Page 4 of 5

Creative Entrepreneurs and the Artisanal Movement

FullSizeRender 12

The last twenty years have ushered in a wave of entrepreneurship focused on the creative industries. Advances in technology and the Internet have affected almost every aspect of today’s culture. Before the internet, social media, and the ubiquitousness of the smartphone, creative entrepreneurs brought attention to their products through word of mouth and traditional forms of advertising, such as print and television. Creative entrepreneurs are cutting out these traditional “middle men” to access their consumers directly through technology such as Instagram, facebook, and online handmade sites such as etsy.com.

Creative entrepreneurs differ from a more traditional entrepreneur in the sense that they invest in their own intellectual capital or that of others, rather than a business concept or idea. Creative entrepreneurs are visual artists, crafters, and creators of handmade goods, which covers anything from artisanal cheese and hand-dyed yarn to jewelry and leather bags. There is a growing population of creative entrepreneurs who also call themselves “makers.” In essence, makers are artisans who craft things by hand, usually with high-quality materials and a skilled level of workmanship. Two hundred years ago, every town had a baker, a clock-maker, a seamstress, and other workers who made items by hand to sell to their local market. Today, this revival of handmade items is referred to as the Artisanal Movement. This movement, and the handmade products produced and sold within, fall under the umbrella of what is internationally considered the creative industries. This broad term is still being defined, and is often disputed as to what “creative” endeavors should be included in the definition.

In 1998, the British Council released a report aimed at measuring the value of the creative industries, because “there was evidence that the skills and work styles of the creative sector were beginning to impact on other areas of the economy, especially in the use of digital technologies” (Newbigin, 2014). What made this report stand out was when the 2001 follow-up “revealed that this arbitrarily defined creative sector was generating jobs at twice the underlying rate of the UK economy as a whole” (Newbigin, 2014). Today, almost every government in the world is researching the economic impact of the creative industries in their country. The study by the British Council concludes that small businesses “at the cutting edge of creativity, may not only be of growing economic significance, but in some sense, are a harbinger of a whole new economic order “ (Newbigin, 2014).

At first, one might think of movies, theater, or pop music as the main areas for growth in the creative industries. But, in fact, the growth of the creative economy is rooted in a return to the creative entrepreneur as artisan. This is a direct result of consumer demands and relatively low job security in the last couple of decades. Consumers have turned their interest away from corporate giants and are focusing their purchases on the small business. Cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken has defined this growing sector of consumers and their preferences in his blog “The artisanal movement, and ten things that define it.

In essence, this new breed of consumer desires products that are handmade, local, and made in small batches, all natural or simplified, and stripped of corporate branding. However, the product is personalized by the maker, who is believed to be more transparent and authentic than the corporate counterpoint. In fact, the consumer’s belief in these principles creates a feeling of connoisseurship to the product (McCracken, 2006).

Consumers of the artisanal movement want a personal story from the products they buy. They want to know where it comes from, who made it, how and why it was made, and to feel that their purchase financially supports the person behind the story they are buying.

A visit to your local farmers market will reveal both the creative entrepreneur and the artisanal consumer in their habitat. Here you will find farmers selling local beef, jewelry makers and crafters, artisan cheeses, small batch baked goods, and even a local string band panning their latest self-made album. These artisans and makers are all creative entrepreneurs, and their “micro-businesses” have websites, social media presence, branding, and even marketing tactics. Loyal customers “follow” their favorite vendors on social media and make a point to attend the farmers market to support local, handmade goods. Every Saturday they arrive to buy eggs from a neighbor’s farm, a handmade gift for their friend’s birthday, or fresh cut flowers for their dinner party.

As the artisanal movement becomes more prevalent, it seems everyone is making and selling crafted goods. Handmade market places such as etsy.com have exploded, enabling artists, craftsmen, and even stay at home moms to own and operate a small business.  And yet, some of the well-known challenges of small business can utterly overwhelm a micro-business, which is too small to be equipped with ceos, marketing professionals, or financial consultants. In particular, these micro businesses have trouble with the demands of growth, internet marketing, copycats, and competition. So, how does a small batch, local, handmade creative entrepreneur compete in a global, corporate world? The answer to this question is still unraveling.

The artisanal movement is a return to connection through consumerism, and creative entrepreneurs have captured the attention of a new kind of consumer.  This surprising evolution in demand has placed corporations in a challenging position. In Grant McCracken’s (2017) blog about the cultural expansion of the artisanal movement, he explains, “that [the] object on the shelf of Wal-mart doesn’t have a story. It was made by a stranger in a factory in Chengdu, shipped across an ocean, and banged around in the distribution system until it just happened to roll to a stop here on a shelf. It doesn’t mean very much because capitalism was so busy giving it value, it forgot to give it meaning.”

Creative entrepreneurs are in a powerful position to essentially change the marketplace. Corporations are not blind to this power. Because micro-businesses lack substantial resources, they are creating innovative ways to reach their consumers through social media and new marketing ideas. More and more, corporations are becoming interested in fostering these small businesses to gain insight about the changing market, and to examine the creativity and innovation the micro-businesses are utilizing to attract a growing consumer population. Large businesses are scrutinizing how creative entrepreneurs are using technology (such as social media) and community (such as farmers markets) to access consumers who are looking for meaning in their purchasing habits. Perhaps an alliance between the corporation’s resources, and the creative entrepreneur’s innovation will be the answer to how micro-businesses can compete in a global market. As the artisanal movement expands, the challenge for creative entrepreneurs will be how to create opportunities to grow and compete in this internet-savvy, world market without losing their beloved artisanal qualities.

References

McCracken, Grant (2017). The Artisanal Economies, Entry # 1: The Sofi interview. Retrieved from http://cultureby.com/2017/04/the-artisanal-economies-entry-1-the-sofi-interview.html

McCracken, Grant (2006). The artisanal movement, and 10 things that define it. Retrieved from http://cultureby.com/2006/11/the_artisanal_m.html

Newbigin, John (2014). What is the Creative Economy?  British Council. Retrieved from https://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/guide/what-creative-economy/

The Power of a New Generation

IMG_2011I wear two hats. The one is business and increasing my shareholder’s value; the other is social responsibility.” –Guler Sabanci

As a budding entrepreneur, I have the opportunity to build social responsibility into my business during the planning stages. Having the ethical standards to attract socially conscious consumers is beginning to be an imperative for business as usual. The largest generation of consumers since the baby boom are coming of age, getting jobs, and spending their money on the products and services that support things they care about. And despite the word on the street, Millennials actually do care about a lot of things. They are the largest generation of college educated consumers, and therefore, their purchases are colored through the lens of liberal education, which among other concepts, promotes social conscience and environmental stewardship.

In Steven Schussler’s book, It’s a Jungle in There, he presents several examples of giving back through his businesses. Schussler is firmly in the baby boomer generation, and would have been instituting socially responsible practices in business during the turmoil of the sixties and seventies. It was during this time frame that corporate social responsibility as a policy was being identified and created. Since then, the younger generations have witnessed oil spills, foreign labor misconduct, and other atrocities at the hands of corporations who claim to be socially responsible. Therefore, the Millennials, educated and infused with strong principles of stewardship, are now demanding accountability and transparency in their products. Corporations are only just beginning to understand this new kind of consumer.

“Corporate social responsibility can build brand loyalty, raise awareness, and strengthen reputations, or it can have the opposite effect. Honesty is key. Inherently skeptical, Millennials will punish companies on social media not deemed to be fully transparent as well as those that pay lip service to CSR and causes important to them.The bottom line is that the corporate world cannot ignore the demands and expectations of Millennials, who are devout in their desire to associate with companies aligned with their values”

-Ryan Rudominer, Corporate Social responsibility: Ignore Millenials at Your Peril

It is important to note that Millennials are not quite at their peak buying power. This gives corporations, small businesses, and new entrepreneurs a brief window to bring their company social responsibilities up to speed. Companies already in business have a huge hurdle in accessing these new and powerful consumers, and will need to spend considerable resources to change their company dynamics. Entrepreneurs, in contrast, are at a great advantage because we have the foresight to build these policies into our business plans. We can also research and reflect on the impact this generation will have on our future business success. To ignore corporate social responsibility is to alienate the demands of largest upcoming consumer in history.

Special Skills: Active Listening

listen-2973319_1920

For the last nine years, it has been my job to make people feel special. I have other job descriptions, but making people feel special is one of the most important aspects of providing a service like massage therapy. In Steven Schussler’s book It’s a Jungle in There, he offers a variety of ways to make both clients and employees feel special. One thing he forgets to mention is being a good listener. When a client comes to me for a massage, they want to tell me the who, what, when, where, and why of their body’s aches and pains, and I honestly want to know the answers to these questions because they inform me about their needs on my table. However, listening by itself is not enough to make them feel special. I have to integrate what they have told me and use the information to address the specific areas that need massaging. In other words, listening is a two part process.

From here, I can begin using some of Schussler’s recommendations. A client may mention an upcoming birthday, so I mark it on my calendar and send them a birthday wish. Perhaps they went on a European tour since the last time I saw them. A simple “how was your European adventure?” is enough to make someone light up. They don’t expect me to remember, much less ask to hear about it. Noticing the little things makes people feel special. A compliment on a new pair of glasses or the color they are wearing can brighten their day. And without turning the table, I have successfully sold myself, too. When my clients feel heard and valued, they want to come back to see me, and not just because I give a great massage!

My clients have told me one of the reasons they like coming to me for massage is because I listen to them. I owe my listening skills to being a volunteer for a suicide hotline when I was a freshman in college. I was thinking about majoring in psychology, so I thought the hotline would be a good test of whether I would enjoy that kind of work. I went through a rigorous training program that focused on active listening. Active listening skills are useful in so many experiences. I highly recommend learning these valuable skills.

In brief, active listening begins with paying attention, offering signals to the other person that you are listening, and waiting until they are finished before responding with a summary of what they said. Sounds like an ordinary conversation, right? Well, yes and no. Active listening is focused, undistracted, and intent on making the other person feel heard, understood, and important. If active listening is utilized on suicide hotlines, you can imagine how powerful these skill are for business interactions.

If you would like to learn more about active listening as it pertains to business, visit this site on Active Listening through the webpage MindTools: Essential Skills for an Excellent Career.

Limitations of Corporate Forms: Piercing the Veil

JPEG image-4A580A13D21C-1

What is the corporate veil?

There are many benefits to becoming a corporation. From credibility and access to capital, to corporate tax advantages and the protection of limited liability, the advantages of incorporating a business typically outweigh the disadvantages. The lure of limited liability for shareholders and owners is one of the most touted of these advantages. Limited liability through incorporation creates a fictional shield between the assets of the owners and the corporation. This shield is often called the corporate veil.

What does “piercing the corporate veil” mean?

Usually, through limited liability, a corporation is treated as a separate person in legal situations, which means the corporation is held responsible for its actions, but the shareholders are not personally liable for these actions. They are protected by the corporate veil. However, if a court of law is given reason to investigate the liability of a corporation’s owners or shareholders, then it is considered “piercing the corporate veil”. The owners and/or shareholders no longer have the protection of the corporate shield and can be found personally liable in a court of law.

Reasons to Pierce the Corporate Veil

There are many reason to pierce the corporate veil and expose owners, shareholders, or board members to personal liability of the corporation’s activities. In the article, The Five Most Common Ways to Pierce the Corporate Veil and Impose Personal Liability for Corporate Debts Debts, there are particular factors that raise red flags more than others:

    1. The existence of fraud, wrongdoing, or injustice to third parties.
    2. Failure to maintain the separate entities of the companies.
    3. Failure to maintain separate identities of the company and its owners or shareholders.
    4. Failure to adequately capitalize the company.
    5. Failure to follow corporate formalities (Jimmerson & Snell, 2016)

These presenting factors, among many others, could induce the court to pierce the corporate veil. However, there are strict rules for doing so, but the ruling is based on common law precedents in the jurisdiction of the corporation’s home state (Lahm & Geho, 2007).

Preventing Issues with the Corporate Veil in Small Business

According to Robert B. Thompson (1991) in Piercing the Corporate Veil: An Empirical Study “corporate veil piercing is the most litigated issue in corporate law” and yet, Wikipedia claims (without reference) that “there is no record of a successful piercing of the corporate veil for a publicly traded corporation” (Piercing the Corporate Veil, n.d.).  Most large corporations will settle before they risk piercing their corporate veil. Given this information is accurate, it would be safe to assume that the majority of litigation involving corporate veil piercing occurs at the small business level.

In Lahm and Geho’s paper (2007), Holes in the Corporate Veil: Confronting the Myth of Reduced Liability for Small Business and Entrepreneurs Under Corporate Forms, the authors address the paucity of academic literature on corporate veil piercing and the failure to convey to students of entrepreneurship and small business owners that there are already holes in the corporate veil.

“Using a corporate form ordinarily will insulate the owners from direct liability for the company’s obligations, because the corporation is considered to be a separate legal identity, independent of its owners” (Peckinpaugh, 2000). However, and this is a significant “however” often omitted in form or substantive discussions within textbooks, the scholarly literature of entrepreneurship, and in popular press outlets: this shield can only be effective if certain conditions are met. These conditions vary somewhat from state to state, and courts have interpreted cases based on what typically entails extensive examination of whether or not veil piercing is a justifiable remedy” (Lahm & Geho, 2007).

It is important for the small business owners to take steps to ensure the strength of their corporate veil. They should not give the courts a reason to pierce the veil. “Taking the proper steps to insulate personal liability could make the difference between the effective creation of a corporate structure versus the daunting effects of personal liability” (Jimmerson & Snell, 2016).

Based on, The Five Most Common Ways to Pierce the Corporate Veil and Impose Personal Liability for Corporate Debts, a small business should pay attention to the rules of the corporate structure that upholds the veil.

1.Practice transparency. Operate your business with integrity, both in finances and in customer relations. If your company’s activity “appears to be fraudulent or even just questionable, the company should consult legal counsel to guide it through its decision-making process (Jimmerson & Snell, 2016).

2. Maintaining the identity of your company from that of its subsidiaries or affiliates is imperative to keeping a strong corporate veil. If your parent company has the same contact information, officers, or tax filing as the subsidiary, the court will consider it an “alter ego” of the parent company rather than a separate entity.

3. The owner and/ or shareholders must also maintain a separate identity from the company. For example, don’t use the company credit card to fund your family vacation, or borrow money for the business with your home as collateral.

4. Make sure your company has adequate capital to account for business operations in its own separate bank account. “Courts will look to the assets of the company to determine if the company’s level of assets to creditors is fair” (Jimmerson & Snell, 2016).

5. Follow the formalities required of the corporate structure. Each type of business structure has formal rules and regulations that must be followed. Stay on top of state and federal filings, keep stockholders updated on their investments, keep accurate records, and generally maintain a tight ship.

And finally, when in doubt seek professional counsel from a corporate attorney. Entrepreneurs and small business owners may not be guilty of breaking laws by deceit, but by lack of information or resources to maintain proper boundaries between themselves and their corporation.

 

References

Jimmerson, Charles B. & Snell, Brittany N. (2016, March). The Five Most Common Ways to Pierce the Corporate Veil and Impose Personal Liability for Corporate Debts. [Jimmerson & Cobb P.A.] Retrieved from https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=4ff8ebf0-4bca-426e-8273-758140f6d0eb

Lahm, Robert J. & Geho, Patrick R. (2007). Holes in the Corporate Veil: Confronting the Myth of Reduced Liability for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs Under Corporate Forms. The Entrepreneurial Executive, Volume 12.65-81.

Peckinpaugh, C. (2000). Behind the corporate veil. Federal Computer Week, 14(23), 78.

Piercing the Corporate Veil (n.d.) Retrieved From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piercing_the_corporate_veil

Thompson, Robert B. (1991). Piercing the Corporate Veil: An Empirical Study. Cornell Law Review76: 1036–1074.

Sparks and Failures

sparklers-923527_1920

“The first thing the entrepreneur must learn from failure is that it need not be permanent.”

                    -Steven Schussler, It’s a Jungle in There

Recently I interviewed a friend who I consider to be a true entrepreneur. He has successfully launched four small businesses and watched each one burn bright, then fade.

His first endeavor was an outdoor clothing store in a small town nestled right next to a national forest. Word of mouth, this man’s kind and genuine nature, and his wife’s creative wit all helped his store become a small town staple. This was in 2008. As you can imagine, with the coming of the financial crisis, this entrepreneur’s clothing store suffered at the mercy of the economy. He closed his doors in 2010. His presence on Main Street is still sorely missed by many.

This entrepreneur was the bar tender at the restaurant I worked at in college. On slow evenings, after the demise of his clothing store, he and I would talk about his next business idea. He wanted to create children’s furniture. Every week he would come in with a new design and we would talk about its attributes, pros and cons, age range, how easy the design would be to manufacture. Slowly, but surely, his new business took shape. He rented a warehouse, his creative and witty wife took photos of their children interacting with his furniture, and he opened a website. After less than a year, his children’s furniture company was being featured in magazines, and sought after by moms with large disposable incomes. The one thing he could not have predicted, however, was that these moms all lived in California and other locations where he was required to ship the furniture to his customers. This dilemma became the downfall of his second entrepreneurial endeavor.

His third attempt at entrepreneurship utilized his skills at the camera. He started taking photographs around town, and began a low-overhead freelance photography business. Again, he launched a website, and found quick success because he took great photographs, and his kind and genuine nature had earned him many friends in our town. This business did not fade quickly. It just became a job he was less interested in doing as time went on. His still takes photographs, but his days as a freelancer have been laid to rest.

This entrepreneur’s fourth business was built on some of the aspects he enjoyed in his other businesses. He now had the skills to build websites, take beautiful photographs, and actively engage the community on social media platforms. So, he began a media based business, helping other businesses build websites, take photographs, and engage in social media. Where his skills fell short, he hired other freelance techs to help, and called his business a collective. Very quickly his was a name that was mentioned when someone asked about building a website or working with social media. However, these kinds of services are expensive, and he often felt less interested in taking smaller, lower paying clients for fear of not having time for a higher paying client. There were, let’s say, some conflicts about money. In fact, when we spoke, he told me the reason he was a bad business person was because he hates money. His media collective has been set aside for the time being, and he has joined the ranks of being an employee in order to get a reprieve from the issue of money in entrepreneurship.

One thing I really enjoyed about his story was the way he summed up the transitions between his businesses. In other words, the way he views his business “failures.”

He states matter of factly, that his first business, the outdoor clothing store, was truly at the mercy of the economy and that his children’s furniture business was a “rebound.” His heart was broken by the failure of his first business, and he felt he had to pick himself up and try something new. But the production of his furniture became burdensome, and the shipping became a hurdle he could not jump. He knew his next business had to have lower overhead. Certainly, freelance photography requires very little startup. Here is where I find his story resonates with me. He believes the reason the freelancing didn’t work out was because it felt boring to him. There was very little to challenge him in his day to day work. And who likes to do something boring? So, when he moved away to his final business, he did some soul-searching from his past endeavors and founded his media collective. This business allowed him to combine many aspects of his previous businesses that he found both challenging and rewarding. And perhaps, what he discovered at the end of this endeavor is that billing is a chore he should hand over to a professional in his next startup.

Another interesting tidbit he revealed was that he felt his very first business was “The One.” And it still is the one that feels most aligned with what he wants to do as an entrepreneur. At the end of the interview, he says that even though he’s working for the man, he has ideas for a new company. I believe it won’t be long before he is back in the business of entrepreneurship.

The Womanly Art of the Handshake

confused-2681507_1920

There is no doubt that Steven Schussler is correct when he states, “It’s essential to always remember that the critical first impression can often be what seals the deal” (117). In his book, It’s a Jungle in There, he describes three critical pieces of the first impression, the entrepreneur’s physical appearance, the handshake, and body language. Given that we are all unique individuals, being on our best behavior looks different on everyone. Most of what Schussler recommends to impress, while certainly good advice,  is subjective at best. These three factors will likely change with the times, depend on the age and sex of the entrepreneur, and the situation that conspires to bring the two parties together.

In particular, I am curious to know how important “the handshake” is with a female entrepreneur? 

In Todd Smith’s article, Handshakes Really Do Matter, he covers a few things about the handshake that Schussler neglects. Primarily, how does the dynamic of the handshake change with a combination of sexes? In essence, he covers modern day handshake etiquette.

Here are a few interesting tidbits of Handshake Q & A:

Q:If you are male and you meet a female, who should extend their hand first?

A: If you are male and you are meeting a female, you should wait for her to extend her hand first.

That means, ladies, if you are meeting a male, you should extend your hand first. Smith believes, “Even though women are a significant part of the business world, men are still confused about proper behavior.” By extending your hand first you will put the man at ease and use your handshake extension as a sign of confidence in business.

Q: If you are male and meeting another male, who should extend his hand first?

A: Guys, when meeting another male, you should always extend your hand first as a sign of confidence. If you are lucky, you will meet the other guy’s handshake in mid-extension and there will be no competition for the handshake initiation rights.

Q: If you are a female and you are meeting anther female, who should extend her hand first?

A: This answer is not much different than a male meeting a male. Extend your hand first as a sign of confidence.

And finally, there is the ever awkward feeling of being left hanging. If, by chance, you have extended your hand for a shake and the other party has left your hand waiting in the ether, what do you do?

Q: Should you retract your hand or hold your hand there until they accept it?

A: The terribly uncomforatable answer is to hold it there until they grasp it. Smith states that “Removing your hand conveys a lack of confidence.”

If you are curious to witness some other discomforting handshake situations watch the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exUlCjqQsDA

And, if you need a good refresher on what makes a good handshake, watch Robert Phipps handshake video. Phipps is the author of Body Language: What You Don’t Say That Matters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3zM23Hd7lo

Sweatin’ the Small Stuff

 

FullSizeRender 11There are some personality types who fully embrace the adage “dont sweat the small stuff.” I had a roommate in college who claimed she didn’t even see dirt. Our apartment was proof. While this laidback way of life may be acceptable (for the most part) in college roommates, it is not as easy to overlook in business.

Just the same, not everyone loves wallowing in details. The limits in searching for details is infinite and exhaustive. However, excellence, the kind that sets your business apart from your competition, resides in the infinite minutia of details. In Steven Schussler’s book, It’s a Jungle in There, he recalls several times where his attention to detail made a difference in the quality of his product. Something as simple as real smoke coming from the smokestack of a toy train can draw the line between ordinary and extraordinary (Schussler, 60). In Schussler’s opinion, it is imperative for an entrepreneur to sweat the small stuff.

Not suprisingly, many other business professionals agree with him. In her Forbes article, Bad Career Advice: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Chrissy Scivicque states, that “in practice, the concept proved to be a surefire path to mediocrity.” She goes on to compare the concept to Sam Parker and Mac Anderson’s book 212 The Extra Degree: Extraordinary Results begin with One Small Change. She sums up the book by stating:

“All it takes is one tiny degree to transform water into something completely different and infinitely more powerful.”  

In other words, addressing the tiniest detail can be a catalyst for a more successful product or service. The premise is almost the antithesis of don’t sweat the small stuff.

In the words of Aristotle, “excellence is not an act, but a habit.” Schussler retells how his client was impressed that he stopped to remove a cigarette butt from his business premesis (61). His attention to detail was a call to act on his part. Throughout his life, Schussler cultivated a habit of discerning the details, and after years of practice, he feels compelled to act in order to acheive excellence in his business.

In summary, the adage don’t sweat the small stuff works well when you are hoping to comfort  a new mom swimming in a sea of laundry and dirty dishes. But, when you apply it to the world of business, the small stuff is just as important as the grand vision. And, if you are like my dirt-blind roommate from college, you may consider looking for a detail oriented business partner!

In Pursuit of Excellence

 

directory-1274229_1920

Excellence is not a synonym for perfection. Standing in awe of a masterpiece can make an  artist feel like perfection is the goal, when in reality the best we will ever do is excellence. I think the same can be said for building a business from the ground up. It is the aspiration for perfection that drives excellence.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

-Vince Lombardi

While learning to draw, I studied with several modern day masters, including Jim Ostlund and Michelle Mitchell Ostlund at the Art Atelier and Ben Long at the Fine Arts League. Studying with the masters is an age old path to understanding and excellence. These teachers would not allow mediocrity in their students. They required excellence even in the details, because realism, when first learning to draw, is the ultimate goal. What I learned was that for every detail I adjusted, the drawing became stronger, and all of the details I noted while searching for a perfect drawing improved my knowledge of the work I was doing.

In Steven Schussler’s book Its a Jungle In There, he alludes to entrepreneurship as an art form. As an entrepreneur, he ponders that maybe the term starving artist is about “‘being willing to forego normal creature comforts in search of perfection in one’s work (30).” As an artist and an entrepreneur, one must never be satisfied to rest on prior accomplishments. A look back at older work will quickly show you your shortcomings in excellence. This is not because you previously failed, but because you grew more adept at seeing excellence.

“Today’s excellence, tomorrow’s mediocrity.” 

-Aristotle

Schussler talks about missing the whisp of smoke from a model train in his Winter Wonderland restaurant concept. This detail, while ephemeral at most, was exceedingly important to executing his concept, and a hallmark of his attention to detail in pursuit of excellence. He felt this oversight on his part, was “a step backward from excellence; it compromised the quality of what we were trying to create (61).”

“Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer.”

-Rick Pitino

When endeavoring to create a product, an entrepreneur can look at the masters of entrepreneurship as role models for quality. Steve Jobs, so often considered a master in business, says, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Just like drawing, attention to detail is a learned habit. The more you look, the more you see. In drawing, learning to see is of the utmost importance beacuse you cannot draw what you don’t see. In entrepreneurship, one must learn to see the whole picture, the dream of the business, and then work back from there searching for the details that will make your vision successful.

“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere.Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.”

Warren Bennis

Risk and the PB&J

FullSizeRender 11.jpg

I am not a risk-taker. I never climb on anything taller than myself. I would NEVER jump out of an airplane. I don’t even like to walk barefoot over gravel. Beyond physical risk, I am also not, in most repects, keen on taking emotional risks either. I recently polled my friends and family, asking if they perceive me as a risk-taker. Most of them laughed and I conclude that I am indeed, not a risk-taker.

But, I did just sign up to learn how to be an entrepreneur. I began reading Steven Schusser’s best selling book, It’s a Jungle in There: Inspiring Lessons, Hard-Won Insights, and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring. I felt a little worried in Chapter One when I realized my risk-taking skills were lacking. When Chapter Two moved on to passion, I felt a little more comfortable, secure in my ability to feel passionate about many things, specifically art making and creativity. I could talk about and explore these topics until most people’s eyes glaze over.

When Shcusser proceeded to ambition in Chapter Three, my eyebrows knitted and I began to worry that perhaps I needed to reconsider my endeavors in entrepreneurship. But then, Schusser wrote this:

“Think of passion and ambition as the peanut butter and jelly of entrepreneurial success: They work together to create a better outcome. Passion provides the fuel that drives a person to create a service or product and ambition supplies the desire to get that service or product out to the public (30).”

Ambition can be perceived as greedy, egotistical, or insincere. For me, art and the creative process strive for authenticity. It took a little PB&J visual to help me accept that ambition is not contrary to passion, and in fact, the two are catalysts for one another. If you have a passion for something, you want to see it brought into the world. You want to see it thrive, and that entails being profitable, being proud of the product or service created, and being bold in your support of your passion. As Schusser says both passion and ambition “must be present in people who want to reach their full potential as entrepreneurs (31).”

Entrepreneurship is an act of creativity, a process the entrepreneur must go through to bring a product or service to fruition. Returning to the concept of being a poor risk-taker, I have to admit, my passion for art and the creative process exceeds my fear of taking the leap into the entrepreneurial unknown. I am willing to risk something in order to appease my ambiton to share with the world the joy of the creative process.

Passion without ambition is just a sticky peanut butter sandwich.

 

Tidal Changes: Transitions and Growth

mont-saint-michel-2489345_1920

When transistioning from a startup to a growth-oriented, mature company, there is a sense of low-tide, similar to the image of Mont Saint Michel in France.

The founder has built this castle, glorious, awe-inspiring, and grand, from the foundation up to the spires. Up in this castle, he is King. He is imbued with wealth and power. But alas, all the king’s men who helped fund the castle have conspired to dethrone him, wielding their great collective power over him and all that he worked so hard to build. He has the option to step down peaceably, which means he is more likely to retain at least some control over the kingdom he has built. But, if this low-tide shift in power comes unannounced, he will be dethroned quickly and suffer a great loss in the workings of the kingdom.

He has weathered other storms that threatened, watched the tides change around him day in and day out. But this tidal change is different. This one affects all the kings men, both loyal and new. This is a great sea change, one that erodes the bedrock of the castle on the sand. What did he do wrong? He thought he was a good kind, a fair king, efficient, capable, and beloved.

But his performance was not necessarily the reason the change began. The kingdom needed a new direction, to prosper and grow beyond his skill. Perhaps they could find a new king who had reigned in other lands? They may even ask the dethroned king to help find his replacement. Surely the vetting of a new king would help entrust the continued success of the kingdom!

And so, from founder to king to servant once again, he watches the tidal change. The vast expanse of low-tide will soon well up and surround the castle and its new king in wealth and power. If the founder can weather this change with the grace and dignity befitting a king, then he will see his former kingdom flourish. And perhaps he will retire at high-tide in a beautiful ship  on which to survey all he has accomplished.