Art of entrepreneurship

I obtain the following article from UCT graduate school of business where I had the opportunity in my earlier days (1987) to hone my skills in Marketing. UCT I consider as one of my Mater Almas, if it was ever possible to talk of several Mater Almas.

I found the content of Elaine Rumboll’s writings very fitting as far as my career is concerned. As much as you may think that entrepreneurship as a science, I had always considered my entrepreneurship skills as an art. Psychological profiling I had undergone pictured me as a right brain thinker and placed me in the box of a creative artist. Have I been the business savvy artist?

Early in my business life career, I was lucky to have had a serious assessment of my psychological traits and preferences determined. I knew where were my strong hands and perhaps more importantly where were located  my weaker hands. I had learned to bank on my strengths whilst acknowledging on my weaknesses and delegating some of my unressourceful  duties and tasks. Later as I climbed the ladder of the corporate world, I made sure that I was supported by a team that made up for my deficiencies. I have always been a wholesome person or if you prefer, a big picture person, performing tiny detail tasks pumped up my energy. I make sure that my direct assistants were detailed and sequential oriented persons. Susan, a thorough and precise operator was always at hand. Cynthia another orderly organiser assisted me for years. I thus manage with a two brains tandem: my rightful own right brain and the left brains of my associates.

I also learnt early that success comes faster with creativity. I spend a fair amount of my time in observing changes that was operating on the business scene and anticipate speedily ahead of the trend. I often with a bout of humour asked: Whilst may be you know what you know, how do you know what you do not know? The answer came in often by asking the question: what if? I have to bless my parents, my educators for having instilled in me this craving for creativity. These creativity skills were later improved by the NLP training I had the opportunity to follow.

I would recommend to you to read: Enjoy your inner artist- Improving your Creativity with NLP by Luis Jorge Gonzalez.

The art of entrepreneurship

by Elaine Rumboll: Executive Education Director at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

It’s often been said that there is an art to doing business, but conversely not much has been raised on the business of being an artist. That’s not surprising given that the words “artist” and “profit” have never traditionally been associated with each other. In the 21st century, however, things are beginning to change.

There is an increasing attention on the concept of artists as entrepreneurs emerging globally – artists are becoming more business savvy and finding new ways of sustaining their artistic livelihood. Artists of all kinds are applying their creativity in new ways as businesspeople, and proving that it is possible to leave the “starving artist” notion behind in favour of the “business savvy artist”.

In the US, the New York Times recently picked up on this trend, and in a feature presented some successful artists changing the game. According to Elliot McGucken who teaches the course Artist Entrepreneurs at the University of North Carolina, the advancement of business skills “rests on the principle that those who create art should have the skills to own it, profit from it and protect it”.

“It’s about how to make your passion your profession, your avocation your vocation, and to make this long-term sustainable,” he says.

This business imperative to the world of the arts has become all the more important in the past year, as the recession has not left the art world unscathed – while most of the media attention is on corporates, the plight of the arts is an important issue that needs addressing as well.

A study conducted by Arts & Business in the UK, for example, found that many UK arts organisations are already feeling the pinch of a shrinking economy. Released in April, the survey, titled Market Trends 2009, found that the majority (63%) of respondents are “experiencing a substantial decrease in business investment”.

In this tougher market context, the need for artists to become more self-sustaining and business savvy, and to find new ways of sustaining their artistic livelihood in the long-term, has become much more critical. It’s a realisation that has begun to permeate many individual artists and educational institutions.

Pioneering the way for artists as fully-fledged entrepreneurs are several leading business schools and universities. In many of these business schools, business and the arts are no longer mutually exclusive, but in fact mutually dependent disciplines that need each other to survive – and thrive.

With this in mind, the University of Michigan recently announced plans to offer a dual programme that will combine a Master of Fine Arts and Master of Business Administration degree later this year. New York University and Yale University already offer similar joint programmes.

This trend of two worlds merging, from a business point of view, also highlights a growing realisation that success in the 21st Century will depend on creativity more than ever before. This increasing link between business and the arts was massively popularised by author Dan Pink and his bestseller A Whole New Mind, in which he argues that people with right and left brain skills, or creative and analytical abilities, will be very much in demand in the years ahead.

As businesses globally seek to now be more creative and innovative in their search for increased market share, creative people are in turn learning that it is possible to make a sustainable living out of their talents with a little business savvy.

While there is a lot of untapped potential for success for South African artists of all kinds – painters, designers, writers, photographers and performance artists – many are not yet astute enough in business matters to move into the entrepreneurial realm with confidence. New innovative courses will help to close this gap.

Here in South Africa, the UCT Graduate School of Business’ Executive Education unit has for the past two years offered a Business Acumen for Artists programme to help local artists step into the world of business by teaching subjects like marketing, negotiation and intellectual property, as well as financial skills and presentation techniques – the course has been described as a revelation by many artists who have attended.

Simon Taylor of Periphery Films, who completed last year’s Business Acumen for Artists, described the course as a profound learning opportunity and a chance to connect with other artists experiencing similar difficulties.

“I went into the programme feeling like I was on an island. I felt really lonely as a creative entrepreneur, so to connect with people feeling the same way was amazing. It was almost like a support group and the experience was on the level of mind and heart adjustment, it was not just about learning new things.”

Tracy-Lee Scully, a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and writer, also from the 2008 programme, agreed.

‘I went to the course expecting to learn some basic business skills, but I finished having learned so much more than that. I learned the value of my work and to let go of my creative insecurities. I gained a whole new perspective on my reality – largely as to what was holding me back from following my dreams to succeed as an artist in a commercial world.”

As these statements demonstrate, artists need to find inventive ways to market themselves and price their goods competitively, without underselling their services and products. This is where marketing know-how and negotiation skills, as well as a good grounding in financial management, for example, could make all the difference.