Being creative is not your job — Why so many creative studios fail

I probably have the following conversation once a week. It never ceases to amaze me how studio owners dilute themselves. Often on a deep subconscious level.

by Marko Pfann
Feb 21st, 2022

The biggest problem we as consultants for creative studios have to deal with never ceases to amaze us. It's commitment.

Although studio owners are aware of their problems, approach us, ask us for help and even put money on the table for our services, they don't take the time necessary to make things happen. Their focus, as well as their schedule, are fractured. Ongoing projects always seem to be more important than business development calls. And filling the pipeline with new leads is constantly put on the back burner.

So, why this behavior? Why ask for help and even pay money when you don't make things happen? There are many reasons. Deliverables need to be met, fires need to be put out, and clients need to deal with. Freelancers didn't perform as expected, and now the studio owner himself has to do the layouts or animate himself. Obviously, these are subconscious excuses of your mind to skilfully evade the responsibility. Almost all studio owners open Photoshop or Houdini instead of working on new business development tasks. Why? Because it's simply is outside their comfort zone, AND they are scared of change.

You want to stay creative. Because that's what you live for. We get it. You draw your energy and your personal validation from your creative work. All the other nonsense, such as strategic planning, professional outreach, customer care, accounting, taxes, you name it, will be done in the evening (or never). Therefore, 60-hour weeks are the rule and not the exception. Most creatives are even proud of their behavior because they believe it is a sign of quality or that only they can live up to their own standards. Which, of course, is complete self-deception and a big fat lie.

Here's our message: If you are running a creative studio, it's NOT your job to be creative!

It's not YOUR job to immerse yourself in the day-to-day business. You pay good people a lot of money to do just that. And if not, then start doing it already! As the head of a company, YOUR JOB is it to show your face and, even more so, to BE the face of the company. To reach out and land NEW JOBS. This is YOUR responsibility. And yours only.

Clients and prospects want to talk to the big boss. They want to have a conversation at eye level. They see personal contact as a matter of respect.
But if the big boss himself sends through the latest changes at 2 a.m. in an e-mail peppered with typos, then respect is quickly and indefinitely lost.  Look, if you put more than 50% of your time into project work, who then goes out and wins new clients and lands dream jobs for your company? Who sits down with your existing clients and discusses the marketing strategy for the next 3 years? Who works on your vision and creates a plan of action? This is a FULL-TIME JOB. And you can not outsource it to your project managers.

It's what we see every single day. Studio owners don't take the time to perform such essential tasks. They don't work on their business because they take their role in the creative process too seriously. They take themselves as too important. They hand over unloved tasks such as marketing, customer acquisition, and even customer meetings to their project managers (who are already overwhelmed with tasks) or bring interns into the company, so they can hide behind the 27-inch monitor.
REALLY NOW? You want to get million-dollar projects from leading brands and expect your intern or junior project manager to land these jobs for you? Should they talk to seasoned decision-makers about their problems and goals? Do you expect them to build trust in YOUR studio? Talking about respect and conversations on eye level. An intern cannot generate high-ticket leads.

Sounds ridiculous?! But that is the situation in the creative industry. The solution? Don't take yourself too seriously for the creative process. Delegate the creative decisions to your creative directors. Provide them with the authority and trust to make creative decisions on your behalf.
And what do you do? You spend about 30% of your time acquiring new projects from existing clients or generating new leads. You invest 30% of your time in marketing & PR, and the rest you take care of the development of your studio and your team.  

Don't know how to get started? No problem! Bring in a mentor. Let them guide you. Let them help you implement processes into your studio. Find someone like us, plenty.business – We grow creative companies.

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