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  • Writer's pictureJamie Gustafson

The Creative Leash: Unleashing Potential Through Process in Small Business

Updated: Jun 16

Processes are the mile markers on the road to efficiency, the organizers of our actions, and the invisible hand guiding us toward our objectives. They are, without a doubt, the unsung heroes of any sustainable business model. Yet, the word 'process' is often met with disdain. But what if I told you that's far from the truth? What if I told you that processes, when implemented thoughtfully, are the fertile grounds in which creativity can truly flourish?

Debunking Myths About Processes

Processes can be a frightening concept for small businesses. Entrepreneurs often equate them with bureaucracy, believing they will suffocate the spontaneity and freedom that come with running a small enterprise. However, the book I am currently engrossed in, 'Process!' by Mike Paton and Lisa González, systematically breaks down the misconceptions that have plagued the perception of processes in business.

Myth 1: Process Is Not in My Nature

The first falsehood dispelled is the notion that process is antithetical to the entrepreneurial spirit. The thought "I'm not a process guy" is often the armor worn by the creatives, the risk-takers, and the visionaries. However, process is not a one-size-fits-all straightjacket; it's a personalized roadmap that empowers individuals to be productive. Think less rigid bureaucracy and more individualized guidelines.

Entrepreneurs need to understand that processes can be as dynamic as the businesses they serve. They adapt to the company's evolutionary needs and the team's workflow, acting as a flexible framework within which creativity can thrive. By harnessing a process mindset, every project becomes an orchestrated dance, with each step facilitating the moves that lead to success.

Myth 2: Processes Take Too Much Time

Patience may be a virtue, but in the world of small businesses, it can often feel like a luxury. Entrepreneurial enterprises are fast-paced and adaptive by nature, and the idea of halting this forward momentum to create the processes appears counterproductive. However, this perception is a false economy.

Investing time in the present to establish efficient processes paves the way for exponential time savings in the future. It reduces rework, creates consistency, and provides clarity for team members. Think of processes as the infrastructure upon which immediate and long-term success is built.

Myth 3: Processes Destroy Freedom

Entrepreneurs cherish their autonomy, and rightly so, as it can be the vital spark behind unconventional solutions and groundbreaking ideas. The fear that processes will curb this freedom is perhaps the most pervasive. But consider for a moment how structure can lead to liberation.

An established process for routine tasks liberates the entrepreneur from the minutiae, freeing their time and energy to focus on the strategic elements that will propel the business forward. It's not about control; it's about channeling energy towards the areas where it's most needed.

The Bureaucracy Balancing Act

I spent a portion of my formative years in the military, an institution often synonymous with bureaucracy. Here, processes are not a luxury but a necessity. They are the means by which information is streamlined, decisions are made, and action is taken. I've seen firsthand that processes help teams through chaos when implemented correctly.

The Military Model of Operations

The military demands a level of order that would make many entrepreneurs shudder, but it is this very structure that enables the swift and strategic response required in times of upheaval. The chaos of battle does not wait for individuals to find their own methods. It demands a playbook, a set of battle-tested processes that have been refined over time.

I'm not advocating for the military's burdensome bureaucracy. Instead, I highlight the importance of discipline, preparedness, and responsiveness. In the business realm, these principles lay the foundation for execution, readiness for change, and the development of adaptable, responsive strategies.

It's about understanding resource allocation, setting clear goals, and ensuring every action serves its purpose. Tools and technologies have allowed entrepreneurs to tailor these principles to their specific needs without the rigidity that often comes to mind when thinking about processes.

In this context, bureaucracy is the antithesis of good process. Bureaucracy is about control for control's sake, while process is about liberation through structure. It's about knowing what needs to be done, how it should be done, and then giving the creative mind room to breathe and explore within those parameters.

The Path to Growth Through Good Process

Modern tools and technologies are making the path of good processes more accessible to small businesses. Software that once was the domain of large corporations is now at the fingertips of startups and SMEs, enabling them to do more with less. By digitizing repetitive tasks and leveraging data analytics for informed decision-making, entrepreneurs can focus on the aspects of business where human intelligence is truly irreplaceable - the creative, strategic, and interpersonal elements.

In essence, by understanding the merits of the process, small businesses can unlock their true potential. They can grow without losing touch with the entrepreneurial drive that birthed them. This efficient process allowed Apple to go from a garage in Los Altos to a technological titan and Pixar from a group of desperate young artists to a bastion of cinematic innovation.

The Future is Process

The process has often been viewed through a myopic lens of rigidity and bureaucracy. However, this perspective is outdated in our rapidly changing business landscape and hinders progress. In a world where adaptability is a currency, processes are the banks that store it. They are the mechanisms through which businesses can scale while maintaining the agility that is the hallmark of successful entrepreneurship.

For small businesses, the challenge lies not in avoiding processes but in adopting the right ones—agile processes that evolve with your business and ultimately liberate your team to do their best work. In this light, process is not the enemy of the small business; it is its ally—the very framework that allows the most vibrant and vigorous business flora to grow.

It is time for the small business world to rethink processes. To reimagine them not as anchors but as sails - whose taut lines propel us forward into an ocean of potential. Businesses that resist this reevaluation do so at their peril, for in the marketplace of the future, creativity and process will not be competitors, but co-conspirators in an ongoing saga of success.

Jamie sits with Client to discuss new Digital Product
Jamie sits with Client to discuss new Digital Product

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