Starting up a business is one thing: you’re so busy putting out fires that you don’t have time to get bored. But how do you keep the creative juices flowing once your company’s established?
Here, three business owners share their tips.
Delegate and outsource
“Growing in that beyond-startup phase is about your people,” says Vancouver-based business coach Lisa Princic. “You’re investing in them to innovate.”
That doesn’t mean withdrawing from the business—far from it. Rather, by hiring staff to manage various aspects of your company, you’re freeing up your own time for creativity, as well as bringing new minds on board to help stimulate innovation.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” recommends Rosanne Tripathy, co-owner of Calgary-based Jelly Modern Doughnuts. “Even if your business is growing or if everything is going great, stay ahead of the curve and keep challenging your business to get even better.”
Tripathy, for instance, is constantly travelling, reading and seeking out new trends that might intersect with her business, which now includes multiple retail locations and wholesale clients in both Calgary and Toronto. “We have [internet] alerts set for anything food or doughnut related,” she says.
Princic suggests keeping an open mind, and always being willing to learn. “It’s a positive, can-do attitude,” she says, “the mindset of not feeling you know everything.”
Write the manual
“Developing systems is critical when growing a scalable, repeatable business,” says Princic. In the early days, it’s relatively easy to oversee staff and ensure their work is consistent with your goals for the company. But as your business grows, having standards and processes in place will help guide employees, thereby increasing your trust in their abilities to stay on track with your intentions.
“When we first opened, we thought we were having a soft opening, but the business took off right from day one,” says Tripathy. “A year later, we had to stop, catch our breath, and implement standards, systems and manuals for consistency.” Now, with stores and staff in two cities, Tripathy depends on these manuals (as well as trusted core staff) to give employees a reference point as they represent the brand, leaving her with more time to focus on the creative aspects of the business.
Do your research
“Most important in terms of creativity is really knowing the lay of the land across the industry you and your clients work in,” says Melanie Rego, founder and president of Elevator Communications in Toronto. “Read reports, attend conferences and pay attention to what’s happening globally.”
For example, one of her clients, a footwear company with limited reach in Canada, has offices around the world, including a large presence in Chile. She and her team keep a close eye on the company’s ultra-successful marketing and PR efforts in that country to see what they can learn for their own made-in-Canada initiatives.
For Tripathy, a lot of inspiration comes from customer and partner feedback, which she credits for helping her business stay on top of trends. “A lot of our retail partners have ideas of their own,” she says. Holt Renfrew, which hosts the occasional Jelly Modern Doughnuts pop-up shop, suggested they offer bite-size doughnuts that are easier to eat for shoppers holding bags.
Customers, for their part, send in frequent requests and suggestions via email and social media. Among the ideas sent to Jelly Modern Donuts were using local, seasonal ingredients and offering doughnuts that meet special diet restrictions. “We started with our gluten-sensitive offering one day a week,” Tripathy says. “Customers were demanding more, so now we do it every day.”
MORE CREATIVE STRATEGIES:
- The Secret to Creativity is Collaboration »
- A “Weird and Fast” Approach to Better Problem-Solving »
- How to Spark Creativity »
- The 5 Steps That Truly Drive Innovation »
- Rethink Your Business Like It’s Brand New »
What have you done to stay creative as your company has grown? Share your strategies and tactics using the comments section below.