Most businesses refer to their leader as a CEO, but at the Design and Branding Company (DBC), the founder goes by the title of “Prime Minister” to create a workplace focused on autonomy and community.
DBC is a strategic creative agency that helps organizations speak directly to their audiences by infusing visual design with data to solve complex communication issues. Prime Minister Carlos Williams draws inspiration from the concept of a city-state; DBC clients are referred to as citizens and all staff members are given a parliamentary title to emphasize individuality and community.
“Our mission is to help reduce the noise in the highly concentrated world of brand marketing and brand advertising,” explained Williams.
DBC applied to Pro Bono for Economic Equity (PBEE), an SAP volunteering program to foster economic equity for black-owned businesses and social enterprises in order to work on the “chaos” the company was experiencing with its daily operations. Williams found the involvement to be very thorough and was able to discuss his company beyond “the website version of DBC” with his three SAP consultants.
“The goal the whole time was that DBC needs to grow in size and prestige and revenue so here are all the issues that are preventing you from doing that,” said Williams. “It was things we already knew but had never seen on a page… it gave us a path forward.”
Williams particularly liked the structure his SAP team used to locate a problem and identify macro and micro solutions. This approach helped DBC become more cohesive and focus on growing as a business. One of the recommendations provided by the consultants was to implement a “Mission-to-Metrics” approach, meaning that all DBC employees should feel confident aligning their day-to-day work with the company’s broader mission. Clarifying DBC’s mission and explaining to his staff how they contribute to the mission on an individual level has been a positive change for Williams and DBC as a company.
Eszter Csapo, a COO of the global partner ecosystem, said the SAP consultant team identified that Williams needed assistance in positively delivering difficult feedback. They leveraged SAP’s “How We Run” set of behaviors in their recommendation to DBC: tell it like it is, stay curious, embrace differences, keep the promise, and build bridges, not silos.
Another recommendation Williams is in the process of adopting is the concept of work cycles. DBC experiences a chaotic environment while accepting lucrative deals from clients and subsequently had to onboard new employees quickly rather than finding and training hires that fit directly with the company culture. The SAP team wrote in their recommendations that the work cycles model not only encourages employees to work with different sets of people on each project, but also enables them to take on leadership or communication roles within a project. DBC has incorporated this practice by assigning teams to projects that are divided into short-term and long-term timelines.
Csapo believes the issues DBC faced were business problems any start-up may experience, and involvements like PBEE highlight the importance of collaborating with Black-owned businesses.
“Our intentions were all the same. We wanted to genuinely help Carlos. We weren’t being paid for the engagement so the place where our counsel and thoughts were coming from was purely to have a better run business,” said SAP Consultant and Customer Success Partner Terrence Brown.
Carlos Williams said his experience with PBEE has inspired him to partner with a nonprofit organization in the future to develop pay-it-forward projects. He appreciates that the PBEE program was employee-driven and felt that their involvement provided opportunities for underrepresented businesses to grow.
“I like the way SAP is going about it,” Williams said. “It’s not a handout, it’s an opportunity and I think that’s what a lot of Black business owners want.”
This article was written in collaboration with Alesia Bani, a writer and journalist from Philadelphia with a reporting background in identity, DEI, and local government. She currently covers the Black tech ecosystem and innovation in Philadelphia for The Plug.