The 21 Day Challenge

by seanlow on September 25, 2017

So much has been written about changing habits, developing good habits, mapping out how you are going to sustain good habits.. The entire self-help industry is built on the notion that change comes from intention, intention to habitual practice, practice to success. Some people tip toe in, I will cut back to 2 hours of Netflix binging a day; others go further – I am going Amish.  No comment on what works for you personally. However, for your creative business, change has to be much more radical. Two reasons.

Incremental change – like raising your prices just a little bit or shrinking your packages from five to three only serve to raise up your competition. Incremental change can almost never be justified as intention to serve your client better. It almost always looks like a money grab, or worse, a reaction to an unfortunate situation (i.e., a nightmare client). Incremental change is based on a desire to prevent history from repeating itself and not on what the future ought to look like. Big difference. So your competition almost always gets to say, “She is only doing this because….” And the “because” is the start of a dig – too busy, too big, too too, with they, the competition, being the rose who is not too too.

If you are really going to grow, really going to evolve, you have to leap into the abyss. Leaping into the abyss means doing the things you are terrified of – not knowing if what you are about to do is at all possible.

If you charge ten but need to charge twenty, you cannot inch to twenty, you have to do it today so that you can get to the business of why twenty is the right number. If you are not throwing up in your mouth a little when the outrageous comes out, you are doing it wrong.

The thing is though that you cannot leap with everything at once, be radical everywhere. Going from Luddite to all things tech. Ironically, upending everything (or way too much at once) is your excuse to make no change at all because a complete overhaul is impossible to sustain. Baby out with the bathwater and you will inevitably go back to what was.  With no thought of an oxymoron, the goal is to be comfortably radical in the notion that there will incrementally radical positions to take. Translation: jump into the abyss with the knowledge that you will be making another jump into another abyss tomorrow.

For some of you, living to your design statement, why you do what you do when you do it, will be enough. For others, it will be about pricing and timing of payments. Others will be about communication and decision-making. It makes not difference what the abyss looks like so long as your stare into it and leap.

My challenge for you and your creative business is to find the one aspect of your creative business that you are most scared of, the one that needs the most attention and evolution. Imagine what the evolved state looks like without any sort of filter. I want to charge a $50,000 design fee. I will not work on projects that do not have a budget of at least $250,000. Now live there for 21 days. Face the fears, doubts and fumbling that comes along with being desperately uncomfortable.

On the twenty-second day, choose your next challenge. And like the Golden Gate bridge painters, you are never done. Once you think you have met every challenge, it will be time to start again since your very first challenge will likely be stale at that point.

The point of the exercise is to live in the notion that being radically different from where you are today IS your future. Refusing to be bound by the limits you have allowed to constrain your creative business with is itself freedom. Doing it all at once though is a certain exercise in futility.

If the challenge is something you are up for, please find support to help you through the process. This means those who are willing to support your efforts into the unknown. What it does not mean is to surround yourself with those who secretly (or not so secretly) are rooting for you to fall down, either because they can say “I told you so”, be there to pick you back up or, worst, show you the “right” way. You are going to fall down. This will be uncomfortable until it is not. Find those that keep you in your discomfort until YOU see your way through it. Of course, this is what The BBC Collective is all about and please join us if this is the kind of support you need for the evolution of your Event or Interior creative business (separate groups). However, regardless of whether you join or not, do not deprive yourself of having the voice of your creative business heard. Find the support you need and take the challenge.  The world needs the best version of your art and creative business, now more than ever.

One caveat: if you accept the challenge, please live it. Stick with it and do not mark time until you get to undo it. Twenty-one real days. My promise to you is that you will find satisfaction in the effort no matter the result. Why?

The voice of your creative business (as opposed to your creativity) is heard when you are willing to be radically authentic; to say and do things ONLY because they are what is best for you, your art and your creative business. When you tap into this eternal truth about your art and your creative business, stripped to its essential nature, you will discover its power.  This is the power your clients yearn for you to have so that they can, in some small (or not so small) way, take a piece of for themselves through your art and your creativity.  And we are all transformed in the process.  What can be better than that?


The Five Things That Go Right

by seansblog-admin on September 19, 2017

So we are now on the cusp of everyone being back in full swing post-Labor Day. Busyness awaits. The question is, how are you going to take everything you might have been working on — process, pricing, storytelling, client management, cross-industry work – and put it into practice? And after you use the tools, how will you evaluate your efforts?

The first is a subject I have covered quite a lot on the blog – metrics of success. I would submit to you that a successful project looks different now than from what it might have in the past. Or at least I hope so. That is what evolution as a creative business is all about.  Less about pulling it off and more about a terrific journey.  If you have really been invested in your creative business and its growth, today’s metric of success should be about how and why you did what you did and having that (ongoing) effort being supported by your clients, employees and colleagues. Supported much more than a beautiful result.

However, this is more than a personal endeavor. This is like a design statement being necessary for all creative businesses, especially Event and Interior creative businesses. [And if you do not understand why a design statement is the future of your creative business, but can appreciate its power, you really need to join The BBC Collective — Events or The BBC Collective — Interiors and be part of the change you seek.  No matter how busy you are, there is always an hour or so a week to step back and really work on instead of in your creative business].

All creative businesses need to constantly work on redefining/refining what clients, employees and colleagues should expect (and evaluate) our creative businesses on. And we want to spread the word so that the industry comes to be defined by fingerprints instead of fashion, relationship instead of branding, story instead of blind faith, integrity instead of fluff.

But but but you are all about to be busy, meaning in it, making it happen. So the strategy cannot be to institute all of these overarching changes and industry revolutions when you are in the moment. Instead, it is to make sure that you are noting the effects your new new is having on your creative business. When the time for playing the game is afoot, you play, you do not think about the fifteen things you were working on in practice. When you do play though, do not ignore the work that has come before. The easiest way to make sure this does not happen: write down the five things that went right. You can do this in the middle of producing the project, immediately after, or, best yet, as often as you can for the month leading up to the finish of the project.

Here’s the thing: you are not fixing anything, you are remaking what makes you remarkable in the first place. If you are focused on your strengths, they will become stronger.

Nobody leads with their weaknesses. Ever. We lead with what makes us great, what we are confident in, what makes us feel alive first. Why should you evaluate your creative business in the context of what went wrong on the promise that you will fix it in the future? Fine, do that, just get stronger at your strengths first. A positive sandwich as my kids would say.

When you are there and actually doing the work to write it down in the moment, you will have it forever. Not that anything will go off if you do not write down the five things that went right, it is just that they inevitably slip from memory, opportunity to build on them lost forever. The reason: most often, what went right is an intangible – the way an employee talked to the client, offering reassurance; the calm demeanor of staff; the clear communication delivered as you, the artist, would have it delivered; pacing of the work. Yet, the intangible, the ephemeral, the effort underneath the surface, is what defines you, your art and your creative business. The very thing we have been working to build on. Make no mistake, you get paid (or you will) for what lies underneath for the very reason that it is yours and yours alone.

A little safety tip: be real – no, Janey the florist did such a great job, I just love her. More, Janey showed up on time looking professional, her staff was always respectful and responsible and were flexible when some last minute minor changes had to happen. The former are platitudes, the latter the foundation of future expectations.

And, of course, figure out who should be noting what went right. If you want it to matter, it cannot be just you. Different eyes see with different lenses.

The point of the exercise is not just to collect platitudes, it is to weave what you see as your strengths more indelibly into the fabric of your creative business. You WILL do better by being better at what you are already great at first.  Leave shoring up weaknesses for another day.


Dealing With Business Upheaval — Irma and Harvey

September 14, 2017

Here is a post I wrote back in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy in New York City. I resisted posting this post today for fear that it might be too soon. However, talking about what to do in the wake of a massive tragedy and business upheaval caused by things like Hurricane Harvery and Irma is […]

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Sunk Costs, Budget Plummet and Houston

September 1, 2017

Although it might not appear parallel, the unbelievably horrific events that happened in Houston and surrounds and reducing budget for a creative budget all center around a firm understanding of sunk costs. As every finance course will teach you, any investment analysis of a future project has to begin with ignoring sunk costs. Easy enough […]

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Owning Who You Are Today Is Everything

August 22, 2017

I was having a fascinating conversation with Maria Bayer last week. If you are in the wedding business and do not know Maria, you should. Her sales techniques are terrific as they are based on selling your intrinsic value as both an artist and creative business. Fantastic stuff. We were talking about The BBC Collective […]

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Foundational Pillars Under All Creative Businesses

August 2, 2017

It is August. Hopefully, time for a breather before a busy Fall is upon you and your creative business. While you are moving a little slower, perhaps it is a great time to reevaluate, perhaps even redefine your foundation as an artist and creative business. What follows is a discussion of the pillars of the […]

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Incremental Change Is An Oxymoron

July 25, 2017

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if you want to fix it, you have to break it. Every time I hear a creative business owner say that they are going to raise their prices ten or twenty percent a year and hope to make fifty percent or so more five years from now, […]

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July 21, 2017

As a rule, I am underwhelmed by the presentation process most creative businesses undertake. The willingness to ask a client to invest sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Pinterest-type mood board and simple samples astounds me. Shame on any creative business for letting clients believe that this is, in any way, acceptable. We all need […]

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Interior Design Archetypes

July 12, 2017

As a consultant and overall student of creative business, it is my job to understand and develop archetypes for the types of creative businesses I work with. I have been incredibly fortunate to have consulted with a wide variety of creative businesses from many different industries, luxury event and interior design in particular. So I […]

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The Power of Story And Client Management

June 27, 2017

I have touted Bill Baker here for years. All the links to my five previous posts about what Bill is all about and my thoughts on why he is just so so important to creative business are here, here, here, here and here. I just re-read all of them and each are still completely relevant […]

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