How Do We Decide How To Shape Tomorrow?

by seanlow on October 10, 2018

Polarized. Divided. Angry. Distrustful. Depressed. Motivated. Sad. Scared.

These are just a few words to describe how most of us in the United States feel these days.  And no matter which side you fall on, these words certainly apply.  In the mix is that somehow we have lost, or at least forsaken, our ability to see each other as worthy of seeing – to fully embrace how someone who does not look, act or talk like us is thinking.  Yes, the one skill that is not on display is real empathy and respect for other.

As with all things, empathy is a skill that can be developed and honed with education, experience and desire.  For the business of creativity, there is no more important skill to work on today.

As the noise of the world stage impacts us all, I submit to you that you have to decide whether to own your responsibility to empathize and respect with all of those you encounter or to continue to strike a note of being tone deaf at worst, condescending at best.  Will you perpetuate the entirely antiquated notion of a power struggle and value based on power or will you embrace the value inherent in your ability to empathize with your clients — to fill the emotional void that brought them to you and your creative business in the first place?

Since the end of season is in sight for many creative businesses, the question will always become what will you do in this slower season.  For some of you, right now, the idea is to go to sleep for a few days (weeks or months).  Rest and recovery. Important no doubt.

At a certain point though, you will have to contemplate how to shape the tomorrows of your creative business.  Then you will think about what you will do to improve your art and your creative business.  You can already see all of the experts getting ready for you with new courses, guides, conferences, seminars for you to jump on when your “tomorrow” window opens. Of course, you also have your new site, social media campaigns, etc. to get to.  Busy busy doing what is next to convince yourself that you are, in fact, improving yourself, your art and your creative business.

I will never be one to say that learning to be better is not a valuable investment.  However, given where we are today and who we want to be tomorrow, you might want to consider that, for this year in particular, nuts and bolts ought to take a back seat to your own humanity.

All creative businesses are in the relationship business and almost without exception the lives your clients lead are most certainly not your own.  How then do you really go about understanding them and they you?  How do you find your way to communicate in a more meaningful manner?  How do you discover the joint desire to be fulfilled with the creativity you and your creative business possess?

Will you find your way to an improv class to learn the rules of improvand tap into what a world will look like where you can only say “Yes, and…”?  An acting class to improve your ability to express yourself?

Will you do the art that maybe you have left behind because it is now your job?  Or will you invest again in the inner artist because of the joy it gives you?  Will you nourish that part of your soul?

If you are beating your head against the proverbial wall, when you stop you will feel better.  However, you are not really better until you figure out your way around the wall or, best, how to remove the wall.  Honing all of the techniques, theories and fundamentals you are working on in your creative business is important work but not today’s solution for tomorrow.  Only your decision about whether you will allow yourself to go deeper into the community you hold so dear will reveal a new path to you, your art and your creative business.

Time and money are precious, no doubt.  Never mistake a tool for talent, technique for soul, marketing for meaning.  The world has enough tools, techniques and marketing for the moment.  Artists giving us more talent, soul and meaning is what is on order.  We will all be better off if you do, your creative business most of all.


What Problem Are You Solving?

by seanlow on October 4, 2018

You are not your job description.  Your creative business is not its industry category.  If the problem you solve is only being the source for the need, you are lost.  I need a florist for my wedding, a designer to help with my kitchen renovation, a graphic designer with my website.  A need is not a problem to be solved since anyone in the category fits the bill.  Nope, it is the sub, sub, sub-set of that need that begets the problem you create (or identify) for those that care.  For your throwback wedding, you need steampunk flowers, this is what we do.  Even deeper, industrialism of steampunk is your definition of avant garde.  It is ours too.

When you contemplate creating and/or identifying a problem for your clients, it forces you to really think about what they most care about.  Simply, the best problems are the ones only you, your art an your creative business can solve.  Yes, this is a riff on what Seth Godin talks aboutbut I am taking it deeper.  For creative businesses, the problem to be solved has to be emotional, wholly irrational and deeply vulnerable.

You MUST be able to say that if you can create this work with your client, they will feel this way.  The problem to be solved is that if they cannot feel this way after the work is done, they will feel incomplete or, worse, unsatisfied.  Your solution is to ensure they feel as you intend and they deeply desire.

If you go there, then you own that your solution must be indelible.  You and your creative business may produce thousands of creations but for each one the memory is transformative.

There is that word “transformation” again.  I use (overuse?) it because it connotes a sense of obligation and responsibility that “pretty”, “beautiful”, “lovely”, “wonderful” never can.  And, ultimately, “transformation” is the solution to every problem you and your creative business present to your clients, employees and colleagues alike.

If yours is visceral, profound, moving transformation, then you must then be soulful.  Soulful not in the woo-woo New Age way, but in the essence of humanity way.  We react because you and your creative business are proactive.

Then you can understand when I say that, for creative business, “What can we do for you?” is the ultimate cop out that will very very soon find its place on the trash heap of bad ideas, right alongside “package”, “collection”, and, my favorite, “the customer is always right”.  FYI, how can the customer always be right if the customer has no clue how to get what they do not know they most want?

Now, to the practical.  Authoritative conviction.  You do not need to be a snobbish jerk to be the expert but you need to honor the value of your expertise.  No one trusts an expert putting their expertise on display.  Start a sentence with “It is up to you, but I would suggest..” and you are lost.  How about “My choice for you is…”  I cannot tell you how many times I see a creative business owner selling their expertise to a client AFTER the client has hired the creative business.  Nothing undercuts credibility more.  If I were you does nothing for any client, ever.  Own the role you have auditioned for with authoritative conviction.  People pleaser, impostor syndrome, service oriented are back doors designed to sabotage integrity.  Please weld them shut and live with the idea that your vision matters most.  If your vision did not matter most, how exactly would you ever get to transformation?  Authoritative, purposeful conviction lets the world know what you truly care about as an artist and creative business owner.  From this place, all will know you see a world they do not and promises will be fulfilled, problems solved.

To me, anyway, everything else is just fluff that will blow away at the slightest breeze.  Have the courage of conviction in the face of challengers who have no idea the price they will pay without it.


Risk Revisited

September 27, 2018

Every creative business is about communication and risk and most often about communicating risk to clients, employees and colleagues. The difference between creative business and other businesses, however, is that, at its essence, risk is emotional, entirely personal and wholly irrational (and perhaps illogical). If an interior designer needs to focus on the flow of […]

Read the full article →

Buzzwords Are Cotton Candy

September 20, 2018

Simon Sinek’s Why, Seth Godin’s Linchpin, Value, Storytelling, Mission Statement, Confidence, Margin, Blue Ocean Strategy.  These are all amazing ideas and I literally just watched a webinar where a business consultant threw all of these concepts out there to say this is how you get the right price.  She talked about not caring about the […]

Read the full article →

To What End Gatekeeper?

September 13, 2018

This articleabout how a Maui venue, Haiku Mill, is redefining the fees and obligations it requires of its preferred photographers.  Photographers have to pay a fee to shoot there, keep the venue in the loop on all email conversations, get approval before posting images and include venue required shots in their shot list.  While this […]

Read the full article →

Compromise and Accommodation Are For Suckers

September 6, 2018

Negotiate, be flexible, make the deal, do not let the client go. Or, better, these are friends, relatives, colleagues of your biggest client.  If you want to impress the real client, best to take care of these associations. Amateur hour. Why? Because amateurs have not done the work of understanding who they actually are as […]

Read the full article →

What You Need Really Matters

August 30, 2018

In my Business of Home column this week, I talked about when it might be time to call it a day.  On Facebook, there was a ton of conversation about how a baker decided to stop making wedding cakes because she just could not make a living doing it.  Unfortunately, she took down her post describing […]

Read the full article →

Expanding Your Creative Business

August 23, 2018

Before we jump into the conversation about expansion, let us first define some terms.  Expansion as we are going to talk about here is going into another line of business, hopefully based on your current line of business — a wedding planner doing day of coordination, an interior designer doing styling.  An entirely other conversation […]

Read the full article →

Managing Production

August 16, 2018

Here we are in the dog days of summer and out comes the, well, outliers.  People behaving badly, meaning those clients who look for cracks, find them and turn on the jackhammer. Whether it is a client refusing or just plain ignoring the necessity of having to make decisions to move your design process along […]

Read the full article →

To What End?

July 26, 2018

Seth Godin had a great post on Wednesday about the power of productivity talking about business/busyness.  It really is a conversation about intention.  Are you able to move towards the goal you set out for yourself with singular purpose?  Yes, I am a powerCapricornso this everything to me.  However, even if moving towards an intended goal […]

Read the full article →