This post was originally published by The Whiteboard, a blog serving the Connecticut entrepreneurial community. I am privileged to serve as a Start Up Community Journalist for The Whiteboard. SPECIAL THANKS to my editor, Michael Romano.
Being an Artful Entrepreneur means differentiating yourself so utterly in the marketplace that you are acknowledged as an artist at what you do.
If offering the cheapest alternative is your value proposition, this may be irrelevant. But in a global marketplace, we see more and more examples of positioning through artistic leadership as a coherent strategy.
This was the topic of a talk I gave on Tuesday as part of The Grove’s Workbench series. To demonstrate the range of possibilities, I invited Mark Krueger, a stone sculptor based in Wallingford, CT, who specializes in high-end residential stone installations, to pair with my focus on Agile project management. Mark has been my client for the past four months, and I wrote about him recently here in another post.
Principles of Artful Entrepreneurship
As Mark and I have collaborated to open up new markets for his work using the Scrum framework, we’ve recognized a few common elements linking the diverse approaches taken by Artful Entrepreneurs:
- You are a cross-functional team. In the Agile world, a team of developers, business analysts, designers, and testers comprise the daily scrum. Artful Entrepreneurs are, in essence, a scrum of one. At all times you must balance profit margins with aesthetics, the need for speed versus uncompromising emphasis on quality. You bring the technical eye of the craftsman to the discipline of getting things done. You know that every perspective is important.
- You are part of a global conversation. Even if all of your customers are local, there are aspects of what you do that relate to decisions being made all over the world. The influence of cultures, economies, and trending fashions can affect any industry, at any time. Artful Entrepreneurs study their work in a macro context, taking time to understand the big picture. (For more context, see the report from the conference “Transcending Borders: Intersections of Arts, Science, Technology and Society on a Global Stage.”)
- You have enormous communications resources at your disposal. Free tools like Google Hangouts make it extraordinarily easy to connect remotely with colleagues and customers and keep tabs on competitors. Artful Entrepreneurs have a way of blending the efforts they spend on research and social media into constant opportunities to survey the field and take deep dives into perspectives that matter. This week, for example, Mark is preparing a talk for the American Institute of Architects on multicolored stone for decorative applications in Venice, Italy, while I’m preparing a talk for distributed teams in Utah, the UK, and Connecticut for the Royal Bank of Scotland.* There are many ways to research new topics and deliver information that benefits end users.
- You have a unique story to tell. Consultant Joanna Rothman frames her approach to what she calls Artisanal Change like this: “Have you ever tasted a superb strawberry just off a family farm? Or a microbrew beer from a small brewery or a chocolate from a superior chocolatier? If you have, you can remember the mouth feel, the explosion of taste in your mouth, the way it felt sliding down your throat.” She encourages corporate clients and other consultants to be agents of organizational transformations delivered with similar care and artfulness.
- You don’t have to be all things to all people. What we offer is highly specific, sometimes micro-specific. Artful Entrepreneurs seek to attract not just any customer or client, but ones who share their values and with whom they can build a culture of trust that enables more of certain things to find an established home in the world. This is why Mark decided to become co-owner of a gallery housed within a commercial stone distributorship adjacent to Yale Science Park scheduled to open next year. “We may not sell a ton of artworks,” he says, “but we’ll give architects and designers a reason to get in their cars and drive out on an evening.”
“Cover Songs Don’t Change the World”
The Accidental Creative is a podcast I’ve been listening to lately, thanks to my friends in Rome, Italy, at Cocoon Projects. Its tagline – “Cover bands don’t change the world” – is apt. Most entrepreneurs know that creativity is the greatest available weaponry to separate oneself from the pack. For Artful Entrepreneurs, every song is an original.
*The slide talk I delivered on The Agile Mindset can be found here. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1iTtHyxqjJpLEV_zEHDG9rZxakVuY5tZJw5abF6gQpRc/edit
Photos are from an interactive exercise called The Domino Effect, which can be found at tastycupcakes.org