Daily Archives: May 1, 2019

Potters wheel - artist at work

Entrepreneur or Artist?

This is an addendum to the sequence of posts about failure.  It’s not really a reason for failure but this misconception may lead to failure, where we make wrong assumptions. 

I am indebted to Megan Macedo for the distinction between entrepreneur and artist – they are her designations.  I’m not sure artist is the right word because you do not need to be an artist to own that business type. 

Entrepreneur or Artist?

These designate two types of business.  One focuses on the game of business, using money to make change.  The other makes change by building a body of work. 

It is easy to be partisan or disparaging.  If you are an entrepreneur, you have a real business.  If you are an artist, you have a job – or to be kinder, a vocation.

Both are valid businesses.  Both make or lose money.  You can move between them – or even practice them at the same time! 

However, most business support books or websites assume business is entrepreneurial.  They ignore artistic or vocational business. 

Let’s go deeper.

The Entrepreneur

It is tempting to think of the entrepreneur, obsessed with making money.  Text books suggest this is so.  We know 1% salt away billions of pounds and sling their weight around the political world because they have a route to unaccountable power.  All this is misleading.  We should not allow bad apples to define the terms of debate.

It is not disparaging to say the entrepreneur plays the game of business.  Entrepreneurs identify something needed and develop a structure to provide it.   Big business is big because only an organisation that size can solve a particular problem. 

The entrepreneur is good at building organisations.  What the organisation does is less important.  If I build a business with 250 employees that makes steel, I can build a similar organisation with 250 employees that makes pork pies! 

The Entrepreneur chooses what they do.  I might build a steel maker’s but as a vegetarian I may be less keen on pork pies.  It’s my choice.  However, I need never actually make any steel or pork pies – I manage the people who do that – or employ someone to do that, while I build the next business.

Their focus is on capacity.  Once the entrepreneur finds something to market and sell, they focus on building capacity.  This is the move from early adopters to mainstream.

Generally, entrepreneurs have potential to move to 6 or 7-figure turnover.  This is largely about capacity.  Artists certainly make profit but usually with limited capacity.

The distinction is not about ethics.  Perhaps it is easier for the entrepreneur to lose sight of the ethical implications of their business but there is no intrinsic reason to suppose they lack ethical motivation.  They focus on getting something to happen.  The Retail Co-operatives were entrepreneurial, whilst the 1% are often not at all entrepreneurial because they take finance from the economy. 

The Artist

This includes business-owners who are artists plus many more.  Anyone who works hands-on to build a body of work, falls into this category.  This includes coaches and professional firms.

Vocational business-owners may need to build capacity but they are not interested in building a business.  They may employ a few people but they do so to create the space wherein they follow their own interests. 

Capacity is important because they must make profit to carry on the work.  Some make significant profit but love for the work and not money motivates them.  Some may invest profits to generate passive income.  Again the reason is to enable the work.

It is tempting to put these business-owners on a pedestal.  However, the negative side is where they focus on doing what satisfies them and lose sight of their market.  Where their interests coincide with their market’s, they are immensely effective.  Some spend years seeking something that resonates, lines up their interests with their market’s.

Perhaps most businesses are this type in the early stages.  The entrepreneur tries something new and experiments in this space.  The distinction is the artist seeks something that gives them direct personal satisfaction, the entrepreneur delivers something profitable to a market. 

Telling Their Story

Both types tell a story.  They have a different understanding and uses for money.  Text books assume the artist is the precursor to the entrepreneur but for many the work is the goal and they seek ingenious means to get there.  The progression to a full business by building capacity is simply one option that requires specific interests and skills.

They share the need to build a market that knows likes and trusts them.  To do this they must understand their own business stance and tell a business origin story that does justice to their motivations as business people.

However, little attention is given to the artist.  They are told they don’t have a business, they have a job.  They have to work round the clock to make money because they do not build the business structures they need to enable the work they love to flourish.

The truth is both types struggle with business.  They have distinct goals.  What happens when they work together?