The five constraints

In one of his talks, Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching focuses on five business constraints, and bets that those who apply them are much more likely to succeed. The five are:

  1. You can never sell or retire.
  2. No more than 10 clients at any time.
  3. Unpaid written proposals cannot exceed one page.
  4. You cannot sell or track time.
  5. You must always say what you are thinking to clients and prospects.

No Exit sign, Holloway RoadLeslie Green’s No Exit sign in London’s Holloway Road tube station.

“The first constraint is No Exit. You can never sell your business and you can never retire.

“The effect of this is profound, even when you try it as a thought experiment. Go ahead, take two or three minutes to consider what you would change about your business if you knew it was a life sentence.”

I’ve no intention of quitting design, so the experiment isn’t as significant to me as it will be to others, but it still had me thinking I could be in this game for decades — good to keep in mind when, as often happens, I compare my work to the designers and studios I look up to.

There’s time to improve.

More from Blair on the topic: The Diversification Trap.
Blair’s manifesto is very good, too.

7 responses

  1. Interesting, I’m a designer and I’ve never thought about having an exit, but thinking about it makes me want to ensure I can keep doing it for life, ensuring to keep up with the times and not becoming stagnant.

      • My thoughts exactly. I finally did it, and put the $60 Office Depot chair I’d been using for years by the side of the road last December. New chair was way expensive. It was a long thought-out decision… whereas I think nothing about purchasing that new Mac thing!

    • I’m not sure of the exact one, Bridgette, but I found this recently where Blair briefly mentions six constraints. The talk’s really about pricing, though (listening to it now).

  2. I was recommended Blair Enns just as I was starting my consultancy and its was profound. The borders of who we are become so muddied when starting out as a designer, entrepreneur, and “brand.” Who am I? What is this entity I want to start? What happens to it when I’m gone? Why does it exist? Why do people associate everything to me and not the brand? How do my teammates expand the brand? What is their place in the brand? Oh the questions were endless.

    “The first constraint is No Exit. You can never sell your business and you can never retire.” reminded me of all these questions again. Thanks for that.

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