Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Small Business Can Learn From Artists

Not every businessperson is an artist, but every artist is a businessperson.

Whether they’re performers, painters, writers or sculptors, they can teach all of us key insights to help grow our business. Straight from my regular column on American Express Open Forum, consider these ideas:

1. Access. It’s impossible to matter in a void. If we want to win, we need an audience. Otherwise we’re just winking in the dark. Fortunately, our work is no longer limited to living in one place. Thanks to the web, access is the new currency. Thanks to the web, we can reach anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Artists who used to be chained to a single gallery now have multiple entry points to their marketplace. Businesses whose sole distribution used to be limited to a few channels now have the advantage of infinite digital shelf space. Foundations whose financial support used to flow from a few wealthy donors now have access to social microfunding worldwide. Access doesn’t lead to the value – access is the value. Are you offering it?

2. Audience. Shakespeare didn’t open in twenty countries. He had one theater, one audience. The people cherished the art. The artist cherished their attention. And together, they made something magical. Outside of that sacred space, nothing else mattered. Of course, that was four hundred years ago. A lot has changed since the Renaissance.

Or has it? Maybe not as much as we want to believe. Because when you consider what technology has enabled, what culture has created and how information has evolved, Shakespeare’s artistic approach is more relevant than ever. Now, we can figure out which of the mainstream hoops are not worth the time, money and effort to jump through – then forge ahead without stopping. Just ask Derek Sivers of CD Baby. Now, we can stop buying tickets for the starving artist lottery and go out and create the market for what we love – even if it’s a small one.

Just ask Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void. Now, we can run into the corners, nooks and crannies, make something we love for the people who love us – and do pretty well. Just ask Kevin Smith of Smodcast. Now, we can focus our time on creating brilliant work that speaks to people in a way they have never been spoken to before – and change everything. Will you continue waiting around for the masses, waiting for the revolution to begin?

3. Costs. Art is expensive. Not for the customer to buy, but for the creator to make. It costs more time than we’d like to devote, more friends that we’d care to lose, more sweat than we’d expect to wield, more money that we’d wish to spend and more annoyances that we’d care to put up with.

It costs more anxiety that we’d prefer to manage, more uncertainty that we’d care to tolerate, more money that we’d wants to spend, more criticism than we’d choose to draw and more blood that we’d hope to shed. It costs more pain than we’d like to endure, more pressure than we’d prefer to absorb, more expectation than we’d care to handle, more energy than we’d want to invest and more bandwidth than we’d wish to consume.

And we never see it coming. There’s no manual, no class or no college degree that forewarns us about the gory realities of professional artistry. It’s easier to romanticize an idealized lifestyle than confront the hell of taking the road less traveled. But if want to play for keeps, we have to know what’s at stake. We have to understand what our art expects of us. And we have to prepare for the inevitable waves of complexity that come our way. If it were cheap, it wouldn’t be art. What costs is your business unwilling to incur?

REMEMBER: Just because you’re not an artist, doesn’t mean you can’t think like one.

Make your business a masterpiece today.

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What makes you an artist?

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.

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