Are Artists Entrepreneurs?

I've always loved the kind of ride that only movies can take you on. I'm in constant awe of the amazing storytelling, dazzling effects and never-ending creativity. My love for movies is what led me from my previous, corporate life to my current life as an entrepreneur in the arts. Now I get to interact with filmmakers, musicians, painters, animators, designers and writers on a daily basis. I love to see how artists -- regardless of their creative persuasion -- are continually experimenting and pushing their own boundaries and those that have been set for them. I've gained a real appreciation for the work that they do but also look forward to the opportunity to come away with some new learning.

As a breed that takes pride not only in its ingenuity and technical skill, but also as those who challenge the status quo, I can't help but notice the striking similarities of artists and entrepreneurs. And as artists and entrepreneurs learn from their peers and those that came before them, they can also learn valuable lessons from one another.

Both artists and entrepreneurs are driven by passion. They don't think of their work as a job, a career, or even much of a choice -- it's something they have to do. They take this path because of fierce passion rather than rational calculations. Consequently, few steps of their journeys can be mapped out.

In the stages of early development, both artists and entrepreneurs find themselves having to veer towards demands of the market. A friend of mine set out on her entrepreneurial journey to build a fashion destination for women. Though her vision was grand, she realized quickly that she had to focus her attention to develop a single piece of the overall vision, the mobile app. Only after the app gained traction was she able to begin development of the full capability that she envisioned. Both artists and entrepreneurs must learn to balance what to do to live today so they can survive to do what they really want to do tomorrow. Their abiding commitment to their vision keeps them going. And going, and going.

As much as they need creative fire to keep doing what they do, artists and entrepreneurs must learn to deal with the realities of life, business and their own limitations. A good friend and a successful technology entrepreneur found his lack of management experience to be a limitation. He discovered he could complement his technical knowledge with an the expertise of management advisors. He assembled a group of experienced managers to advise him as he started up his company. Since then, I have seen him grow into a talented senior manager. He still keeps in close touch with those advisors, but now the conversation has changed from "how to get going" to "how to grow the company to the next level."

The lesson that this journey is a "team sport" is one that entrepreneurs (hopefully) learn early. It requires a degree of humility that can seem at odds with the risk-taking persona that many associate with entrepreneurs. The truth is that the most successful entrepreneurs build for themselves a supporting network of people and companies to complement their abilities and learn to employ them effectively and efficiently.

This may not come as easily to artists. Focused as they are on developing their creativity and craft rather than organization and systems, artists can end up without the needed backing to bring their dreams to reality. As the lines between artists and entrepreneurs continue to blur -- and with more artists becoming entrepreneurs -- the admonition to them is even more clear: follow the lead of their entrepreneurial cousins and leverage the many resources available to remove the burdens of doing business as an independent artist.

The world needs for the creative among us -- be they artists or entrepreneurs -- to bring their ideas to life. Artists should find the right partners to come along with them on their journey to achieve the desired vision. That said, it is important to choose the right support systems and partners who complement rather than replicate them. Ultimately, it is better if others are rowing the boat with you...since in most cases you'll be rowing upstream.