Management Basics For Art Business Owners

The Five Functions of Management

As an art business owner you need to be concerned about management!

If you already run an art business or are thinking about starting one then one of the things you will want to get a good grasp of is management. Whether you are a one man show or employ numerous people you are involved in management.

As a business owner you need to be concerned about managing people, money, projects and all of the other business functions like accounting/finance and marketing. Even if you don’t employ others you will need management skills to work with others such as contractors, suppliers and even customers! If you are a business owner your overall success depends on having good management skills.

The role of management in your art business

The general idea behind management is to get people to work together to accomplish the organization’s goals and objectives in an efficient and sustainable manner. For management to be effective there are principles which need to be followed.

If you are a one man show you probably don’t have to worry about management. Once you add just one employee you are now in the realm of management. As you add more people in your business, the role of management becomes more important in order for the organization to stay focused on and accomplish its goals.

If you have employees, the management function is a full time job and not something you need to practice for a minute a day or whenever needed. If you have employees, then management is YOUR job; don’t take it lightly!

How well or poorly you manage your art business has a big effect on your brand. Your employees, customers, suppliers and others will notice your management skills and this will affect your future success and viability. Your goal with management should be to have the best managed company and turn your employees, customers, and others into brand champions for your business.

Management and its techniques and theories have been around for thousands of years. (After all, it took some management skill to build the pyramids!) The study of management has been written about for years in books such as The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Principles of Scientific Management by Frederick Taylor and numerous books by Peter Drucker including his classic, Concept of the Corporation.

Today there are hundreds of books, seminars and courses on management. Numerous models or theories on management have been developed. At the core of most of these are the basic principles or ideas that make up effective management. If you manage people in your art business and want to build an effective and profitable organization then you will need to learn and practice these concepts.

The five functions of management

The study and practice of management has evolved and is now generally divided into five functions. It is important to note that these functions are not the same as the general functions of a business which are: production & operations, accounting & finance, sales & marketing, and research & development.

The five management functions can and should be applied to all of these business functions. You should become familiar with these management functions in your art business even if you don’t have any employees. These functions will apply if you operate as a “one man show” because you will probably need to work with others in a “loose organization” or collaborative environment.

  1. Planning: This management function involves developing an overall plan for the business and plans for each department or business function. These plans include long term strategic plans as well as plans for the short term for projects. The plan period could be years, weeks, months, days or even for tomorrow! You planning will involve setting objectives and goals, developing strategies and their associated action plans.
  2. Organizing: In order to make a plan a reality, management must bring together the necessary resources and organize them so that things get done. These resources include materials, financial capital, human resources and technology. In organizing, duties are assigned and delegated along with responsibilities. Think of organizing of having all of the necessary ingredients ready when you need them.
  3. Staffing: Any organization needs the right people and the right amount of people to accomplish its objectives. This function starts with recruiting the right people, training them, making sure they are rewarded and reviewing their performance. Even if you don’t have any employees you have the opportunity to choose the people you wish to work with.
  4. Directing: The directing function is what people usually think of when they describe the process of managing, but as you have seen it is much more. Directing involves supervising employees and motivating them to do their best. Leadership skills are the foundation of effectively performing the directing function.
  5. Controlling: This function is all about measuring accomplishments and performance and taking corrective action if needed. Measuring can come in the form of seeing if you are on schedule (time) or if your costs or profits (money) are on target. Without measuring it is impossible to see where you are and if you have accomplished your goals. Controlling lives in the realm of budgets for time and money and carries all the way to your financial statements which tell you what your art business is worth and how well it has performed.

The bottom line(s)…

Every art business owner will need to wear a management hat at some point. Even if you have a business manager who takes care of the business end of your art business while you concentrate on creative endeavors you still need a basic understanding of management. There are hundreds of books, videos and seminars that can help you become a better manager. The resources are there and it is just up to you to take advantage of them.

If you would like to learn more about building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!


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 where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.

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