Finding Yourself

by seanlow on 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 creative business the purest version of how you choose to share your gift is, at base, the foundation of every creative business.  Such is not the topic of today’s post though.  Today’s post is about blind spots and their consequences.

More often than not, your clients have more money than you do and certainly more than your employees who are responsible for communicating with these clients.  How does it color the conversation?  Intimidation?  Resentment?  A feeling of, “They have so much, why are they arguing with me over $1,000?”  I have watched, in horror, as an employee at an interior design firm told a client, who just happened to be a self-made multi-billionaire, “not to get all business” with him.  When I asked why he would ever say such a thing, his response was, “He’s rich, he should not care about what we charge, it is small potatoes to him.”  Yeah, no.

Or the idea that someone who asks a million questions is a pain in the butt client, while the one who lets you alone until they do not is a dream (and then a nightmare).  Fear is pervasive in all creative businesses.  You are tasked with (a) creating something new and (b) creating it for someone who cannot or does not want to do it themselves.  Everyone wants awesome and are terrified that it will not turn out that way.  Your role is to be the guide, focused not on success (which must be inevitable) but instead on the road there.  How you perceive a client’s fear (or lack thereof) is its own statement about you, not them.

Speaking of fear, what about your own?  If you are worried about failing or competition or success, does it bring you out of yourself, your art, your artistry?  How fast do you talk about money?  How do you really talk about what you and your creative business are worth?  What you really stand for (note, it is not to create pretty things)?  Do you want to look like a better option or be the only option?

We all stand in the way of ourselves.  We are loved in spite of ourselves as much as we are because of ourselves.  Creative business is about forgiveness, humility and desire to bring to life what has heretofore never existed.  Too often, ego prevents a fluid response.  Rather than antagonize a wealthy patron, explain why you charge what you do and why it is important to the project.  See the beauty in the client willing to ask questions and encourage those with absolute faith to not be so absolute.  Acknowledge your fear, live in it, then put it aside.  Your creative business has intrinsic value or it does not.  Harnessing and displaying the value front and center is its own reward.

The point of blind spots is to recognize that you are, in fact, blind to them.  Give yourself the opportunity to have a different conversation, with yourself most of all.  You will shift, moving deeper into yourself, the essence of your art and your creative business.  This work, this change is the true seed of growth — the foundation for your next level.

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What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

by seanlow on 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 want to be remembered.  Not so much for what we have done, the things created, but mostly for how we touched people.

So too then your creative business.  The vast majority of you are in the happy business, sure, the memory business most of all though.  If your clients are not forever touched by what you do for them, even if only a whimsical smile, then you have not done your job. Such is the nature of a corporate story, a defined set of core values and a commitment to an iconic process reflective of both.

Bill Baker wrote a fantastic blog post last week about the difference between corporate messaging and a corporate story.  My favorite thought is, “Importantly, corporate messages tend to be more temporary, responding to changing circumstances and new situations. A corporate story is more timeless; it’s the ether that continually permeates and floats around those messages. Stories are not opportunistic, they don’t change when the conditions change. The messages conveyed in the spirit of that story may adjust, but the story endures.”  Bill talks to larger corporations, creative and not, so his is a broader concept.  Drill down to creative business though and you have it all:  get caught in the flavor of the day, the latest idea and trend, or, most importantly, following along (or worse, looking like) your competition and you are sunk.  Being the moon instead of the sun belies the idea that the story of your sun is all that matters.

And yet.  The focus is on the sale, the money, closing the deal.  The beauty of holding uncertainty, building relationship, sharing your, your art and your creative business’ story is lost, sacrificed to the fear of not being memorable enough.  Not memorable enough to be the client’s only choice.  It is where core values come in, what Tony Hsieh spoke so well about in Delivering Happiness way back when.  Who are you?  What do your art and your creative business stand for?  And how do you live the values every day?  Where can I see them in every aspect of your business?

That is the yin and yang.  Your story drives your core values.  Living your core values deepens your story.

Taking my own spin on what Bill wrote – if your creative business does not invest in telling its story, living its core values and operating in a way that profoundly embraces both, you will become forgettable, or worse, interchangeable.  Art exists to shape our lives, move us to another place, to bring awareness of a life yet unlived.  For most creative businesses, that awareness is a deeper sense of joy than existed before you came on the scene.  What would keep me up at night as a creative business owner is not where the next project will come from, rather it would be that no one would remember my art and my creative business if it were gone.  Tell your story.  Choose to live it, passionately, fervently, faithfully.  The rest will take care of itself.

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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Identifying Wrong Clients

April 23, 2014

I have a client that was asked to present for a potential engagement for a corporate event (for sake of confidentiality, type of artist has been omitted).  Rather than put together a standard capabilities response with canned “here is why we are good” examples, she decided to ask some questions that were bigger than the [...]

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Alignment

April 11, 2014

I have seen it time and again.  You say one thing about your art and creative business but the underneath tells a different story.  We are all about relationship with a ruthless contract to follow.  We only care about providing you with the best value (i.e., least expensive option) and charge a percentage.  Or, my [...]

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Messing With Success

March 31, 2014

Business is good for creatives.  Clients are commissioning more and more work.  While nothing is certain in this world, things seem to be pretty stable, even growing.  Many of you are just enjoying the busyness.  And, fair enough, it has to feel pretty good to be busy.  So why mess with it? The best time [...]

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