Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a client about growing their studio and what it meant for this person in terms of both professional and personal changes. They were mainly concerned about relinquishing control of design work and how growing would require a change in the flexibility of their current solopreneur lifestyle. They were all legitimate concerns for anyone dabbling with the idea of moving from zero to one.
When it’s just you running solo, it’s a lot easier to just keep bumbling along doing what you’re doing. Even if you want to grow your design business, making the decision to make that step is probably one of the hardest creative entrepreneurs will face. Even I, who’s an enormous fan of (sustainable, proactive) growth, experienced this recently with our first hire this year. There are no guarantees and that is some scary stuff.
After much reflection and discussion, our client and I concluded that the real challenge for them is not the process of actually hiring someone. Distilled down, the challenge was really about deciding what to do next, then taking action and doing it.
This seems so simple and straightforward, and yet for so many of us, we can live and work for months in inaction. Why is that?
Simply put, we’re afraid. We worry over the what-ifs and the myriad of potentialities that could happen if we make the wrong decision. It feels safer to stew a bit longer and procrastinate just a bit more, without making a choice, instead of maybe making the wrong one.
But not choosing is still a choice. Not deciding keeps us, and our businesses, in a state of limbo, until something external makes the decision for us.
We might make the right decision, or we might make the wrong one. But no decision at all means we cannot fail at it; it also means we haven’t tried anything either. There is so much pressure on the decision that we’re paralysed from moving forward with anything and we keep things as they are.
What if we reframe decision-making in our minds as fact-finding? Taking that first step gives us feedback, in the form of information or data, that can help inform us what to do next. Sometimes we have to plunge in based on the best information we have and see what happens next, so we can make even more informed decisions, or potentially take another direction.
It is simply said but isn’t easily done. Here are a few things you can do in advance that can make deciding what to do next a bit easier:
1) Really think about what your end goals are — are you happy with your eight people or do you really want to be a practice of twenty-eight?
2) Define what growth looks like for your studio — maybe it’s not just people, maybe it’s also prestige or financial return.
3) Get clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing — I can’t stress this one enough. We’re not talking fluffy marketing speak; we’re talking core reasons for showing up every day.
When you’ve answered the above questions, suddenly there’s a friction point for decision-making. Clarity about your studio’s why and its big goals suddenly changes the conversation around “Should we or shouldn’t we” and instead creates a simple yes/no question to pose whenever the business is faced with a difficult choice: “Does this decision push us closer to our goals? Does this reinforce our why?”
Simple? Yes. Easy? Not on your life. But it also might mean that decision you’ve been fretting over, with all its potential pains and uncomfortabilities, will leave you and your studio in a better place than you thought.
In the end, our client wrote down all their potential fears and objections about growth to get an objective view of them. Seeing it all out on paper provided an opportunity to address each one directly in relation to our client’s wider purpose and goal. It doesn’t mean the next steps will be easy, but it does mean the reasons why we’re taking those next steps are clear.
Post by Lindsay Faller