The Startup
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Which Matters More: Creativity or Business?

The argument is really much ado about nothing

A lot of people will draw a line between creativity and finance, between operations and marketing, setting themselves on one side of the line and arguing that their side is the driver of success.

I call these debates “much ado about nothing,” to quote Shakespeare. There is no line, the line should not be drawn nor exist because the driver of success is both. They need to coexist happily in your organization in order for it to thrive.

The debate is settled by an end to the company or by learning to master both, at once. You must learn to live in the ambiguity of life, in the “this and that” of being creative, but also being good business people. Aim to do both.

Here at the Madison Wall group of companies, including Idea Booth and BGO, we call ourselves a creative agency. But we’re also in business. We wouldn’t have anything to create if we weren’t in business. And if we weren’t creative, we wouldn’t have a business.

That’s all very easily said, in theory. And even we, in this business at Madison Wall, struggle constantly with bouncing between the two. But our intention, focus and strategy is to operate with a full measure of both.

Over our little more than a decade of existence, we have learned the following the pieces of advice that I will impart on you.

Your employees need to know where they stand.

When folks know where they stand in your organization, you will get a significantly better creative output. The clarity of roles and responsibilities is key. If your employees know what they need to do, know what their expectations are, know what the strategy is that they are operating within, and know what resources are available to them. When there is no confusion about expectations, there is more mental capacity to perform better.

Allow your employees the courtesy of clarity in purpose and direction.

Help them daily to see the end goal, to know what the full team, not just that individual, is working towards. When they know where the team is heading and how the part that they play fits into the whole, they can play that part to the best of their abilities.

Measure your results.

Creative output is significantly better when the results are quantifiable and tangible. I am a firm believer that the number one motivator or sense of satisfaction is a sense of progress.

At the end of the day, creative agencies are still a business. And therefore, there are fundamental realities that you can’t ignore if you want to maintain the continuity of your enterprise. Find a balance so you are encouraging creativity while also maintaining the fiscal responsibilities of the organization.

I’m not afraid to admit that even after a decade at Madison Wall, we are still not there yet. Oftentimes, I’m cognizant of the fact that I frustrate my team. I frustrate myself. We frustrate ourselves as we try to get there. But our intention is to continually strive to find that sweet spot, project by project. We all want to excel and execute as relates to creative output, to amaze and astound our clients. And we want to amaze and astound our bankers with the financial results that flow from producing that creative output.

Don’t let your organization draw that line in the sand between creativity and business. Creativity is business, and vice versa. To succeed and grow, don’t lose sight of that.

Aaron Webber is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Webber Investments LLC, as well as a Managing Partner at Madison Wall Agencies.

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Aaron Webber

Aaron Webber

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Chairman and CEO, Webber Investments. Partner at Idea Booth/BGO.