All humans have an internal struggle between the ideas of good and those of evil, light and darkness. In some terms we could even look at the forces between creativity and business as being forces that tug and fight with each other. Many with a creative Zeitgeist see business as a drab “process” of churning out widgets and all about profit. While “the suits” look at creative types with concern and uncertainty. They see passion, creativity and expression and wonder, “how can we control this?
In the end successful businesses require chaos and order, creativity and profitability, process and open expression to grow, thrive and succeed. This tug of war creates great things, both to the bottom line and to the creative spirit of an individual’s life. The trick is to find the narrow, thin-line to walk as a creative business owner and leader, to allow the balance to take place – yet not create a schizophrenic organization.
"Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried." - Frank Tyger
In The Beginning: Many creative companies come into existence because of a single person or a close team of players from an existing agency that decide it is time “to establish their own environment to operate in.” Usually this creative individual has a strong client base that they take with them, and in short order they are opening the doors on their own business.
The desire to establish their own business comes from the need to establish an environment where their creativity and business vision can come to life. It is also the drive to see the direct connection between their ideas and the financial success that comes from these ideas, creativity and vision.
It begins with a set of beliefs and experiences tied to either a single person or a small group. Over time, as the business becomes more successful it is necessary to grow the infrastructure, to add people and costs – and then the cycle begins. More clients to feed the cost demands, and in time the vision becomes less about the single vision of creative expression and instead grows into one of managing a full-fledged business. The ideals, vision and passions now need to be translated through layers of people and process. Creative businesses begin to seek the “holy grail” of how to keep the specific creative vision, the true specific values of the founder and/or founders alive? When the organization was 10 people it was easy to look each and every one of them in the eye and say, “I believe in you and what you are doing.” It was a big creative living room of friends working together towards a common vision.
Then growth happens. Can size impede the ability to connect each and every person to a common vision? Is what the creative leaders in an organization saying and believing the same as everyone else? Can the 50 people, 100 people, and a thousand people hold the same focused and connected direction? At the same time, the processes to manage 100 people (the business infrastructure), grows exponentially. No longer can an owner turn to someone and say, “hey could you throw together a rough design of…” without paperwork, concern on the impact on prioritization, etc.
"When you are completely absorbed or caught up in something, you become oblivious to things around you, or to the passage of time.
"It is this absorption in what you are doing that frees your unconscious and releases your creative imagination." - Dr. Rollo May
In many ways as a creative organization grows, the leadership migrates away from the actual workers within their business. The workers become an outward symbol, an ambassador of their vision and ideas to their clients, the industry and the media. Leadership spends less and less time by just“ creating the vision and focusing inward towards the team” instead of keeping the vision new and fresh. The stewardship of the business is turned over more and more to others. The specific functionality of operating a business leads to fragmentation and specialization. Financial teams, analysis teams, account management and sales, creative management, design, production and technology teams, all lead to a tugging of resources, focus and vision.
In the end it is possible for the cohesiveness of a creative organization to begin to erode. And the original vision, the passions of why and how it all began seem to drift away. It is important to stop from time to time and reassess where you are personally, and where your organization is. Do the results of the efforts of your business match what you feel they should be, both financially and spiritually? Is the work going out the door matching what you see as the quality and value you feel it should be?
Managing a creative organization, either as a stand-alone business or as an integrated part of a larger beast/corporation is different than managing any other business. It is about building a vision, a spirit and soul that others want to belong to. It is the act of creating a cause to sign on to, it is the act of managing fire, lighting and egos – getting them aimed at the right moments, actions and generating results for others (the nasty old client). The leadership of a creative organization is about creating an environment that other creative individuals want to be a part of, while allowing the chaos to exist while generating business results.