This post is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner and founder of BoldBrush, known for FASO Artist Websites, the leading provider of professional artist websites, the $38,000+ BoldBrush Painting Competition and the free daily art marketing newsletter, FineArtViews. As a self-proclaimed "art fanatic", Clint delights that BoldBrush's downtown San Antonio, Texas office is full of original art, as is his home office which he shares with his two feline assistants Kiara and Lilly. You can connect with Clint on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog at clintavo.com
When I first started BoldBrush (the company behind FASO), things were pretty simple. I was the leader, the boss, and all the employees.
As the BoldBrush team grew, and we added the first few people, things remained pretty simple but, at some point, we crossed a threshold that felt like the moment when you're playing in the ocean, and your feet can no longer touch the bottom. You suddenly realize you either have to turn back or start swimming. If you choose to swim, you quickly learn you don't really have as much control as you thought you would: the tide pulls you one direction, the waves push you another, and you're just trying to exert what influence you can to get things moving in the direction you want to go.
I think the following cartoon, by Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid, really made everything "click" for me mentally. I've always considered myself to be a very organized person and, conceptually, the image on the left always seemed like what we were striving for. But, it always felt wrong. When I saw the image on the right, I realized that is exactly how leading BoldBrush now feels.
Image courtesy Hugh MacLeod, gapingvoidart.com [source]
Not long ago, I read the following quote by Phil Libin, which seems to articulate in words, what Hugh's cartoon captures in images:
"People have this vision of being the CEO of a company they started and being on top of the pyramid. Some people are motivated by that, but that’s not at all what it’s like.
What it’s really like: everyone else is your boss – all of your employees, customers, partners, users, media are your boss. I’ve never had more bosses and needed to account for more people today.
The life of most CEOs is reporting to everyone else, at least that’s what it feels like to me and most CEOs I know. If you want to exercise power and authority over people, join the military or go into politics. Don’t be an entrepreneur."
I've come to accept this as the natural order of things.
And accepting it is freeing. Like the swimmer who learns to swim sideways to avoid the riptide, once you accept reality, you can quit fighting it, adjust your thinking and start making progress again.
This is an important realization, and it's a critical lesson if you don't want your endeavors to stall. The point I'm trying to make, is this: You have to be willing to change how you work as things evolve or you'll get "stuck". And this sometimes means overcoming fear, because change can be scary. In fact, this is such a hard thing to do that I've had to remind myself of it every single day by making this one of BoldBrush's 7 Core Values, "We Embrace Change In Order to Make a Difference."
I recall many years ago I had lunch with the CTO of a large tech company whom I had known since they were an early stage startup. And he told me they had just paid for some software licenses and the figure had six zeros (so at least a million dollars in licensing costs). He called in his accountant and said, "Is that figure correct?" It was correct. I distinctly remember him gulping, looking at me and saying "That number scares the hell out of me. It's more than our revenue was just a couple of years ago."
You have to learn to push through this fear. Yes, million dollar software licenses are scary. Here are some other scary things: hiring your first person. Hiring your first (expensive) senior person. The first time you share your art with the world. Paying for an expensive overseas workshop with a master artist. Quitting your job to sell your art full time. Approaching a high-level art gallery about representation. Putting your art on the world wide web. Admitting that your craftmanship needs improvement and taking steps to learn more. Learning more about marketing.
The bigger danger is operating in the comfort zone for too long. I find myself constantly having to consciously remind myself NOT to just sit down at my computer and start coding. In the early days, writing software is almost all I did. But BoldBrush is at a different level now. And if I don't change my habits, we'll be stuck at the earlier level. It's not that I don't code at all anymore, I do. But, I have to accept that's not where I offer the most value anymore toward the goals we're trying to accomplish.
In an artist's early career, the decision to show at a local art fair might be a big, scary decision. But after a while, perhaps that fair becomes comfortable. At a later point in the same artist's career, continuing to show in the fair, while comfortable, might actually be holding the artist back. And then it's time to make the scary decision to show in a gallery and stop showing in the local fair.
My point is this, we've decided to "Embrace Change in order to make a difference." I encourage you to do so as well.
BoldBrush/FASO Founder & Art Fanatic
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