When success is defined largely by monetary gain, you don’t get to create your fans (read: customers), they create you, and the second you forget this fact, you’ve lost.
We hear of artists complaining that no one is buying their product, that the financial rewards of creating “art” aren’t enough, but the attitude of “I’m the artist, I produce what I want!” runs directly counter to the nature of business. If it’s not selling, it’s because people see zero value in what’s being sold. Produce something people want, and they’ll buy it.
If someone wants to be an “artist” and not “sell out to the masses,” whether they realized it or not, they already subconsciously decided that being critically acclaimed as a “visionary” was more important than sales.
And the principle for businesses is exactly the same.
Before any plan gets executed, before you open the doors for the very first time, before you ever “flip the switch” and send your business Web site live, the first thing you have to decide is this:
What is success?
The answer to that question will largely decide everything else you do.
If “success” means creating a world-wide brand, you’re going to have to work and act (and work some more) in certain ways to get there.
If critical acclaim is more important than bottom-line sales, your roadmap shifts.
What levels of revenue are going to be enough for you to be satisfied? $500,000 a year? $10 million? 50? 100? 500?
Here’s the other thing: once you’ve made your decision, either live with it or change it, but don’t gripe about the inevitable results of the choice.
Companies, actors, singers, sports teams go bankrupt (financially or artistically) not because they never make missteps (even Hall of Fame rock bands have an occasional mediocre album), but because they invariably try to change their definition of success and expect there to be no consequences.