Believe it or not, my story as an entrepreneur starts in 1988 in communist Poland.
I was 9 years old and had a dream of making it big. At the time my most valuable possessions were my comic books and my dream was to use this resource to get what I wanted the most at the time: The coolest set of Matchbox cars (www.matchbox.com). I imagine other boys my age had similar aspirations. Clearly, we were up to something!
So, I gave the comic books to a friend of the family who spent his weekends at the local marketplace selling widgets, tools and ‘whatever-have-you.’ I carefully prepared each and every one of my comic books and priced it according to what I thought would be a good price. Since my comic books were very special to me I could only think of pricing them very high – after all, they were my comic books.
Needless to say, it failed. Not even one of my comic books sold and I did not get my fancy collection of Matchbox cars that year. No value was generated, and no money exchanged hands.
For the next decade or so, I lived in Greece and moved to Canada and more my entrepreneurial spirit was still alive. But I knew that something was missing. From time to time I wondered, “How come nobody wanted to buy my comic books?”
Later, when I was 21 years old I started a graphic design company. I was a stellar designer. I received international awards, got clients in Switzerland, Poland and Canada. When I would try to apply for jobs I would be sent home because I was told that I was too good. (My ego was out of control.)
I decided to build a web site with my award winning designs and wait for the customers to start rolling in. That didn’t work either. No value was generated and making money was still tough. What was missing I wondered?
The real breakthrough came to me at the age of 26 when I met Robert S. Chun, CEO and Owner of RSC Business Group. He shared information that finally eased the 9 year old boy’s frustrations. Needless to say, it was well worth waiting 17 years to hear it.
He informed me that I was not doing business. We distinguished that what I was actually doing was “art.” He asked me what art is. I said “Art is my self-expression. It is creating something from nothing.” This was accurate. He said that “Art is made real and either the world accepts someone’s art or rejects it.” Operationally, I tried to make a living out of my self-expression and my experience in business was hard because only so many people wanted my comic books or my award winning graphic design. The people I was trying to do business with resisted what I had to sell because they didn’t have an experience of needing it. It did not solve any problem for them. No value was being generated.
I also realised that I really needed to give up the interpretation that people are helpless and that they need my art. “You need my design otherwise your business will suffer!” is what I used to think. I realise now that I was only projecting my own insecurity on them.
So what was there to do as an artist? I needed to learn how to have people experience value first.
I also realised that business is distinct from art. Business is really about solving a problem or fulfilling a need. For business people it’s all about finding out what’s needed and wanted in an area and providing that at the right time and price.
The lesson I learned shifted my paradigm of what business can be for the world. It went from a scary thing that only a few people know something about to something very tangible. Business became real for me.
As an artist I wanted to solve my own problems first. What I got was that trying to be in business solving my own problems first is like trying to play hockey on a soccer field in the middle of summer. It does not work! (I dare you to try it though!)
I learned that true businesses solve real problems people in our community experience. They intently listen totheir market – and often invent new markets because they are able to tune into what people need and want.
So what has changed since I learned what business is?
For starters business is tons of fun. I get to generate real value – because I can be effective as a businessman in business and provide what is needed and wanted.
And, the amazing side effect is that art has not disappeared out of my life. I am an artist when it is appropriate to be an artist. It has simply been integrated into my life as an executive. Conceptual ability, synthesis, creativity, and innovation are very useful skills to have in business. This is the very thing that the top business schools are trying to teach. I wish them the best of the best.
So, ultimately, there really is a synthesis of business and art.
It is called business-art and you can have the opportunity to be a business-artist.
I wish I knew.
By Vwodek Wojczynski
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