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Meet Bill Sterling of Motiv Design in South Boston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bill Sterling.

Bill, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a partner/owner of Motiv with Paul Metaxatos. We had worked together as employees at the same design firm for several years, and had developed a strong personal friendship, and mutual respect for each other’s talents. We possess very different skill sets that cover product design as well as graphic design, and we have very different personalities.

Working together at that firm, we discovered that our combined skills and temperaments was the basis for a very effective business model; both in terms of our ability to take on a very broad range of assignments, and also in terms of our ability to deal effectively with different types of personalities, with our clients and employees.

Together, we learned some valuable lessons at that firm, involving effective ways to run and grow a business, and the mistakes to avoid. What many people in service professions fail to understand is that being good at your particular craft – whether it involve design, medicine, law, accounting, auto repair or plumbing – is only half of what’s necessary to succeed. The other half involves core business management skills: marketing & sales, finance, human resources and operations. Most people who establish service businesses not only lack those skills; they have no interest in learning about them.

So our prior experience working together provided us with invaluable “on the job training” in how to run a successful enterprise, having nothing to do with our design skills. When we established Motiv Design in 2011, we had a tangible advantage over businesses that start out without those insights.

Even with that training, however, it’s always a big and somewhat frightening decision to establish your own business. And we both took a very hard look at the risks, rewards and sacrifices that would be involved before we established Motiv Design. But we were determined to create a successful agency, and we’ve never regretted that decision. Our business continues to be a great source of professional and personal pride for both of us.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We’ve experienced all of the typical challenges involved in starting a new business. Notably, we had to establish market awareness of the Motiv brand, and more importantly, we had to convince prospective clients that we had the talent to help them. Sometimes, however, having the raw talent takes a back seat to being considered a “safe choice” by clients in their decision-making process. So as an unknown brand, we had to run harder and faster to gain the respect and confidence of prospective clients.

Regardless of our brand’s reputation, we must continually address the challenge faced by all agencies that work on a project basis, rather than an ongoing retainer relationship. Most of our clients engage us to help them address a specific opportunity or problem, and those assignments typically have a limited duration, whether that be weeks, months or years. Some clients have ongoing projects, but others may not need our services again for a long period of time. So, in order to maintain consistent revenue, we must always be looking for new clients, and be reminding our existing clients that we are ready to help them. To survive and grow, we’re marketing and nurturing client relationships all the time.

Motiv Design – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
At Motiv, we design products, provide graphic solutions and develop brand strategies for companies of all sizes, across a broad range of industries. We’ve been honored to work with some of best and least known companies in the world, and been involved in projects that have re-defined entire product categories.

A few examples of game-changing assignments that Motiv has worked on include the development and market introduction of the Keurig® single-serve coffee dispenser; with the iRobot® family of Roomba home vacuum robots; and with the Coravin™ wine dispenser. Our blue chip client list also includes brands such as Vitamix, Delta, Culligan and Hawaiian Tropic.

One of the things that makes Motiv unique is that our portfolio of assignments always includes small and mid-sized emerging companies, as well as start-up ventures. Two Boston-based examples of that type of client includes product packaging design work for Davio’s Steakhouse, and for Mechanic Advisor, a new company that’s introduced an electronic device that monitors the condition of your vehicle.

Another differentiator for Motiv involves the range of assignments that we take on. Most design firms limit their practice to either graphic design or product / industrial design. But because of our diverse professional backgrounds and training, we’re able to manage either type of assignment, and sometime take on assignments that require both disciplines. Motiv is somewhat unique in that respect, and our clients benefit from working with a firm that can take them successfully from the initial concept of a product, to its physical development and market launch.

We’re certainly proud of the work we’ve produced at Motiv, but as business owners, our greatest source of satisfaction comes from the people we employ, whom we have learned from, and who continue to inspire and challenge us.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is defined by happiness, for myself, our families, our employees, and our clients. We strive to be mindful of the projects we take on and the clients we work with, it’s not just the work, but the relationships (and friendships) we build. It’s also about the employees, we spend more time with each other throughout the week than we do with our families, so it’s important that we all get along, and respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photos by Motiv Design

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