I do everything I can to upskill in that area.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am a huge sports fan, and I really think there is a lot of opportunity for sports and technology to really become the next big technology market. I think venture capital firms in the coming years could be fixed on sport technology companies and the companies that shape how we consume live sports.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)
As a newcomer to the U.S., I’ve been underprepared for the Midwest winter. I recently spent $100 on a cheap but warm, down jacket for the winter and it’s been a solid investment. Australian winters are far less cold.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Our design team uses a number of programs day to day including:
- Sketch – a design tool specifically for the way in designers work.
- Abstract – a collaboration and version control software that allows our team to work on the same files, continually tracking changes.
- Origami – a prototyping and user experience tool for very detailed user interaction and animations prototypes. It is also particularly good as it allows the user to build prototypes that feel like a finished product.
From a project management and time-tracking perspective, Harvest and Asana are our go-to programs. Our staff finds Harvest easy to use when tracking time, ultimately assisting the project managers in keeping client work on a schedule and within budget. Asana is a beautifully designed program (something that we notice and care about) that makes it easy to allocate tasks to staff members within projects. They’ve also done a great job incrementally improving the product.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
A book that has really shaped the way I view my opportunities pipeline is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. It enlightened me in the way that it highlights moments of critical mass, and how one additional deed or action can create sociological change. This way of thinking can be applied to the workplace and how you create opportunities for yourself and your business.
- Focus the same amount of attention on the Sales Operations as you would on the actual sales
- Carve out time each week to meet with as many people as possible that can make a positive contribution to you both personally and professionally, and likewise return that favor
- Treat all opportunities equally
Studio Science on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/studioscience/
Chris Belli on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cbelli
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.