We are all endowed with unique talents. Some of us are lucky enough to helm businesses that rely on these gifts and abilities. If you’re a solopreneur or a small business owner with a company that owes its success, largely, to your personal talent or skillset, consider modeling your business like a fashion house.
What does that mean? Well, imagine Diane Von Furstenburg or Tom Ford or Valentino. Their brands exist to nurture the extraordinary talent of one individual — the visionary, the designer, the creative force. Without these creative titans, their companies would not exist. Therefore, their businesses are structured entirely and necessarily around them.
Structuring your business so that it revolves around your talent should not conjure up images of the CEO diva, who jets off to St. Barts while her staff slaves away around the clock. It’s also not about being the CEO martyr who takes on everything himself so that he ends up exhausted and overwhelmed.
Every fashion house has its creative guru, and these masterminds get what they need to perform at an extremely high level. Running your business as if you were Valentino may seem like an egotistical approach, but this business model is actually about harnessing the most talent for your company in a way that’s practical and sustainable.
Here are the two main practical considerations that define the structure of the fashion house:
Use Your Talent — If your talent is what you’re selling, your business should be built around that talent. Put yourself in the center of the organization and build the business around you. Stick with what you’re great at and assign other necessary tasks to staff members. Don’t delegate the work that only you are uniquely qualified to do to others who don’t possess your talent. That will diminish your product. If you’re helming a tech startup, and your true talent is coding, build around that. Hire a partner who can envision the next killer app, and be the one to code it into being. Don’t take on too many business or managerial tasks if this isn’t where you shine. Recognize what you’re good at and also what you’ll need set up around you in order to grow a successful business. Fill those roles with highly capable people. If you own a boutique app development shop and you’re the idea engine, team up with finishers who can turn your brilliant ideas into compelling products. You should be generating the ideas, because you’re the best at it. You have a natural and most likely very well-honed talent for it that’s difficult to duplicate. The same applies if you’re a skilled designer, executive coach or facilitator – you’re selling your talent, so the business must be run in a way that ensures your talent is nurtured, consistent, growing and available.
Get Your Needs Met — You’re at the center of your business. Your “brand” is the name on the door of the fashion house. Everyone is relying on you, so the success of your business requires that you take care of yourself. Put yourself and your needs first to avoid burnout and depletion. All too often, business owners think of the business first, ignoring their own needs, slaving away, allowing their customers to dictate their lives and eventually resenting the company they founded. Some even neglect to go on vacations, toiling away while their lives pass them by. Many end up overwhelmed and exhausted. If you’re the “talent,” then you need to be happy, healthy, present and responsive, otherwise your enterprise will not thrive. Your gym time, yoga practice and other self-care are tantamount to business meetings or company requirements. Don’t think of these things as afterthoughts that you sometimes fit in when you have free time. If you’re worn down, the business will be worn down too. If you’re exhausted, then you can’t run the business. Vacation, sleep, recuperation, self-care, exercise, nutrition, family time, relationships- these are all part of the equation if you’re committed to yourself and the success of your company. Of course, your customers are important. You need to respect and treat them with loving care, but don’t prioritize their needs over your own. You must take care of yourself. Some people call this view the “Golden Goose” theory. I prefer to use the fashion house metaphor because choosing to take care of yourself shouldn’t feel like a fairy tale. It’s a necessary aspect of long-term business success that we can model for each other and those who work for us. Your staff will rely on your good leadership. Create a culture that fosters self-care and you’ll find that your business is sustainable because your staff is nurtured and happy.
Harness your talent, get your needs met, and model this for your staff. You’ll create an environment where you feel happy and nurtured, so you can bring all your skills and enthusiasm to the work. Build the business around your talent and watch it flourish.
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