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Design is design is design, and then there’s a business to run

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Can creatives run a business?

Creative minds design everything from art to literature to cars. It is hard to image the world without creative, artistic people and their leading-edge innovations.

“Creativity is just connecting things,” said the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.

“It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

According to writer Carolyn Gregoire at the Huffington Post, “Psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine.”

Going a step further, “It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the noncreative self,” said Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University. “Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success.

“Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives – at least the successful ones – learn not to take failure so personally.”


These attributes parallel in an uncanny way how creatives run a business. In general, business practices are routine, and some people find them boring and mundane.

To be sure, being creative with accounting practices could lead to legal trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.

Customer service, sales and marketing also seem to fall into this area. Business needs to have processes in these areas in order to grow, run smoothly and operate efficiently.

Once proven processes are in place, they can be replicated by staff or consultants.


Some companies have a structure and their entire reputation built on creativity.

It’s why people contact them for services, looking for a unique design component, such as in landscaping, website or kitchen design.

< A landscape is designed. It is worked into a beautiful outside living space for the family.

< A website is coded and published based on the customer’s experience with the product.

< A kitchen is designed to fit the lifestyle of the family that will use it.


Everything is awesome, and everyone is in a euphoric fog with high-fives all around.

Then, reality begins to set in a week later, and the “new” of the design begins to wear off. The weeds take over the yard or the kitchen floors are dirty.

It is unlikely that the creatives gave any thought or plan about maintenance.

A maintenance plan is a required but often ignored part of a successful design. But planned maintenance – ho-hum! – often is not in the skill set or realm of creatives.


It is a Catch-22. You have to be creative to envision the design of your client’s dreams, but also run the business profitably and efficiently to be able to continue to produce the designs.

That involves mundane scheduling, accounting, tax and bill paying, invoicing and other tasks.

A successful business plan allows and compensates for personalities and shortcomings, first by recognizing them and then by hiring strength to balance weaknesses.

What’s at stake, of course, are customer satisfaction, return business and marketplace reputation.

An expert in reputation management, monthly columnist Pamela S. Gockley is founder and creator of The Reputation Factor and Reputation Learning Center (www.reputationlearningcenter.com) in Leesport for personal and professional development. She has written books titled “The Reputation Factor: Repositioning to Succeed” and “The Art of Running Red Lights: Business Innovation with Reputation.” She can be reached at 610-916-3652 or admin@eputationlearningcenter.com.

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