The Business of Creativity

Houchin Consulting PLLC

Scene Magazine – February 2007

Posted on | March 11, 2007 | No Comments

Building Your Team
© Kevin E. Houchin, Esq.

I’m a fiercely independent guy. For the longest time I thought there was great honor in doing everything on my own, and I was right. However, I finally realized that my goals are bigger than the results I can achieve by myself. There is simply no way I can reach my goals without the help of a team. Sure, many of you are probably saying “duh!” – I guess I’m just a little slower than most.

How should one go about building a team? For me it made sense to list all the tasks that are required of me in a day, week, month, and year. Then I categorized those tasks into those I enjoy doing and those I don’t enjoy. Finally, within the list of tasks I don’t enjoy, I ranked the tasks according to which “rung of hell” I find myself in while doing the work. For instance, itemizing my credit card charges is the very lowest, deepest rung of hell. One step up is filing. I HATE those things. Amazingly enough, there are people that find this work fun! Yes, they walk among us. I love finding and advising passionate clients, planning creative business ventures, creating branding campaigns, and networking. I needed to focus on the things that fuel my passion and make me actually want to come to work every day.

Logically, my first team member was a bookkeeper that would itemize all the credit card statements and file all the invoices and even make sure my health-insurance premiums get paid on time. It’s a simple hourly contract, no overhead, no tax liability, and no fuss. My bookkeeper is self-employed and simply comes into my office once or twice a week to keep me out of that lowest rung of hell. It’s easily the best money I ever spent because she can do the work twice as well in half the time while I focus on building my business and actually doing the work I love. And, most amazingly to me, she actually enjoys the work.

As business really started taking off last fall, it was painfully apparent that I was spending too much time managing the clerical tasks of my office. I needed an assistant. I put a couple ads online and got a huge response. I ended up hiring two part-time employees on an hourly basis. These two happen to be qualified to handle several different levels of tasks, so we simply worked out a scaled hourly wage based on the actual work. For instance clerical work is paid at a lower hourly rate than paralegal or legal work.

I had thought when I placed the ad that I would just have them be independent contractors, but as the job description evolved, it made sense to actually do tax withholding as “employees.” It’s important when building your team that you deal with independent contractors as such and employees as such. My two new people would be considered “employees” because they would be working here in my office, using my computers, and under my direction, unlike my book-keeper who brings in her own laptop and does as much work at her office as she does at mine.

I don’t need to go out and hire a business lawyer – because that’s what I do, but if you’re not a lawyer, it makes sense to invest in at least a little advice relative to your formation. Sure, the Secretary of state only charges a $25 filing fee, and it’s a simple on-line form, but that’s just the first step in getting a company set up – which is where a lawyer can help.

I have a tax advisor, a few investment advisors, insurance advisors, and even a “coach” (if you don’t work with a coach, you should really consider finding someone). The next thing for me is to build peer mentoring relationships with guys that are facing some of the same issues as I, and individual mentoring relationships with older more experienced men that I respect and want to emulate. I’m working on those and I’ll share how these evolve in future columns.

What’s all this have to do with a legal column in a lifestyle magazine? Just that most of us can’t reach our goals on our own, we need help. Every business development book will tell you to build a team that includes an accountant and a lawyer, because most people simply lack the knowledge or qualifications to handle those critical matters. Those sources generally fall short of telling you how to assess your own needs for help and approach filling those voids. Additionally, if you are hiring someone on a part time or contract basis, you need to have a written understanding of who owns any creative product, such as copy for a brochure, a logo design, or anything copyrightable. If you’re hiring people as employees, you need to address income tax withholding and other employment law issues.

What’s your lowest rung of hell? What’s your favorite thing to do? If you can answer these questions, you’ll be well on your way to building a successful team.

Kevin E. Houchin principal of Houchin & Associates, PLLC – a copyright, trademark, arts & entertainment, and business development and branding law firm located in Fort Collins, Colorado. To contact Kevin Houchin, call 970-493-1070 or email him at


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