As a financial advisory firm that focuses on creative businesses we are often asked what defines a “creative business.” The first things that come to mind are arts-based businesses in industries which include visual arts, advertising, architecture, design, media, music and publishing, as well as some cultural organizations such as museums, galleries and libraries.
Due to new technologies it’s time to rethink this definition. The lines are blurring for traditional industries in unprecedented ways. Take for example, Diamond Foundry, which uses solar technology to sustainably create unique diamonds without the human and environmental cost of mining. Another example is bio-bean, a tech company that uses waste coffee grounds for biofuels and other biochemicals. Or Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service that uses data science and advanced algorithms to reinvent the business of personal styling and buying clothes online.
While these businesses are not necessarily “arts-based,” we can hardly say that they are not “creative.” In fact, it’s precisely their creativity that has contributed to these companies not only setting themselves apart from their competitors, but also revolutionizing their respective industries of manufacturing, energy and retail.
The boundaries of what is considered a creative business have broadened so quickly and widely that many scholars have redefined creative industries for a “creative economy,” to include all economic activities resulting from the creation and circulation of intellectual capital. Employing 30 million people worldwide and generating $2.25 trillion in global revenue, the creative economy has not only become an important component of a country’s GDP, but also plays a crucial part in gaining a competitive edge in the overall market.
It’s not surprising governments and non-profits have pushed for policies that foster the creative economy. In Britain, for example, innovation foundation Nesta developed a 10-point policy manifesto to stimulate growth in the creative sector in the UK. In China’s 11th Five-Year Plan government officials made a conscious decision to shift its economy from “Made in China” to “Created in China.” This has without a doubt, assisted in propelling the nation into a top global innovator in just under a decade. (It’s not a coincidence that the two of the first foldable smartphones to hit the market are from Chinese manufacturers.)
In essence, creativity has become one of the world’s most invaluable resources in our current world of dynamic globalization. Creative businesses have succeeded in harnessing it to create commercial value, solve complex problems, and drive cultural and social impact.
What makes for a successful creative business?
Since I founded Creative Business Inc. in 2005, our company has been lucky to experience first-hand how this creative revolution has affected the business world. We’ve worked closely with some of the world’s most talented entrepreneurs and innovative companies across many diverse sectors, from fine art and design, to retail and light manufacturing. While creativity may be at the core of who they are and what they do, it’s certainly not the only element that makes them successful. Here are some qualities that we see in our most successful clients:
- Purpose-driven. Every successful creative business starts with a why. What is your purpose? What is the big question that you’re trying to answer and how can you and your business solve that problem? Your purpose becomes the guiding star that allows your company stay to aligned with its vision and goals. Being purpose-driven not only fosters creativity (genuine innovation needs purpose), but it also helps to attract the best and brightest minds to the business and helps deliver greater economic and social value.
- Discipline. If creativity is the fuel that drives innovation, discipline is the engine. Discipline is what allows a business to be methodical, process-driven, and strategic so that their business can be brought to life. Discipline gives us the resilience and patience to stay focused and work through obstacles (and there will be plenty as a business owner!). It is also what helps business leaders build and manage teams effectively. Businesses cannot survive on creativity alone—discipline is a key element for profitability and growth.
- Adaptability. The ability to adapt and evolve when facing changing conditions plays a big role in a company’s long-term success and sustainability. It requires the willingness to challenge assumptions and the agility to mobilize quickly to solve unforeseen problems. Those who are considered “creatives” are by their nature generally adaptive and flexible, but the most successful creative entrepreneurs are those that can take the lead in bringing adaptability to an organization as a whole. (Hint: it all goes back to #1—purpose-driven companies are quicker to evolve.)
A version of this post originally appeared here.