These days, creating tools and services that empower people to broadcast their creativity is big business. Final Cut lets us make our own movies at home; Garage Band helps us make our own albums; and now Blurb, an online service that allows individuals to do affordable, small-scale print runs, allows us to publish and sell our own books.
We recently sat down with Blurb founder and CEO Eileen Gittins to talk about the unique needs of the creative community and the special demands of managing her own creative team (a task she likens to “herding cats”). To keep it simple, we’ve boiled the conversation down to five takeaways:
1. Build a staff that echoes your audience.
“The people who make books are creatively expressing themselves, and they’re very passionate no matter what the topic of their book. We need people who understand that, who are that. And who want to build products for those people.”
2. Hire passionate people who can fit in.
“We want a difference of opinion. We don’t want everyone to be the same: gender, age, race, personal proclivities. In all dimensions we need that. We look for: ‘Fit in, but standout.’”
3. Don’t pander to consensus, but make sure everyone is heard.
“The hallmark of creatives is that they have strong opinions…[But] we’re not consensus people. It’s not a democracy. Sometimes a call has got to be made, and that’s it. But it is always a question of making sure people’s voices are heard, so they feel like they made a contribution.”
4. Treat every new product feature like a mini business plan.
“We require a mini-business plan before a big new feature or product can even get to the table. And this can come from anywhere in the company… We really try to quantify the project: How big is it?” The company has regular “product road map sessions,” during which they hash out what will make it into the pipeline. But capacity is limited: “If something gets added, another thing comes off.”
5. Every business needs a good story.
“The story behind the story (or the book) is as important as the product itself. How are we going to support the creation of that story, and the telling of that story, and the sharing of that story, is a big story for [the company’s] future.”
***This post by J.K. Glei is based on research by the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.