Creative Leadership

Why You Need to Understand How Your Business Works

The last thing most of us creative types want to do is learn the business of anything. I want to create, and I’ve spent my adult career looking for a business partner to help me navigate the media industry. I’ve learned I won’t get very far if I don’t know how to make my creative dreams work in the real world.  Knowing how the publishing industry works won’t compromise your original idea, and it might open you up to insights about the marketplace and how to sell more books. The movie business isn’t much different. Lots of wannabe film producers and directors exist across the country and around the world. But how many have actually taken the time and made the effort to learn development, production, and distribution? Could having an agent help or hurt? What about a personal manager? Should I protect my ideas legally? There are a host of questions that need to be answered before anyone will seriously consider your idea.

In business, where are the conferences and seminars that would allow you to have a platform for your ideas? I’m involved on the planning teams for a number of major conferences, and I’m always astonished at the number of people who call me up a week before an event asking to speak. They may have something important to share, but don’t realize speaker schedules are locked in months—and sometimes years—before these events. Because they haven’t taken the time to learn how the business works, they don’t have a voice.

Stephen King understands how the publishing industry works.
Steven Spielberg understands the movie business.
Rick Warren understands how to lead a church.
Mark Zuckerberg understands social media.
Kobe Bryant understands the business of professional basketball.
And visionaries like Richard Branson have learned how to operate on multiple platforms and extend their influence across many different brands.

All are successful not simply because they have creative ideas and strategies, but because they know the business of how to turn those ideas into reality.


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  1. That`s a good advice and the reason why I started reading your blog =) Can you write something about fighting Procrastination or dealing with pressure? Or is this too far from your topic?

  2. Thank you so much for this eye opening post Phil. One of the challenges that we come across here in Africa where i live is that some people watch too much of foreign media, which mostly consists of Celebrities and successful man and women in the corporate world, who are interviewed for about 30 minutes elaborating their success stories. Now some people then run and try and be like Mark Zuckerberg in a short space of time, not knowing the amount of work he put in to be able to master Social Media. So most people want to take shortcuts in life, they don’t wont to go through the process of being eqquiped for every step. Lack of knowledge is why some businesses perish and don’t go far! No legacy mentality at all!

    1. That’s a great point Lee. The media international audiences see can skew their perspective on reality. I’d love to know more about what you’re doing in Africa…

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