Retaining Talent and Convincing Clients: Bill Baker on Common Challenges for Creative Businesses

Next month’s Mind Your Own Business Conference, in Nashville—organized by Print‘s sister magazine, HOW—promises to pack a year’s worth of creative-business consulting into just three days (October 17–19). Throughout the conference, experts in finance, web design, human resources, and other areas will be providing practical business-management advice for owners and principals of creative agencies. To give our readers a preview of the conference contents, we asked Bill Baker to answer a few questions about the major challenges facing firms today. Baker is the principal and founder of BB&Co Strategic Storytelling, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. On October 18, he will lead a MYOB session on how firms can use storytelling to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. Read more below, and check out the complete conference schedule here.

What is the biggest business challenge for creative-services firms?

I see two big ones. First is distinguishing your firm in an unbelievably competitive marketplace that is getting more so every day. Second is attracting and retaining stellar talent. But success with the second challenge can often help with the first.

What’s the best way for firms to hang on to their best employees?

Have a culture and work like hell to cultivate and maintain it. Doing so will ensure that your employees feel like they truly belong to something versus simply working for someone. It can’t completely prevent your best employees from being wooed by the promises of greater salary, title, and other perks, but it can go a long way in immunizing your firm from unwanted attrition.

Do clients really understand the value of design?

Make no mistake, there are many clients out there that do: P&G, Ford, and, of course, Apple, to name a few. Unfortunately, there are far too many who think design isn’t worth the price or, more specifically, the hours it takes. They don’t get that great design takes time, and they have difficulty wrapping their heads around paying people to simply explore, think, and experiment. Coincidentally, I find that these same clients often have a hard time understanding the value of strategy.

Creative-services firms need to always be thinking about how they can help their clients see and experience the value of design, strategy, and the creative process. They need to make it real and meaningful for their clients—something that’s easier said than done.

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