As a business coach, I have worked with many small business owners in my career, and one thing I noticed is that the most successful ones all seem to have a certain je ne sais quoi (I don’t know what) – a spark of creativity that sets them apart from the rest.
Because of this, I was very intrigued when I heard about Steve Vai’s theory of music, which suggests that you need a combination of technical proficiency and creativity to create truly great music. I realised that the same thinking applies if you want to achieve success in business.
We need to allow our creative energy to flow through us, but we also need the skills to channel that creativity.
Let me break it down for you.
The Importance of Technical Proficiency in Small Business and Entrepreneurship
To succeed in business, you should have a good grasp of the fundamentals. That includes everything from financial management to marketing to operations, this will result in harmonious small business success.
Think of it like learning to play an instrument. You can’t just pick up a guitar and start shredding like Steve Vai overnight (if only). You must understand the foundations – how to hold the instrument, ensure it’s pitch-perfect, and learn how to play basic chords – then you can move on to more advanced techniques. Sweep-picking is NOT for the faint-hearted.
Similarly, in business, you should understand the basics before innovation begins. You need to know how to balance your books, master the art of attracting and retaining customers, understand marketing strategies, and effectively deliver your product or service. So, how do you put that into practice?
Strategies for Improving Technical Proficiency:
- Take courses or read books on business fundamentals
- Seek out mentorship from experienced business owners or coaches
- Attend workshops or conferences on business best practices
- Join local business associations or networking groups
- Conduct market research to gain a better understanding of your customers and competition
The Value of Creativity for Small Business Growth and Success
But technical proficiency alone won’t make your business stand out. That’s when creativity is needed.
Think of it like adding your own flair to a cover song. Sure, you could play the music exactly like the original, note for note, and it would still sound good. But to make it great, you must add your unique spin. You need to add personality and style to the performance.
Similarly, in business, creativity sets you apart from the competition. It makes your product or service unique and appealing to your customers: and will help you build a brand that people remember and come back to again and again.
Strategies for Cultivating Creativity and Success:
- Encourage brainstorming sessions with your team
- Attend conferences or workshops on creativity and innovation
- Take breaks and allow yourself time to recharge and daydream
- Draw inspiration from other industries or creative fields
- Experiment with new marketing strategies, products, or services
A Story of Technical Proficiency and Creativity in Action
Let me give you an example of how technical proficiency and creativity can work together to make a business truly pop.
Mark was in his late 30s with three kids and big dreams. He was the CEO of the family business, which had been operating for about 30 years. His family were engineers (not overly business-minded), but they managed to grow a reasonably successful company. Mark was a shareholder along with his father, uncle and brother.
His business goals were super-focused on financial improvement. His end game was to be 100% owner and dramatically grow the company.
Here’s how it went…
First, we focused on getting a good handle on the numbers and improving technical proficiency. I helped Mark understand the basics of running his business, including financial management, marketing, and operations
We worked on streamlining the business operations, improving workflow, and addressing team issues. By laser-focusing on improving technical proficiency, we stabilised cash flow and created a solid foundation for growth.
Next, we turned our attention to creativity and revenue growth. We helped Mark develop a solid marketing plan, including recommendations such as customer visits, directory placement, Google ad words, proactive referral strategies, frequent customer touch points, website content, SEO, and direct mail with phone follow-up. By carefully adding their unique flair to the marketing strategies, we helped their business stand out from competitors.
Throughout the process, I emphasised the importance of slow and steady progress rather than swinging for the fences. The result? Mark not only survived the competition but also thrived. He gradually grew his business, eventually leading to a successful buyout of the other family shareholders.
In Mark’s journey, the application of Steve Vai’s theory highlights the importance of balancing technical proficiency and creativity in business. However, it is crucial to note that as your business expands, the skills required to manage it also change.
As you move from a small business owner to a CEO of a larger enterprise, you may need to develop new skills such as leadership, delegation, strategic planning, and more. It is essential to recognise when you have reached this point and to invest in yourself and acquire these skills or hire the right people who possess them.
Remember, the right skills are critical to running a business successfully. No matter the size. So never be afraid to learn and evolve with your business.