One morning on the walk to work an idea pops into your head. This, you think, This is it! Perhaps it's a book outline or a software fix. Maybe you have a new concept for modern transportation. Maybe it's something smaller: a new necklace design or the best way to rearrange your living room.
Great ideas often arrive unbidden, springing like Athena fully formed from your head. Unlike the mythical Goddess, those ideas do not take material form all by themselves. Bringing them to the realm of the real takes energy, focus and hard work.
As a company, we constantly grapple with this process. Over the years we have known failure and success, but along the way have learned some valuable lessons in what it takes to create. We find ourselves currently midway through a big creative project, and thought we'd take a moment to share a bit of our thinking on how to get things done!
Make a Plan
Last year our company went through an intense rebranding process (read this piece for more details). We had a vision of where we wanted to go, but no idea how to get there. Before we even met designers, Saskia and I sat down and talked through the whole year - when things would happen, who we would need, and in what order things should progress. We came up with a budget, a rough timeline, a general overview of who we needed to help us, and what areas we specifically wanted to focus on (website, packaging, logo). We knew from the start that even the best plans change midcourse, but just as with writing an essay, having an outline kept us on track.
Set Up Deadlines
Every good plan has a who, what and when. Timing is everything, and the only way to stay on track is by setting specific goals attached to specific dates and then keeping yourself and your team accountable to those deadlines. Whether Saskia is designing a new necklace line, we're opening a new shop, or a special newsletter is going out, having dates when parts are due keeps everyone on task. But it's equally important to be real about how much can be accomplished in a given amount of time. Set yourself and your team up for success! Make sure you can reach your goals and then celebrate each and every one.
Choose Your Team
No one is an island, and even the greatest ideators need others to lend a hand. Tapping the right combination of talents is paramount to success. Each year our company operates multiple holiday markets (last year we had four!) each with its own timeline and specifics. In order to make so much happen in so little time, we need a great time across a range of skills. I need help building the booths and loading them in. Saskia needs assistants to make the jewelry. We need a sales team with great managers. Finally we need operational and marketing staff to make sure it all flows together. Running a happy holiday season truly takes a village, and your project - whether rearranging furniture or launching the new app - will doubtless take the same.
Always Ask Why
You're six months in and suddenly you hit a snag. Perhaps it's an unconquerable tech issue. Possibly your team has lost their drive. Or maybe - just maybe - the real problem comes from within; sometimes you just feel lost. Pushing forward without a pause to ask the big Why? can make the problem even worse. I know, we've been there. Along with successes, we've had our share of challenges. At the start of this year, we hit the brakes and took a page from Marie Kondo. We looked around at everything in our business and personal lives and asked ourselves, Does this bring us joy? It was a revelation. Just by asking ourselves Why? we suddenly saw a new way forward. We made some changes both large and small that made the path forward so much clearer.
Trust Your Vision
I love the British motto, Stay Calm and Carry On. Bringing your idea into the world can feel like an ultra-marathon: the race just keeps on going. Sometimes self-doubt arises: will this work? can we make it? am I insane? A writer might hate the first draft. A painter could lose inspiration after the first sketch. As a business owner, sometimes you have to spend money you don't actually have. No matter what your medium, if you have the vision and you want to make it real, you have to trust yourself. Make a plan, set up deadlines, find good people and always keep asking why. But then, in the dark moments when the lights are off and you're staring at the ceiling, remind yourself of why you started. To succeed in anything big, you have to hold on and see it through. Like the early seafarers who explored beyond the horizon, find your guiding star, set your course and sail on till morning.