Business Owners Toolbox Blog Discussions and articles to help the small business owner solve the challenges they face as they grow their business.

June 30, 2009

Has Your Company Stopped Being Creative?

Filed under: Growth Management,Not yet categorized — Tags: , , , — Mike Van Horn @ 3:08 pm

This post was catalyzed by “At what size do companies stop being creative?” on

I see small companies launch in a burst of creativity, then slowly lose their creative edge over time. How about you? Tell me about you and your company’s creativity.

My clients are small business owners – from a handful to a hundred employees. Run by the owner, who is often the founder as well. As I look around at the people I’ve worked with (including myself) here’s what I see.

First, two observations:

1. Creativity comes in many flavors. Not just the “creative industry” like ad agencies. Also creative business concepts, product dev, designs; creative marketing campaigns, merchandizing, or product selection; creative distribution or service packaging or customer service; creative team building or organization structure; creative pricing or financing.

2. Creativity comes in all sizes, and so does failure of creativity.


• Lack of support. Nobody is pushing her/him to take the creative leap, or problem solving how to overcome the hurdles . . . No-one following behind, handling the details, executing the vision.

• They get dragged out of creativity by the demands of running the business day to day. This has a lot to do with their own management style. “ I can’t find good people that I can trust.” “I got into this business to do what I love; now I spend all my time as a damn manager.”

• Lack of help. Owner continually pulled back down into lower-level tasks, can’t focus on creativity, vision, strategy.

• Lack of systems, relying on seat-of-pants management. Thus their franticness quotient increases exponentially with growth.

• Ill-fitting systems. E.g., accounting systems that don’t give needed performance information to the owner.

• Constraining systems. Too much “by the book” or “bean counter mentality.” Of course the owner has put these into place, but then starts believing in them.

• Failure of vision. Creative owner gets beaten down, burned out . . .  Has one good idea, and sticks with it long after the window of opportunity has slammed shut . . .  Fear of taking the needed next step. “Tried that, got beaten down, it didn’t work, now I’m gun shy.”

• Gets out of touch. Drifts into an eddy out of the current of new ideas and technologies. This can be related to age, but there are many creative codgers out there.

• Gets too comfortable. The balance between work and life tips toward Maui.

• Physical/mental impairment. Alas, this eventually catches up with us. If you’re smart, you’ll go out at the top, handing the creative reins over to the young whippersnapper you’ve groomed.

Can you add to this list? And how did you overcome this hurdle?

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