Going for the job that doesn't exist yet. Tricky.

Okay, so I have 7 years experience under my belt and am currently being entertained by a sporting-goods company. I have extensive experience in that particular industry and will be going to a competitor and working with old friends. Seems all good, right?

Well, they are about 10 years behind in development and design methods when compared to what I’ve worked with in the past. Very old-school, but know they need to step it up. I can do that, but it would require me taking on the responsibilities of director. I’d need full control of the department and they’d need to be open to doing things in new ways. It’s the only way I could be successful there.

Again, they do not have a director at this point. No scheduling, no methodology, no industrial designers. Just a bunch of guys that have been in the industry a long time.

How do I go about presenting this? “Hey, I can help get you to where you want to be, but you need to do it this way.” I know what the competition does, I know the structure and how to get products out fast and done well. I’ll fail if they don’t do it the way I’m used to though.

I can’t say that I’ve been in that position, but our co. has undergone a similar design transition in the past 5 years.

Our philosophy has been “play catch-up” first to get the most essential things up-to-date, like unifying the product family languages, getting graphics and logos in line, basically refreshing the line which should help you gain some friends in the other departments. You should not underestimate the power of the dark side - oops I mean sales and marketing people - in helping you get things done on the engineering and design side of the wall. At the very least, providing the company’s sales force with new stuff will make you look good and build some momentum for future projects.

Now that we’ve started to catch up, we are implementing some strategic planning projects outside of the normal company offerings. These efforts require multidisciplinary participation so the trust you have built in the first few months is critical.

Can you provide any better details of the position or the current mindset of the company? Is it in the bike industry?

(ps- pouring one out for Big Jan - he had a few more maillot jaunes in him if Big Tex hadn’t shown up)

“Hey, I can help get you to where you want to be, but you need to do it this way.”

I would say exactly that, then present your ideas in the easiest way for them to understand. What do you have to lose? Are you being laid off at your current job? Are you unhappy with your current job and want to leave?

You would definitely be under the gun as far as proving yourself though.

Thank you both for your replies.

As NURB said, I’d certainly be under the gun. Talk about stress!! But I’d need to be very up-front about what my abilities are and what exactly I CAN do and what I can’t (like engineering.) But I have contacts to have complicated stuff developed if necessary. Most of what I’d be doing isn’t that awful complex.

In a way, they are a new company, but it’s a merger of a few existing brands under one roof. Not in the bike industry. Funny how I seem to have interviewed with just about everyone in the industry, but never got a chance. Guess I just suck, or I tend to look at it this way…they missed out on having a good designer. That’s just being confident in what I can do, but I know my limitations. i’m ready to step up to a managerial kind of role too.

My current job is, um, lacking. However, it’s steady and I don’t need to worry about losing it. It’s not really in product design and I’m really just a glorified, over-payed graphic designer!

Another thing is the time-line. The owner does not know if he has the money for my position at the moment, but it’s clear that he’d like to have me part of the company later this year or next. Not sure I can wait THAT long. How do I go about explaining that if they want to step on the accelerator in product development that things need to happen relatively quickly? And that a rather large budget will be necessary?

The only way it will be a great job for me is if things are done the way I suggest. Otherwise, I’ll look elsewhere. I don’t want to be continually frustrated like I am at my current job.

I have had a few experiences at this. I would suggest that you write a business unit plan for what changes you would make as a manager and the timeline for these changes. get this signed off first before taking the job. Otherwise all you have is a lot of hand waving and head nodding.

Make them sign off on your plan (after negotiation with them). then everyone is clear where things are going.

I also did something similar recently in that I wrote up a job description for a Chief Design Officer position. Originally the company wanted a Design Manager but after having four meetings with the CEO I convinced him that he needed to think beyond the manager position. I ended up not taking the job, but not because the position was not custom tailored to my needs. I didn’t take it because the position would require five years to truly implement and I only plan to be here two years.

It was very helpful for me however because when I go for this type of job next I will know what i want it to be.

Okay, so I ranted about myself (Sorry). In a nutshell, create the position that you want both strategically and tactically and get them to buy into it.

Thank you Tim!! That was very helpful and I think it’s something I could draw up (the business plan and implementation timeline.) Excellent advice because the worst thing that could happen is for me to get into another frustrating position.

I would ask for an hour to present this case to the executives (head of Marketing & Engineering.)

Chuck Jones did this famously at Whirlpool:

“Jones began making his case for design in 1997, when he pitched a presentation dubbed “Leading by Design” to Whirlpool’s senior management. With charts and figures, he showed how a similar strategy goosed market share and revenue for design-centric outfits such as Apple, Chrysler, Dyson, and Volkswagen. Jones took an unromantic view of design. For him, it’s a branding tool whose purpose is to increase sales. That sensibility won him the senior-level backing he needed.”

I followed Chuck’s lead last year, and was successful. I am now the Design Director at a company that previously only consulted with IDEO and Cooper.