Tag: Small business strategy

The Hidden Key to Creativity

unlocking abundance

The fourth and final part in the series on finding abundance in every corner of your business:

Creativity is an ethereal thing. Though business magazines laud it, and CEO’s magnify its glory, it will not be contained. We all want more of it, but whenever we have it, we cannot seem to keep it in the box, even if we sit on the lid. Even as we believe we have achieved the perfect recipe to attract it and keep it, it vaporizes like a spirit into the dark night. Grasp it by force, and it will elude you.

If I could only order it from Amazon, with that two-hour delivery thing. I would have it delivered just when I needed it most. (“I’ll take an extra large case. And please, set me up with a Dash Button.”) Upon receipt, I would carefully inspect the contents. No, I lied. That is not how it would go. I would watch for the truck, and as soon as the driver put his big toe onto my driveway, I would yank the box from his hands, and wildly thrash open the box like a kid at Christmas to peer inside. What would I see? What exactly is it? Bear with me. With my intellect, you may not be able to understand this highly scientific definition:

Creativity is the ability to look at a bunch of existing stuff and imagine new stuff. It is not in the box. It is in me. I have to find it within my own soul. Creativity remixes, refines, reworks, reforms, and reconnects old dots to create new pictures.

So what are the souls of highly creativity people like? Creative people go boldly where no man has gone before. They travel fearlessly to alien places for opportunities to explore new mental landscapes. They have the right stuff.  But what is this right stuff? Must you be artistic? Brave? Highly educated? Do they have a large financial reserve? No, no, no, and no. The answer may surprise you.

Highly creative people are thankful people.Their hearts are filled with gratitude. Here is how Gratitude opens the door to Creativity:

Gratitude gets you outside your own head. Grateful people are not self-absorbed. They pay attention to others and find inspiration in other people. When their creative commodity is running low, they move into an environment of makers and creative people. Creativity begets creativity. It fuels and inspires their work.

Gratitude makes you more observant. Grateful people retain their sense of wonder. Have you ever had a day when you got to work and somehow did not remember getting there? Routine can and digress into boredom–unless we work to retain a spirit of wonder. Unless we shake things up, we can lose our sense of awe and wonder. Do yourself a favor. Break your routine today. Take a different route to work tomorrow. No one can be creative when they are bored. Gratitude causes you to look at things as if for the first time. The little things are the big things. The simple things that we often overlook are the profound things.

Gratitude gives you a sense of well-being. One of the biggest barriers to creativity is a lack of confidence and fear of taking risks. Creativity requires energy. No one can be creative if you are in a state of worry. When we are just surviving the business jungle day by day, we will have little reserve left for artistic endeavors, or to expand our intellect. We will not be able to play. Play is a catalyst of creativity. Gratitude helps us to lighten up and to celebrate the serendipity right under our noses. Grateful people are focused on what they have, rather than what they do not have. Because of this, they do not miss opportunity. Because they are focused on the positive, their ability to see and connect new dots is enhanced. Gratitude also helps you sleep better. A rested brain is a creative brain. 

Gratitude is the key element in the primordial soup from which all good ideas emerge. By focusing on all that is true, and good, and beautiful, we can expand our own horizons.

Want to unlock the door to an abundance of creativity in your life? This Holiday Season, try some common gratitude. It is available to anyone: rich, poor, educated, brave, or not. It is medicine for your head, your heart, your soul, and the eternal kid inside.

We take this opportunity to wish everyone a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season, filled with awe and childlike wonder. We are thankful for every person who reads our blog.

When we count our blessings this year, we will be counting you.


This is the fourth and final part of the Unlocking Abundance series. If you liked this article, you may enjoy Parts 1, 2, and 3 here:

Part 1: Unlocking Abundance

Part 2: The Most Underrated, Unexploited, & Unexplored Advantage in Small Business

Part 3: How to Fuel Your Entrepreneurial Fire

Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about your business strategies?  Because no matter how beautiful we make your visuals, your graphics will never make more sense than the clarity of your own vision. The clearer your target, the more lucid your marketing will be, and the better connection you will create with your visual graphics. We want to help you become the best you can be. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer. 


How To Fuel Your Entrepreneurial Fire

unlocking abundance

Youth, enthusiasm, and a little bit of knowledge are powerful narcotics. Without the energy of youth very little would get accomplished in this world. This high-level kind of motivation is never a bad thing–not even if it is the self-interested kind. But when it comes to sustaining a small business, self-interested kind of motivation is of less value. Such energy will get a business launched, but it will never sustain. 

Many new enterprises begin with youthful exuberance. Entrepreneurs are anxious to be in charge of the whole show and have it their way. They talk of a desire to make the customer happy. But the customer’s happiness does not necessarily come first.

Motivation in business is a balancing act for sure. No one will sustain business for long if they hate the work, even if people beg them to do it. But even if you love love love what you are doing, and even after you have shelled out your life savings for your startup investment, no one has to love love love your product. Just because you build it does not mean they have to come. There has to be a good reason for them to come. And that is where self-interest can back-fire.

Plain and simple, you will never sustain business if the customer does not come first. The best customer service happens when we stop long enough to figure out–not what we want–but what the customer wants. Which would mean you have to stop thinking about your own plans for a minute and start thinking about someone elses plans. Which would mean you would have to start thinking about how fortunate you are if someone, anyone, walks through your door in the first place. It is called gratitude. Yes, Gratitude is the best foundation for sustained business.  

Which is why I have a bone to pick with some of the motivational programs out there. I remember going to a few conferences and paying good money for some of this less-than-stellar advice. I have been in rooms packed full of entrepreneurs and managers and leaders when all of a sudden the trainer’s voice gets all sing-songy. He instructs us to close our eyes and imagine ourselves on a beach, lying on a comfortable chaise lounge. We have our favorite beverage with the little twirly umbrella in our hands. We are to imagine the waves lapping at our feet and feel the imaginary sand under our toes. It is a good imaginary life. I have no problem with goal setting. It is good to know what success looks like and feels like and even smells like. Visualization has been an important technique for a very long time. You have to be able to imagine where you want to go before you can get there. So I am not against using imagination, except where it is self-focused. A self-focused technique causes you to imagine that your business is all about you and what you want. Believe me, it is not.

Without a vision to make life better for someone else, you will see each customer as only a means to an end, and as fuel for your personal economic engine. You will forget that they, like yourself, have dreams and plans to sit on a beach as well. You will forget that it is your job to design the perfect product for them–not to make your world convenient for you. Without customer focus, you will discount those who do not automatically recognize your product’s high value and worth, rather than accept responsibility for the perception. If the product’s value is not obvious, you have not done your job, either to a) make it all it claims to be, or b) to make the value obvious. Without customer focus, you will forget that your customers have something to give to you besides their money. They have things to teach you. They will teach you how to conduct a better business. If you listen to them, they will help you improve your product. They can even become your friends–if you will only stop to see them as something more than big data.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, making your business all about me is one of the quickest ways to find yourself disillusioned with business. Your employees will be disillusioned as well. They will figure out all too quickly that production is the only measure stick of their worth. Employees who feel appreciated as persons will work harder for you. Customer service will come naturally to them because they will desire to understand the mission. 

Gratitude will improve all your business relationships. Making your business all about others is the only path to fulfillment in business. Rich and lasting satisfaction comes from creating relationships, from building an idea that is bigger than yourself, and from creating a vision that will outlast you. If people come first, and a valuable product second, profit will follow naturally as a result.  If the order is reversed, even if you profit financially, you will not truly have profited at all. True Profit begins with love and ends in gratitude.

It seems counter-intuitive. Want to make sure your own fire never goes out? Throw logs on someone elses fire. This Thanksgiving, calculate your bottom line by the number of solid relationships you have built over the lifetime of your business. Find the true mission of your business in serving others with Gratitude.

 “The man who gives much will have much, and he who helps others will be helped himself.” Proverbs 16:25


Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about your business strategies?  Because no matter how beautiful we make your visuals, your graphics will never make more sense than the clarity of your own vision. The clearer your target, the more lucid your marketing will be, and the better connection you will create with your visual graphics. We want to help you become the best you can be. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.

Be Afraid (Then Make It Work For You) Part II

be afraid (then make it work for you)

Part II- It’s Alive!

Many entrepreneurs have an uneasy relationship with fear. No matter how mature we believe we are, that uneasy feeling is still the same emotion we felt at age three–the feeling that something is lurking under the bed. It is ready to grab us. We just know it. When we were small, we listened intently while our Dad explained over and over that there were no monsters under the bed. He explained to us in simple terms how our thinking was completely irrational. Those explanations were a poor monster repellent. We knew the monsters were still there. It was the day we grew impatient, got up, and verified for ourselves that there was nothing under the bed, that we left irrationality behind.

On the path to entrepreneurial greatness, fear is a given. Fear is normal and healthy, and should not be avoided. (See last weeks post!) We should not fear fear. What we should fear is staying under the covers.

Come on out. Let me tell you a story about the scariest kind of monster that hides under your bed:

Once upon a time there was a lady named Jane. Jane was weary of cubicle land. She had a boss from the black lagoon. It was all Jane could do to keep herself in her swivel chair from 9-5 each day. One day Jane had an idea. She would escape! She had long entertained the idea of starting her own business and decided to make a run for it! She gave her notice and decided–due to her sense of urgency–that she would create her business plan on the fly. The good news is that friends and family stepped up to supply her first sales. The bad news is that within a few months, those same friends wearied of the sense of obligation. Sales slumped. But good news! Jane took a sales course, and pulled out of the slump! She hired help. The bad news was she never wanted to work in HR, and found the whole employer thing difficult. But rehiring was even worse because she had to do double the work when the first help did not pan out. But the good news is her new assistant brought in new sales. Jane hired more people to fill the orders while she went out to get even more sales. But the bad news is Jane began to experience high levels of stress. She was becoming the very boss from the black lagoon that she had tried to escape. A little while later, a competitor moved into town with a hot new product and took more than half her sales. She rebounded by taking out some ads in the local paper. But she felt she had no choice: she began to take on sales that were outside her forte in order to make payroll. It was either that or lay off her best help. Unfortunately, people liked her work, and she started getting more of the work that she did not like to do. The sad ending to Jane’s story is that her new business was not her happily ever after after all. She had created and fed her own monster. And now, all she could think about was how to escape.


 Jane’s entrepreneurial path looked like Exhibit A:

jane's path

Now let me tell you another story.

John started business with a decided goal. He knew his mission in life. He knew his strengths. He knew what kinds of things tripped his curiosity, and he continually sought them out to learn more. John never sat still, and was always seeking the next opportunity. And he found it. Or rather, it found him. And John was ready for it. But when someone asked John to sell out and come to work for them instead, John said no. Even though he would make a lot more money, he knew that it was better to stay focused on his vision. His vision had greater potential.  John knew that if you do not follow your heart and your vision, you will never get the bigger picture.


Johns path to success looks more like Success in Exhibit B . 

path to success

Our job is not to collect dots. We are to connect the dots. Do you think creating a Vision Statement is only a rhetorical exercise? Exhibit A and B should clearly illustrate why it is not. The thing entrepreneurs should fear the most is not having a point, a purpose, or a trajectory to your work. The business with a purpose will eventually find the big picture, even if they take three steps forward and two back.

The scariest type of monster of all is to fall short of your true calling, your true purpose, and your true destiny. Get out from under the covers. The day that you are brave enough to look under the bed, your monsters will flee, and you will find your sweet spot.

And you will prove yourself very very brave indeed.


Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about your business strategies?  Because no matter how beautiful we make your visuals, your graphics will never make more sense than the clarity of your own vision. The clearer your target, the more lucid your marketing, and the better connection from your visual graphics. We want to help you become the best you can be. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.

The Secret Life of Entrepreneurs- Part 5

the secret life of entrepreneurs

Part V- When All is Said and Done

“Oh teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to Wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

If you have heard it said once, you have heard it one thousand times. At the end of life, no one ever wishes they had spent more time at the office. On that day, everyone wants to cram more life in life.

A life filled with meaning does not happen by default. If we want to have more life in life, we must define living. Then we must live our definition, day by day, moment by moment. We cannot cram for it, or reclaim it later. Time is now. Time is the stuff of life. Time is all we have.

Sure every entrepreneur sacrifices periods of time to achieve a goal. But if your business is consuming all your moments like a ravenous wolf, do not be fooled. Success is living a whole life, or it is nothing at all. Do not allow your business to suck the marrow from your bones.

Your business is on a trajectory. Project it out another five years. If things stay the just as they are today, where will you be? We work hard to create a vision that clarifies the final goals of our enterprise.

Have you ever created a vision statement for your life?

What does success look like to you? Forget about what your Mom thinks it should be. Forget about the standard definitions of business gurus blabbing about sales projections. What does it mean to you? Wealth is not money. Health is not limited to the human frame. Happiness is not having everything you want. It goes much deeper than all that. Having everything means nothing if you have no time to enjoy it.

All entrepreneurs, especially successful ones, have a tendency to get sucked into the same black hole of work, work, and more work. It is hard to climb back out. Your life is more than work.

Here are some ways to reverse the vortex and put more life back in your life: 

Don’t become numb to the stress levels. Stress and small business go together. Not all stress is bad, and some is indeed good. If you cannot make payroll, the stress is valid. Stress can also mean you are stretching and growing and becoming. But when the Geiger-counter of life is constantly going off, indicating toxic levels of stress every day of the week? That means your schedule is not aligned with your values. Time to stop and re-calibrate. When your schedule reflects your values, your Geiger-counter shuts up.

Don’t get in the habit of working so hard that you forget to ask if you should be doing the work at all. Entrepreneurs are ready and willing to work hard. Robert Terson’s blog recently featured The Story of an Ant. The author watches an ant struggle to get a large feather across the paving, maneuvering over the cracks and obstacles only to find out that his prize did not fit down the hole of the anthill. He had spent much time and effort, only to abandon the prize. We can be like that ant–forgetting to make sure our efforts are worth doing in the first place. 

Don’t become a prisoner of habit. Some entrepreneurs get so entrenched swabbing the deck that they miss the port. It is so easy for an entrepreneur just to work, and work, and miss opportunities to grow and expand their life. Sure, you have a lot invested. Sure, you might make a mistake. You also might miss your true calling. Try something new. You will never keep your creative streak by missing out on life, and ideas will not wait around for you. Shake up your schedule, get off your boat, and go looking for them.

Don’t get so focused on problem-solving that you miss the solution.  Never forget that problems can overshadow the goal. Say for example your car breaks down. If you are focused on the problem, you focus on getting it fixed. If you focus instead on the goal–of getting to that important meeting–you might call a cab or a friend instead, and keep your appointment. Keep your eyes on the goal and you will always find another way. Focus on the problems, and you will miss the solution standing right in front of you.

Don’t take your life for granted. Create a vision statement for life. Work backward from the end of your life, just as you do when setting a business goal. Imagine you could trade places for a moment with a person who has just learned that they have six months left to live. Not a pleasant thought, I know. And yet, I almost envy that person, if only for a brief moment. Why? Because I have always struggled with getting my ducks in a row. My ducks are always running around in circles. It is hard to discern which duck should come first when they all seem equally important. People who have just learned they have a terminal illness have immediate clarity about their own ducks. A life sentence is the fastest way to know what is truly important in life. Immediately the cream of life rises to the top, and all else sinks to the bottom. People who know their time is limited do not waste time. Now, imagine if we could gain that kind of insight without having a terminal illness. What are the important things in your life? If they are not part of your life now, they may never be. Because guess what? We all have a limited amount of time on earth.

When all is said and done, what do you want people to be able to say about your life? If we want to live a life that matters, we have to define what matters.

Don’t get to the end of your life and find out that you allowed your business to keep you from fully living it.


This is the fifth and final part of The Secret Lives of Entrepreneurs Series. Did you like it? You can read the rest here:

Part I- And Then You Take Yourself to Work

Part II- The Care and Feeding of the Entrepreneur

Part III- Working Well With Others

Part IV- Taking the Bull by the Horns

Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about the way you manage your business?  Because your graphics will always reflect your internal management. The clearer your vision, the more lucid your marketing, and the better your visual graphics. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.