About a year ago, a design-firm principal e-mailed to pitch an article she’d like to write for HOW about the tough lessons she’d learned about managing creative people. I knew of Marcia Hoeck and her firm, and the article was a perfect fit. Marcia’s advice was so helpful that we invited her to present at this year’s HOW Conference in Denver. And she agreed to be a part of our first Twitterview with a speaker.
Catch Marcia’s session, Be a Better Manager, in Denver, and watch for other speaker Twitterviews in the coming weeks.
Here’s the text of our conversation:
Marcia, you ran a successful Midwest design firm for 25 years. Tell us a bit about that business.
Focus on marcom (foodservice) & corp communication, print base, Toledo OH & Phx offices. 8-9 people, mix of on-site & virtual
And you recently sold your firm to an employee. Was that a bittersweet event?
Sold to 3 former employees, surprisingly emotional but cool experience. Like saying goodbye to a baby, but time to go
How did you know that you were ready to move on, and that this was the right time?
25 years is a LONG time! It ran very well by itself, and I was ready for a new experience. I love to learn new things
Is it fair to say that you’re now teaching other entrepreneurs to avoid the mistakes you made along the way?
YES! You learn a lot in 25 years—stability is important, & the challenges stay the same. Entrepreneurs are different from ‘normal’ people
Love that: Entrepreneurs are different from ‘normal’ people. In what way, do you think?
Bright shiny object syndrome, “I can do it myself!”, won’t let go but don’t have patience for details, off in the clouds a lot …
So entrepreneur = creative, scattered, a bit ADD. What are challenges in BEING creative and MANAGING creative people?
Balance. Being involved vs letting go. “I wanna DO it!” Empowering vs directing. Focusing on the value of each person.
Plus creative people can be a handful, as you know! 🙂
Ah yes … letting go when you really want to design something yourself. You wrote a terrific piece for HOW about managing a great team. What’s the 1 biggest thing you learned about management?
Everything I learned is big! But biggest is: 1st, you need great people. Then, you need to let go. It’s not about you, but how you handle it
How did you make time to run your biz AND design AND develop consulting practice? Is that where letting go comes in?
Ah! That’s the secret! Yes, it’s great people, the way you treat them, the systems you set up, & letting go. It’s a balance.
What was the 1 management task that you most struggled with in running your own biz?
For me it WAS just that: the balance. I’m a natural steamroller. You walk a fine line.
What can a designer not in a management position do to help shape the culture of his/her workplace?
Be valuable! Step up. Take on the tasks no one else wants 2 do, like you own the place (in a good way). You’ll become integral.
How similar are people-management issues in a design firm vs. an in-house creative dept?
People issues are people issues, anywhere. You just have less control in-house.
Think entrepreneurially. U can build a culture of interdependence on values w/in a dept w/the right mgr. People valuing people is the key.
How do you get over the urge of wanting to design it all?
U never get over the urge of wanting 2 design it! I lock my hands behind my back & hold my tongue 4 the good of the biz. 🙂