And who are you?
Do you know what you are about?
Hopefully you have the answers to these questions or are in the process of seeking them.
Without it you’ll be trying to spread yourself thin to be a man or woman for all seasons.
Reality is, depth is what you need.
Because to go really deep means you’re the shizz in your niche.
And you are constantly in a state of flux learning, moving, changing and adapting your form.
In the end it’s all really experimental.
Some stuff works, the trials come off, and some stuff just flops so you fail and move on.
Are you wondering how to become a leader in your niche? And thinking do you have the confidence to lead?
In business as with elsewhere in life, leadership and confidence are something you can grow into.
But leading and being confident are all based on knowing your stuff and being all in on what you are about.
You take action every day in some shape or form to move yourself further along the path you are blazing.
My adult lifelong passion is hip-hop music. I love it.
I’m a turntablist, I’ve produced music, I’ve marketed gigs and performed in them to thousands of people.
I’ve even had my ‘fifteen minutes’ of fame on television performing.
The experience is invaluable.
And my experience selling art has also taught me immense lessons.
Both music and visual art are part of my genetic make-up.
It’s a well-spring that has enveloped my existence from childhood.
My family are heavily involved and have been since I can remember.
Building my strengths and growing in confidence in these fields has been a steep learning curve.
Creative endeavours are not for the meek.
You must know to keep getting back up no matter how many knock backs and rejections you receive.
It’s just like that.
So too business will not suit, if you are not resilient and constantly willing to learn.
Selling creative work is somewhat of an extension of the creative process.
Once your audience is developed and matured you can be somewhat a little more assured.
Though remaining relevant is about consistently reaching out and developing new relationships, in different contexts potentially.
Through another lens it’s that winning, learning and adapting cycle, again and again.
I’ve written before about my visual arts hustle.
And what follows is an example of how selling works for me.
In a sale I worked on recently a client had to be convinced on the value of the work.
They questioned whether the work on offer would fit.
Literally the size and scale of what was on offer was a make or break point of sale matter.
I could fold and accept their first answer or I could listen to their concerns, ask questions and then demonstrate how it met
their needs, and act with confidence.
I had to allay the client’s concerns.
Because their first answer was no.
It was a matter of assuring them.
I got out my camera and sent through images of the works in situ with a viewer in front.
I made institutional sized works more intimate with an audience.
Note I didn’t demand.
I was reassuring and demonstrably confident by providing the necessary information.
Creating a scenario where your customers and clients believe you are the right vessel for their needs is the art of the game, so to speak.
Selling is a thinking art.
You lead by telling, explaining, describing and demonstrating to your clients and customers how your product or service fits their needs.
So in essence it’s about empathy; asking the right questions, listening, then responding.
The personal qualities you bring to the table are what will set you apart, and designate you as a leader with confidence.
Success, any success, in my books is a result of hard work.
And being patient enough to realise that good things take time.
You can’t run your business, career or life based on what is popular, easy or people’s a good opinion of you. (With the last one note this is not an open cheque to be an arse, life has a way of catching up on that stuff.)
None of that stuff matters to me and nor should it to you.
So what does this mean for you, and I with regard to leadership and being confident?
That evolution, growing and sustaining momentum are keys to longevity.
Focus on your strengths by continuing to do what you’re good at and constantly taking action.
Winning, learning and adapting will see you in good stead to create a responsive and sustainable business.
Being in business is about staying in business
You need to realise that starting out in business means building your top line revenue and staying in business.
This will be your reality for the first 5-7 years of trading.
Sounds tough but this is the harsh reality.
You need to be aware that every minute of your time is precious.
You must spend money to make some but don’t be a dim wit and splash out on fancy accessories like offices, vehicles or equipment when you don’t have the income.
Go to the clients. It will stand you in better stead to understand what they are about and how they operate.
It also means that you cannot second guess decisions you make, but also cut your losses quickly because mistakes will happen.
When a course of action turns into a shit storm, own it and move on.
Forget about finger pointing, especially when you are the boss.
When you give directives realise that the outcomes can mean failure.
So you can’t cry about it, learn and go forward.
Remaining in business is all about taking action.
I call it pulling finger.
So in summary it’s all about leading by example.
It’s your business/career so you ultimately set the tone.
Being empathetic, listening and open is going to get you further than playing the hierarchy and thinking you are always right.
Remember you need to start humble and remain so even after you start kicking it.
Clients will say no, or drop you by taking their business elsewhere
SO be a grown up in your leadership journey and confidently but courteously ask the question about how you lost the business.
Review and regroup.
This means reflecting, taking a long hard look in the mirror at what you did and how you show up.
Is there anything you could do better, improve upon?
Ask why your competitors won the business.
Were they the incumbent supplier or was it a confidence issue?
You need to know.
Then implement the change required.
And move yourself forward.
Your adaptability will determine your business continuity.
Saying no is as important as saying yes
Keep top of mind you will not be able to say yes to everything.
In fact it’s important to know when to say no.
Having the self-awareness and understanding of when you and a client may not be a good fit will stand you and your business/brand in good stead.
You learn as time goes by that not all money is equal.
Sometimes you will find clients, businesses, service providers or staff that are just not a good fit for you and what you are trying to build.
I recommend you in this instance act as quickly as possible to disengage.
One of my key methods to eliminate these kinds of issues is by giving deadlines.
Deadlines are gold for removing the time wasters and money vacuums.
I love them.
They are the best thing for you financially and emotionally, because the end result can be a massive drain on your resources.
I had a potential customer approach once about a sale of a painting.
Which is always great, it means you’re not out there hunting for the sale.
So I emailed them with the purchase price and deadline to respond.
I think the cost shocked them.
This is okay.
You need to let people know you aren’t in business for shits and giggles.
The best part was they responded quickly, without the need to follow up, to decline the offer.
Remember time is something you’re not going to get back and money, well it comes and goes but don’t throw it away on stuff you can change.
Otherwise you will waste too much effort on unprofitable activity trying to get them metaphorically out of your hair.
Leaders keep their word
So deliver on the projects you sign up to complete.
Whether you’re the buyer or the seller stick to what you say you will do.
It’s a simple premise.
Unfortunately there are a lot of folks out there that don’t get it.
So make your word your bond.
It will distinguish you.
Just by way of an example I had a client who had indicated they would buy a painting.
It was quite a significant piece in the artist’s ‘oeuvre’* and they were getting a steal for the price.
Long story short they didn’t follow through.
They had built themselves up telling me stories about their collection and how they would refer me to other buyers if I would agree to them acquiring the work at a discounted rate.
Next thing I knew the whole deal went pear shaped.
And in the end they couldn’t even own up to not completing the sale by phone or email.
Not following through with the purchase was obviously the end of our relationship.
I consider it a fortunate stroke of luck.
I later heard through circles the collector in question was having their business practises investigated by prosecutors.
People who mean business back up their words with actions.
Accentuate the positive to get more of it.
You need to highlight the good.
Certainly real time feedback has its place.
However without strengths based feedback you will create a dispiriting and negative environment.
Set your expectations and allow your team to feel confident they know what they must do.
Your business or career is not meant to be an emotional roller coaster ride for the people you work with be they business partners, staff or contractors.
When you are consistent it ups the ante for everyone else to be so as well.
This is emotional intelligence.
Change is one of the only constants in life.
So you need to like it.
Or don’t be in business because the market is an ever evolving place.
You aren’t looking for the next best thing rather keeping abreast of what is happening and where the attention is in your field or niche.
And adapting to the conditions.
The alternative is you end up a fossil, not a good end.
Perfection is not the agenda
Throughout this post I have talked about taking action.
Waiting for the perfect time, perfecting your product they’re the short road to going out of business.
Being enthralled with perfection leads to procrastination.
By not getting on with the job at hand you will fail to meet your goals and not achieve.
So let it go.
Know that action will build knowledge and results.
By refining and finding answers along the way you increase in confidence and flexibility to grow your business.
To sum up learn from your mistakes and go forward.
The art of being in business is a series of touchstones.
They are simple principles which you can implement and see results from.
Be confident by taking action, continuously.
Be self-reflective, and take feedback so you understand your strengths.
Then play to them.
This is how you will win.
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*oeuvre: the body of work of a painter, composer, or author etc.