Posted by: Mike Clough

How Important Is Creativity In Starting A New Business?

This is another guest post by Jim Beach, Author of McGraw-Hill’s School for Startups, which contends that entrepreneurship is not about risk, creativity or passion. It is a follow-up post to his article two weeks ago on passion and his article last week on risk.

How Important is Creativity to Starting a New Business?In the last two weeks, I was honored to post two articles on this blog, one about passion  and one about risk. Today, I am excited to share my views on creativity, and the role it plays in entrepreneurship. Previous readers will know I believe that entrepreneurship is not about creativity, risk, or passion. If the average entrepreneur-want-to-be changed their definition of entrepreneurship, they would be more likely to act and succeed.

I want to start by making one thing clear.  Creativity can play a huge role in any startup or Fortune 500 company.  Certainly, those people at Apple know a thing or two about creativity. But as I grant you that, please grant me that entrepreneurship is possible without any creativity.  And in fact, that is the type of entrepreneurship that most of us should strive for. Good old fashioned non-creative entrepreneurship, you know, copying!

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, published by Babson College and the London School of Economics, reported that 93% of businesses world-wide are copies of other businesses. Hyatt and Hilton. Nike and Adidas. McDonalds and Burger King. Coke and Pepsi. If you look around, there are many thousands of restaurants and day cares for kids and bookstores. Is it illegal to open another? Is it creative? Does your bank account care as the money starts to role in?

When I lecture about this, there are two scenarios I love to paint. Imagine sitting around with your friends at a bar and announcing you are going to start a business.  They are impressed, jealous, and curious. You describe the idea in detail and how you plan to succeed. Soon, you sense they want in. Eventually, one asks, “How did you get this idea?”  You say, “Saw it online on a cool biz website.” Do they lose interest? No, they still want in. Do you lose your street cred because you went online, researched “new business ideas” and found a cool one?  No, they still want in.

Or, you go to your bank to deposit your first million in sales.  The teller pulls up your account and announces, “Oh, I see you got your idea from a magazine, saw some guy was successful across the country in a business, so you decided to start that business here in our town. Yeah, sorry, I have to take 15% off the top for lack of creativity.”  No, that doesn’t happen.

People want to be entrepreneurs and sit waiting for a lightning bolt of creativity to hit them. It may happen, or they may die unfulfilled. Instead, remove creativity from your definition and start an organized, methodic study of a business to start. Allow a certain amount of time, create a list of criteria, and start researching business models.  Make a list of a hundred, yes, ONE HUNDRED. Please do not tell me that this is impossible until you have tried for a month.  Google “new business ideas” before you call me crazy!

The origin of your business is not important.  No one cares! Has any satisfied customer ever said the words, “I was really happy with your price and service, would recommend you to my friends, UNTIL I learned you got your idea 7 years ago from a search online”?  I believe these words have never been spoken or written until right now.

I think you get my point. The takeaway of this is profound. If risk can be reduced as much as possible (to under $5,000), and if passion is not important, and if creativity can be replaced with a Google search, than anyone can do it.  Anyone.  All the barriers are removed. What is your excuse for not acting now?

Entrepreneurship is about solving problems with limited resources. Do you have a problem?  Know someone with a problem?  You qualify!

Allow me two final thoughts. First, of course I am not advocating stealing. That is different. Copying is okay. Borrowing is okay. Stealing is not. Second, creativity and innovation are different. While it is okay to copy an idea, you must make it better. If you start a bookstore, make a list of everything that affects the customer experience, the parking, signage, name, smell, coffee shop, amount of books, ease of checkout, music, etc. And then figure out how to do each one in a way the makes your customer say, “I saw a place like this across the country, but you do it lots better.”

Those enjoying this article may also enjoy:

If you would like to contact Jim Beach, you can do so by emailing him at or follow him on Twitter @EntrepreneurJim.

What are your thoughts about entrepreneurship? Do you agree with Jim’s points or do you feel differently? Why not comment and share your thoughts with the world?



Unless we are talking about a franchise, creativity is an essential ingredient to entrepreneurial success! I am not referring to the grand theory of creativity that brings out a ground shaking idea or innovation but “micro-creativity” that results in the ability to leap frog over the competition and build a sustainable competitive edge.

Taking the analogy of a restaurant, I knew of a friend who did copy the model of a well known lounge but then quickly realized that the demographics were different and had to adapt by using his creative faculties to come out with a very relevant product offering that ultimately took his business over the tipping point. The point I am trying to make is creativity is a process that is essential in improving all processes, strategies and capabilities and lack of the same may be a recipe for wallowing in the mud of mediocrity!

Creativity, vision, abstract problem solving, out of the box thinking, etc, have become nothing more than mantras and pathetic cliches.

At this most critical juncture in the state of American business affairs, we need, more than ever, visionary leaders.

Given the power of Executive Placement Consultants, they must accept some measure of responsibility for the quagmire and lack of innovation.

I agree: There is no reason to reinvent ideas that have worked. Improving those ideas is the challenge and the creative adventure in an entrepreneurial venture.

Sure fire ideas have been there for a reason. Simply because it WORKS. working around these ideas and adapting to strategies that will suit your business is the best way to go.

“I think you get my point. The takeaway of this is profound. If risk can be reduced as much as possible (to under $5,000), and if passion is not important, and if creativity can be replaced with a Google search, than anyone can do it. Anyone. All the barriers are removed. What is your excuse for not acting now?”

Well, if all it takes is $5000, why *can’t* anyone do it? Is it because not everyone has $5k lying around?

I agree

The entrepreneur always has been and will always be an important part of human evolution, every bit as much as big business. Businesses are built by people – individuals. If we wish to build a better business we must start by being better people, better entrepreneurs. A new type of entrepreneur is emerging from the midst of reckless ambition and endless greed of corporate America. This new type of entrepreneur is motivated less by just the bottom line and more by honoring the need for authenticity and respecting the integrity of their community and humanity, as well as their own souls. This new brand of entrepreneur calls for a new business model, one that teaches how to use intuition and flow that gives and receives abundance and sustenance. Business is a passion, a privilege and a wonderful giver of financial independence. Being a successful entrepreneur is not easy but there is nothing else like it. Those of us who would take up the banner of entrepreneurship must be willing to be transformed through business before it can become the inspirational model it has the potential to be.

I suspect unless you are buying into a franchise you are starting a business because you believe you have something unique to offer the marketplace that may benefit an under-served set of consumers or provide a better option than what is currently available.

You don’t need to look beyond Bing and Yahoo to see that it isn’t good enough to offer a similar product and hope for the scraps. They simply can’t out Google Google anymore then Google is able to out Facebook Facebook. The point I get from this article is that it doesn’t need to be a completely new and untried idea to be successful.

The McDonald’s and Burger King references shows that while the base business model is similar enough to provide a high level of confidence in its success, the food and marketing is tailored attract a slightly different customer base.

And by the way, this is a similar marketing practice, why create a completely new campaign when you can recreate one that has proven to resonate with a given audience. If you pay attention you’ll notice their cross-pollination.

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