Behind Every Great Business, is a Great Business-Person

Insecurity Girl - Illustration by Dana Leavy-Detrick - Aspyre Design

The other day someone posted a comment on one of my social networks that was passive aggressively criticizing other people’s artistic endeavors. It turned into one of those scenarios where I analyzed it, thinking “could she be talking about me?” It’s unlikely that she was, being a friend of a friend of a friend, and having no vested interest in my personal business. But nonetheless I started down that road of catabolic assumptive thinking, “Well there’s a possibility that she COULD be talking about me…”, and “Technically I could fit into that category, so it COULD be me…” Etc, etc.

Of course, the more I marinated on the idea that the negative comment had even the slightest chance of being reflective of me, the more I found myself spiraling down that negative path. Suddenly, it had a snowball effect. I felt completely deflated about my artwork (and for no good reason), and with that being something deeply personal and engrained into my personality and being, naturally I started to doubt everything ELSE that I was doing, things I’m typically very confident about.

Because I put unjustified stock into someone’s generalized opinion, and I took it to heart. I made it a personal assault, and for 2 days my productivity across several areas suffered. Looking back today I realize how stupid and unfortunate that was.

Because for any one unlikely and potential complaint like this, I have 100 other compliments to take its place. I have multiple client projects coming in on a daily basis. I was selected yesterday to participate in a group show at a local gallery. And I exceeded my financial goals for the last month. And the one before that. But I was ready to throw in the towel on something I have been practicing for 30 years because of one unprescendented comment that probably wasn’t even about me. I’m not bragging by any means, but I am illustrating how detrimental it can be to not only listen to other people’s opinions, but to apply whatever they have to say on a personal level.

This can be really hard to avoid when you work for yourself. You are the first line of defense against criticisms, feedback, and other people’s opinions around how you “should be running your business”. Or “should be pricing your products”. Or how you “should be allocating your hours each day”. My instructor Mark from my coaching program used to tell us, “Stop SHOULD-ing all over the place.”

Your Business Will Never Thrive, Survive or Sustain if You Don’t Learn to Fully Trust Yourself
It’s no secret that building and running a business of any kind can be a big series of trials and errors. Some of the most successful business owners openly admit to having failed multiple times early on in their entrepreneurial career. But eventually you have to open your eyes to the successes, especially the small ones, and recognize that YOU DID THAT. You made it happen, friend. Whether you pulled in a lucrative client project for a couple of Benjamins or you got a mention in someone else’s blog about your work – someone saw you and the work you’re doing as worthwhile. But in order for that to happen, you yourself have to see you, and the work you’re doing, as worthwhile. A lack of confidence and faith does not a successful business make

Scrap Your Concept of “The Norm”, Because There Isn’t One.
Not talking about the guy from Cheers. I realize the last post was about normalcy, but what I’m saying is that there is no norm in terms of a standard. There are norms in terms of experiences, challenges, concerns, and other things you experience starting a business. But there is no norm that you either fit or don’t fit into. It’s hard starting a business in your twenties (I was 27) because you’re not confident that people are going to take you seriously because of your age. I especially struggled with confidence when I was running a recruiting company at 25, for the same reason. I dealt regularly face-to-face with clients and talent 15-20 years my senior, expecting on a daily basis for them to ask me, “Well what do YOU know about being a Creative Director, young’un?”  Guess what – no one every asked me that.

Some days I get really frustrated with myself that only part of my education was dedicated to art school (I minored in Visual Arts) while the artists and illustrators whose work I truly admire paid their 4 years of stringent art school dues. But so what? Plenty of artists don’t have a degree, and as someone put it recently, “You will never hear an artist chalk their career success up to having one.”

Don’t let preconceived insecurities convince you that you don’t stack up to the imaginary standard of excellence you’ve set for yourself in your head. Instead, get solid on what your own career and business goals are, and then make sure you know exactly what you need to do to be hitting those on target. That way, you’re determining your own success, and what path makes the most sense for you to get there.

Confidence Is Key. If You Don’t Have It, Fake It.
There will always be times in your business, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been doing it for 10 years, when you doubt or question yourself, your product or your creative process. There is nothing wrong with that, assuming that you use it to challenge yourself to be better, rather than playing victim to it and thus letting it show through to your clients. You can offer the greatest consulting services in the world, but if you don’t seem confident around what you offer and your ability to deliver true value to your client, they’re not going to invest. Period.

Faking confidence is fine, but if you’re constantly faking it, then something is wrong and you need to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate things from a higher level. Maybe the lack of confidence stems from feeling that the value of your product doesn’t match up with the price point, or that you’re over promising on something you can’t actually deliver – like a stringent deadline. Do some detective work on yourself and your business to determine whether your lack of confidence stems from a simple lack of experience, or stems from an actual problem within your business. The good news: both are highly fixable.

The same way that you dedicate time and energy to working on your business as a profitable entity, you need to be working on yourself as a business person. Of course that also means working on your more traditional business skills, like relationship building, financial management, sales and marketing – but those are topics for another post.  I’m talking about developing yourself as a mature professional who knows how to stand by your business and create value.  I’ve written a lot of articles about the mechanics and technicalities of starting a business, and lately I’ve been delving into the more personal and humanly-driven aspects of it, because not everyone chooses to tackle that. Everyone wants to tell you how to write a business plan, but you also need to know how to not cry yourself to sleep at night because you haven’t yet realized that success is often synonymous with experience, perseverance and the ability to adapt over a period of time.

My new motto this week: Go Forth, and Kick Ass. Try it.

I’m over it. Being an artist and an entrepreneur is ripe with criticisms that you just have to face. But chances are, if you’re doing it well, your successes will far outweigh any of those negatives.  I accepted that challenge a long time ago, because I love tapping into talents that make me feel confident about what I do and the value I provide to people, and I encourage you to accept that challenge starting today.

Share: Where do you struggle personally in your business versus operationally?


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