Building The Creative Business

title: Building the Creative Business date: 2014-12-30 08:19:17

type: post

Building the Creative Business is a management course aimed at entrepreneurs operating within the creative industries. I attended at London Business Schoolwhere I learned about how to grow a business that is inherently complex and unpredictable due to the creative aspects involved. Ideas often don’t work, challenges arise in trying to sell an idea and implementing that idea is often fraught with problems.

Most new ventures fail within the first three years and most failures are related to poor management. The average life span of an entrepreneurial venture in this country is only 24 months. It’s at this point that a poorly conceived business strategy begins to ship water.  Building the Creative Business is an integrative programme that concentrates on the general management challenges facing founders and managers of creative businesses after the start-up.

The course asks the following questions

  • Is my vision realistic?
  • How am I actually going to do it?
  • Will it always be this hard?
  • Where are the great people going to come from to help me make it happen?
  • How will we recruit, reward, motivate and retain them?
  • Is our current team up to it? Am I?
  • How do we finance the business to take the opportunities?
  • Will the wheels fall off when I don’t control everything myself?
  • Am I building capital value or have I condemned myself to being a wage slave for life?

My Experience

There were 9 companies involved in each session, with two delegates attending from each one (the theory being that it needs two people to actually implement the changes, once you return to your business).

The idea is that it helps you to transform your business plan, and then to create an effective five-year growth strategy. It also teaches key business, leadership and financial skills to enable you to implement your new strategy. We discovered that we were still operating as if we were a group of friends rather than a business. Other than a small core team, no one was taking responsibility for anything, and there was a lot of confusion as a result. We started implementing a middle management structure. It will benefit everyone when it is in place, but the challenge is to keep our culture intact. How do you keep the feel of a buzzing game development team as you grow?

The next realisation was that, by creating a middle management structure, those managers could then run teams more effectively, which would free up the art, technical and design director to do more strategic work, and allow us to run a broader ‘pyramid’ structure, employing more graduates, and increasing our margins.

Course Content

The course itself focused on 3 key elements, each of which had it’s own dedicated multi-day course

  • People
  • Strategy
  • Finance


People is about ensuring the business has the right people in the right place with the right training and ensuring that the business has the right structure and culture to accommodate growth and ultimately build value.

Core Concepts

  • Our vision
  • Our resources & capabilities
  • Our leadership style & culture business


Finance is about ensuring that all of the base financial understanding is in place to capture and build profit and value in the business. Every business and it’s owners & investors need an exit strategy to maximise the profit for all stakeholders in the business

Core Concepts

  • People & process
  • Finance & control
  • Creating & capturing shareholder value


Strategy is about choice: the choices that we make about our place in the market-place, and the choices that we make about building the resources that make a great position possible. We explored what factors govern the best choices that you can embed in your business plans, through tools and frameworks that you can apply and insights drawn from a range of sectors.

Core Concepts

  • Our markets
  • Our industry & competitors
  • Strategy & tactics business

I captured some more detailed notes on the areas we covered in this module

Business plan updates John Bates

What is Strategy? – Taking an external view Dominic Houlder

Strategy - Innovating to create value Dominic Houlder

Strategy – the challenge of strategic inertia Dominic Houlder

Getting to grips with the numbers – building your financial model John Bates & Oliver Rivers

Your Business Plan – next steps John Bates

Strategy - Understanding competitive forces in your environment Dominic Houlder

Strategy - Understanding competitive forces in your environment Dominic Houlder

Strategy – Managing your environment to capture value Dominic Houlder

Strategy - Your strategy Dominic Houlder

Demystifying accounts Oliver Rivers


**Course Director** John Bates is Director of the Foundation for Entrepreneurial Management and Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at London Business School. Over the last seven years, he has built up the school’s practical initiatives in developing entrepreneurial firms, including £12m of ‘pre-seed’ and ‘seed’ capital funds and various networks of entrepreneurs, advisors and investors associated with London Business School. John has been teaching and developing courses at London Business School since 1985, while also starting up and running two software-based businesses, a consultancy and a venture capital company associated with London Business School, Sussex Place Ventures Ltd.
**Organisational Behaviour** faculty Brian Willman is a Teaching Fellow in the Centre for Management Development at London Business School and is linked to the Faculty of Organisational Behaviour. Brian also runs his own business, People Dynamics, specialising in the development of leadership skills for managers in businesses facing change. Brian has worked with many businesses in the creative sector providing senior management development and consultancy services. He has worked with the marketing services agencies that are part of WPP Group and with editors and commercial managers at both EMAP and IPC. He has also worked with The Financial Times and The Guardian and is currently involved in a major change initiative driven by Sly Bailey at Trinity Mirror Group. Other clients include Polygram and the media buying group Aegis (Carat).
**Strategy faculty** Dominic Houlder is Adjunct Associate Professor in London Business School’s Strategic and International Management subject area, and Associate Dean for the Sloan Fellowship Programme. At London Business School, he lectures on strategy, values and corporate transformation across Masters Degree and Executive Education programmes, and won the School’s Distinguished Faculty Contribution Award for 2002 and Teaching Award for 2003. He has been a member of the teaching team on custom programmes for EMAP, Diageo and Electronic Arts, directs partner-level programmes for Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and led the Directors’ Forum, a learning-as-theatre experience to help develop non-executive directors on the boards of public companies. Dominic has also advised the Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on strategic issues.
**Finance faculty** member Chris Higson is a Visiting Associate Professor of Accounting at London Business School, where he was formerly Chair of the Accounting Group and director of the School’s Financial Seminar for Senior Managers. He has degrees in philosophy and economics from University College London, and has a doctorate in finance from London Business School; he is also a chartered accountant and worked for Deloitte and Touche. Chris specialises in the financial performance and valuation of firms, in tax strategy and mergers. He appears regularly on radio and television as a commentator on these issues. His textbook (Business Finance, Oxford University Press) is in its second edition and he is shortly to publish a new book on financial statement analysis. Chris has been actively involved in launching and managing several start-ups in media and consulting. His experience in the creative industries includes Electronic Arts, Polygram, John Harris Partnership, Vivendi, Playlouder, and Apple.
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