Where to Spend Your Time and Attention
Introducing Your Creative Business Owner’s Ecosystem
What parts of our creative business should we focus on for success? When? And how? Are you a creative business owner confident in your craft and ability but maybe not always seeing the success you want from your business?
When a business owner comes to me for help, there is usually a part of their business that is a little out of balance in one key area. There is usually something “off ” in their business ecosystem. They can’t always put their finger on it.
Your business has its own ecosystem. If one area is neglected, just like in nature, it can have a detrimental effect on the whole business ecosystem.
Think of a fish tank (bear with me). My family started with a small goldfish in a bowl. It needed attention and care and a certain ecosystem. Water, air, fish food, balance. We managed that easily enough.
Then we moved into a larger freshwater tank. More fish, more care, more things in the ecosystem. We had to pay more attention to this tank.
Then, we moved into a ridiculously large saltwater tank. Much more care was needed; we needed to learn more and pay attention to all the things and do the cleaning and maintenance we honestly didn’t want to always do. It was still water, air and balance — but more complex, more at stake. But the joy and success we felt were worth it. We have to pay attention to the ecosystem at every growth stage. Just like growing a creative business. As our business (or our fish tanks) grow, balancing the ecosystem of what needs to happen to keep the business (and the fish) thriving has to evolve, too.
But what should you focus on in order to keep your business ecosystem healthy?
With the right approach and mindset, you can create a harmonious and successful business that allows you to unleash your creativity AND achieve your dreams. That’s how the creative business owner’s ecosystem comes in.
The retailer’s ecosystem is a simple framework that breaks down your business into four essential areas.
It works no matter the size or stage of your business. As YOUR business grows, so does your ecosystem and your role and responsibility in each area.
Keep this list handy and pay attention to your own business ecosystem.
1. The CEO: Being Boss of Your Business
As a creative entrepreneur, you are the CEO of your business. This means that you have to be the boss of yourself as well as your business. The CEO area is where you learn to lead yourself effectively and develop the mindset, habits and skills you need to succeed. To be a successful CEO, you need to focus on knowing the data, financial literacy and self-development as well as your mindset and understanding how to be a visionary. It’s also essential to develop good habits, invest in your education and make decisions that will help you grow your business. Other things to consider in the CEO area include the energy you bring, the business culture you create and the habits you build.
Don’t forget to prioritize self-care: You are the biggest asset in your business. Read that line again. Self-care, and taking care of the biggest asset, is actually part of the CEO’s responsibility.
Other responsibilities include thinking strategically and focusing on big-picture planning. Your role also includes being the one responsible to ensure the entire ecosystem is being looked after, and includes team culture, delegating effectively and becoming a confident decision maker. When you’re the CEO of your business, you’re not just a doer; you’re a leader who creates a vision and leads others toward success.
2. Business Systems: Make Your Business Run Like Clockwork
Business systems are the backbone of your creative business. But truthfully, this is not really the first thing most of us think of or really pay attention to. This area includes good solid financial management, inventory management and creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) for everything you and your team do. By paying attention to your business systems, you can ensure that your business is running like clockwork.
To be successful in the business systems area, you need to keep an eye on your data and understand the key performance indicators that drive your business. (More fun than it sounds.) You also need to be able to delegate effectively and build a team that you can trust to help you run your business.
Additionally, you must pay attention to legal and accounting issues to ensure that your business is in compliance with regulations and is set up for long-term success. In this area, it’s crucial to create SOPs to ensure that everyone in your business understands the processes and procedures that need to be followed. You need to have a solid understanding of your inventory and know-how to manage it effectively. By paying attention to your business systems, you can free up your time and energy to focus on your creative front of house.
3. Marketing and Sales: Build a Brand That Resonates With Your Customers
Marketing and sales are critical components of any successful business. We can be the best at what we do and have the best location, staff and service. But if we don’t tell the world and make sales, we won’t survive.
In this area of the ecosystem, your focus should be on developing a solid brand strategy, understanding your customers’ needs and preferences, and developing marketing and sales strategies that attract and retain customers. Your marketing strategy should go beyond just social media. (That is just a tool, not a strategy.) It should include ways to attract new customers and visibility and awareness strategies. You also need to know how to nurture and engage with your clients effectively.
If marketing strategy feels heavy to you for your creative business, think of it as a “hospitality strategy.” That reframe always feels lighter to my creative clients.
Your brand and hospitality strategy should be a reflection of your unique creativity and resonate with your customers. You need to develop a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and preferences and create a brand that speaks to them on a personal level.
When you focus on marketing and sales, you create a business that is poised for growth and success. You’ll be able to show off your beautiful products and services, and attract and retain customers who love what you do and are willing to pay for it.
One of your biggest roles as a creative business owner is that of the head marketer. Like it or not, it’s a key part of your ecosystem.
4. Creative Front of House: Showcase Your Unique Creativity
The creative front of house is where your passion shines through. This area is where you develop products and merchandise, talk to customers and build customer relationships. It’s essential to pay attention to product development and have a solid understanding of your products and services. This ensures that you’re meeting your customers’ needs effectively.
In this area, merchandising and product knowledge are also critical components. By paying attention to all aspects of the creative side of your business, you can create a strong brand that resonates with your customers.
Not surprisingly, it’s the area where most creatives live, and it’s where your passion shines through. It’s important to give this customer-facing area your high attention always. It’s so important to stay curious, keep listening to your clients, push boundaries — and don’t be afraid to change and do it your way. Staying fresh in business means embracing change and taking risks!
Bringing It All Together: How the Retailer’s Ecosystem Works
When you pay attention to all four areas of the retailer’s ecosystem, you create a harmonious and successful business that allows you to unleash your creativity and achieve your dreams. Each area is critical to the success of your business, and neglecting one area can cause a ripple effect that throws your entire business out of balance and may leave you feeling overwhelmed.
When you’re in balance, you’ll feel empowered, energized and confident in your ability to grow your business. You’ll be able to focus on the big picture and lead your business toward success.
You’ll have the tools to manage your finances, inventory and standard operating procedures effectively. You’ll develop marketing and sales strategies that attract and retain customers, and you’ll showcase your creativity in a way that delights and inspires your customers. Moreover, a harmonious business will give you the freedom to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ll have the flexibility to work on your own terms and do what you love. You’ll be able to express your unique creativity and bring your vision to life, all while building a profitable and sustainable business. I see it happen all the time.
OK, your turn: Take some action …
Ask yourself these questions (and be honest with yourself):
1. What part of the ecosystem do you spend most of your time in? What part do you completely avoid? Why are you not working on those areas? (Write down in a journal the possible reasons why you are avoiding or not working on these areas.)
2. As your business grows, so does your role in the business. We can’t keep bootstrapping and doing all the areas of our business ourselves. What part of the ecosystem do you need support around? Everyone needs help as their business grows. WHO can help you learn or do the things that will help your business thrive?
3. What action will you take THIS week toward a more sustainable, thriving business? It may feel uncomfortable, but growth never happens in our comfort zone.
In conclusion, it’s essential, as a creative entrepreneur, to understand the concept of the retailer’s ecosystem and how it can help you create a harmonious and successful business.
Paying attention to all four areas of the ecosystem and trusting yourself and your capability to grow and learn (even with the bits that feel super hard and uncomfortable) will allow you to be the best CEO for your business, develop effective business systems, build a brand that resonates with your customers and showcase your unique creativity.
When you’re in balance, you’ll be able to achieve your dreams and create a business that is a true reflection of your creative soul.
So, take the time to focus on each area of the retailer’s ecosystem. Be OK with learning and leaning into the uncomfortable bits — and unleash your full potential as a creative entrepreneur.
You’ve got this: You are a creative rockstar!