The author explores the dilemma between the need to innovate in order to survive and the need to keep the business currently functioning with daily management tasks.
It is a known fact that all start-ups need to innovate in order to survive. You need to provide something different to the market; a unique experience, a new product, or a novel approach to a service. Without innovation, your time as a business is limited. On the other hand, start-ups are also characterized by the fact that the person who runs it is usually juggling a dozen tasks at a time. It’s a dilemma I’ve been facing lately.
So how do you do it? How can you innovate and handle the daily management at the same time? With my articles and with the experience I have accumulated I talk about the micro-businesses, the small creative start-ups, and the “solopreneurs”. For equally small companies that start with a partner, however, things get a bit simpler because it is easier to divide tasks. One partner is naturally better at all the technical aspects of the business while the other handles the creative side, or as I like to call it, efficient daydreaming.
But with cases like mine and millions of other small businesses where a single individual handles all operational aspects, being able to do both is extremely challenging.
Innovation isn’t a simple task you can add to your to-do list and check off on a daily basis. It is something that requires days of attention and concentration. And because it is a fairly creative process, it requires you to get out of a comfort zone and think outside the box; something you can’t achieve while sitting at your desk surrounded by everything that reminds you of your pending management tasks.
After being stuck in such a situation for a few months I decided that something needed to be done. There was no way I could take time off and “innovate away” at my heart’s content. I had to handle both tasks but with a better balance. I needed to make better use of my time. This ‘epiphany’ of sorts came around the same time I realized that I was wasting a lot of time doing things from scratch over and over again and my mind was as cluttered as my desk.
I needed to systematize things. And then I read articles on how establishing systems in your work environment will eventually mean doing those tasks (such as recording sales and expenses, creating invoices, tracking inventory, having a vendor base) will become an automatic process. I have been working to establish those sorts of systems over the summer and it makes me really happy because it seems as though we have a language of our own, or our own code of conduct.
I still haven’t reached the point where all my systems are completely in place though. I need some more time to get it all set up and for us to become well-acquainted with them; but when that time comes, there will be plenty worry-free time to innovate (I hope!).
With solopreneurship, there will never be an instance where you can completely switch on one side and switch off the other; many small business owners that I know (that may also include myself) will also experience separation anxiety from the comfort of their daily management tasks. But understanding what exactly takes up your time, preventing you from innovating, is the first step towards creating an environment for yourself that is conducive to creativity.
Sidiqa is 25 years old and is half-Emirati and half-Pakistani. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah and a Master’s degree in Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Peace, and Security from the University of Durham in the UK. Sidiqa owns and manages the boutique-café concept store “Spontiphoria” in Wasl Square, Jumeirah.