What is a manifesto?
The dictionary defines a manifesto as, “A public declaration of policy and aims.” There’s more to the definition that I found that applies to it in a political paradigm, but for the sake of this article and entrepreneurship in general, I’m referring to manifesto in terms of how it applies to entrepreneurship and business.
The way I interpret the definition of manifesto is:
It is your intent. It is your aims, your expected outcomes. Together, intent and aims form a philosophy that drive your business to achieve success. The manifestation of what you believe in and what you hold to be true takes shape on the framework of these beliefs and truths.
Why is it important to have a manifesto?
To understand the motivation for creating a manifesto, you must first understand what it’s like to NOT have one.
I became an entrepreneur at a time when there weren’t that many other options available to me to pursue my chosen career path. It was horrible working at a soul-destroying , high-pressure design agency, day after day, with nothing but a paycheque to show for it. I left that environment determined to define my own path. We were building momentum in a new venture and then we got the news that our small family had been accepted as permanent residents by Canada (after waiting three years!).
It was time to pack up and start all over again.
Unfortunately, we arrived just at the wrong time! The economic recession of 2008-9 was about to make life difficult. As a new family in a new country, life got very tough, very quickly. Our only purpose became survival and our business philosophies became based around that overriding need. My husband’s contract work as a telecoms consultant dried up and my graphic design business battled to secure even small client jobs. We took on anything and everything, to our own detriment. We were barely scraping by. Our business practices had become a reaction to the tough economics of the day and we had to make some major sacrifices and changes just to keep a roof over our heads.
We made it, thankfully, but it made us question everything about how we were doing business. We concluded that we could not continue to run our business without a more solid philosophy and framework in place.
In the end, we developed a philosophy based on three truths:
- We needed to be paid what we were worth
- We needed to be able to ‘fire’ clients who were not working out
- Nothing is guaranteed – we needed to invest in a back-up plan.
These truths became our new starting point and where our business manifesto was born. I changed from doing graphic design full-time to developing streams of passive income for those rainy days when the client work might disappear again.
Then I came to a truth of my own: I wanted to be a writer.
I did some studies, did some soul-searching about where I wanted to see myself in the years to come, and then I developed a manifesto of my own – a creative manifesto.
This policy – My Authentic Creativity – now dictates how I see myself as a creative entrepreneur. It holds my creative truths and guides me as I immerse myself ever deeper into the world of creative writing. Without it, I’d be lost. I’d have no roadmap to keep me on the right path.
THAT is why I believe it is important to create one for yourself if you have your own business or call yourself entrepreneurial, we alone are responsible for keeping ourselves on a track to success. We have to construct our business securely around a framework, a manifesto, or we will get lost.
How to create a manifesto and then live/work by it.
Creating a manifesto is as simple as identifying your own truths and beliefs. It is about knowing how they apply to your processes and then reflecting on whether everything aligns with your overall goals and dreams.
- Identify your truths – big and small. I found the smaller truths led me to uncover the bigger ones. This takes some honest self-reflection and even feedback from others about how they perceive you and your business.
- Label and understand your processes – How do you work? What are the systems you use and what are the routines you’ve developed? This step will help you understand where you have shortcomings in your processes (perhaps you are bad at bookkeeping or filing, or both!). This step sheds light on areas where the business practices can be improved.
- Taking a step back, consider how well your processes and your beliefs/truths are getting along. Is there a harmony or a constant battle between what you believe your business should be/achieve and what you are doing? Is it what you are doing or is it the way you are doing it that is the problem?
- Lastly, having identified where things are not working, apply some more of that honesty and develop a plan to fix the issues or take an ax to the problem areas.
On that last point – I’ve been there. I have faced down the imminent failure of my business on more than one occasion. Once, I even walked away because that was the best way forward.
In the end, you have to make that crucial choice and live with it. It might mean the loss of income, the loss of friends, partners and employees, but you can’t be in business to hold everything, and everyone else, up if your boat is about to sink.
There are times when we have to abandon ship, and it sucks. But with an active, well-formed manifesto in place, this is less likely to happen and when it does, it will probably be due to unforeseen circumstances that you had no control over. We only flounder when we lack the structure to hold us afloat in the worst storms.
A manifesto is an investment in the stability of your business. When you take the time to create one, you understand why you’re in the game and what you want to gain from the experience. A manifesto makes your business stronger and more purposeful. It reminds you of the basic truths that helped you choose the more difficult road to travel in business as an entrepreneur.
Hello, my name is Cheryl, and I am a serial entrepreneur. I have owned and operated small businesses, with my husband and partner, since 2003. I have 25+ years as a graphic design professional, have run a photography stock library, art and crafts studio, and more recently, turned my attention to writing. In 2016, I indy-published my creative manifesto. Since completing that project, I have indy-published my first science fiction novel, We Are Mars, released in May 2018. I believe we have the power to learn new things every day and I employ that belief to propel myself forward through everything I set out to do.