One of the biggest struggles creative or social entrepreneurs have is looking at what they do from a complete perspective. This includes both your personal drive and wellbeing, the impact you produce and also the overall sustainability of your projects and initiatives. Like you saw in the first part of this course, they are all strongly interconnected.
Basically, this includes:
- the financial sustainability of your business
- the impact it produces in the community it addresses
- its purpose and long-term vision
- the sense of accomplishment/meaning it offers to those working for it
For you to produce the impact you aim for, all these aspects need to be considered at all times. When you favor one and pay little attention to the others, they tend to destabilize.
Impact and overall business sustainability are in fact connected and interdependent. So don’t be afraid of financial side of what you do. This will not deprive your projects of their purpose, but enhance them and empower you to grow your impact, find new resources and partners and ways to reach those who benefit from your work. Keep in mind that generally, the most overlooked component is related to sustainability.
How does this affect a creative business and what forms can it take?
- Not being aware of the correct (financial or impact) indications that show you how close you are to reaching your goals
- Not following the financial performance of your business / the essential indicators that can point out to financial issues (and to your ability to go on)
- Not being up to date with legal and tax aspects of running a business. Longterm, they can cause you to miss opportunities and sometimes even make mistakes that are afterwards sanctioned
- Not setting correct prices for what you do – which could impact the ability of offering fair salaries (for yourself and for your team). Another consequence is that the lack of funds could prevent you from working with suppliers & collaborators that are more in line with your values and vision
- Not being able to grow your impact, develop new projects that need funding before they become sustainable
- A lack of resources for making your work more visible and closer to the people it’s created for
- Inability to find agile solutions to sudden changes of the business environment
- A greater degree of uncertainty and less predictability, which leads to poor planning
Why acknowledging the business in all of its aspects will help you
Regardless of the size of your project, correctly evaluating all its dimensions will offer you the mental space you need in order to stay creative, learn, grow and continue to do what you do best. It will also enable you to overcome the ”freeze” response you may experience when facing a crisis – like in the case of the COVID pandemic – and to find new spaces to grow.
Practice time | Self-reflection exercise
Grab a pen and paper and, keeping your current project or business in mind, write down the answers to the following questions. You could also think about the aspects listed above that you’ve given the least attention to up until now.
1. What are your biggest struggles right now?
2. What are the things that are most problematic for you right now? What are the areas that need improvement?
Describe them further:
- Are they internal rather than external?
- Why are they problems for you?
- How do they impact your wellbeing and your project’s sustainability overall?
- What consequences do they produce (short term, medium term and long term)
- How and when did they appear (what caused them)?
3. Are they in any way connected or dependent on each other? If so, which of them sits at the basis of the issues (that is to say, which one is the root problem)? If not, which is the one causing the most damage?
Now pick the most important issue you have at hand and write down the answers to these questions:
4. Have you tried to solve it up to now? What did you do? What worked (even if partially) and what hasn’t?
- Is it an issue that could be handled by you or by reaching out for help?
- What allies would you need to make it better (from new people in your team, to consultants or mentors)
5. If it’s not something that could be improved with outside input, what do you feel you’re lacking for it to be handled?
6. What resources do you lack right now for solving it? If you listed more than one, which are the top 2-3?
7. What do you feel would be the best plan to tackle this issue? What would the steps be?
8. What steps – from those you listed above – are possible to do very soon (a few days, a week, a month maximum)? What resources / allies from those you listed above are more at hand than others?
9. Make a plan for doing the things listed above tomorrow and in the following days. Come back to it and check off the things you listed as you complete them!