March 4th, 2019

An Interview with CEO Scott Gillum

The following is an excerpt from an interview on Superbcrew.com

Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Carbon Design?

We address a set of business problems that clients have historically pursued through relationships with management consulting firms or marketing agencies.  

What’s different is the way we approach these problems. Rather than starting with the assumption that we have just the right IP, just the right methodology, or just the right team, we start with the assumption that none of that might be the case. That leads to a different business model, and very different client experiences – from beginning to end.  

How so? 

Clients can bring us in as early as they want – especially, when the nature of the challenge is still up in the air. Since we draw on a broad set of experiences, but don’t have anything we need to sell, we’re a trustworthy helper to facilitate problem formulation and solution ideation.  

Then, if execution is needed,  we can look into our network of freelancers, boutique firms, side-giggers, and design a delivery model that works for that particular solution.    

So what exactly does Carbon Design do?

We’re definitely a thinking partner. Our approach is to help our clients look at problems from a more varied set of perspectives. And we do frequently provide a spectrum of marketing services from go-to market strategy and brand development to creative asset development. But, because we got rid of the burden of staff cost and the overhead of a traditional agency or consulting firm, we can offer clients agility and good value, and still run a profitable business.   

How does your approach differ from any of the “Let us find a specialist for you” platforms?

If you need an uber, it probably doesn’t matter all that much who’s driving.  If you need help with innovation, it absolutely does.  So we’re not a platform – or at least not in the sense of some sort of algorithm-driven matching of supply and demand.  

We execute projects and provide the right people and the right fit for the task. We can do that because I personally know every one of our specialists and know them quite well. I know what they can do, what they’re great at, and what areas they’re not suited for.

Look: Assembling a skilled team for a tight-focus and probably time-critical job isn’t something an algorithm can do well, any more than it’s something that can be solved by a large agency putting people with “free time” (an odd term for someone who’s time is billed—and marked up—by the hour) on a job simply because they’re “available.”

We get to know the client as well as the client’s problem. Then we bring in the people we know will be best-suited to the job.

What are people saying about their experience with Carbon Design?

Here are three verbatims I recall  that might be helpful in painting that picture:

 “You guys ask the right questions.”  

“ I hired you because this problem wasn’t ready for me to give to my agency.”

“Thank you, we learned a lot.”

Generally the feedback usually falls in two camps. The first, is related to our operational flexibility – a kind of “Ocean’s 11” approach to building executional teams.  And the other has to do with our mental flexibility – we’re seen as creative thinkers who bring out that same quality in our clients.     

Other client quotes and comments are available on our website.

Who are the primary users of Carbon Design?

A few patterns are emerging:  We tend to be championed by people well-placed in the sales and marketing organization, but we find ourselves speaking with CEOs, more often than we expected.    . 

Our clients know they have an issue. It’s why it hasn’t been solved that starts our journey. In our experience the obvious problems are typically an iceberg with a large amount of complexity under the surface. Our focus is to get inside the heads of organizations and audiences, to understand the WHY, not only of the problem, we’re brought in to solve, but also the WHY of the resistance. 

We tend to connect with people who don’t shy away from complicated challenges, and who appreciate the role of experimentation as a method of learning about them.   

And – we seem to be on a streak of connecting with people that are trying to do things that are genuinely new.     

What are some of the key challenges you are helping clients solve?

In healthcare, we’re working with an organization to develop more effective means of reaching and influencing high-risk patients.

With one of the world’s leading environmental design and engineering firms, we’re helping to invent an entirely new category in housing (and all the infrastructure related to housing).

For the food service industry we’re working to redefine and re-educate the industry and its customer — on the sources of outbreaks in restaurants.

In the software as a service space, we’re helping an exciting machine-learning brand develop their brand positioning and go-to-market strategy.

I will say that in all these cases,  it was our work in helping with understanding the root cause of the problem itself that was critical in the outcomes obtained in execution.  .

What are your plans for the future?

We want to give talented people a chance to change they way they work. 

Obviously we want to continue to grow as a business, but one of requirements we placed upon ourselves when we created Carbon Design, was that we would walk the same walk that we talk.

So our growth plans and our growth curve with luck—will be as natural and sustainable and as liberated as our approach to our talent. Don’t look for us to have vast, shiny office spaces and expensive back-office staffs any time soon. Or ever.

Do look for us to scale up as opportunity (appropriate opportunity) presents itself. We’re already a global operation that does things better. 

Industrial Revolution. Digital Revolution. Work Revolution.

I’m not entirely joking.


Stay connected with Carbon Design Co. by joining our email list here!

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *