If I Could Change Just This One Thing

“If I could only change X about my business, I’d be fine.” You know what I mean, right? You’ve said these things.

“If I had a different client base.”

“If I had different employees.”

“If I were located in a different city.”

“If I didn’t have this partner.” Or “If I could find a partner.”

But here’s my favorite: “If we could just get a little bigger, add some employees, throw in a few great clients, we’d get past this hump and start to really make money.”

Figure Out What You Have First
The truth is, though, that you’ve got to figure out how to make money…and keep some of it…right where you, right now, with minimal change. Managing a creative business requires creativity. If you aren’t making or keeping enough money currently, it’s because you’ve missed something or you don’t have the courage to make something you have not missed “right” again. All over the world, ad shops and design firms and public relations agencies are making money–in small towns, with some clients that aren’t ideal, and with employees they would not hire again.

Figure it out! Make some changes. Experiment. Be disciplined in creating a map and then following it. If you don’t fix what you have first, growth will be a big mistake because you’ll be losing money faster, taking more risk, and living a more harried life. The very essence of being a great leader is taking what you have and making it work. It’s like MacGuyver, who always seemed to build a robot from a stick of gum and a stale battery.

You know what else you need to quit doing? Whining about how “different it is” at my firm. “You don’t understand my region,” or “my clients,” or the “uniqueness of the industry I serve.”

Well, the truth is that you are really different but you aren’t. Master those real differences but don’t use them as excuses. I was interviewed recently by the Indianapolis Star about a large ad agency that had won some awards on their path to doing national work. The reporter asked me to cite examples of firms that had created a name for themselves in “backwater” locations. It was no trouble to name a bunch. But for each of those, I can name a dozen who proclaim that “it won’t work for me.”

Listen. You’ve got some clients and employees. You’ve got an income stream and an expense stream. You have some risk and some opportunity. What more could you ask for than an opportunity to shape your business life within that context?


David C. Baker is Principal of ReCourses, Inc., the leading management consulting firm that works exclusively with small service providers in the marketing industry. Republished with permission.

By David C. Baker
Published August 5, 2008
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.