This past week I had the honor of participating in The School of The Art Institute’s career development workshop titled Power Tools. The purpose of this workshop is to expose alumni and students to the resources and tools they need to succeed in their artistry.
What struck me from my particular session was the focus students placed on asking specific questions around accounting and legal issues. All of the questions they asked were great and relevant, but I found myself increasingly wondering how many realized that while the answer to their question was certainly instructive, they almost always revealed the participants lack of entrepreneurial intuition and vision.
For example, one question revolved around whether it was worth the risk of, without a license or doing proper research with the city, setting up a public art display in an area that was part public and part private. While the legal answer is clearly no, the question it raised for me was what kind of image and reputation are you trying to build and how best can you effectively communicate that message? And what kind of public space best will fit that message? Will breaking the law do it and risking the dismantling or destruction of your work? Developing entrepreneurial intuition revolves around knowing who you are first, taking a moral inventory of what principals you need to adhere to as your life as an entrepreneur unfolds, and then being able to negotiate along the path that emerges to achieve the results you are looking for.
Or what about this accounting question: I want to attend a bunch of art fairs this summer and wondered do I need to keep books and records? Well, the bigger question for me is why are you doing this? What result are you seeking from attending these fairs and how will it help you build on the vision for your business? This question begs a much deeper exploration than its answer.
While it is true, we as artists need an assortment of tools- attorneys, accountants, bankers and access to specific instructional answers to detailed questions ( how to?) to accomplish the task of building our careers, these sorts of “power tools” are after all inanimate flat objects. While we certainly need to know not only which one to use and what they can each do for us, no instructions come with them that provide the intuition and vision you need to create something meaningful simply by using them. What good is it to know what kind of drill bit to use in concrete if you don’t know what to do with the concrete in the first place? And while artists have creative vision, entrepreneurial vision requires the insertion of a second lens to view that creativity through. And with it a new set of skills that require training.
Entrepreneurial vision cannot be found inside of any one power tool, their operating manual, or any accounting or legal issues book either. Specific answers to specific questions can be, but 90% of developing as an entrepreneur is about developing your critical decision making abilities. Knowing which way to go and when you should turn left, right or go straight is the real challenge and is what divides failure from success. Timing, effectively communicating and knowing how much importance should be placed on what and when is critical to building success. Developing your entrepreneurial vision requires the development of your entrepreneurial intuition first which, with practice and guidance, becomes a clear entrepreneurial vision that will guide ALL of your decision making. Once you have entrepreneurial vision, getting the answers to specific legal or accounting questions seems perfunctory in nature.
One of the reasons I decided to take on the challenge of opening a two year program for artists, instead of offering a string of workshops on a broad list of subjects, is because you can’t develop entrepreneurial vision any other way than through immersion learning that can only occur with a trusted teacher available every step of the way. Just like one’s artistry was created with the guidance of a teacher, transforming that artistry into an income stream requires the same kind of ongoing guidance and professional assistance.
So many times I have heard from those who observe artists that “we” cannot be taught how to sell, or to think like entrepreneurs because we just are not “wired” that way. And the truth is we can. If we are willing to make the investment of time and money required to learn MORE THAN what the power tool owners manual says about how to operate the machine. We all know how badly written those manuals are and how much more quickly we learn how to really use them through the lens of experience…
After all, if you could learn how to be an entrepreneur from a book, don’t you think there would be a whole lot more of us? Who doesn’t want to be in charge of your own day and make a decent living creating a life you love? But are you willing to risk financially all you have without the educational support you need to succeed? Didn’t you already do that for the love of your artistry? Isn’t it now time to finish the process by investing in the rest of the education you need to learn to have the entrepreneurial intuition and vision you need to thrive?
Check out this story that just appeared today about one (now) flourishing artist, Shawna Lake, who was willing to invest in the development of her entrepreneurial vision. It does not matter what form of art you create. Insert you and your business idea into this article. This could be you….