What I've Learnt: Stephen Murray, Founder, Design Integrity

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

Stephen Murray founded Liverpool-based studio Design Integrity in 2017.

The digital design specialist is based in the heart of Liverpool's creative district and also has an office in London, working across the social enterprise and non-profit, ecommerce, and technology sectors.

Murray, an experienced designer who is committed to authentic values through his work, leads the creative development of brand identities, digital experiences, film creatives and print productions at Design Integrity, helping clients grow.

We found out the lessons he's learnt.

 

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

It's cliche, but the oat latte from the local cafe is spot on!

What's been your luckiest break?

My first client believing in me. Everything has grown from there.

I met them at a friend's dinner a month after starting the business - it was a slow start, but the repeat business snowballed into a wonderful and meaningful relationship.

What's your best failure?

Not making more of the previous relationship I had with a large ecommerce company. I look back and think a wiser head and slower mover would have handled that transition better - I'd have grown a lot quicker with far less 'early days' pain. 

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

My daughter was 18 months old, I was busy with the business and missing out a tad, so I took a day off and spent it entirely with her.

We went to a cafe and she ate everything in front of her - like her dad. It was the first time we'd had an official daddy and daughter day. It changed everything - something clicked between us. It's felt like one of my most valuable investments and even though it's small, it was a clear milestone on our journey. 

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

'Zag' by Marty Neumeier. It teaches you how to be different and stand out as a brand. It operates on the basis that when everyone zigs, you zag. If you can be brave enough to be unique, you'll make waves in your market.

It's a great education on how to achieve a business identity of this nature authentically. 

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Start your business now! I waited until I had a mortgage and wedding engagement to start my business and forever felt like I had no leverage because every sale meant I was putting food on the table.

The confidence to not care about saying no, or not care when people say no to you, is a wonderful freedom and perfect foundation for any entrepreneur to build on. I'm still finding my way back to this freedom - but it's getting easier the more we grow.

There's something about being young and having no responsibility that makes taking risks and testing ideas a powerful resource. 

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

My uncle. He's very thick skinned but incredibly approachable, which is a rare combination. He's also very charismatic.

He started a website build business in the 90s dotcom boom. He grew to 30 staff inside three years and his company now has a very high sale value with an international client base. 

I've seen his journey up close and often watched behind the scenes. I've always admired his ability to constantly innovate, problem-solve and plough through tough situations with a sense of humour.  

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I have written and composed music on Spotify 

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

Virtual meetings are acceptable. It allows us to mitigate where we spend our time. High-value meetings with expected outcomes are brilliant face-to-face. Low-value meetings or meetings with a risk of no return can be done with no travel. And travel is no longer a perimeter. 

What does success look like to you?

Long-term, being acquired at a high sale value.

On the journey, nothing will please me more than seeing staff reach their potential, clients achieve their goals, and everyone building genuine friendships along the way.

There is more to life than work and that perspective always has to be at the centre of what we do. 

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