Shaun Moran
Shaun Moran
A view from Shaun Moran

Is ignorance really bliss for creative leaders?

Creativity isn't necessarily incompatible with commercial nous, writes the founder and creative director of Soul.

When we launched Soul almost five years ago I soon realised that running your own, independent agency is a very different ballgame to working for others. 

It was very new to me to have full visibility of the business: how much you’re making; how much you owe; how much you have – or don’t have – in the bank; which of your clients are doing well, and which aren’t.

Knowing about every bump in the road before it becomes an issue and way before everyone else in the business is a big change for anyone and in some ways even more so for a creative who is paid to come up with ideas.

I soon learned to appreciate the phrase "ignorance is bliss" more fully. Knowing nothing is certainly an aid for a better night’s sleep. But, that said, there are also benefits to knowing more.

For instance, the highs feel higher and more of an achievement. In recent years I’ve learnt that it’s vitally important to celebrate these highs – the wins, the awards, the hirings. This is one way to balance the inevitable lows. Because it has to be acknowledged, that while the highs are higher for creative leaders, the lows are lower too: the pitch near misses; the missed opportunities. It all feels more personal when you’re at the helm.

I’m not sure there’s a solution for this, beyond learning to maintain levels of enthusiasm and developing a thicker skin and a shorter memory. I’m getting there – with the short memory at least.

And it’s always worth reminding yourself, as my gran would say, "worrying won’t change the situation". Experience has also taught me that if one door closes another one opens. This may be a cliché but it’s true.

Another truism worth reminding yourself of, whether you’re an agency owner or an employee, is that there are harder ways to make money. Yes, it’s true that making a healthy profit in this industry is more difficult than it’s ever been but the margins are still better than in many other industries. People still pay good money for good work. It has to be said that some even pay good money for bad work.

Going back to those bumps in the road, or more specifically the prior knowledge of them, which can be both a blessing and a curse. The fact is that if I didn’t truly care about every bump I probably wouldn’t be part of a successful business. So "ignorance is bliss" just isn’t an option, and reminding myself of this fact is probably the best coping mechanism I have found.

Shaun Moran is the founder and creative director of Soul 

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