12 October 2009

Creation Theory

Having a planning meeting with my staff a few weeks ago has really solidified our focus.

For me, it reaffirmed some assumptions on my part regarding the path I chose to follow about a year ago... by all accounts, we are on the right path.

Managing a creative company can be difficult. Sure, it's easy to keep staff interested and focused on work when there's fresh, creative projects coming through the doors consistently. Believe me, this is much easier said than done - creative projects are the holy grail in our business, it's what all creative people live for and they don't grow on trees. But, with an excellent reputation and a team of creative super-hero types, we should be able to make it happen. We are know highly sought after for such work.

But this is was not always the case. It took a lot of hard work from each and every one of our staff, doing jobs that included repeat orders, changes to existing work and the dreaded maintenance work. And, while these are all easy tasks, creative people need to be challenged mentally and stimulated visually or they get bored and lose interest.

Doing repetitive work and 'maintenance' type work can be lucrative, but is very tedious and uninspiring. In the case of web site maintenance, having us do the changes are a double edged sword - we don't want to do them and they are costly for us to do them (for the client in dollars and for us in time)


Over the last year, we have been slowly building the engine that will service a new focus for our clients - investing thousands of dollars into becoming experts in the Content Management System (CMS) known as Joomla!, social media marketing and customized PHP development. This enables us to move clients into a space where they can manage their own smart web sites - this means they no longer have to contact us to make changes and allow them to directly engage with their customers through the web site using a little thing called web two point oh.

Hiring a company to make a simple text change used to be necessary and expensive, this is no more. I always felt guilty about charging 15 minutes to do something that the client should be able to do in 2 minutes, but the reality was it would take us about 20-25 minutes to do a simple task like a text edit. We have to create a docket, schedule the work, explain the work to whomever was going to work on it, they would have to find the file, edit it, proof it, save it, upload it, back up the revision, close the docket, then off to someone else to invoice the customer. Maybe it wasn't so lucrative after all, but I digress.

We want to focus on creation, not maintenance. Sure, this means a loss of income for us from a maintenance standpoint, but it's better for both parties - the customer gets to make changes when they want and without incurring cost and we get to spend that newly freed up time to spend on new creative projects. Win, win.

Now, there are some drawbacks to having a customer manage their own sites from a content perspective - you see, after all is said and done, a web site is a marketing tool, and putting any tool in untrained hands can lead to an ineffective use of the tool. Companies that do well online typically have marketing focused people making the changes to their site or are selective in the information that they change.

For instance, a company should use their CMS to edit and update product information, staff and contact changes, and pricing - then rely on creative companies to do the copy writing and build the 'splash' pages that sell the brand - this combination will save money and keep the site 'on brand', 'on message' and on budget.

Maximize this powerful tool we call your web site - if you wouldn't ask your Assistant to the Temporary Human Resources Filing Clerk to edit your corporate brochure, why are you asking them to edit your site. (no offence to the assistant to the temporary human resources filing clerks, I couldn't do your job either!) Put the right tool in the right hands... unless of course, they are left handed - just be sure it's the right person doing the writing.

We will no longer enter into maintenance contracts with companies unless they are part of a project - meaning we are moving to a more project based and brand based business model. We have a great team at Francomedia and we want to grow with them, take on larger projects and have some fun in the process. This fresh approach along with our advanced skillset should help accomplish this.

This applies not just on the web side of things - nothing can kill the creative spirit quicker than working all week long on a series of business card ads with different phone numbers for each town they run in. Sometimes these things are necessary as part of a larger overall project, and we will oblige gladly, but we won't take that kind of work on all by itself.

At our planning meeting we talked about the type of work we wanted to pursue and the types of clients we want to work with. What it came down to was let's work on projects that are challenging and fun, for clients that are open to new ideas, respect our abilities and are fun to work with. Enjoyment is the number one reason I do what I do and what really drives our staff to do great things.

So, our new focus is on creative projects, not just any though - ones that we want.

Bottomline: we do world class creative work for world class clients - for we are a highly creative company and our only competitor is close mindedness.

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