Good networking event last night hosted by WYLLN, bmedia and nti.
Explored a couple of questions:
- In a fast-moving industry dominated by freelancers and SMEs, what does ‘Leadership & Management’ really mean?
- Why is it important?
More prosaically put – why are so many creative/digital businesses poor at establishing basic business processes, managing other creatives and getting paid?
It is because we (the business support industry) insist on training digitals and creatives (and every other entrepreneur) that they have to do all this stuff if they are going to be successful in business.
And this is, frankly, nonsense.
It damages people.
It distorts them from their true purpose.
The challenge is being comfortable with who you are, what you want to become and what you want to spend your time doing. Enterprise is a long term process of becoming, of exploring and realising potential. And then finding people you can work with to do the rest. It is about negotiating your self interest and building the right team. All really successful business are team starts.
Why don’t we teach this?
- Find out what you love. What you really love. Something that will keep you engaged for years while you strive for mastery and excellence.
- Get really good at it and keep getting better. Specialise.
- Understand the importance of other things that you do not love. Learn to respect and value them. If you are a creative/digerati this is likely to be management, sales and marketing. (Most creatives and digitals have spent many hours over many years working alone honing their craft. They tend to be introverted and uncomfortable with conflict. Hence the aversion to management, sales and marketing.)
- Find other people who love doing the bits you hate. Form a team. A strong team. Form it with care. Take your time. Unpicking the wrong team can be very expensive.
- Collaborate on developing a vision and an action plan for the business.
- Act – act often.
- Reflect and learn.
DO NOT TRY TO DO IT ALL. You will build a mediocre business. You will find yourself falling out of love with large parts of it.
Dave Pannell from the Design Mechanics recognised that he would perhaps never have been a really great graphic artist (I think I heard you say that Dave). And my guess is that this freed him up to run a great design business. His job is to work on the business as it grows and to spend less time working in it.
Liz Cable from Reach Further is building an agile team of freelancers and employees covering all the main bases. Balancing the demands of MD/entrepreneur working on the business, and passionate digerati working in the business is already a challenge. Being 1.4 of an FTE is not sustainable.
I suspect that Liz will either have to spend more time in the MD role or find someone the team trusts to take this on, freeing her up to surf the wave of technology and its application to building better businesses. Or she may find a way of balancing the two. However if the growth plans she outlined are to be realised I suspect a decision one way or another will be required before too long.
You see the real job of the entrepreneur is to manage the art of becoming. It is about the emergence of identity; building a life and a living – not the development of cash flow forecasts or the ticking of boxes on a competence framework. And when we take this seriously we will develop much more powerful and engaging process for enterprise education and build more powerful, sustainable and great businesses.
We must remember that the Latin root of educate is ‘to lead out’. Our job is to facilitate the emergence of identity – not to pour in the trivia of business skills.