The Entrepreneur’s Craft

  • by Liam Curley February 12, 2016
    February 12, 2016

    Entrepreneurship is a craft, a form of creative art. The creation of something unique and independent, an expression of an individual or a group’s unique perspective on a given subject or concept.

    My passion is business, specifically small businesses. But what does that mean? Many say that they’re passionate about business. I fear that it’s often used as a throw away statement. My passion, my fascination, lies only with certain kinds of small business. Launching a small business can be art, and the creator is no different from the painter or writer in the expression of art. I think of the times I’ve walked into an independent bookshop or coffee house. When I’ve tasted a craft ale, handed to me by it’s creator. When I’ve discovered a truly wonderful ecommerce store, etched with intricate details of thought and attention. I get a rush of blood, as an art enthusiast would get when admiring a fine piece of art. This reaction is exclusive to those independent businesses where their work, their business, is their art.

    The art starts with a calling, a purpose. That purpose is never about money. The purpose always stems from a mission to make things better, to make a positive contribution to someone or something. This needn’t be as profound or earth shatteringly significant to anyone but the business owner and their tribe.

    It could be that the entrepreneur believes their purpose is to support the environment, and the best way to do that is by selling and encouraging their community to purchase locally produced vegetables, or to install solar panels. Wether they come to this realisation because they’re an eco-warrior and subsequently discovered solar panels, or because they enjoy the craft of installing solar panels and this led them to their realisation of the importance in protecting the environment is irrelevant. What matters is that there is a true purpose behind their work, and everything they do in a business sense is done so with this purpose in mind.

    Ignoring the masses

    Art comes from within, but it can be influenced by external factors, including people and their ideas, actions and behaviours. However, when you create something with the mind and goal of impressing and conforming to the masses or critics, you’re not creating art. Independent businesses are beautiful when the owner builds something without fear of failure. When they bring their idea to the world through their individual interpretation, and work on it each and every day with the only goal being to serve it’s higher purpose, that’s art.

    When every detail of the business is created to meet this purpose, it’s evident in their work and it’s wonderful to behold, whether you’re interested in the work that they do or not. When a coffee shop is launched and run for the right reasons, perhaps a purpose to bring great ethically sourced beans to a town sorely lacking them, it draws your attention. It attracts the coffee lover. It can even conjure a yearning from those who despise the taste of coffee but wish they loved the bitter tasting bean just so they could fully enjoy this entrepreneur’s masterpiece.

    We can all distinguish between an independent store which represents a form of art, and one which doesn’t, and many of us will fall in love with the art. We may be completely unaware that we appreciate this store because of it’s art, its craft. But why? What is it that symbolises art, and why would we fall in love with it because it’s art?

    A great store is unique, it has personality and individuality. It displays these characteristics because the owner views her business as art. She expresses her interpretation of how she will achieve her purpose through her business. These goals are delivered through the selection of products, the way that they’re displayed, the feel of her brand, the breadth of her product knowledge and passion for customer service. All of it serves to meet this purpose. The store doesn’t conform to what she deems to be important to the masses or what will make her a millionaire. She isn’t concerning herself with pleasing everyone that walks by the store, or impressing local journalists to earn press coverage. It’s an individual expression of entrepreneurship and craft.

    Attention to detail

    I love attention to detail, and no doubt any small business which deserves our appreciation displays great levels of attention to detail. But, what is attention to detail within the context of a business? Attention to detail is the work of someone who cares deeply. Attention to detail comes from someone that shows up every day and works. This reflects a certain level of commitment and passion, which shines through and appears in every corner of that business. It appears through their writing, their decor, their shop layout, or simply the answers that they give to each customer’s question. We label this attention to detail, but it’s not attention to detail. It’s commitment to a profession, to a business, to a craft. One days worth of commitment in isolation is worthless. 10,000 days of commitment equals attention to detail.

    Art isn’t created through ego, it comes from something deeper. If you’re creating a business to make money, you can be successful in doing so. But this business is of no interest to me, and I doubt it’s of interest to any other true entrepreneurship admirer. This type of business rarely manifests as one that elicits true joy or appreciation from anyone (creator included). It may lead to financial gain, but financial gain in itself does not equate to successful entrepreneurship for the art enthusiast. This is not to say that you cannot create a successful, independent business as a form of art and not earn financial reward, but the reward comes as a result of a pursuit for a higher purpose. That pursuit does not guarantee financial reward.

    Businesses can display many of the characteristics listed above, particularly individuality, personality and uniqueness, and not represent art. Simply being different doesn’t equate to art or entrepreneur craftsmanship. The pursuit of being different is not an expression of art. Neither is a business pursuit that on the surface shuns the need for public approval, but where decisions by the business owner are ultimately made for reasons to conform to an expectation of external factors.

    Can art and financial prosperity co-exist?

    If these wonderful businesses are to survive and thrive creating their art, they must deliver sufficient income for both the business and the owner to survive. Is the art of entrepreneurship enough to deliver this?

    The independent businesses that thrill us most are created through the entrepreneur’s dedication to a purpose, which may or may not deliver financial success. The image of an independent bookshop comes to mind. Many of us love to visit them, but how many of us enjoy the browsing experience, only to buy the books later that evening on Amazon? Can this business survive financially?

    It may be the case that the entrepreneur of this type of business does so for their love of books and the bookshop experience. Physical copies that we can touch and smell make us happy, as does the experience of browsing for books and visiting bookshops. The owners of these types of bookshops are behind the best independent bookshops on the planet, but this higher goal, this art, may not be enough to keep their business alive, and subsequently not enough to practice their art of creating the bookshop experience.

    The business owner has two options. Find another way to express their art, one which may give them enough income to survive and continue to be the artist. Alternatively, they can find other streams of income which may not be a true representation of their art, but allow them to continue as the artist. For example, a bookshop owner may identify local businesses and schools as potential income streams and make sales calls to sell in bulk. Perhaps they develop a coffee shop side to the business, or let out a space for another business to sell coffee (although you may notice that both these options still follow the entrepreneur’s purpose of improving the lives of people through books).

    The day I realised that I appreciated entrepreneurship for it’s craft, not it’s financial reward, was one of the most significant of my working life. If you’re an entrepreneur, and you haven’t come to this realisation, I hope you do soon. It’ll transform the way that you work and your levels of job satisfaction.

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