1. Your workshop is about giving a good “elevator speech”. Tell us why this is important, and give an example from your own vast experience.
Preparation is everything in business. It cannot be underestimated. One can never be over-prepared but one can often be underprepared. We meet people all the time and we often meet very influential people without realising it. Hence opportunities come and go and we never seize them. Perfecting your 60-second pitch is a must for anybody serious about their practice, their career, their business. And that pitch cannot be just about your work; it must include your inspiration, your ambition, your vision. And having all the necessary ingredients exudes passion and passion sells. Those people passionate about what they do and more importantly why they do what they do go far. Far too many creatives never talk about the “why” factor. They love talking about the “what” factor. And that comes across very selfish; very self-centred; very shallow. There is a fundamental difference between the art of business and the business of art. Artists can no longer use the excuse that they are not good in business; somebody else should do it for them. If that happens, somebody else owns their business. Artists think giving away 50% commission and the entire collector base to a gallery ‘earns’ is the best deal for them. Well that is very similar to a wholesale formula in the fashion industry. And not many designers remain viable using wholesale-only formula. Those who ‘own’ and ‘control’ the client base run the business. It’s about time artists understood who makes it and why. And it’s about time artists managed their expectations and started learning that the art of business is as important as the art of making, in my view actually quite a bit more important. And they should also know that they have a choice: they can run the whole thing themselves perhaps enrolling into a business school or doing an art business MA at Sotheby’s and Christie’s which is not inexpensive (I believe around £20,000 pa) and learning in that way. Or they can run their practice as a business, hitting experts in the field, teaming up with those who know about them more than they do, hence investing in their future and their career. Hence the elevator pitch and media training is our initial workshop, one which gets all participating artists on their way to becoming more ambitious, more knowledgeable and more informed how the industry operates and how to strategically position themselves within that industry.
2. As soon as I start trying to rehearse a speech, I find all my effort goes into remembering, not creating: my mind goes blank and suddenly I’m an even worse speaker than before. How can I combine the natural spontaneity of my speech with proper preparation?
It is important to bear in mind that nobody in the audience or none of your listeners, whether it is one or hundreds, will ever know what you have prepared to say to them. None of them will be more passionate about your own practice; nobody will know more about your own subject matter than you. Research everything you do well; back it by by facts and evidence and remember one thing; if you forget something, move on and keep on talking about your passion, your vision, your message though your art, inspiration behind it, why you do what you do, not only what you do. And then the fear will go and once you’ve embraced your fears, you will no longer be scared.
3. It is said, “business is about introductions”. What makes a good introduction, and how can I get one?
You ought to put yourself out there. You ought to network without networking. You ought to manage your time and resources effectively. You must figure out where you want to go, who you want to work with and why and start showing up and meeting people. You must invest in relationships because relationships are all we have; and these relationships contribute to our overall success. Without them, we cannot succeed. You can choose to surround yourself with winners or losers. And it’s not about money. I call it a poor person’s mentality. Poor person’s mentality has nothing to do with their balance sheet and their bank account status. It is to do with their attitude. With their approach to life, value creation in the society… Think of those around you who waste energy minding everybody else’s business trying to hide their own failures and their own inadequacies. Wasting their own time and the time of many others around them. Draining other peoples’ energy because they are bitter unhappy, ‘poor’. You should not have time for these people. You should simply cut them out of your networks and your inner circles because they will hold you back otherwise. You cannot (or should not) get rid off your family members but if they drain you and hold you back, you can distance them. You can tell them less what you do and more why you do it. All successful people anywhere in the world have mastered the art of relationship building and rubbing shoulders with other successful people they learn from.
4. You talk a lot about commitment and passion. In my case, I think I know what I want, but once another person is involved I have a tendency to wait on their input before proceeding. How can I overcome that need for approval?
If you know what you want, you need no approval by others. And who are these others? Are they your contemporaries? Are they experts? Are they professionals? And why giving away the control and power to make your own decisions? What’s the worst that can happen? You may not succeed. You pick yourself up, learn from it, and try again. Persistence, perseverance and resilience are all needed to be successful. And if you don’t have it, go and get it. Or give up. Successful people never give up, only losers do. I know which group I want to belong to, you need to decide which groups you want to belong to and that could be a start of turning your life and your career around. It is as simple as that. Realisation and action is what makes it all happen. You must act on it.
6. When I try to explain to my artist friends how art and business are complementary, they tend to dismiss me and this damages my confidence: how can I get around this?
Perhaps they don’t understand it. Or don’t want to understand it. Perhaps they are scared or perhaps they don’t believe in themselves. You cannot use them as an excuse not to go forward and continue learning and developing both creatively as well as in the business arena. Or if you do, you will not go far. And it cannot be anybody else’s fault but yours. Talk to successful and happy people not those who complain, cry poverty, do the minimum and hope somebody else should do the hard work, and that they should benefit from somebody else’s hard work. These are parasites not worth your time, energy, effort or friendships. I know a few of them but I would not give them the time of day, no matter how much they would want to pay me for what I do.
7. Your top ten picks? Or would that be favouritism, coming from you?
It would so I would rather not… However we have an amazing collaboration with Purling London and some wonderful and super talented Debut artists have done us proud, so proud that even Harrods could not resist but to say “Yes please! We are ready to sell your chess sets for double the price!” And as one has already sold for £4,000, the second one probably will have as well by the time you have published this article.
For more information, we recommend you watch Samir’s Ted talk; follow this link: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Innovations-in-Global-Art-Samir