Structuring a Jellyfish

If you are into marine biology, this post may disappoint, because it is not about jellyfish. Its about trying to organise something that does not have a lot of inbuilt structure and seems wobbly and floppy and out of control. Its about my experience of the early stages of starting a business.

Recently I have been feeling a longing for a return to a more organised existence, as being at home working out how to start a business is a very unstructured activity. Rather than run back into the workforce, I thought I would try to find a way to build in a bit of structure for myself. The challenge here is that I want to stay true to the principles I have been exploring, such as following my intuition and going with the flow, ie putting my effort where my interest lies. This means I am not just going to jump in with a whole heap of plans, lists and schedules to make myself feel like I am doing something.

Rather than structure my time using a fixed schedule, I have decided to structure my thinking around certain key roles that I will need to fulfill to start a business sucessfully. At the moment I have three key roles, and a floater. The key roles are Creative Artist, Business Manager, and Advertising and Promotions Role. The floater is Learner, which applies to all aspects of all of the other three. This approach was influenced by a post from Tara Mohr on the 99U website called Is An Inner Argument Holding Back Your Productivity where Tara outlines three roles that she draws on to perform her work.

The Creative Artist role is where all the excitement is, its the one that has the vision and the goals and the passion etc for the actual work. This is the primary role of any business venture, because without it, there is nothing to offer. When I am in this role I am thinking about what I am going to do and how I am going to do it in a creative and free flowing way.  The Business Manager role works out the finances and insurances, sets up a system for organising and filing information and sorts out the IT needs from a practical point of view, such as security and backups. The Advertising and Promotions Role is about taking the ideas of the Creative Artist Role and putting it into a form that clients can understand and be drawn to. Its about linking the concept with other people in the outside world in ways that that the Creative Artist can feel comfortable with, and doesn’t freak out the Business Manager.

Each day I think about which role is needed for the tasks that are coming up as the next step, and also, which role is prominent. For example yesterday, as I was meeting the accountant, I needed to get into the Business Manager role. That role stuck with me all day an I managed to make great progress on insurance issues as well. Today I could only get as far as printing out the insurance quotes because the Business Manager role has evaporated, and I really just want to get on with writing the blog. Thats OK because I have three quotes and can accept them very quickly if a paying client emerges. I don’t need to force myself into that business role while my creativity is running high.

I find the role concept useful because it allows me to be aware of the different skills, behaviours and mindsets that I need to move forward, while being aware that I am not going to be switched on to all of them at the same time. It allows me to capitalise on my practical organiser mood when the energy is up, and settle into the creative role when it is running hot. It also means that if I have a meeting or deadline and I need to get into a certain role quickly, I can think about what is required and switch my way of operating to suit the situation.

So far, this approach is giving me a better sense that I have a grip on what I need to do. I can see myself making progress on different fronts at different times. As long as each role gets the amount of attention it needs to move forward, I think I will be OK.

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