Simon Farrell: Businesses need to tackle their challenges more creatively

I wonder how many business owners reading this have truly looked at how being creative can drive increased profitability in their companies. I suspect not enough.

Being creative has a commercial impact, and if Scottish companies do not catch on quickly, they will be playing catch-up.

Your brand and reputation are the most profitable assets you own and it is incumbent on anyone at the helm of a business to maximise their value. Errol Flynn once said: “It isn’t what they say, it’s what they whisper.” If you don’t know what is whispered about you, you should find out, as you may want to change the way your targets and peers think about you.

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Starbucks’ chief executive Howard Schulz once said: “Customers must recognise that you stand for something.” How true, and particularly in light of his own company’s recent tax issues in the UK. But Starbucks was the quickest of those firms to react and make changes. The corporate world is littered with the remains of those who failed to pick up on what their stakeholders were saying.

Being creative can help drive innovative behaviour to enhance your reputation, and it works across sectors. A change of imagery, visual style and packaging for a small private company in the food sector led to a five-fold increase in turnover in four years and contracts in 15 new overseas markets. This was directly attributable to stand-out packaging as there was no advertising budget to support the new look.

A branding re-think helped a professional services firm define and articulate its message to clients. Staff promoted key themes important to business owners and entrepreneurs which tapped into traditional service lines but also changed clients’ perceptions of the firm to that of an all-encompassing business adviser.

Launching a new financial services product is a challenge and, in a recent example, one major player used an internationally renowned entrepreneur to spearhead its campaign backed up by roadshows to independent financial advisers. They understood what motivated their audiences, and the launch budget was returned seven times over.

Creative thinking equals commercial success – try it.

• Simon Farrell is managing director of Tayburn Ltd.