Perfectly accidental

This week I want to feature one of my first — actually, the first, Strategy Masterclass student.

Say hello to Marko.

Marko was my first Strategy Masterclass student. In fact, he worked with me during the very early stages of my product development in the beta.

He saw the course go from a website filled with placeholders to the MVP / first version that it is today.

To say his input has been valuable is an understatement. 

I've spent time with Marko of the last few months on Skype video calls (he's in Munich) chatting about strategy, side hustles and family. 

I think you'll love his perspective on his career, creativity and the journey of going from one side of the world to other to learn that, where you began was actually where you might find the most career nourishment.

Marko is launching a book soon which sounds really exciting. A book that harnesses his knowledge of working with domestic and international clients. You can learn more about it here.

Name Marko Pfann
Location Lake Tegernsee, close to Munich, Germany
What do you do? I am a Motion Designer in TV Channel Branding. 
Job Title? Creative Director and Motion Designer.

What were the last three books you read?

Born to Run (Christopher McDougall)
Obviously, a book on running. Especially endurance, and long distance running. It taught me a lot on the subject of persistence and determination. 

Anything you want (Derek Sivers) 
Derek Sivers became a successful creative entrepreneur because he chose to stick to his values. 

Louder than words (Todd Henry)
A book, full of actionable advice on creating an authentic body of work.

What were the last three websites you visited?

  • Pinterest (the best place to get visual inspirations, because it is not limited to creatives only like Behance and other sites)
  • Amazon (I love books)
  • Audible (again, for books)

What do you listen to whilst you're working?
I admire people that listen to music while working. But it is just not for me. I can’t listen to anything. I find it hard to focus when I do. Music and audiobooks let me drift and make me play, rather than doing focused work and finish what I have started. 

What does a normal day look like for you?
I am getting up at 5 am to do some writing or reading. Later I spend time with my family before taking my daughter to kindergarten. I first do the work I am getting paid for and squeeze in an exercise or a run. Late afternoons and evenings are family time, and late at night I finish off client work or explore other things. 

Tell me about your career journey, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I went to design school and started my career in 2003 doing freelance work. 

I was lucky to get hired by a top notch design studio called Velvet (velvet.de) early in my career. It was a place where I learned from the best and where I built an excellent foundation. 

Later I went to Sydney working for Engine (engine.net.au) for a few months before I co-started a successful design studio called Perfect Accident in Munich Germany. 

We had tremendous success right from the start and won high-profile pitches. For several years, we had a great time, we had the best clients, and we had a lovely design team. 

Great times. 

But we didn’t realise that we were growing too fast, and so we had to confront the consequences. My partner and I never really talked about what would happen if we became successful, so everyone had different expectations. Because we were pulling in different directions, trust faded. 

First in our client relationships, later the partnership vanished. At the tipping point, we broke because the attitude towards our clients changed and we couldn't manage their frustrations well. It was a bad time in my career, but I learned a lot. We finally split, I left the company and went on. 

I the last two years, I've been involved in shaping the launch of a global TV-Channel as a creative director. 

What are you most proud of?
I am certainly proud of the work I've done. But what I am most proud of, is the reputation I have built over the years. My clients perceive me as trustworthy and helpful. Trust is a game changer in our business, and it takes a lot of effort to earn it.

Tell me about one of your failures — how did you deal with it?
My biggest failure was the time before I split with my business partner. I was so focused on my craft that I didn’t realise what happened to our business and that my partner was pulling in a different direction. I felt betrayed, and I didn’t deal well with it. I hesitated to do the necessary cut for months because I didn't want to lose what we had built.

How did you overcome it?
It took forever, and I never really felt I could let it go. I was able to set new goals and move on, once I stopped focusing on what happened.
 
What did you learn?
That even a failure will move you forward. Next time I'll grieve less and set new goals quicker. 

Who are you inspired by? Why?
People that are a step ahead of me. Like you, Paul Jarvis or Joel Pilger. Not in the sense that I want to be like them, but rather that I can learn how they master the obstacles I am facing. There is always someone that mastered what you are currently struggling with.

What are you inspired by? Why?
By challenges. I make sure that any of the goals I set are big enough to consistently keep me inspired. That is also why I love running. 

How do you keep your skills sharp?
Through practise and repetition. I am reading, writing and designing every day.

How do you ensure you keep learning?
Through pressure. By setting bold goals every couple of years and taking on personal challenges that ensure that I have to stretch myself to get there.   

What will the role of the Designer look like in ten years time?
I believe that designers will be less of a cosmetic surgeon and evolve more into business problem solvers. Technology will make it even easier for anyone to become a designer in the future. There will be legions of young designers being faster and more technically skilled than all of us, now. 

So design will not be defined by pure technical skills anymore, core values like empathy, creating value and problem solving will play a much bigger role for our clients in ten years. 

What's next?
I am about to finish my first book which you can check out on my homepage, soon. It is about the client-designer relationship, and how you can win by understanding your client and the process you are in. 

If you could give an emerging Designer, young or experienced, three pieces of advice, what would they be?

1. Clarity
Know where you are heading and what your bigger picture is before you start climbing. Understand that you have to trade something for your goals. This means saying no to many clients and opportunities to pursue what adds to your success. Define your values and make sure that people understand what you stand for.

2. Stretch
Learn and progress every day. Stay on your edge. Do the uncomfortable things. Take risks and reinvent yourself. Set goals worth stretching for but also make sure you get there. This means working harder than anyone else, but also understanding that you need time to rest. 

3. Intervals
There are times when you have to sprint, climb and when you have the opportunity to achieve great things. Go all in. And then there are times when you need to rest, reflect and prepare for the next challenge ahead. Don’t waste that chance to recharge and readjust your journey.  

Check out Marko's website here.

The Strategy Masterclass course will be off sale as of June 30. The course will be restructured updated and relaunched later in the year. All existing students have unlimited access and get all updates free. If you've been thinking of jumping in, the free lessons in the Strategy 101 email course are a good way to start — there's a discount code at the end of them.

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