Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, we all know how stressful owning a business can be. Not only are we the creative engine, but also we’re the CEOs of the company. We have to handle the financials, the employees, our brands, our home life, and try to fit some creative thinking in there somewhere and that doesn’t even leave space for self-care and health, which needs to be our top priority if we want to have the stamina to run our company! So how in the world can we make it all happen? We can’t. But there are a lot of things we CAN do!
Too often, owners of creative businesses forget that they are in business, not just having fun with a hobby. You have to commit to that idea of having a real business – even if you may have started your business as a side job to begin with. You are the CEO of a company – say that to yourself over and over. Take it very seriously, let it sink in. Many times our businesses start to take off but we are still thinking of ourselves as a “little business owner” and we have to step into the shoes of CEO and own all that comes with that if we really want to make money.
It’s tough to be an entrepreneur and a small-business owner. Most of us get into this business by focusing on the parts we love, and putting the not-so-fun things off as long as possible. The part we don’t focus on, in most cases, is the enormous amount of hard work, of tough financial times, and of serious business management that it takes to be a CEO. So how can you act like a CEO? Here are 4 critical ways:
- You have to have a business plan. Do you have one? Even if you started without one, it’s never too late to create one and start making shifts in your business to align with it. In fact, sometimes its better to try your business for a bit first to get some clarity and then come back and write it. That way you have more information on what you want and what your consumers seem to be interested in.
- You have to pay yourself – what business leader or successful CEO do you know that works basically for free?
- You have to be clear on the goals you’ve set for your company and how you will achieve them. This means starting with your Why, then moving to your What and then creating a list of steps that are your How. And please put timelines on these goals for some accountability.
- And you must set the financial benchmarks that your company has to hit to be profitable. If you don’t know what that is, then you don’t have your finances in order.
I can hear you saying: “Wait a minute, I just want to be creative and showcase my talents for the world. I don’t like all of the talk about working on financials or focusing on marketing. Where’s the fun in that?!” Business can be fun – but only if you aren’t constantly stressing about money or where your next client is coming from. And that takes hard work. It takes being a CEO! In fact, having all of that “hard stuff” taken care of gives you the freedom to focus on the things that are essential to making you happy and giving you more control over your life.
The reality is that in any business, creative or otherwise, a good 80% of your time will be spent on things that are not necessarily at the heart of the reason you started your company in the first place. At least until you get all that working like clockwork. You’ll be managing your business, working to attract new clients and customers, researching new revenue streams, and taking a hard look at your financials. If that doesn’t sound like something you can do (or will do), then you might want to think about working for another person or at a larger company. That isn’t a knock on you! It really is a decision you might want to make for your overall happiness. Not everyone is cut out to be a business owner and especially a CEO.
Taking these 4 critical steps is the reality of owning a successful business–one that makes you the money you dream of. Being profitable, really profitable, is not a hobby or something that you can do halfheartedly. And yes, you can hire people to do some of that work (or outsource the work preferably), but that never excuses you from knowing every detail of your company at any given moment. YOU are the CEO.
I’m giving you this reality check because we need to take ourselves, and our business goals seriously. Think of yourself and your company as a start-up that is every bit as important as a Fortune 500 business and one day it may be one. The CEO’s vision and commitment are critical to the path that gets a company onto that list – and your vision and commitment are critical to the success of your own company. If you have that great framework in place, you can build the business of your dreams!
And when you get the foundation of your business and your finances in place, then you can start to prioritize and adjust things so you have a life again, so you take care of yourself and so that your business is really fulfilling not just financially but emotionally.
So are you running your business like a business or a hobby? What areas are you not serious about or are you hiding from? Finances? Client Development? Other areas?
If things are running well and you’re making money, what will you do next? I’ve made a lot of BIG decisions this year so I’ll be a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled CEO. Have you made any big leaps like that? Let me know in the comments section below!
If you need help in your finances, check out my Financials for Creatives E-course. If you are a Designer or Creative my online Designer MBA E-course or my live version of Designer MBA course coming up in California this May will help you get the foundation of your business in shape and ready to become really profitable. And if you want one on one help, consider a strategy day with me where we dig into the details of your business together and make a plan to create the business and life you dream of!