How you should do it

As pointed out in part 1 of this article, crystallizing your creative business basically involves gathering, mapping out and securing the intellectual property that makes your business unique and valuable. (You may want to read that again).

We do this continuously at Engage Brandcraft – it’s a ongoing work in progress. I think it would need to be in any creative business unless that business has been going for 40 years and the secret recipe hasn’t changed in all that time (as in: not even a new billing system has been added to the mix).

To be sure, there’s no hard and fast way of doing this – the more unique your approach, the more unique your outcomes. I’m only giving you a big picture starting point.

In a nutshell, our cycle consists of three distinct stages but I don’t think that matters either, as long as your end goal is to give structure to the methodologies, approaches and supporting collateral that make your work different and brilliant. Any ideas or input into this would truly be welcome by the way as we intend to continue revisiting this periodically as our business grows and focuses.

The broad brush strokes:

1. Examine the work flow of a typical job from beginning to end and record this on an enormous piece of paper with loads of extra room – see how many details you can record without straying from the aforementioned constraint: “typical”.

Digitise it and save it in a workable/editable format. Make it visual and make it your own. Try to focus on aspects of you approach that are different or unique. Coin terms for them where possible – you may be able to take ownership of these. Then save this chart as an OW on Myows – it’s valuable. Refine and add to this whenever you can. If it ever comes time to sell your creative business this will be the first thing you’ll want to show prospective buyers.

2. Try to find a few moments, documents or processes in this flow that you can own. Important qualifying criteria: the moment, document or process you’re recording was itself the result of a creative process (it’s original) and it can be reduced to material form. Make it as distinct and authentically ‘you’ as possible. Then save that as an OW too.

3. Then use that workflow as a guide for your next new client. Keep an eye out for what works and what doesn’t. Add to it as you go and throw away elements that are cumbersome. It must be a natural fit, you’re not trying to be something you’re not. Remember, everyone uses some sort of process – we’re just taking things up a notch. Remember to update the relevant OWs as you go.

There are three success criteria I look out for here. The resulting process-based intellectual property must:
• Save us time in the long run – otherwise I’m creating admin
• Add value to our client’s (and our team’s) overall experience
• Help us ensure consistent outcomes and quality solutions

One really great and immediate benefit from this otherwise long-term undertaking is a sense of accomplishment, past and present. We were genuinely astounded when we stood back and looked at just how much of our thinking and hard work was stored in the little IP moments that we’ve created over time – seeing everything in the context of the whole.

It’s great to take stock of the value that’s inherent in your approach. It’s that value that informs your client experience, guides interactions and contributes to your creative processes. And it’s that value that makes your business, well, valuable.

ONE MORE NOTE OF CAUTION: I thought of limiting these thoughts to the commercial creative (eg. designer) as opposed to the expressive creative (eg. artist) – but an artist friend of mine pointed out that he has mapped out his own IP to great effect and told me to get over myself. The commercial/artistic distinction is apparently very last season anyway.