In one of our recent business-focused blog posts, we presented a case for growing your lifestyle business and how to generate more income from new hires instead of the alternative. If you took our advice, you might be in the thick of resumés, interviews, and onboarding new team members.
I’ve found that managing employees does not come effortlessly to everyone, and particularly to those of us in creative industries who have our own very specific vision of how our brand and business should operate. For most of us – we started as a one-woman show. Finding ways to delegate and effectively communicate your vision is one of the hardest parts of growing a business.
We have a General channel on Slack where everyone talks shop, shares silly GIFs and keeps it casual. Then I have a direct channel with each team member to discuss their projects. On Trello, we have a board per client project, where all log-ins, notes, drafts, and feedback are stored.
Before I started IDCO, I would have to send and resend emails to my boss for weeks before they were read, while still being instructed to not move forward without approval. It was a stressful, exhausting spiral. By having proofs sent through Slack, I can log in at my convenience, proof things quickly, leave any comments and move right along.
The number one thing I try to do is make sure I check in with everyone on the team, once a day. Dropping a simple hello on Slack lets them know I’m here for any questions, while also letting them know I’m watching, without micromanaging.
We don’t have any full-time employees at IDCO, only regular contractors. This gives us flexibility as a growing business, and more importantly, them flexibility as freelancers, mamas, and wives.
When a deadline is coming up, offer to help via direct message on Slack. Offer one or two tasks to help get the job done and see if they need anything. Nine times out of ten, they won’t need the help. But the offer is a gentle reminder that you’re waiting on the deliverables and you’re willing to put in the work to get the project across the finish line.
As you’re onboarding a new team member, or delegating a new task, do it once and record your screen while you do. You’ll have that saved for anyone moving forward, on a “how-to” channel on Slack. It’s easier for someone to follow along on a video than reading through Google instructions and you get a task done while you’re at it. Win-win.
My team never messes up. Ever. If something wasn’t completed or didn’t go according to plan, I come from an understanding that I failed to provide enough direction through the project. I work hard to treat my team with empathy and show them that their shortcomings are mine and together we’ll work through them. I NEVER want one of my girls to feel attacked, defensive or unworthy.
I’ve found that by approaching situations like this, the team is eager to step up and remedy the issue. They want me to succeed just as much as I do them. It’s a true team effort in a small creative startup!
I asked a few of my IDCO team members to share the benefits and challenges of working with a creative entrepreneur. We’ve invested a great amount of time refining our processes and routines so that we function better as a team, even with our very diverse job descriptions, schedules, and workloads. I hope our shared experience will give you some food for thought as you establish your own workplace culture!
Lauren Day, Accounts Manager: “One of the things that I really appreciate about Anastasia is that she 100% believes in her team. She is a strong support to anyone who needs it—she’ll step in at any time for any reason—but she’s also so good at stepping back and encouraging everyone to do their part their way. Stass has such a clear vision for IDCO and that helps all of us know how to do our jobs better.
I also really love that Anastasia values flexibility and empowers everyone at IDCO to work in a way that’s most efficient for them. I have a 6-month-old so I split my work day between naps and after my daughter goes to bed. Stass being so flexible allows me to continue to work in interiors and content creation and do it in a way that lets me choose time at home with my daughter first and foremost.”
Erin Lepperd, Editorial Manager: “Working for a creative entrepreneur means every day is different, which I love. Never a dull moment! IDCO is also a very collaborative environment and as a creative myself, I thrive in that atmosphere. It’s exciting and innovative and truly a team affair.
Anastasia is the most supportive boss I’ve ever had. That appreciation and encouragement she shows her team makes you want to go above and beyond for the brand.
Because we all work remotely and often in different time zones, finding time to knock out to-do lists can be challenging. The workaround is that Anastasia is always available on Slack for everything from a quick ask to a long brainstorm session.”
Lexi Parker, Designer: “In addition to my incredible clients at Revel Union, being the lead designer at IDCO allows me to grow faster, learn more, and be more creative for my clients than I ever could working alone. Right now, my business is a one-person operation, but having the IDCO team to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of is invaluable to me.
I feel like I have a unique perspective on Anastasia as a manager because I also own a small creative business myself, and a huge part of what I love about working with the IDCO team is getting to learn from her as a business owner and the methods by which she has grown her brand. It’s so fun to have a front-row seat and to be able to take so many valuable lessons into my own business.
In any business, there is room for improvement, but I think that the key to ongoing growth (and one thing Stass does exceedingly well) is hiring the right people for the job. Big problems are divided into small hurdles when your team is on the same page.”
Carmen Cristo, Copywriter: “I’ve worked as a professional writer my entire adult life, and have typically worked for less-creative types and have been fed the stereotype that creatives can’t manage people well, but working for Anastasia has done nothing but confirm my suspicions that that is false. I love working for someone who I feel understands and values my work. Anastasia is not only an incredibly creative designer and creator, but she brings that same problem-solving ability to processes, timelines, and administrative tasks.
I also appreciate how straightforward she is. When my work needs edits, she tells me. When it doesn’t, she is the first to compliment it. I like not having to read vague email subtext and I work better when I have honest feedback. Above all, I appreciate her trust in her employees. We all work on different schedules and in different timezones and she keeps up with all of us without micromanaging. That trust and flexibility allows me to be present with my family and work during hours that I set for myself.
One drawback of working remotely is missing out on engagement with your teammates—and I think maintaining those lines of communication is something we could all improve upon—but Stass recently created a group chat in Slack where we can toss around ideas or just chat about weekend plans and I think that’s the perfect first step towards creating more community.”
Lindsay Warden, Editorial Coordinator: “What I love about working for a creative entrepreneur—and specifically Stass—is how she never stops creating and dreaming up new ideas to not only expand her business but also to positively influence other small business owners to grow their own. I love that she is all about community over competition and is a huge cheerleader for everyone she works with. Working for a creative entrepreneur helped me tap back into my creative side that my desk job had totally distracted me from, and I’m so thankful for that!”
A few major takeaways: The best first step to being a good manager is making good hires. Once you hire the right people, trust them to do the job. And as with any industry—creative or otherwise—communication is key. Create channels for transparency, brainstorming, and even small talk with and amongst your team.
I’m still figuring out this manager gig, but it’s really rewarding to work on a team of like-minded people who believe in my vision and want to grow with me and my business.
For more info on creative business strategy, be sure to check out these posts:
The Identité Collective is a full-service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering bespoke branding, web design and social media content creation, we help brands built around beautiful living elevate their digital presence to represent the physical spaces they design. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.