Your CREATIVE CORE: Mission, Vision & Values

If you want to make money with your art, you need to know who you are; and, your number one objective is to express that clearly to the world around you. As they say in the world of business, "always be pitching!" And in order to grow, to achieve a sustainable business AND make money by way of your creativity,  you must work diligently to enroll others into your CREATIVE CORE.

If you want to make money with your art.... If you want to achieve your goals as an arts entrepreneur.... If you want to actually achieve what you put out into the world when you say, "yes, I'm looking to be successful as as a creative person..." then you better be ready to answer these question, intelligently and with a clear sense of passion:

  • What is your MISSION?
  • What is your VISION?
  • And, what VALUES will drive your business & creative decisions?

Yes, these are big questions and may sometimes feel like the answers have little impact on the day-to-day operations of your business. Yes, they are cliche terms in the world of business -- and most certainly when you think about the language used by traditional nonprofits.

But, we're not talking about nonprofits here (that's a whole other story). Instead, what we are talking about is purpose-driven, for-profit business. And if that's the topic at hand, as I ponder the instances where creative professionals have failed in their marketing & sales strategy, I am reminded of the instances where these same individuals have lost a sense of their "creative core."

The truth is, if you want to be successful in any sustainable business practice, you need to have a deep, complex understanding of these terms. Your answers can't be off the cuff with little-to-know thought given to strategy. And, you need to be able to communicate in a simple, concise way what your answers to these core questions are in 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, etc, e.g. your elevator pitch. This means you need to know your business like the back of your hand and be prepared, no matter the time given or opportunity at hand, to 'always be pitching' your big ideas AND enrolling others into your mission, vision and values.

To help you out, I've done my best to describe these terms below (and share a few resources too): 

Now, let's break it down with an example, though not related to the arts: if your vision is a world where everyone is gainfully employed,' your mission may be to eradicate joblessness, and you are guided by the value you place on equality, opportunity, and economic empowerment. 

  • Mission (WHAT): The path you’re taking to achieve your great results: This is the place where your skills, expertise, passion, purpose, intelligence, collide. Your work is your mission.
  • Vision (WHY): How you see the world as a result of your great work: Finding your vision requires a TON of soul searching and personal breakthroughs. SEE Simon Sinek's presentation on discovering your why.
  • Values (HOW): The guiding tenets that will lead you down that path: Pick three+ words that you want people to use when they describe your work in the world. And, hold yourself (and whomever you work with) against those tenets in every action & decision you make.

NOTE: I got the translation of the last three items (Mission as What, Vision as Why, and Values as How) from a conversation with one of my employees at SUM Innovation.  We were talking about where nonprofits struggle and he made the point that they really needed to focus on these three items in order to effectively fundraise. I immediately connected these three words (what, why, how) to the words I use (mission, vision, values); and, it solidified for me that your mission is what you actually do, your vision is why you do it, and your values are how you do it.

So this brings up a BIG conversation on the topic of HOW; because, what I’ve come to discover is that I actually had the wrong definition of that word in my own understanding of it's relation to business. As an entrepreneur, you don’t really know ‘how’ things are going to happen. This relates to the idea of ‘solving a problem you don’t really have’ (SEE Lean Startup). And, you’re trying to figure out how to build a structure, determine a process, and create 'limitations' for something that does not yet exist.  This is an inorganic approach towards building a business and results in traditional, hierarchical, bureaucratic organizational structures... #NotGreatForArtists!

In light of the caustic nature of our economy and the shifting needs of customers, an organic, responsive approach towards how is the path towards your most immediate, entrepreneurial success. Instead, think of the how as your values. Your values are how you operate, how you make each decision, and gives you a framework for executing your mission towards realizing your vision. The actual 'business plan' part, which is the traditional definition of 'how', comes from you in conversation with your employees, partners, collaborators, mentors, coaches, customers, and friends – your ecosystem of stakeholders (SEE Conscious Capitalism).

That's a draft --- got questions, ask them below!

If you need help with your 'Creative Core', have a growing arts-related business, and you're ready to unlock your entrepreneurial potential, consider applying for the next cohort.

If you want to learn more about Mathew's work, check out LeftSideLabs.org or SUMInnovation.com.