Just a Minute with Michael Dillon, Founder & President McDill Design

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Company: McDill Design

Company address: 626 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202

Company Web site: www.mcdilldesign.com

Industry: Graphic design

Number of employees: 17

Education: Bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1973.

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?

"We moved, I’m not sure if it was deliberately smart, but it turned out to be a great thing for us. I have a great view. It’s important to have a good environment in which to work. We’re more productive when we’re happy. I look forward to coming to work, not that I didn’t before, but the new space really does make a difference. I think everyone here feels the same way. And if they don’t, I don’t want to hear about it. One smart thing we did in moving was hire an interior designer (Cieslek Celek). People, in particular people in related creative fields, think they can do this stuff themselves. They shouldn’t. Hiring an interior designer saved us thousands of dollars, and the space is way nicer than we could have ever done ourselves. It’s sort of the same with graphic design. Everyone thinks they can do this stuff themselves, but they shouldn’t. It shows."

What’s new at your company?

"Kori’s pregnant. Well, that and we moved."

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

"We just hired 3 new people, so probably not, and the only real investment we seem to make is in new computers and programs. Creativity, which is really our product, doesn’t require much in the way of capital investment. Maybe we’ll get a decent blender."

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

"Insurance. Insurance is eating us alive. We provide it for everyone and their families, and we want to, but the annual cost increases are outrageous."

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?

"We have a tendency to ignore hot trends. In the creative field, five minutes after we’ve heard of it, it’s not hot anymore. Besides, in graphic design, if it’s trendy now, it’ll look dated in three years. We try to avoid that. The second you hear some new, hot expression, like ‘outside the box’, ‘branding’ or  ‘new paradigm,’ head for the hills. It’s just hype."

Do you have a business mantra?

"When’s lunch? Actually, we don’t. If it’s anything, it’s ‘on time and in budget.’ In 25 years of business, I can only remember missing a deadline once. While this did not result in loss of life exactly, the consequences were dire. And it goes without saying, it’s always the finest product we can produce."

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

"Jeanne and Jerry Cohen. When I moved onto Water Street 22 years ago, they owned Someplace Else and Potato Brothers (among other places). They ran their businesses just the way I wanted to. Both places were a joy to visit and (well, to be fair, one was a bar) the atmosphere was always terrific. They treated their customers and employees like family and friends. I try to do the same. If big business started worrying more about their people – clients, suppliers and employees – than their bottom line, the world would be a better place."

What was the best advice you ever received?

 "The hardest part of doing something is doing it. (Thanks, Mom). Ideas are a dime a dozen. Getting something accomplished is never easy."

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?

"When we started out, we had a loft space in our studio we weren’t using. We decided to rent it out and found two women who needed space for an office services business they were starting up. They said there would be a lot of coming and going, but because they were doing overtime-secretarial work, it would mostly be after 5 or 6. They paid three months in advance, and one day their stuff was just all there. Weird, ornate, Louis-the-14th Frenchy stuff, divans and those odd French phones that were always in Doris Day movies. One of the guys in the office came up to look at it all and said, ‘Hookers!’ It never dawned on us. And then out of the clear blue sky, about three days later, it was all gone. We never saw them again. All that was left was a frog-shaped, wicker wastebasket."

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