Cold Spring Design Inc.
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Our Goal: Slow Company

Saturday, Jan. 27th 2007

Welcome to the Cold Spring Design blog! This is a inside view of the company: who we are, what we do and why we do it. As if the copy on the website isn’t personal enough!

This month’s Fast Company magazine has a couple great articles that caught my eye and really sparked some thoughts. Honestly, however, I find it funny that a magazine with that title captures my attention, because I’m really a slow company kind of guy. Are you following the Slow Food revolution at all? My wife and I are relatively environmentally conscious and pretty food conscious as well. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home (& office!) in a few months and starting up the vegetable garden. It’s just how we want to live our lives. It’s how I want to run Cold Spring Design as well. I’d rather build the company slowly and sustainably then boom, profit, and flame out. In the process, a lot of small businesses get a low of great websites and service at great prices. We all win.

So back to the magazine. The first article by Bill Breen, “No Accounting for Design?” is right on target. It’s about equating design to value, and as artists have known forever, there’s no accounting for taste. At least, that’s correct when assessing individual taste. But the Internet makes individual taste a relatively moot point. Bill Breen says that “good design is good business” is the growing consensus, and that’s good for us. Good design sells. We know it sells products, but it also sells companies and brands and ideas and more.

So how’s this affect small business web design? We’ll be the first to admit that our designs are 95-98% designs. There are plenty of design companies out there who can consistently turn out 99% and 100% designs — but can you afford them? Small business is often about spending money wisely! We agree that good design is good business. And, even if we don’t take the time (and don’t charge you for the time) to evaluate the return on your investment, we’re giving you good value. Ask our clients. You gotta spend money to make money, and good design is a good place to start.

What’s the other article that caught my eye, you ask? Why, it’s the Final Word — a letter sent by Whole Foods Markets CEO John Mackey to his employees. Now, you must know that I love this guy! In 2002, already in his position as CEO of Whole Foods, he thruhiked the Appalachian Trail (Strider, AT02) in 4.5 months. His company has performed incredibly and he had the strength of character to fulfill a huge dream of his while living many of his other dreams. I followed in his and many other hikers footsteps in 2004 (Squish, AT04) and the hike has changed who I am and how I think.

John Mackey’s letter was not a happy one – it warned of slowing sales growth and precipitated a 23% drop in the Whole Foods stock price. But he did it right. He announced that executives were going to be paid more in order to keep them with the company. Instead of capping salaries at 14 times the average pay of an employee, the salary cap was raised to 19 times average — compared to the average Fortune 500 CEO at 431 times average! In addition, he dropped his salary to $1, stating that he no longer wanted to work for money.

This man stands out. In an excerpt from another Fast Company article, he talks about his hike:

“My trail name is Strider,” he says. For someone tall, lanky, and energetic, it seems an innocuous enough choice. “I’m a great admirer of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings,” Mackey says. “Before I was in high school, I had read it five times. And one of the characters I admired was Strider.”

But as with much about Mackey, that nickname is not quite what it seems. “Strider isn’t his real name; it’s his nickname on the trail. He is really Aragorn, the king. But he wasn’t a king on the trail. In 2002, when I was hiking, I was certainly the richest guy hiking the Appalachian Trail. I was a kind of secret king. But that wasn’t my identity, or my role, on the trail.”

That’s doing it right. My idea of doing it right is living my dreams while building Cold Spring Design, Inc. into a Slow Company — an incubator for small business websites where we all grow and succeed together.

Posted by Jeff Lerman | in Our Role Models | Comments Off on Our Goal: Slow Company
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