How to be Successful at Working Remotely in the Component Industry

Success

I have been a component designer for about 10 years now. For some of you, I would be considered a “new” guy to the industry. Many people I know have been doing this for some 20-30 years and a lot has changed in such a short period of time in this industry.  The way we design, communicate, and produce components are becoming more and more advanced and efficient as the years pass. Many of us in this industry are having a hard time keeping up with the advancements in technology. People get used to doing things one way and when a better way comes along, it seems more of a burden to change than just keep doing what you always have done.  This mentality can literally crush your business and your bottom line if you let yourself become “comfortably numb”.

Within the past 5-10 years or so, designers have been given the ability, through technology, to work remotely from home. This is only if your employer grants you this option. Many do not like the idea of their in-house designers working from home. Many questions arise like: “Who will answer design questions for the shop workers? Who will answer phone calls in the office? How do I know that my designer is working instead of watching T.V on my dime?”. This idea of a remote designer has many factors to it.

From a business owner’s standpoint, allowing their employees to work remotely does not appear to be financially beneficial. They reason that the designer would get as much or more work done at the office than they would at home. Also, if they are in the office, managers can keep a close eye on exactly how they use their time throughout the day. The only true advantage to working from home is for the employee in this case. They are saving gas from not having to commute to and from work. These people can intertwine their work with their life when needed (appointments, errands, watching the kids, etc.), instead of being so disconnected. When I worked for an employer, I worked so many hours there that I felt like I lived at work more so than I did in my own house.  It really is not a healthy mentality to get used to if you ask me.

So how can you work from home efficiently and effectively as a designer in the component industry?  The technology has been here for years (Skype, email, FTP sites, pdf, fax, etc.), but our employer’s comfort level with it has not. Employers have been very hesitant to allow us to do so because of trust issues and a possible loss in value per dollar to the company that hired the designer. So what options do we have as designers? What options do we have as owners?

Along comes GDI (Gould Design, Inc.). Gould Design, Inc. is a remote design service that goes above and beyond the customer’s needs. GDI wants to supply their customers with an extension to their design team on an “as needed basis”. GDI hand picks designers that will mold to the customer’s specific needs and design specs, all while keeping a high sense of Integrity and pride in the work that they do.  These expert designers are all located remotely.

Now, not every designer is meant to work in this type of environment. I know when I went from working as an employee, to designing on my own remotely, it was a BIG adjustment. No one was there telling me what to do anymore. I was free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it. Without guidance and direction at the early stages of designing remotely, this could mean the difference between success and failure in this line of work. I was fortunate enough to have GDI be my “honeymoon” partner.

Not only did the company talk about Professional Development, they practiced it. I was taught software, codes, regional preferences and management skills. I was even offered tutoring through a nationally recognized business coaching firm to help me better myself and my abilities. And all of this was at no financial cost to me, other than to better myself as a designer and a person. My investment was an open mind and time to learn and better myself. Who wouldn’t want to pay that price?

There are several key factors that are necessary to successfully work as a remote component designer, many of which start with you the designer:

  • Time Management – Many people work better when they are told what to do, and how to do it. This mentality will not work as a remote designer. You need to be independently driven. You have to have an entrepreneurial mindset to create daily goals and to hold yourself accountable if you do not reach them. There is no one telling you what to do or how to do it. You are behind the wheel of the time management vehicle.
  • Communication – This is probably the most important factor in remote design. Communication is all that you have when you’re working remotely. The more effective communicator you are, the easier it will be to accomplish your goals. This ranges from learning to write detailed emails, describing your design situation to the customer or Design Manager, to verbal communication between your colleagues. If you cannot thoroughly learn how to communicate in all aspects, you will have a very hard time making a career out of remote design.
  • Versatility – One never really knows what kind of project you’re going to be working on from one day to the next (Unless you’re working large multi-level, multi-family projects, which could run you into a couple of months). You must be ready to learn something new every day. Being able to adapt to different types of design criteria between different customers is a huge advantage. The more types of design criteria you can master, the more likely you are to be designing that customer’s design work.
  • Customer Service – To truly become an all around great component designer, you have to be able to talk to the customer. I’m not talking about giving them a call every once in a while to make sure you are doing an “OK” job, I mean really get to know your customer. Learn the “ins and outs” of their design process and get inside their head. Try to put yourself in their environment to understand what they are really looking for in their designs. By doing this, you may find areas in their process that you can help them with, to achieve a more effective and efficient design and build.  This idea of creating as much value as you can for your customer through your services will pay off 10 fold in the long run. Letting them know that you’re not just a design outsource company, but a consulting firm of education for them to use in this industry.

It all comes down to one question my friends: Do you want to help innovate this industry into the next generation? Remote Designing is the way of the future. Much like the technology and gadgets change, the way we do business changes dramatically every year. If you don’t learn to adapt to the change, you could be losing out on new opportunities for yourself and/or your business. If you keep doing things the same way you always have been you will continue to get the same results!

Today, I am a business owner myself, partnered with Simpson Strong-Tie and ICS. This is due to the leadership of GDI helping me to reach my full potential. All this happened because of one simple reason: They believed in me. Their faith in me was as a designer AND as a person. Does your company believe in you? Are they helping you to reach your full potential?

Darren Fish

President/CEO

Advanced Component Solutions