The First Rule of First Aid
from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
In work as in life, it’s essential to ensure first and foremost that you look after yourself before turning your attention to care for someone else. Just as in airplane safety videos that instruct you to put on your own mask before placing one onto a child, the equivalent needs to be done in professional life.
While this is seemingly straightforward and easy to do, it is much the opposite.
Here’s why: People don’t go into the arts to get rich fast, but to pursue deep-felt personal interests. Making a decent living is certainly possible, however in most cases this is not straightforward. As a result of the motivator not being money but something else, there is a great temptation to make decisions based on personal relationships, interests and emotions.
While you want to maintain integrity and stick to foundational principles, it is paramount that you make decisions with a big-picture professional perspective. Sometimes, this means making difficult choices in the short-term that will enable long-term success. The result is a successful creative enterprise in which you are able to do that which you love, while supporting and collaborating with others whose work you value.
This bring to mind the story of a gallerist who had to make a tough decision. The New York dealer had sold a painting to a Californian collector, and upon arrival marginal damage to two corners was identified. The client, a businesswoman, got in touch with the dealer to report the visible damage to paint, wear and tear resulting from the work being exhibited in fairs all over the country. Though not ideal, damage of art can occur, even if carefully handled.
The gallerist contacted a local artist friend to get a quotation for gently repairing the worn corners, using paint supplied by the maker. He came back with a quotation of 1,000 USD. Yikes! The quote was way off the mark. Not even a substantially larger job performed by a restorer would cost as much. Yet, the dealer had known the artist for many years and didn’t wish to upset the working relationship. What was he to do?
Enter the Rule of First Aid. It is essential to make objective decisions that contribute to the good health of the enterprise. Otherwise, making choices based on being a nice person can result in poor profit margins and serious damage to the business. The even nicer thing to do is negotiate a quote that works for your budget, either using the original supplier or another, and maintaining a healthy profit margin on the art sale. This approach is essential for building viable and sustainable creative enterprises, and better yet, you continue to give artists repeat sales, commissions and the likes for the months and years to come.
The Rule of First Aid comes up time and time again in a plethora of situations. When you’re tempted to prioritise the interests of others first or are inclined to make a decision that isn’t right for the business, think of the Rule of First Aid.
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