Back To Basics

by seanlow on May 18, 2015

With creative business in full swing – tis the season after all — it is easy to get lost in the doing and ignore what lies underneath.  Yes, at a point, it is all about chop wood, carry water.  You can just never forget you are not farmers, you are artists.  There always, always has to be a purpose to the work.  Your “Why” has to be front and center not just because it is how you maintain perspective, but because you never know who is looking.  Make no mistake — pretty puts a smile on people’s faces.  Why is what gets you hired.

So I thought what would be really effective is to revisit the foundation for every creative business: the 4 P’s – passion, philosophy, platform and process, with process itself supported by the 4 transitions – potential to actual client, idea to design, design to production, production to reveal.  Here is the link to my original post on the 4P’s and to the one on the 4T’s.

Passion is what gets you out of bed in the morning.  If you are not dying to create for your clients, if you are not truly in love with the work you are doing, you need to stop.  Today.  Two reasons: first, you will get run over by those artists that do have the passion.  Your clients have to believe.  If you do not believe in your purpose, the gift you are meant to share through your creative business, why should your clients?  Second, sometimes passion gets annihilated by circumstance.  If you get so busy that you cannot value what is in front of you other than to get to the other side, you have just turned a project into a job.  Hard to be grateful if you are overwhelmed.  On the other side, if you are slow you might get lost in the hunger for money and work to see the value of creation for its own sake.  Circumstance cannot drive passion.  Love, desire, thirst to create and share your gift has to be its own definition.  Stand in the Sun for sure.

Philosophy is what you stand for.  You might like to do pretty, but we are bored by it.  We have to know why you are doing it.  How will you make your clients’ lives better?  What part of you, your art and your creative business will we know from miles away?  Philosophy is the comfort of knowing what matters to you.  Finding those that appreciate and seek that comfort is your platform.

Platform means you only care to share your gift with those that appreciate it.  These are the fans who adore what you do and how you do it. Why only these clients?  Because these are the clients that will actually pay you for your art – for what is between your ears far more than what is between your hands.  Do you think the person who bought Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)”for $179.4 Million considered what the canvas cost Picasso or how long it took him to paint it?  If you do not seek out those that value you, your art and your creative business far beyond the sum of their parts, you are delusional.  Talk to everyone and you talk to no one.  Talk only to those that love you and your art.  Ignore the rest.

The only way to serve the first three P’s is to have an awesome process.  An awesome process highlights the first three P’s by giving clients confidence that you only do your best and you actually have thought about how to do just that.  If you build your process around the four transitions, you cannot help but to create the virtuous circle to build your upward spiral.

If you are deeply invested in your platform, you will seek out potential clients that will be blown away by the actual you.  These clients will want to participate in brainstorming their vision, but ultimately will look to you, the expert, the guide, the artist, to blow their vision away with your design.  Creative business is not a smorgasbord or a deli.  You are guides and your opinion is what you are paid for.  Once “IT” has been imagined and approved, then you can set out to actual turn “IT” into reality.  Reality is a “TA DA” moment since the “TA DA” moment is what you want people to talk about.  Process is not going from point A to point B just to get there.  Process is about storytelling, a purifying narrative that sets the stage for the next (and hopefully bigger) story.  This is what the 4T’s are all about and why building your process around them is its own reward.

Of course, the biggest reward is seeing your first three P’s validated by your clients – again and again and again.  The very definition of foundation.


Humility vs. Humiliation

by seanlow on May 7, 2015

Nobody is perfect.  Not everything you do as an artist and creative business owner works.  You will be wrong.  More to the point, you will be wrong more often then you are right. The goal is not to be wrong less, it is to be really really right when you are right and slightly wrong when you are wrong.

With the idea of being really right and slightly wrong in mind, nothing can be more important than understanding the difference between humility and humiliation for creative business.  If humility and humiliation were crimes, humility would be a misdemeanor where you pay a fine and move on, humiliation a felony where jail time, possibly execution are in the offing for your creative business and maybe your art.

There is no such thing as right and wrong when it comes to guessing at the future, just timing.  We love all things Apple today, but in 1986, in the age of the K Car and PC Clones, you could not give Apple away.  Every dog does indeed have its day, even the mullet.  So when you try to predict the future of your creative business, have a sense of humility when you get it wrong, just do not be humiliated.  “I thought I would have x projects by now” or “I was just featured in a shelter magazine, just finished my book and my new website, how come the phone is not ringing” or “this project is taking sooo much longer than I thought.”  It sucks to be wrong but it is not an indictment of you, your art or your creative business.  You are just wrong.  Today.  Not necessarily tomorrow.

I have seen too many creative business owners go down the rabbit hole of doom when they are wrong.  They call into question everything that they are doing, their marketing, process, structure, even the kind of art they create just because they were wrong.  Trying to kill a fly with a bazooka, blowing up everything, except the fly.  Can you redouble your efforts to continue to get the right business?  Sure, there is always, always room for hustle and hunger.  But change everything, live in despair, convince yourself that you belong in jail because of your failure? Seriously, no.  Circumstances will change and you will find what you seek provided you just keep swimming.  Do the work, act as if and stay true to what you know you are tasked to do: improve the lives of your clients as only you and your creative business can.  You have to be flexible and have humility that you were wrong about the future.  Learn from it, pay the misdemeanor fine and move on.

Juxtapose being wrong and the need for simple humility with places where you should be authentically humiliated. These situations have nothing to do with the future, they have to do with character and integrity.

A restaurant that prides itself on beautiful, pristine food based on the highest quality ingredients runs into a hard time.  The chef decides to cut corners.  More money flows when the cost of food goes down until customers start to catch on.  Then the restaurant dies because its customers do not trust the promise of only the highest quality anymore.

A designer tells a client that the work will be $x and then shows $2x.  Bait and switch.  Maybe the designer gets $1.5x and calls it a win, until he is spending all of his time negotiating each item on the budget ad nauseum.  The business might go on, but each client interaction is torturous. There is, and can be, no trust.

When you lose your way and compromise your integrity for the sake of whatever – money, fame, ego, etc., there may be no way back.  You can kid yourself to believe it is in isolation and will not affect your overall business.  Not a chance.  Trust is as precious a commodity as there is.  When you blow it, regaining it is almost herculean.  And even if you do regain trust from your clients, employees and colleagues, there will always be the lingering notion that you might be willing to blow it again.  Compromising your integrity, your purpose, the truth of what you do and why you do it, is a reason for humiliation and indictment.  You will suffer and you may never come back.  So here is a thought: do not do it.  Ever.

Go ahead and be wrong – a lot.  Eating crow never killed anyone.  You and your creative business will be stronger for it.  Humility is our guide and she is awesome.  Humiliation on the other hand – suffering for your willingness to compromise all that you are – is a fate I do not wish for any of you.  Keep perspective always, humility never justifies humiliation, no matter the circumstance.


A Pig In A Snake

May 1, 2015

If you are a regular reader of the blog or talk to me for ten minutes, you know I love my analogies.  The Apple Tree, Rowboats and Motor Yachts come to mind.  The one I have been having the most fun with of late is the idea of a pig in a snake. There are [...]

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Bet On Black

April 16, 2015

In the life of a creative business, you will have a choice: you can keep doors open to all possibilities or bet on black.  For non-gamblers, bet on black refers to going to a roulette table and choosing to bet on the little ball to end up on a black number not a red (or [...]

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Your Core

April 2, 2015

I have just finished rereading Good To Great, Jim Collins’ awesome five-year study of companies that went from good to great.  He studied what made these companies great relative to their peers (and the market in general — the rock stars of business) and how they stayed that way.  Much too much to talk about [...]

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Your Clients Want What You Want

March 18, 2015

We all evolve.  Me too.  When I first started working with creative businesses, Preston and Vicente very much included, I thought that the work had to be to reach into the mind of a client and translate their vision into your art.  Focus on listening, then presenting, and ultimately creating for clients. While this framework [...]

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Empowerment and Process

March 11, 2015

I had the great pleasure to finally talk in person with Bill Baker last week after being social media friends for the last three or so years.  Ostensibly, we were talking about how I might offer advice on broadening Bill’s speaking engagements.  Sure.  As Bill is much further along in that endeavor than me, I [...]

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Into The Sun

March 2, 2015

The time to risk it all is when you have everything to lose, not when you have nothing.  When you have nothing, only one place to go – up.  There is a safety in that.  If you are wrong, who cares, you are at rock-bottom anyway.  But if you are right, there is the way [...]

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Integrity 101

February 18, 2015

When life is good, the tank full, bank account brimming over, integrity is easy.  Why?  You can tell yourself your creative business does not need to compromise.  So you do not.  Sure, you can become a diva or, worse, an a—hole, but mostly you can create the art you and your creative business were meant [...]

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February 2, 2015

What if you were the only one?  And customers had to have (or really really needed) what you were selling.  Say cold water at the beach where there was no other water allowed.  With limited supplies.  The ultimate monopolist.  How would you behave? Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely says [...]

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