How can your business be more creative in 2019?

Simon Ellis | January 7, 2019

Time to read: 5 mins

When was the last time you changed accountant? In fact, how many times have you changed accountant, ever?

Would you change accountant every time you took on new staff? Or every time your tax return needs doing? I would think not.

How about your IT provider? Do you change them often? Probably not either.

What about your bank? Even in an age where we are being actively encouraged to shop around banks for better deals, most of us still don’t. Apparently, in the UK we’re more likely to get a divorce than leave our banks.

What unites these three examples is how important continuity is to what we get from the service. By ‘continuity’, I mean something along the lines of ‘having historical, current and cumulating knowledge, data or insight of a customer’, and it’s so important it often overrides whether we feel satisfied with a service, whether we feel we’re getting value for money, or even if it is consistent with our personal ethics.

Continuity is so important that I’m willing to allow one foot of my soul to stand in a muddy puddle to maintain it

There are of course, negative aspects to being ‘bound’ to a supplier by the desire to maintain continuity; in terms of changing my bank account, even if I know it’s now easier than ever to do so, do I really want to go through the process of changing my debit and credit cards, learning new PIN numbers and updating myriad monthly payments to my new details? No, it’s a pain in the ass. But in the meantime I know I bank with a global behemoth with the ethics of Gordon Gekko (IMDB link for you youngsters out there). Continuity is so important that I’m willing to allow one foot of my soul to stand in a muddy puddle to maintain it.

But I want to focus on the positive benefits of continuity. I’m not saying changing an accountant isn’t also a pain in the ass – there’s all those file boxes and then there’s the paperwork, and HMRC, and there’s never an easy time to do it, etc etc etc… But we stay with good accountants because they know where we’ve come from, they know our businesses, they know our customer bases, they know our market pressures and they know what we aspire to do. They know where we want to go so they can plan for scalability and inform our financial strategy.

It’s similar for decent IT providers isn’t it; they know all about our business, how we’ve grown, what sort of IT our activity requires, and also where we want to go in the future, so we can build in scalability and plan our IT strategy.

Continuity enables the efficient resolution of emergent problems, the capitalisation of unexpected opportunities, and appropriate planning for the future. Continuity underlines partnership working, responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency. But although we value it innately for some services, continuity is less appreciated in others. Design is often one of them. And that’s a mistake.

A fresh-look-with-fresh-eyes-in-pursuit-of-a-fresh-perspective is what the design process is all about

I think because ‘creativity’ or ‘innovation’ is associated with the conjuring of the ‘new’, a common mindset towards creative services is that it doesn’t matter if it’s bought in ad hoc to solve an isolated issue, project or brief. Indeed, in the interests of advancement, continuity might be regarded as an obstruction to the goal: we want a ‘fresh look’, a ‘new pair of eyes’ or a ‘different perspective’.

My argument is that you should already be getting those things with the right creative partner. A fresh-look-with-fresh-eyes-in-pursuit-of-a-fresh-perspective (while preserving the brand) is what the design process is all about, and for every stratum of a brand’s engagement with its stakeholders; from top level branding to the powerpoint presentation. From website to staff newsletter. Every day of every week.

For an innovative business you need to make Design with a capital ‘D’ culture-deep, and to achieve that you need continuity in the way you work with your creative partners.

Am I saying we should simply roll our stoic British eyes and put up with poor but nevertheless longstanding service suppliers because, you know, ‘better the devil you know and all that’? Hell no. Get rid. What I am proposing is a change of mindset as to what you should be looking for from a creative service in the first place.

When we (EllisJames) went looking for a new accountant, we wanted someone we could meet face-to-face more regularly, who could hold our hands a bit, to guide us, educate and empower us – help us make the right decisions for our brand.

Which is exactly what you should also be getting from your Creative Support Services provider.

Have a wonderful 2019.

Thanks for reading!

Si Ellis