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

by seanlow on 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 the shadows no matter how painful is always a good thing.  And we all bring our shadows to dinner, myself very much included.

Creative businesses are in the happy business.  Be it a dress, an event, a home, a meal, a picture, or a drawing (virtual or actual), the point is to celebrate a moment.  Your art and your creative business exist to serve your client’s celebration of the life they have chosen.  Moments that matter to them enough to hire you to make it magical.  If the moment did not matter, you would not be there.  Period.

That then is YOUR choice – to honor your role in what matters.  Do you honor it with ego?  “I am a fabulous so and so, don’t you know, and you are lucky to have me.”  False humility?  “I cannot believe how lucky I am to be working with you, little old interior designer me.”  Or do you bring yourself, your art and your creative business to the party.  “This is who I am, this is what my art represents, here is how my creative business does it.”  Not like it or lump it, rather I do it this way because I am convicted in the notion that this is the best way for me and my creative business to do what we do.  If you have done your work, you can defend every scintilla of your process as a reflection of your core.  Clients know it when you use “just because” as your reasoning and it never comes free.

Truth just is.  You can judge it however you want to – ugly, beautiful, ironic, painful – does not change it.  So too with how you and your creative business do things.  This is your truth, your choice, your conviction.  No, clients may not like it and wish it were not so.  If you built that truth on arrogance, ego or, worse, illusion, you deserve the pain you will get.  However, if you have taken the time to understand what matters, why your clients would choose you and your creative business as a reflection of what matters to them, then you can align the stars. The alignment may never be linear but you will have earned the right to make it true nonetheless.

Do the work then on why you do what you do.  What would the world look like if you spoke only to those that chose you?  If you did everything in your power to make sure you understood their choice, what they most want to celebrate?  What matters to your clients lives underneath your art, between the words and beyond any one thing.  Honor that you and your art are uniquely capable of giving their choice to them.  Then set out to make your creative business a vessel of the journey and never a means to an end.

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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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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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To What End?

March 4, 2014

Why are you in your creative business?  Usually the answer is something more than just making money.  For the vast majority, if it were about the money, you would be better served getting a job.  Regular paycheck, less stress, easier hours.  No, you are in your creative business for something other.  Could be to practice [...]

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