Last year, I challenged creative business owners to first focus on what is going right instead of leaping to dissect what is going wrong (i.e., identifying mistakes and fixing them). My main thrust was that clients pay for what is going right far more than they do for fixed mistakes. Today, I am going to go a step further for creative businesses: fixing problems first, as opposed to working harder on what is going right, makes no sense.
Yes, one reason is that clients pay you for what is going right. But the larger, more important reason is that focusing on fixing problems almost always misdirects strategy. You wind up focusing on the past, instead of charting how you are going to try to anticipate the future. For non-creative businesses, it is important to ever evolve the product or service, correcting all the bugs along the way. We all want the new, improved version of the thing. Creative businesses do not sell things though (and please do not kid yourself to think that you do), they sell information and artistry. And information and artistry is ever evolving given the state of our world. Tools completely unthinkable three years ago are part of our DNA today. What will tomorrow bring? Focusing on what went wrong only brings you back to even. Focusing on what went right allows you to use these tools to go ever further.
No, you cannot ignore what is going wrong. I said this last time and I say it again. Problems do not magically solve themselves. It is just that you can no longer start there. If you do, you will play small in a world where your clients would rather have imperfectly brilliant than boringly perfect.
All of which brings me to the biggest reason of all to focus on what is going right – almost by definition it forces you to live in the present moment, enabling you to discern what merits your attention today versus tomorrow or not ever. Think about it – if client service is what is most valued by your customers, contemplating how to get better at customer service lets you say no to things/opportunities/conferences/mentors/colleagues that are of no assistance there. There may come a day when product or service delivery is what is most valued, then you can focus on the things/opportunities/conferences/mentors/colleagues that will help you with that. Just not today. Paying attention to fixing problems first will never bring this level of discernment to you, quite the opposite actually.
Honor that your creative business IS different from other businesses. The difference compels you to question what almost every other business would do and ask yourself if it really works for your business. Focusing on what is going right first is one very big example.
So here is a challenge – write down everything that is going right in your creative business for the next week. Can be a huge thing (just landed a huge project) or small (client sent you the most beautiful note of thanks), does not matter. Then sit down with whoever you value most (employees, clients, vendors and/or colleagues) and whittle the list to your top five. Now you have your strategy for the next six months: figure out how to do those five things better. And then do them better. My guess is that you will be very happy with where that takes, you, your art and your creative business.