It Has Been A Year

by seanlow on December 19, 2014

2014 has been a year of, let’s say, transition for me.  Heard this quote from Hazrat Inayat Khan recently, “God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open.”  I have so much to be grateful for and the end of the year is ending as sweetly as the beginning (and middle) was sour.  The lesson I have learned is to find wisdom in the experience, sweet or sour.  As much as I would like to believe otherwise, people reveal themselves to be as they are.  And I have learned that inhumanity comes mostly when there is no interior voice, just a desire to see the world as we see it.  If we can glimpse another’s pain, empathize with their experience, touch their joy, then we have the hope of community.

Creative business is the vehicle to community.  You can believe that your picture, your event, your interior, your music, your clothing is ephemeral, nice but not seriously transforming.  Not like heart surgery.  You would be wrong.  Not only wrong, but dismissive of the very patrons who believe otherwise.  You and your creative business are paid to create feelings, to move people.  The simplest moment can be done well.  Opulence requires money, sure, but art requires genius, the willingness to make a statement.  There is no budget for that.

2015 will be remarkable.  My prayer for everyone is for 2015 to be much more sweet than sour.  I wish for creative businesses to continue to honor the role they are meant to play: to allow everyone to share in the tapestry of the other; to see beauty from another’s eyes and be richer for it.  Start there and I will be here to help you build the rest.

{ 1 comment }

The Right Kind Of Business

by seanlow on October 31, 2014

Ideally, every creative business should only take on projects that befit the stage the art is meant to be seen on.  Translation: only do good business.  Juxtapose this idea with the very notion that mouths need to be fed, bills paid and lights kept on.  Throw in the mix seasonality which almost every creative business I can think of has and the path to the summit is very narrow indeed.

Here’s the thing: a mouse on wheel, at some point, has to stop running.  Do you slow to a trot, then a walk and then hop off? Or just hop off?  My enormous preference is that if you are doing bad business, stop.  Today.  Endure the pain and come out the other side.  However, methadone exists for a reason.  Quitting cold turkey for some is impossible, too painful and could even kill you.  Then again, methadone itself is addicting.  It all comes down to the same question in the end – are you committed to change or not?  Weaning only works if you are willing to be weaned.  There is just no way around it, bad business causes pain, both in the undertaking and the stopping.

So what is bad business?  Generally, one of two things (or, disastrously, both):  taking on the wrong work or making less than you need to feel good about your next project.

Harder one first: doing what you do not do is such a slippery slope.  You talk yourself into working on the small project because it is good money when you need it most.  Except you do not do small projects.  Or the opposite, you take on a whale, stretch beyond yourself because the dollar signs look so good (an illusion if there ever was one).  Inevitably, you fall down if only because it is just not what you do and the clients receiving this work will NEVER appreciate what it is that you actually do.  You and your creative business have almost no chance for success and even if you do well, what is it that you are actually succeeding at?  The very business you do not want.

Margin integrity.  You have to get paid what you need to feel good about the next project.  If you are filling the gaps in your seasonality by discounting, what does that say about the work you take in season?  Are you that disciplined to make sure a project that is discounted 15% in the off-season is priced at a premium in-season?  Hotels and fixed providers (i.e., companies that have a product to sell that is capped as to volume) have it easy.  They have the benefit of a finite resource.  How about an interior designer, a florist, a musician, anyone that can take on that next job?  What about when your calendar is not yet booked for the high season and you get nervous?  Still have that discipline to price at a premium?

I get the criticism all the time.  If I price appropriately, no one will hire me.  Hmmm.  I hear it this way:  if I ask for the money I really need to run my creative business, I will not have a business.  You might be right and if you are, you do not have a business today.  Running on the wheel will not make it any less true tomorrow.  Time in business does not justify charging what you are worth.  Talent, process, integrity and conviction in what you stand for and provide does.  So take the methadone if you need to, keep the filler business.  Do not lie to yourself though.  Seasonal or no, if you make the money you are supposed to make (i.e., do good business) with clients who respect, even admire, your art and artistry, you will be able to stop doing bad business.  Period.  Believing otherwise is not only what keeps you in the rut, it is the rut itself.

{ 1 comment }

Breathe Deep and Say Yes

October 21, 2014

Art transcends its medium.  No creative business sells a product or service.  Not really.  They sell meaning, emotion, desire, fulfillment.  If your creative business understands the depth of connection formed, you will inevitably be asked to move beyond yourself and the current state of your art and creative business. Breathe deep and say yes. Of [...]

Read the full article →

Finding Yourself

October 6, 2014

The best part of any business, creative business in particular, is that it is a journey of self-discovery.  Yes, you get to have your artistry and art front and center.  You share your vision of what is beautiful in the hope (knowledge?) that your vision will resonate with your clients.  Making your art and your [...]

Read the full article →

What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

September 16, 2014

Beyond the platitudes, projected ideas of who you were to them, what will people say about you when you are gone?  Do you know?  Do you care?  For each of us who have lost significant people in our lives, the idea is a profound one.  If only we can shape ourselves  by how we would [...]

Read the full article →

What Matters

September 3, 2014

Life is a choice.  We decide it all.  Yes, things happen to us, horrible, wonderful and everything in between.  Our reaction, our pro-action, however, is all ours.  Integrity is staying true to the choice and respecting the choice of another.  We take people as they are, not as we wish them to be.  Light on [...]

Read the full article →

Trying To Find Your Feet

July 22, 2014

I am fascinated by the parallel of my and my family’s move from New York City to Northern California and the feelings so many creative business owners deal with every day.  A story my friend and amazing interior designer Danielle Colding told me recently comes to mind. Danielle and a friend were vacationing in the [...]

Read the full article →

Stress and The High Season

June 16, 2014

This is the time when most creative businesses are right in the middle of it or coming to the end of the peak season.  Late Spring/Early Summer is just that time of year when creative things happen.  Homes get designed and completed.  Weddings happen.  Photographs are in peak demand.   Regardless of whether it is going [...]

Read the full article →

Expansion and Innovation

June 1, 2014

I am in Bachelor’s Gulch Colorado awaiting the start of Engage! 14 Bachelor’s Gulch.  Engage! is the brilliant brainchild of Rebecca Grinnals and you need know that it is the only conference for luxury wedding professionals that matters.  While the information and speakers are terrific, the point is community.  A time to come together without [...]

Read the full article →

Pain and Change

May 8, 2014

Painless change is an oxymoron.  All change in business is painful.  You are giving up the known for the unknown.  No matter how hard your current situation (save the extremes of abuse/unethical/criminal etc.), moving to another reality is always fraught with uncertainty.  For creative business, the uncertainty is a double force for inertia. Why?  Because [...]

Read the full article →