“The minute you’re satisfied with where you are, you aren’t there anymore.” — Tony Gwynn
A sustainable business is a growing business, not a static one.
This might seem like a simple concept, but it is an idea that most business owners do not consider.
To stand out, to continue to earn well, to stay motivated, and be noticed, you must focus on growth.
This applies to the individual stone sculptor, as much as it applies to a large software company.
Think of Andy Warhol and the help he got to be more productive and build one of the most recognisable names in art.
He would hire people to help produce more of his silkscreens more quickly, even commissioning others to help create products to sell under his own brand.
“It wasn’t called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day something new.” — John Cale, speaking about Warhol’s production house in 2002.
Granted, a lot of the people who helped him in his factory were high on speed, but that’s not the point.
The point is he was dedicated to production over consumption, leading to a very visible, prolific body of work in the hands of hundreds, if not thousands of people.
He didn’t succeed because he had a unique blend of wacky hair, passion and being a bit odd, though this certainly made him memorable.
He succeeded because he focused on growth and didn’t stop.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was to think that my illustration business could remain small, with a few key clients. This put a limit on where my business could go, and I was hesitant and uninspired to promote myself.
I thought that since I was a small business, what would be the point of promoting too much?
This is particularly a hazard for service-based businesses because you are limited by the amount of time you can spend on each project.
Aim big, and aim to scale things up.
The first element in this is to create new income streams. Sell products as well as your services, and scale things up.
It’s easier to be motivated to sell more if you have the capacity to sell more.
I have supplemented my illustration income with sales of books and courses over the years, and it has helped free up time and to stay focused on creating and growing.
Look also for ways to create more. Creative output shared — whether paid or not — will contribute to being seen, and it will lead to improving and mastering your skills.
Are there ways you can licence your work repeatedly for a fee?
Can you collaborate with someone to produce something more quickly that you can sell?
Are there tasks you do that you could delegate that would free you up to do more of what you’re good at?
Business is like wading upstream and the flow of the river is reality and life’s obstacles.
If you stand still you will be swept downstream.
If you walk at a slow pace, you will remain where you are.
If you strive forcefully forward — focused on growing — you will make ground and you will stand out.