Things That Keep Us Up At Night (Part 3): The Battle Between Business and Creative Tasks + Small Business Finances
Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, small business finances, where you turn for advice, how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and what’s keeping you awake at night.
Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I’ve been sharing some of the most common responses. I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main umbrellas. In part one of this blog series, I talked about entrepreneur anxiety and the deep-seated fears of failure that many of us harbor. In part two, I dug deep into the daily entrepreneur overwhelm and our difficulty connecting with ideal customers.
But those aren’t the only things rumbling across our brain waves at 1am. We have a few other things that lay heavy on our minds… the information that appears as bulleted items below represents verbatim responses from the Lucky Break community. In the final installment of this blog series, I’m talking about the worries around small business finances and the constant battle between the left + ride sides of our brains.
THE CONSTANT BATTLE BETWEEN OUR BUSINESS + CREATIVE TO DO LISTS
- Keeping on top of the minutia of running a business while also focusing on the tree top-level creativity and visioning of being a CEO.
- Balancing production work and creativity.
- Finding a way to step away from production so that I can grow the business side of things, and design more.
- Wondering how to pull myself into a more hands-off role as designer so I can do more of what I truly love, which has nothing to do with my business.
I think it’s fair to say that 95% of my clients are more drawn to the “creative” side of their business. Things like new product development, production, and packaging design light them up. But the bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, HR side of the business? Most don’t feel even the tiniest spark of inspiration when servicing those aspects of their company. Sound familiar? But the creative brands that have staying power pay as much (if not more) attention to the “business” side of the business. Those that don’t either struggle silently for years- working more than they ever imagined for far less profit than they imagined- or they close up shop in years 2-4 after giving the business a good romp.
The less “sexy” side of the business? The one you’re less excited by and less comfortable with? That’s the area where we need to throw most of our muscle. That’s what self-development is all about… challenging yourself. Getting to the root of what makes you uncomfortable. Learning new skill sets. Reframing your perspective. That’s not just some self-help “woo woo”… that’s the heart of entrepreneurship.
By year four of my product-based brand, I had transitioned out of all day-to-day tasks: production, scheduling, material ordering, bookkeeping, customer service. My very first hire was a very part-time assistant to package products. My second? A full-time production manager who I taught to make all of our products. My third? A full-time office manager to answer emails, man the phone, and package shipments while I focused on new product development, marketing, wholesale outreach, and cultivating key relationships.
By year six, I had eight employees, including a wholesale account specialist, production assistants, a shipping helper, and someone who worked full-time washing dishes, mopping floors, breaking down boxes, and checking in incoming materials. I started that company as a single mom on food stamps with less a $500 investment. And by year four, we were grinding out more than a million in revenue. But I knew early on that I’d never get there if I was primarily focused on product creation. No way, no how. Getting yourself out of the daily grind is a must! Eventually, the role I assumed was creative director with some strategic vision thrown in for good measure… it was everything that I’d wanted, but it took a hell of a lot of hustle to get there.
My advice? Outsource first, delegate second, hire third. You have three solid options when it comes to nudging things off your plate…
1. Explore the possibility of hiring service-based businesses who are experts in their field. Think: attorneys to register and police your intellectual property. Graphic designers to create your packaging and marketing materials. Professional photographers to help your up-level your product presentation. Bookkeepers to keep your finances in order. True experts are mind-blowingly efficient and you have no ongoing commitment to these pros.