To Achieve Success You Must First Define It

Happy Smiley Face and Feeling Successful

What does success feel like to you?

Most people spend more time planning their vacations that they do their businesses and in many cases even their lives – and artists are no exception!  To be successful in business you need to know the answer to one of the basic questions of business planning – “Where am I going?”  If you don’t know where you are going then getting there may be difficult, wherever “there” is…

In working with creative individuals I have found that it is hard for many of them to define what success means. “I want to be a successful artist working in my studio” seems to be about as far as many of them can go in defining their success.

When you ask other entrepreneurs what success means they will describe their success in terms of being a market leader, capturing market share, developing new and innovative products, their distribution chain, market capitalization and the financial rewards. Thinking in these terms is not so easy for many creative types.

Success for many creatives is simply being able to pursue their passion – not a bad measure of success for any business. In some respects many businesses have to work hard to instill and keep passion thriving with their owners and employees. Passion for one’s work will get you a long way but it is not a guarantee of success.

One of the first steps in developing a business plan for your creative business (or any business for that matter) is to define the enterprise’s Mission Statement. Those who have gone through the business planning process or attended business school know that the Mission Statement is the starting point in defining goals and developing strategies.

The mission statement serves as a guide for the organization’s overall strategic and day to day activities. It defines what the company is or aspires to be, what products or services will be provided, which customer groups are served or targeted, and its values with regard to stakeholders such as owner, shareholders, employees, customers and the community.

If you are having difficulty in preparing your mission statement, don’t despair – it’s not that easy, even for those who have formal business training. By examining the following questions your business path should become much clearer. Be honest in answering the questions and write a few sentences describing your answers. Remember there are no right or wrong answers.

What are your career goals?

  • Are you looking for a full time creative career, an additional source of income or a hobby?

What are your creative goals?

  • What kind of products and services do you want to provide and to who?

What are your financial goals?

  • Do you want a source of income for yourself and family, income to provide for retirement, extra income or is income even important?

What amount of financial risk are you willing to accept?

  • Are you willing to accept high risk and put it all on the line, moderate risk or are you adverse to risk?

What are your sales goals?

  • Have you quantified your sales goals, will you be responsible for sales or rely on others or some combination of the two?

What are your marketing goals?

  • Do you plan on being responsible for marketing, rely on others, some combination?

What are your brand / reputation goals?

  • Are you looking to develop a local, regional or worldwide brand? What is it that you want others to say about you and your company?

What type of organization are you trying to build?

  • Are you looking to be a “one man show” or develop an organization with employees?

How much effort do you want to put into your business?

  • Are you willing to expend little effort or go “all out” in making your business a success?

When you have answered the following questions you are now ready to describe what success in your creative business means to you. If you have other factors that describe what success means to you, feel free to include them. You should now be in a better position to put together your mission statement and the strategies which will make it a reality – go for it!


Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver.

Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto