Most people fit into one of two categories: 1) business minded or 2) creative; but to be successful as an entrepreneur, you need both. That’s why so few small businesses succeed: their leaders are too heavy on one side or the other.
From an early age we are tagged as either creative or not. Since there are fewer creative people in the world than business people, those in the creative group are somewhat of a novelty; and the rest don’t know whether to adore or ignore them.
All things in life are governed by duality; it’s how the universe operates. Life is a constant rhythm between opposites: night and day, boy and girl, life and death. Duality makes life interesting; without bad, we wouldn’t know good.
Ultimately, without the interaction of opposites; from the most complex human dynamics of creativity and business, down to the smallest physical particles like protons and neutrons; we wouldn’t exist at all.
So it’s only natural that people settle into societal roles on one side of the fence or the other. In an advertising company, the creative department comes up with the ideas while the accounting department crunches the numbers. On a movie set, the director’s job is to communicate his creative vision while the producers make it happen. Most people naturally fit into one role or the other without completely understanding why.
The brain and human personalities are much more complex than this two-sided model suggests, but it’s useful to start with a simple duality in order to gain perspective on where you might fit in.
The brain is like a muscle, and just like athletic talent is a combination of genetics and practice, a person’s mental tendencies are formed in a similar manor. Someone might be naturally pre-disposed to creativity, so they take up artistic hobbies from an early age. The repetition of creative tasks reinforces and strengthens their creative ability, and before long they’re officially a creative person.
The two hemispheres of the human brain correspond to this duality. One side excels in more creative functions and the other is more logical or business-like. A person who is talented in one of these areas has stronger brain “muscles” in that hemisphere of their brain.
Most people don’t know how this works, and therefore falsely assume that they’re either creative or business-like, as if they only had one side of their brain. The truth is that we all still have both parts, one just might be dominant over the other.
The exciting part is that we can strengthen the weaker parts of our brains through practice. The first step is recognizing where your weaknesses are.
Most entrepreneurs don’t know why they constantly struggle, but often it’s because they’re too heavily dependent on one side of the brain or the other. The creative entrepreneur can see the big picture, coming up with extraordinary ideas, products, and marketing plans; but he neglects the day-to-day operations that keep his outfit afloat. Without proper accounting, administrative procedures, and attention to details; he finds himself drowning in debt and quickly out of business.
The business-minded entrepreneur has a fantastically organized operation. Everything has a file, and every activity is carefully documented in the records. While he works diligently all day setting up and implementing his systems, he neglects to find creative ways to generate more business. He fails to attract the customer base to grow his venture.
Neither entrepreneur knows why he is failing. Each has been through several cycles of new ventures, lost investments, and failed businesses; but both fail to recognize the root of their patterns.
A successful entrepreneur has to be a super-human of sorts. While most people only excel on one side of their brain or the other, an entrepreneur has to be a master of both ways of thinking. He needs creativity to see into the future, recognize opportunities, and develop new ways to add value to the market. At the same time, he needs a business mentality to effectively manage cashflow, document his activities, and make practical decisions to keep the business afloat.
What Kind of Thinker are You?
It can be difficult to pinpoint which side you fall on, especially if you’re not an artist or an organizational expert; but just because you can’t paint like Picasso doesn’t mean you don’t think like a creative person. Here are a few characteristics of each way of thinking:
Like to dream
Live outside of time
Dislike set schedules
Don’t mind disorder
Rely on emotion for decision making
Might keep a messy house or car
Lose track of time
Change plans easily
Come up with near-genius ideas
Are excellent problem-solvers
Business or Logical Thinkers
Keep strict order
Keep daily routines
Wake up at the same time every day
Balance their checkbooks
Stay within the rules
Don’t change plans easily
Make good practical decisions
Tend to take less risks
Stick to exercise plans
Are very professional
You might not fit exactly into one category or the other, but most people tend to lean to one side. Once you figure out your mode of thinking, you can begin to recognize your weaknesses.
Pitfalls for Creative Thinkers
Accounting – Creative people and accounting don’t mix. As a creative person, I can tell you: I’d rather spend all day stuck on the freeway than spend 30 minutes in front of QuickBooks on my computer.
If you’re a creative person, don’t kid yourself. Either develop discipline on the other side of your brain, or get an accountant and bookkeeper. Accounting is a vital part of any business, and you won’t survive without it.
Systems – Creative people are great at coming up with product ideas or websites, but not so great at figuring out what to do when someone orders a product. Spend the appropriate time to develop sound systems and orderly ways of doing business. Develop a filing system and an efficient way to do the work you do.
Without efficient systems, you end up wasting all day putting out fires and re-inventing the wheel. Read books on organization to help strengthen those brain muscles. If all else fails, hire a manager to figure it out for you.
Routines – It’s important to figure out what your high-leverage activities are and get into the habit of doing them daily. A high-leverage activity is an action that results in making you money. It might be making sales calls, prospecting for new clients, or sending out marketing materials.
Creative people tend to dislike routines, but they are critical for success. A daily routine of high-leverage activities should become so familiar that it becomes second-nature. Every day, you enter the office and pick up the phone to make sales calls; not click around on the internet.
Pitfalls for Business Thinkers
Aesthetics – Business thinkers tend to be more practical and sometimes neglect the visual appeal of their products or image. A well-designed logo or product goes a long way to attract customers. Don’t put off upgrading your image until later.
If you don’t have the artistic skills to pull it off, hire a professional. Investing in a great look will pay dividends in the end.
Vision – I once knew a guy who decided to go into business for himself as a consultant. He rented office space, kept it perfectly organized, and showed up promptly on time each morning for work. He spent a lot of time perfecting his services and putting together his package.
The only thing missing was a client. Month after month, he would show up at this great office loaded with everything you’d expect: a computer, fax machine, desk, extra chairs, marker board, phone with multiple lines, and more. He must have spent a small fortune on all the office supplies, not to mention months of rent, phone bills, and internet connection.
He had outstanding organizational skills, but he lacked a plan to grow his business. If you’re a business-minded person, don’t get bogged down in day-to-day activities. Take some time out to look into the future.
Risk – If creative people tend to take on too much risk, business-minded people don’t take on enough. To be successful in business, you have to artfully orchestrate the right amount of risk to keep moving forward. Too much risk and you’ll lose it all, too little and you’ll never get any footing.
You have to shake things up from time to time to get something going. You can’t just do what everyone else is doing and expect to stand out among the crowd. While it’s important to use proven methods to establish a solid foundation, you must break from tradition and try new things from time to time.
Exercise Your Brain
Although I showed the tendencies of a creative thinker from a young age, I didn’t learn to draw until I read a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. It taught me to switch between logical and creative modes of thinking. I learned how to strengthen my creative side and “see” like an artist.
People were always amazed at how I could draw, but didn’t really think of it as a big deal. They could have learned to do the same thing by taking the time to read what I had read and practice like I had practiced.
People tend to make fun of themselves if they can’t draw. “I can’t even draw a stick figure,” one might say. “I can’t draw a straight line,” says another.
They don’t realize that it’s not that they can’t draw; they just haven’t learned how to use that particular brain muscle. Everyone has two sides to their brain. Most people just neglect one.
Just as creative skills can be learned, so can business skills. A person can learn how to create daily routines and get organized. A great book on organization is called Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern. There are tons of books on time management, one of my favorites is called First Things First by Stephen Covey.
Sometimes the smart thing to do is to delegate your weaknesses to a professional. Struggling with accounting, organization, design, or other business functions that are giving you trouble can sometimes be counter-productive. As an entrepreneur you have to learn to do it all, but at some point you will have to delegate.
Entrepreneurship is a lot harder than it looks. It takes a special kind of person to live up to the demands of running a business. Larger companies have the luxury of separating tasks into specialized departments, but a one-man show has to do it all.
Don’t go into business without knowing what you’re up against. Without a sound understanding of your thinking style, you might just be your own worst enemy.