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What Is a Business Model and Why Your Artistic Business Needs One

As a creative person who wants to earn a living, you might think that’s as easy as selling the fruits of your creativity. That’s true on some level, but it’s likely not enough to get you to a point where you can sustain yourself. Having a business model that you understand and can craft into a business plan will help you get more time in the studio doing what you love!

 

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When you look at the careers of successful artists, it might seem like they got there through sheer luck. Maybe they were at the right place at the right time. They found a patron or stumbled into a relationship with a dealer when out on the town. But that’s probably not the case. 

The truth is that more often than not, getting to the point where you’re earning a living off your art takes more than just divine intervention. It takes thoughtful planning. That’s where having a business model for your art comes in. Hours spent building your business model will give you many years in your studio.

 

What Is a Business Model?

A business model is a plan that describes how you intend to make money. Every business—no matter what size or type of business it is—needs to have a business model. A business plan, built around a business model, gives definition for what needs to be done, and prepares for when things don’t go as expected. A plan can also be used to attract resources, money and talent, to a firm. 

Business models can be simple or complex, but they do need to have some key ingredients if they’re going to be useful. While larger businesses often use very complicated business models, I find the Business Model Canvas to be the easiest and least cluttered way for an artist to conceptualize their business. 

In my experience, a business plan, which we will connect to the model, minimally needs:

Executive Summary:  A short description of what the business is, what it does, and who it does it for. 

Market Analysis:  An understanding of how an artist’s work, the products, fits into the market; i.e. is it fine art, public art, 

Marketing Plan:  A method for identifying and attracting audience and customers.

Sales Plan:  A process that identifies your sales goals (transactions), tactics, and challenges for closing sales.

Finances: A description of your sources and pricing, and the costs required to produce the goods or services. 

Team Players:  The critical people that make the business run. That certainly includes yourself, but it might include staff, partners, vendors, venues, etc.

For internal purposes it is valuable to have a plan of operations. These are the manuals for production and process for delivering services, as well as the means of maintain great company culture.

Of course, none of these items exist in a vacuum. You need to understand how they connect and influence each other.The business model canvas is a tool that outlines and connects the different aspects of a plan.

Value Proposition: What is the unique value that your work brings to your audience?

At the heart of any business is the value it is producing for the world. This will influence internal operations of production and external communication of marketing and sales. The executive summary of a full business plan will focus on the value proposition and concisely address other facets of the plan.

Customer Segments and Channels: Who are your customers and audience? Who will value what you are doing? How will you present the value of what you are doing with them? The marketing portion of a business plan will identify customers and define methods of connecting with them. 

Customer Relationships: How will you build a relationship with someone from meeting  for the first time to being a repeat audience member or customer? Sales is about building relationships, a sequence of exchanging value. The plan for sales will define the process the business uses to develop and grow meaningful relationships with its audience. 

Revenue Sources + Cost Structure: How will the business make money, what will it cost to generate the revenue. The financial piece of a business plan has many details and most relate to revenue and expenses. The plan may also define sources of outside cash like investors, patrons and traditional banks.

Key Partners + Key Activities + Key Resources: How does the business make its product or deliver its services? What special relationships, resources or skills are required? This is the operational plan for making a product or delivering a service. A note on partners, they are critical vendors and others necessary for your operations who also share in risk and reward. 

Do You Need a Business Model?

I hope that by the time you’ve gotten to this point, you realize the answer is a resounding YES! Putting them together can be challenging, particularly if you’ve never done one before. That’s where I come in! I’m happy to help you strategize your business model. Contact me to schedule a chat or join one of our Creative Coworking sessions. 

 

Cash Flow for an Artists: What Is It and Why You Need to Pay Attention to It

Have you ever opened your banking app to look at your balance, only to find it’s much lower than you thought it would be? Not my favorite feeling either, but if you have encountered this sensation, then you’ve experienced the effects of cash flow!

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Just like you need to keep an eye on your personal account balance to make sure you have sufficient funds to live, so too do you need to pay attention to what’s coming in and going out of your business to sustain your practice. That, in a nutshell, is cash flow. 

When mastered, strong cash flow for an artist can make the difference between a business that’s healthy and one that’s no longer in business, or the difference between making more art or waiting for the next check. Let’s take a closer look at what cash flow for an artist  is, how to ensure you have a positive cash flow, and the impact that it can have on your arts business. 

 

What Is Cash Flow?

Cash flow is the movement of money through your business. Typically speaking, money coming into your business is revenue, while money going out of your business is expenses. Cash flow for an artist takes into account both revenues and expenses to date, as well as future revenues and expenses. In this sense, it’s also a forecast of what you can expect financially.  

Cash flow is calculated over a duration of time. Frequently it is analyzed over the course of a month, but you might also calculate the flow for a day, week, quarter, or year. A month tends to be most helpful as “bills” or invoices from vendors are usually calculated on a monthly basis. 

What Is Positive Cash Flow?

Cash ebbs and flows; sometimes we have more cash on hand, sometimes we have less. Having a positive cash flow for an artist means that more money is coming into your business than going out. It’s a sign that your business is healthy. It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re profitable, as things can change over time. 

The dynamic nature of your cash position makes it important to look at your cash flow monthly. Consistent check ups allow you to a) ensure you’re not spending more than you’re taking in and b) adjust your forecast of revenue and expenditures of future cash flow to keep sufficient funds on hand to stay operational. And yes, when you are in business for yourself you can control the expenses and revenue. You can put more energy into marketing and sales to increase revenue, and you can reduce costs by changing vendors for products and services.

Additionally, a cash flow report for a certain period is often required by banks and lenders in cases where you need to take a business loan. 

 

How to Calculate Cash Flow

There are a number of ways to calculate cash flow for an artist, some more complex than others. If you’ve invested in an accounting tool, they frequently offer a cash flow report, but it’s good to still understand how it’s measured. 

A basic cash flow formula looks like this:

Income – Expenses

So, for example, let’s say last month you sold $5,000 worth of art. But you also spent $3,000 in expenses such as supplies and materials, studio rent, utilities, etc. during the same time period. You therefore have a $2,000 positive cash flow for the month; i.e. $5,000 revenue – $3,000 expenses = $2,000 cash flow) .

You can certainly project the same numbers out over a time period, but it’s important to take into consideration that both revenue and expenses are likely to fluctuate over time. That is, you’re not going to necessarily bring in $5,000 every single month, and your expenses may shift based on your business activities. 

But, let’s say you want to project your cash flow for the next four months. That’s a little trickier, particularly for an artist with revenues and expenses that fluctuate. A cash flow report might look like this:

January February March April
Cash at beginning of period $5,000 $7,000 $5,000 $9,000
Estimated Revenue  $5,000 $2,000 $6,000 $3,000
Estimated expenses $3,000 $4,000 $2,000 $3,000
Final Cash on Hand (change in cash + cash at beginning) $7,000 $5,000 $9,000 $9,000

 

Of course, your cash flow report should be more detailed, with itemized expenses and potentially income (particularly if you have multiple income sources). 

Ultimately, putting together a cash flow report and reviewing it on a monthly basis will help ensure you’re staying on top of expenses, operating within the bounds of your income, and whether or not your business is on a positive track. 

Your cash flow report can also help you prioritize your activities. If you need more revenue, you may want to work on your sales or marketing. If you have ample cash on hand, it may be time to invest in new equipment or more materials. Understanding cash flow for an artist, can give you more time in the studio with better gear to make the things you want to make!

 

Want help putting together a cash flow statement? I’m happy to help! Set up a time to chat with me or check out one of our Coworking with Creatives sessions

Art Business Marketing: Goals and Measurement

Art Business Marketing is not a mystery. Growing your audience in ways that are true to you can be easy and enjoyable. Let us show you how.

This post is Part 2 of a multi-part series. Subscribe to our Business of Art newsletter to receive notification when additional posts are published. 

 

In the first part of this series, we discussed the basic parts your marketing plan needs to have. In this, and a few future posts, we will go into more detail about what goes into each part of art business marketing and how to put them all together. Think about it like drawing a roadmap with a clear destination, a pathway to get there, and measurable milestones that you can track to determine if the plan is succeeding. 

In this part, we’re going to talk about goals, the clear destination, and measurement, the milestones along the way. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you go back and read Part 1 before reading this.

Let’s dive in! 

Goals

As we mentioned in Part 1, goals need to be specific and measurable. This is where you want to think about the big picture of what you want to accomplish. 

Some examples of goals could be:

  • Increase sales by 10 percent.
  • Hold 2 gallery openings in a year. 
  • Secure 3 commissions. 
  • Earn $50,000 total revenue. 

Spend some time thinking critically about what you specifically want to accomplish. For example, let’s say you want to sell commissions. Who do you want to sell them to? Do they need to be a certain type? A certain dollar amount? A certain size?

A key part of developing goals is making them realistic. If you’re just starting out and you’ve never sold a single piece in your life, then going from $0 to $100,000 is very unrealistic. Instead, focus on what you honestly believe you can achieve. 

Although these goals may not look like marketing goals, they will significantly influence how you approach your art business marketing. These specific destinations will help you define the audience and customers that you will need to engage during the year. To reach these goals you will need to think about: what galleries you want to show your work in, who will commission you, and who are the customers that will buy your work to generate your revenue. These details are important to your roadmap (marketing plan) for success.

 

Measurement 

 

Your goals will determine what you need to measure. In our map example it is helpful to measure the miles you have traveled towards your destination, it is probably much less helpful to keep track of the number of cows you pass.

For example, if your goal is increasing sales by 10 percent over the previous year, it’s easy to measure whether you’re on track to meet that goal or not. If last year you generate $20,000 of revenue in your art business, this year you want to increase thatto $22,000. Another way to see that is about $200 extra of revenue generation each month. This might mean one more customer or 4 more print sales.

The trick here is to make sure you’re measuring things that are actually important to meeting your goals. We call these “metrics.” So if your goal is to increase sales, you may not find it useful to measure and track things like social media engagement—unless they correlate to closing sales.

An easy way to do this is to document your process. You can choose any tool/place to do this. For instance you could set up a spreadsheet where you can add monthly stats such as sales figures, website traffic, social media followers, etc. At first, it might seem like busy work. And you may start by tracking things that only seem tangentially relevant to your goals. But over time, patterns will start to emerge. Over time, the more data you track, the more you’ll be able to judge whether they contribute to your success. Using social media followers as an example, you might find that whenever your Instagram follower count grows by 5 percent, you get more sales. 

Keep in mind that metrics are finicky. What works today might not work tomorrow. That’s one reason why it’s a good idea to review your marketing plan—and any results you achieved—on a regular basis, which initially may be quarterly but as your business grows you may find it helpful to check where you are at more frequently. 

 

Need help putting this all together? I’m here to help! Check out my Coworking with Creatives workshops or contact me to discuss how I can help you market your art. 

 

Making Myths and Luxuries: Branding Lessons for Artists

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In the corporate world, we talk about “brand” to discuss a company’s identity. Much like human identities, there are many brand possibilities for companies. Brands can be fun and playful, irreverent, serious, etc.

While the word brand might be too stiff or formal for an artist’s business, artists still have an identity. And developing your identity is key to being successful. For artist entrepreneurs, it can be fun and valuable to explore what identity they want their business to have. Artist branding doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

 

What Is a Brand?

We often think of a brand as a logo, but it’s a lot more than a stylish symbol. A common phrase in corporate marketing is, “A brand is what your customers say it is.” In other words, a brand is the emotional connection between the company, its products, and the customer. A brand is complex; it is the essence of a company and the relationship of that essence to its audience. 

When customers buy something from a brand they like, they’re not just buying a product or a service. They’re buying meaning, something that goes beyond function and reflects on how the customer views themselves. 

 

Something similar can be said for art. 

 

Certainly, most people don’t buy art for its functional value the way they buy, say, a pair of shoes or a car. They buy art for how it makes them feel. A big part of that is the storytelling that happens around the art, what I like to call the Myth.

 

Myth Making for Artists

What makes one artist more well-known than another? Is it that their work is better than others? 

Sometimes a revered artists work IS better, but likely what makes an artist more well known than another is differentiation! More often than not, it’s the myths created around the artist and their artwork that heighten the audience’s value of the creative output. In branding, we call this “myth” a brand story.

 

What is a myth, exactly? 

 

It’s more than a story. Myths often have some common characteristics, including:

  • A story with a nearly unbelievable—but still possible—arc. 
  • An origin, a transformation, and an expansive possibility

Myths are created to teach us, to inspire us, and to help us understand our own experiences in the world. The ability to craft and articulate a myth can be very valuable to an artist seeking to sustain themselves through the sale of their artwork.

 

For artists, this usually translates to:

  • An origin story somewhere between truth and fiction, but that showcases the artist’s humanity. It is where you are from in all aspects. Your hometown, your family, your friends and colleagues, and all the unique things and experiences that make you, YOU.
  • A transition where they experience concepts and learn skills to turn ideas into things. It is how you emerged as an artist. Your early experiences. The teacher that recognizes your talent. The training that refined you. The critique that made you. The transition is the awareness of you as a creative force.  A vision of things yet to exist. The artist has dreams of concepts, ideas and inventions that will enrich them as a creator.

 

So how does myth making translate to selling art? To understand this, it’s important to understand what type of business you want to be and to develop a myth that embraces the type. 

 

Three Types of Businesses

There are essentially three types of business: Commodity, Premium, and Luxury. Let’s take a quick look at what each of these are. 

 

Commodity Business 

Commodities are interchangeable goods or services. Their price is controlled by the customer, who can buy any number of products or services that are nearly the same  from a selection of vendors. For example, it doesn’t matter whether they buy the store brand of sugar or a name brand. The product is essentially the same and the creator has no control over the price.

 

Fine art is rarely sold as a commodity, though there are certainly websites where artists can sell various quality prints of their work as a commodity. This might be most akin to an unlimited print run.

 

Premium Business

A premium business sells differentiated products or services based on quality of material, skill, or customer support. The prices are often tied to what the market will bear, but is also greatly influenced by the quantity and expansiveness of offerings that supply has created in the marketplace. The creator has some control over the price, although the peers that they are competing with will influence price as well.

 

For an artist business, a premium business model can make a lot of sense. The artist often selects ideal materials for their creations and their skill is often high caliber. Together, the quality of materials and expertise of craftsmanship to make a work of art can command premium pricing, although your price may be influenced by your fellow premium peers.

 

Luxury Business

Luxury businesses are distinguished from the other types based on often irrational, subjective reasons. Products and services in this category are driven by scarcity, usually manufactured, and priced much higher than the value of the materials or skill needed to create them. In some ways, luxury products transcend reality by enabling the customer to be, think, say or do something beyond themselves. 

 

Think of almost any high-end luxury clothing brand where it’s all about the designer’s name and the brand rather than the material of the product or the skill of the person actually making the goods (either by hand or using machines). 

 

Art easily lends itself to this category, and much of society also sees art as a luxury. Not only is art a perspective, expression or manifestation of an idea that reflects the buyer, but its supply is greatly limited, it is usually unique, and only the artist has the skill and experience to create it. As a luxury brand, the artist and their business team can have significant control of the price.

 

Where Does Your Artist Business Fit In?

So what do these three types of businesses have to do with making myths? Oftentimes, the myth defines the business type. In other words, your art might be totally differentiated from every single piece of art out there. But it is your myth—your story, your skill, your experiences, etc.—that defines whether your art is a commodity, a premium product, or a luxury experience. How accessible your myth is to your audience also plays an important role. If no one knows the myth–or understands it–it kind of doesn’t exist!

 

Keep in mind that you may work through all three of these types of businesses over your art career. You might start at the commodity level, maybe churning out similar, less differentiated work at first. Then, as both your artistic vision and business skills mature, you might morph into a premium business, making fewer pieces (i.e. reducing supply) and growing the perceived value of your work. Finally, you might further refine your model to develop luxury pieces and services, such as painting commissioned murals in a customer’s home or designing Diadora’s next show line.

 

Ultimately, the direction you choose to take your business is yours. But if you need guidance in refining your vision and understanding how to build a business that supports your art, I’m here to help. Contact me to discuss how to build your income as an artist in a way that aligns with your artistic vision.

 

Accounting Tools for Artists

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Let’s face it: Doing accounting for your business probably isn’t at the top of the list of things you enjoy doing. After all, you probably became an artist to express yourself, and spreadsheets and tracking income and expenses is probably not your preferred medium. Yet, as someone who wants to earn a living doing what you love most, you need to do at least a little bit of accounting.  

“Why?” you may ask yourself. 

For one, it is important to know your financial health. Just as taking care of your physical health allows you to create more art, a healthy perspective on your money will serve both your business and your creativity. Of course, you want to make sure you report the right amount of income and pay your taxes correctly in order to avoid major penalties and life-wrecking finances later down the road. And you might be surprised by how exciting it can be when you can see how your business is doing financially—especially when you’re profitable. Good accounting will also improve your pricing! Ultimately good accounting can give you more time in the studio and less time worrying.

Luckily, technology is here to help! There are a number of great financial tools for artists out there to help with accounting. Here are three that I like to use and that I’ve seen work well for some of my clients. 

Before we get to the financial tools for artists, it is important to note that the best tools for your business are the ones you will use. A powerful and great looking app may not be as helpful as a paper and pen sometimes. Choose the tool you want to learn and are willing to embrace!

Spreadsheets

I know, you’re probably thinking there’s nothing less interesting than a spreadsheet. I feel your pain. But hear me out:  The spreadsheet is a powerful tool that, when set up correctly, can make accounting a breeze while also giving you all the information you need to properly run your business. 

The best thing about spreadsheets:  You can set spreadsheets up anyway you like. They’re incredibly flexible to serve multiple purposes, and they are low cost or even free!

The worst thing about spreadsheets:  You have to have a basic understanding of how they work and how to manipulate them to get the most use out of them. They are also pretty boring to look at.

The good news is that there are plenty of templates out there that might be perfect for you, so you don’t have to start from scratch. There are also plenty of resources on how to utilize spreadsheets and even set them up for financial purposes. Finally, there are a number of free platforms out there that offer spreadsheets, such as Google Sheets or Apache Open Office. So, it’s often just a matter of finding the platform you prefer and choosing an appropriate template. 

Spreadsheets are a great financial tool for artists that are just getting started in business. The price is right, they are pretty easy to learn how to use and understand, and there are many individuals who utilize spreadsheets and can possibly help.

 

Quickbooks

Sometimes, it’s good to just pick a well known entity. And in the world of accounting tools, that winner is Quickbooks.

Quickbooks is the industry go-to for accounting software for small business owners. Unlike spreadsheets, you  have to pay for Quickbooks, but they offer a few different packages to fit different budgets. The cool thing about Quickbooks is its many functions.  You can track income and expenses, use it to send invoices to customers, send reminder invoices to customers, manage and pay bills, track inventory, and prepare for your taxes.Quickbooks offers a lot of automation and can connect to your bank account too. Quickbooks might be worth the investment as it will save you a ton of time and headaches.  It also generates reports that can help you make better business decisions that give you more resources (money) and enables more time to create.

Quickbooks is a great  financial tool for artists who have figured out their business to some degree. They likely have gone through a tax season or two and know what their sources of revenue are and what expenses to track. There are excellent resources and lots of professionals to help set it up as well as possibly do the financial work. It is a great financial tool for an artist who wants to automate some of their finance work and is interested in how finances can influence operational decisions.

The challenging thing about Quickbooks is that it requires at least a basic understanding of accounting terminology and principles. It also requires a bit of time and effort to set it up properly. You can certainly do this yourself, but there are plenty of accountants out there who are more than happy to help you with this.

HoneyBook

Want something that’s easy to learn, easy to use, and kinda pretty? If so, you might want to consider HoneyBook.

HoneyBook calls itself a platform to get everything done that you need to. In addition to accounting features, it can help you manage projects, clients, proposals, and more. It helps you manage essential documents (contracts, invoices, etc.), and  allows you to streamline client communications into a single platform. You can  manage bookings (such as if you’re scheduling photoshoots) and payments. Honeybook can be a great place to manage your customer contacts, particularly for relationships points like quotes/estimates, invoices, and tax reporting.  For the full price ($390/year at the time of this writing) you get all the platform’s features, but they do have more affordable plans if you don’t want to make that level of financial commitment. 

Honeybook is a great financial tool for artists who want to integrate their finances, customer information, and production calendar, while creating a high-touch experience for customers. It doesn’t quite have the support system of spreadsheets and Quickbooks, but there are resources and individuals who can help get things set up properly.

 

Want to learn more about financial tools for artists? You’ve come to the right place. Check out my upcoming Finance Friday coworking session where we’ll discuss all things financial for your artist business. Or if you have a burning question now, don’t hesitate to contact me

 

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Pricing Artwork doesn’t have to be magic: How do I Price My Artwork?

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“How much should I sell my art for?” 

Too often, I find that artists asking that question don’t have a good sense of what their work is worth and are vastly undervaluing their art. 

Case in point: I have a client who was recently offered a commission for $2,000. It sounded great on the surface, but when we dug into the details, we realized the project would run six weeks and prevent the client from doing any other work. Projecting out based on that one project, this artist would make less than $18,000/year. Basically minimum wage. 

Your work is worth more than that, isn’t it? I certainly hope you believe it is. 

So how should you price your art? 

 

Subjective vs. Objective Pricing

Artists frequently price their work subjectively, meaning they give it a price based on what they think its value is. But price and value are two different things. 

Value is what an artwork is worth to somebody. It’s subjective because many factors go into the value of an artwork, such as the owner’s sentiment towards it, rarity, age, etc. When we say something has a “market value,” that’s basically what a piece could get in a market. But that doesn’t always mean it’s what someone is willing to pay. 

Price, on the other hand, is objective. Or at least it’s based on some objective measures. Price is a function of supply and demand (I know…economics terms always make me groan, too). As an artist, you control the supply of your artwork and you can influence the demand (see blog post: art marketing plan). 

 

How to Price Your Art

Luckily, there’s a relatively simple way to price your art (the objective part), though it does require a little bit of math.

(Good accounting can help you with this part)

First, you need to consider what the cost of your supplies are. That includes all the items you need to make your art (tools, materials, etc.) but it also includes things like your rent for your studio, electricity and heating costs, etc. Basically, anything that you need to create your work should be included. This is where tracking your finances comes in handy. 

Secondly, you need to figure out your hourly rate. Even though we don’t like to think of ourselves as hourly workers, this is an essential step to coming up with a fair market price for your work. To calculate this, consider what you would like to make annually before taxes. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say $52,000/year. 

To calculate your hourly rate, you need to divide the annual salary by the number of hours you work each week. First, divide your annual salary by 52 (there are 52 weeks in the year), and then divide that number by the number of hours you work. For argument’s sake, let’s say 40, since that’s the standard for full-time work. Here’s what that looks like:

$52,000/52 weeks = $1,000 per week

$1000 per week/40 hours = $25/hour

That’s your hourly rate. Now, consider how long it takes you to complete a single piece of art. Let’s say something took you five hours to finish. 

5 x $25/hour = $125

But that doesn’t account for things like supplies. Let’s say it costs you $50 in supplies to make a particular piece. Thus, your total cost would be $175 (your labor and supplies). It’s important to note that this should be considered the base price. Don’t forget you have to add in other factors like a portion of your studio rent, insurance, marketing costs and other overhead items. The price needs to be closer to $300 (labor + supplies + overhead)

Ultimately, how you price your work should be a combination of objective (the real costs like labor, supplies and overhead)  and subjective (the desirability, rarity and non-measurable things) approaches. It should meet your bare minimum of what you need to make to sustain yourself as an artist, of course, AND you can also take into consideration how others feel about your art.  The good news is, that could be a whole lot more than you think!

If pricing still feels a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. It takes time to figure out your numbers. It can also be helpful to have someone to talk to about it. Feel free to reach out for a chat if you want more space to think out loud with someone. 

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Mental Prowess Part 3: Alchemy of Turning Mistakes into Knowledge

Check point three was 45 miles into my Shenandoah Mountain 100 ride. It is located at the base of a downhill run that rides like a wooden roller coaster: tight turns, stomach altering elevation changes, and near misses of low hanging tree limbs. The descent was several miles of thrills that set the mind racing with norepinephrine and gave me a sense that I can walk on water. I felt great rolling into the stop! I took very little time to eat and refill my water and felt like the remaining 55 miles were mine.

Things turned quickly in the next section of the ride.

The course to check point four starts with several miles of flat highway riding. It can be a spot to pick up ground and I thought that was what I was doing when I put my head down to draft off of a guy passing me. We took turns pulling to the trail head. The pace was high and I kept some of the steam up into the notoriously technical climb in the woods. Eventually I succumbed to the grade, the roots, the rocks and my rising heart rate. I hiked a good portion of the final ascent, but alas the summit came.

I took a breath, took in the view and giddily I mounted my metal stead.

Something was wrong. I could not maintain my line on the single track. I found myself off course and unable to sustain any meaningful speed. Each root and rock sent a shock wave through my bike and into my body. After a miserable few miles of down hill, I slow pedaled the final mile of flat into checkpoint four. A volunteer made eye contact and asked if I was alright. I was not alright. I tried to avoid verbally acknowledging the anguish but my body would not hide the truth. She persisted and brought me food, filled my camel bak and made sure the mechanic lubed my chain.

I did not know if the next 18 miles to checkpoint five were possible, let alone the remaining 43 to the finish.

There is a good chance the over exertion on the highway clouded my thinking. I did not listen to the cues of my body, or even the voice in my head, until I started THE DESCENT of the day 20 miles later. Several hundred meters into what should have been my entrance to euphoria, I encountered the same sensations of the previous down hill. This time I stopped. I decided to check my machine and behold I found the problem! My suspension was locked out by mud. I spent a few moments cleaning and working the parts and got my bike operating much better. I remounted and proceeded to find a state of flow far beyond my typical daily existence!

Processing the experience allows me to see a lesson I can take into life beyond the saddle. Your brain and your body are finely tuned machines, particularly if you have done your homework or practiced. They can provide you with incredible information that you just need to pay attention to. I rode 20 plus miles on faulty equipment. It cost me time, it cost me energy, it could have lead to a DNF and it could have damaged my nearly-new-shamefully-expensive bike.

 

Space to think turns mistakes into the gold of knowledge!

Mental Prowess Part 1: Stop and Think, you don’t have time not to

Post 100 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing

On Sunday September 1st 2019 I got beat up.

It was my fault. A series of decisions, and probably my biology, put me in the position to be in immense pain that day.

I completed the Shenandoah 100, an ultra-endurance backwoods bike race in the mountains of Virginia. The experience was taxing on my body. My quads were quaking, my forearms were on fire, and my body was bruised. Twelve hours of physical exertion is a lot to endure.

I thought I planned my recovery week accordingly. I allowed myself to step out of my rigorous workout routine and planned to refrain from general physical activity. My body rebounded quickly. The following day I was achy but was not debilitated by pain. On the second day, I returned to my bike to commute to meetings and by the fourth day I was back in the gym.

However I had not recovered.

I neglected to consider the mental aspects of regaining normalcy.

I planed to proceed through my typical professional week. I maintained my usual load of meetings, I had a major event on the books, and the calendar had a launch date for a significant project. My mind needed to be incredibly active to accomplish the load.

I unknowingly did not create space to process the experience.

A critical part of endurance athletics, or doing anything hard in life, and quite possibly the true challenge, is the mental aspect. It takes a tremendous amount of will power to push through extreme activity. There comes a point where you are bored of having done the same thing for extended duration of time. You just have to keep going. There comes a point where irritation hits your awareness. You just have to keep going. There comes a point where you feel the pain. You just have to keep going. There comes a point where you ask why am I doing this. You just have to keep going.

To accomplish the big and challenging things in life you have to override your brain.

Mental prowess is developed through such exercises. This self induced trauma creates frameworks to see things differently. This new perspective is where you will find power to leap over personal and professional hurdles.

So what happened on my ride that I needed to get out and what value might doing so provide?

Do I need an agent… or any expert

Last week my accountant emailed me with the out come of our tax return. He suggested that if I move some cash into retirement savings I could reduce my burden by 2x what I am paying him for this year’s service. He has paid for himself with a simple suggestion. It is the second time in as many meetings he has added depth to my knowledge and numbers to my bank account.

He is a valuable resource to have. It is interesting though, that the value of the accountant seems to go up as our net-worth goes up. When there is little to account for there is little opportunity to recoup the cost of counting. Yet, I have utmost confidence that had a professional financial guide been at my side in the beginning we would be in an even better position today.

When resources are scarce one of the hardest things for us to pay for is knowledge. Yet it is precisely knowledge that we need when we have little else to work with. We need to work smarter in tandem with working hard, because often times we are working harder due to lack of efficiency, or rather, lack of knowledge..

The benefit of efficiency is a curious thing, it has drastic impact at the start and overtime it compounds.

One of the most evident signs of our need for knowledge is with our most precious resource: time. When we first start a business, we are constantly busy. We are terrible at time management because we can not assess what is important. Assessment is about awareness. We lack knowledge of the right questions to ask to gather the right information to guide our actions. Is the product more important or finding my audience? Should I work on a partnership or focus on a sale? Is that gig worth it? Furthermore, when we lack time because we are busy, the last thing we prioritize is sitting to think. Thinking seems like doing nothing and how can we afford to DO nothing.

Unfortunately doing nothing is likely one of the most valuable things you could do to not only win back time, but also win the life you want to lead.

If you are unable to think, who will for you?

More than Price: Pricing Art

Finance is complex but it is by far the easiest field for assessing one aspect of value. There are “logical” rules within the world of dollars and cents. BUT, because the world of finance is inhabited and controlled by humans, rationality is not always followed nor the driving force. The complexity can, and often does, become chaos. And that uncertainty yields a rightful sense of fear.

Probably one of the biggest fears is to confront the financial worth of our work. Does price really define my worth?

The simple answer is no. But let’s dig into price to understand why that can never be the true measure of our worth and success.

In the realm of economics price is the point at which transaction happens. Transaction is an exchange of value, often times currency/money FOR an object or service. Transaction requires two parties, it can not be done in isolation. Price is therefore never determined by a single party. This means that “price” is not necessarily the number printed with a dollar sign next to an object on the wall, nor is it the the number in the head of a potential customer. The number on the wall is the financial value assessed by the producer of the object and vice versa, the number in the head of a customer is their financial value for the product. Neither party is right or wrong, they are both true.

The challenge might be to get to place where exchange can happen.

The easiest experience is when the number in the head of a customer exceeds the number on the wall. Of course an exchange can happen, and possibly include more then what is stated (a bonus on your work; Wouldn’t that be nice!) As you progress in your work and build the value of your brand this is likely to happen. Think of how often you purchase an object or a service because you value what you are getting sometimes even before the object is produced for your inspection or the service is provided. You know it is worth it either from your own experiences in the past or the trusted guidance of a friend. You know that the brand carries a level of integrity that you trust and will deliver the dollar value, or even more, than what you are taking out of your wallet.

Things get more challenging for the exchange to occur when the reverse is true, the number on the wall exceeds the number in the head of the customer. There is a misalignment of assessed financial value. How do you get the numbers to match up? This is the art of sales and negotiation.

Often times our first inclination is to question our assessed value. This is an icky feeling situation! However, this makes sense as it is what is in our control and likely the easier move on our part. But… there is the possibility of increasing the assessed value in the head of your customer. How do we demonstrate that our number is more accurate for the value of the experience?

When it comes to art, we likely can not lean on objective financial value. The cost of materials and our labor is not likely where the number we put on the wall comes from, nor will those two things add up to what you have put on the wall for the customer. We therefore can not debate the physical value of the object or creation of the object with our customer. The caveat to this might be if we have the market (an “objective” valuation platform that is agreed upon by many) to support our number, but many of us do not have that for our work.

So we have to ask ourselves where did the number on the wall come from?