The ArchVIZ BIZ – Growing a Studio : The Culture
We covered Art & Technology and now it’s time to grow your business too! First and foremost you need to decide whether or not you want to grow and then make a plan for it. Maybe you’ve been freelancing a while and you have now decided to add some help. Or maybe, after a decade or more of flying by the seat of your pants, you see some areas that need fixing and are looking for a way to get things back on track. Whatever the case, the solutions to your issues will likely lie in three main competencies: Culture, Finance, and Client Management. Today I cover Culture.
Although wrapping your head around these subject can involve a huge learning curve, it doesn’t mean you should give up and cast these competencies aside.
These are important areas for a successful business, and here’s a little secret or tip for you… You don’t have to be the one with these skills. Hiring individuals that excel in these skills could be a great option too. No one is Superman! You can’t be good at all things all the time and do everything.
Just look below and think what if?
Culture is the cornerstone of every organization.
Deep down, it stems from the organization’s “Why?”.
It’s not something we creative types like to talk about that often. We like to just let everything “be cool” and “happen naturally”. That can work for a while. When you’re a small tight knit crew, I’d say up to 6 people, it’s easy. You’ll all know each other intimately and likely be spending countless hours together. If someone doesn’t fit in, you will know right away. Once you get beyond that, you need to start actively defining and managing your culture.
Your culture will dictate the stories that people tell about your organization throughout the industry. If you don’t define and promote it, others will do it for you – whether their version is accurate or not!
On the flip side, by defining your culture, not only do you strengthen your existing organization, you also start attracting like-minded people who will seek you out. Talent will naturally seek you out because your values align with theirs. It will also help to attract clients who see the world through a similar lens.
Need a good example?
I guesstimate most of you know who they are without a mention.
Internally, culture can drive progress in your studio. By actively promoting attributes like accountability and learning, you can create a self-directed and progressive team that grows organically. By promoting values like openness and transparency, you will be able to communicate more easily with your team and clients alike, driving better results.
In our case at Norm Li, we live by the motto “Always Better”. That’s not to say that we are the best; it means that no matter how good we are today, there is always room for improvement in some area of our process.
How you define your culture is up to you. At the very least, you should be aware of your culture even if you don’t want to take the time to define and shape it. The first place to look is the leadership team. A studio will model the behavior and actions of its leadership not necessarily because they agree, but because they see it as the accepted practice.
But just as people can change, so can a studio’s culture. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, or can’t see it at all, I’d highly recommend picking up “Change The Culture, Change The Game” or “HBR 10 Best – Teams”. They are but 2 of many books written on the subject; they are pretty easy reads even for a guy like me (it takes me 2 years on average to read a book).
Ronen highly recommends you watch this TED video by Simon Sinek
Culture is a major driver of longevity for any organization. Ignore it, and it may eat you alive. But if you take the time to shape and build it, you can have a self-manged studio that grows on its own.
A great way to accelerate the implementation of your culture is to make it visible; for longer term viability, publishing a strategic plan for your team is important. By writing down your charter, you can refer to it when you feel like you’re heading down the wrong path. And by publishing a strategic plan, you can make decisions based on where you want to be headed.
This higher level of thinking will give your team a much clearer path as they go about their daily tasks.
Cultural development is largely focused on your team and their needs. However, what many may fail to realize is the need for founders to work on their own development. Making decisions in a vacuum is not very productive.
Think of how your team operates – They get to bounce ideas off you and their peers all day long. But founders often have no one to bounce their ideas off of.
Yes, a good founder will always be open to communicating and collaborating with their team, but let’s face it: some of the business decisions and initiatives they deal with may not be intended for the ears of their team.
A great option for founders is joining a peer to peer entrepreneur organization. I personally belong to TEC (aka Vistage), but there are plenty of other options out there. These types of organizations give business owners from different industries a platform to gather monthly and learn from each other. I can’t say enough about being a member of TEC/Vistage.
Culture is a major driver of longevity for any organization. Ignore it, and it may eat you alive. But if you take the time to shape and build it, your team will have the confidence and knowledge to manage the day to day operations, leaving you with more time to plan the future of your business.
If this all sounds a bit over the top, that’s OK. It’s not for everyone. It all depends on where you want to take your team in the future. If this is outside your comfort zone but is something you want for your team, there are plenty of organizational and leadership consultants out there that can help you through it.
A quick search on the web for “leadership consulting” will yield many results. Find the one that’s right for you.
Part 1 - Starting a Studio : Art Part 2 - Starting a Studio : Technology Part 3 - Growing a Studio : Culture Part 4 - Growing a Studio : Finance Part 5 - Growing a Studio : Client Management