05 October 2017

Creativity: Does It Pay?

1. Creativity is the raw fuel of innovation. It alone does not give the intended end benefit, which is economic benefits. Like any raw fuel, it needs to be burnt for energy to burst. Creativity needs to be digested into manifestation that make possible economic transaction. So we will need the left brains to work with the right. The former are business people and the latter, artists.

2. The science of making money has never worked on chaotic approach. It has been proven by many that when you reduce transactions into set parameters, it produces profits. This is why humankind invented systems such as Bourse, Currency Exchange, Book Keeping, Valuation, SWOT analysis and many more. Now creativity on the other hand will only produce its best results when there is freedom. Freedom means no restrictive boundaries. This means chaos.

3. In the Venture Capitalist fraternity, a famous term is used to describe how ideas meet its fate, i.e. demise or alive. The term is "The Valley of Death". What it means is that, when there is a good idea, i.e. creativity, it will die a natural death if there is no capital to nurture it. When a Venture Capital pumps in money, the ideas materialise, giving rise to economic undertaking. This, again, demonstrates the inability for creativity alone to pay.

4. In the Malaysian film industry we have seen many examples of how a creatively awesome film wins awards for its artistic value but does not make money. On the other hand, films that appeal to simple minds make money. Some of you may know a great film director, the late Yasmin Ahmad, who produced fantastic movies but did not make money out of it. She won awards. On the other hand we have movies on hantus, gangsters and love stories getting mega box office collection.

5. Going back to the Venture Capitalist theory, most Venture Capitalists would rank Management Competency as higher ranking than Strength of Idea Creativity. For them, it is better to have a tip top management with average product rather than an awesome idea with average management team. If the source of capital is believing this, no wonder creativity alone does not pay.

6. I have experimented this notion of "creativity does not pay" myself. Apart from managing 4 linear TV stations, 1 MCN, 1 TV shopping and 1 OTT chanel, I am also a part time visual artists. When I paint on canvas what my creativity instincts manifest, I will produce what I believe to be a creative work. However, those works take ages to find buyers. Whereas, when I paint a typical painting that does not have any story telling to it with no uniqueness given the repetitiveness of the style, I can sell easily. It is indeed an unfair world - Creativity does not pay - accept the reality.

7. Lastly, I would like to quote a quotation from a very famous Kelantanese Chinese international fashion icon, Dato' Zang Toi, who said, "To be successful in the fashion business, you only need 10% artistic values. The remaining 90% is all business acumen". Now I don't think any of my opposition panelists has got the credibility to proof Dato' Zang Toi wrong because they have not tested the notion like how Dato' Zang Toi had.

30 August 2017

Artists on the Threshold of Entrepreneurship


Copyright © 2017 by
Dr. Abdul Rahim Said
Business Coach and Mentor

AT THE BALAI SENI NEGARA'S (BALAI SENI) YOUNG ART ENTREPRENEURSHIP (YAE) BOOTCAMP 2017, one of the participants asked, "Now that I have completed forty hours of training, can I call myself an art entrepreneur?" No one responded. Only broad smiles around the table. He continued, "To be a private pilot all you need is a minimum of forty hours of flying! The same number of hours we spent here, in this Bootcamp". He is right. I looked it up in Wikipedia.
Amongst other requirements, the trainee pilot must complete at least a total of forty (40) flying hours. But the trainee cannot call himself a pilot just yet, until he is awarded a private pilot license (PPL). The requirements extend beyond the basic forty flying hours. In fact, out of the total, the trainee must also complete ten hours of solo flight, five hours of which must be cross-country "flying from one airport to another, at least 50 nautical miles away". Besides, in case of the US, the candidate has to pass the the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Private Pilot written examination followed by taking a Private Pilot Oral and Practical Flying examination.
The similarity between pilot training and entrepreneurship Bootcamp ends at the total number of hours involved. At the Bootcamp there was no examination and no supervising agency to certify a candidate deemed qualified to be an art entrepreneur. But more importantly, unlike the pilot, an art entrepreneur is not supposed to be able to perform a specific function. For example, he is not expected to fly a machine or drive a vehicle after the Bootcamp.
My answer to the question as to whether a person may call himself an entrepreneur at the end of the Bootcamp, is simply, yes you can! Even without undergoing forty hours of Bootcamp you can safely brand yourself as an entrepreneur. If you plan to involve yourself in art business you can always hang up a sign board in front of your premises to promote your activities.
There are many walking around us who are academically unqualified, do not go to bootcamps, do not even have Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia or possess enough experience, yet take pride in calling themselves entrepreneurs. So, can anyone call himself an entrepreneur then? By the way, what exactly is an entrepreneur? And who qualifies to be called one?
The Wikipedia Business Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as someone who "exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity and, as the decision maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced".  The Bootcamp "graduate" has yet to exercise his initiative and organize a venture from which he expects to benefit. He has not established an entity within which he may exercise his decision on what, how and how much goods or services to be produced.
So, I advised the Bootcamp graduate, "Get yourself a vehicle that you can drive. Use it as a means where you would like to go and at what speed".
The Bootcamp rookie looked surprised! "What vehicle?" He asked.
"You need to register a company", I replied as one of the participants who already had a company of his own before joining YAE, burst out laughing. 
"What company?" He responded. More laughter from the one who already had a company and was dishing out his business cards to other participants in the seminar room. As a prerequisite, to be an entrepreneur, you would need a vehicle, not a car but a business entity.
We took the six of the seven newly minted art entrepreneurs to the Companies Commission of Malaysia or Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) and made everyone register a sole proprietorship. That was the first time most of them have ever heard of the term "sole proprietorship". For the six artists enrolled in Balai Seni's YAE scheme, this was an alien concept. Outside the SSM one of the bright eyed young artist, questioned her handler,  "Why do I need a company? I am an artist. Many artists I know, don't have such things!"
She was absolutely right. To quote Dato' Dr. Mohd Najib Dawa, the Director General of Balai Seni, who inspired the creation of YAE, "Artists who peddle their art on city streets do not even know where to register a company. Let alone, owning one!" The easy answer is "Of course you need one to conduct business as an art entrepreneur!" But the executive from Balai Seni told her, "We require all artists in YAE scheme to register and own a company to be an art entrepreneur".
Artists are not business people. They do not think like a business person. For an artist, the first thought in the morning is to put on canvas what went through his mind the night before. On the other hand, for the business man, daily thought revolves around "Where is the next Ringgit coming from?" Or "What do I do with my company today?"
To change the mindset of an artist who thinks creatively with the right brain to make better use of his analytical left, it may take more than forty hours. But suffice to say that artists are not tuned into business thinking. We have to help them get started.
That is the raison d'ĂȘtre of YAE!
They eventually came to our way of thinking. Everyone agreed to register their own sole proprietorships. Under the watchful eyes of their handlers, they filled in the application forms, queued patiently and one by one, obtained permission, to proceed using their own names, for their sole proprietorships. Unfortunately, that day the online payment system was down. They were asked to make payment online the following day and would be issued with a business license thereafter.
All our Bootcamp graduates are now proud owners of their own unique companies:

  1. Teh Nadira Art Collection
  2. Jesicca Kuok Art Production
  5. Bop Sopan Fine Art

"Each of us have our business license, can we now call ourselves entrepreneurs?" Asked one artist who was holding up his license fresh from the printer and a few designs for his business card. At this juncture, I was not sure whether he felt the same way the trainee pilot did, when issued with a license to fly.
"You have a business license. Yours is similar to those issued to other professionals like doctors, lawyers, accountants or architects! You now have a registered business license to practice as a professional artist!" But I am sure it would take a little longer before they could fly away out of the YAE enclave as entrepreneurs or top flight professional artists. A thought crossed my mind, "We may have more work to do before that happens!"
The executive from Balai Seni did not wait for me to reply. "We will be taking you to a bank to open your company accounts, two days from now. Before that you'd need to make company rubber stamps". Blank expressions appeared on young faces in front of me. One of the artists who is familiar with the industry that carves names of companies on tiny blocks made of rubber, volunteered to help, calming down everyone, "Don't worry, I can get yours done in one day!"
As it turned out the bank could open accounts without rubber stamps. They returned to YAE enclave at the Balai Seni beaming, "Hey boss, my business card, my company registration and account number! Are we not entrepreneurs?" We were seated at a round table in the largest container designed to be the showroom for all their finished art work.
"Congratulations, you are now artists each with a company registered as sole proprietorship with SSM that you can legitimately operate. Of course, you have a company account to be used to transact your art business. You are not an entrepreneur. Not yet!"
"Why not?"
I pointed to the Wikipedia Business Dictionary definition and repeated parts of its contents, "You are just someone who "exercises initiative by organizing a venture" but has not taken the benefit of any opportunity and I have yet to see you act like "a decision maker, to decide on what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced".  I paused a while and watched them digest the information. "You are still far away from being an entrepreneur. You only have a vehicle not even a venture. Your company, your bank account and name cards are just means to an end". I studied the eager faces and added, "You are just on the threshold of entrepreneurship. You are not there yet!"
However, I was certain they could be entrepreneurs soon enough. We have designed a residency of six months at the Balai Seni. During that next six months they will produce works of art under the supervision of dedicated coaches and mentors. During their residency, they will act and behave like true entrepreneurs making calculated decisions "on what, how, and how much of the goods or services they will produce". 
During that period too, I am certain they will, as Joseph Alois Schumpeter, the originator of the concept of entrepreneurship, defined, that these artists will act as risk takers in "monitoring and controlling their business activities as sole owners of their ventures". They will be "motivated by profits, purely as a standard to measure success", hopefully without neglecting their artistic pursuits.
At the YAE enclave on the grounds of Balai Seni, we shall be turning out entrepreneurs who are themselves artists. They will complete their six months residency with values that Schumpeter discovered amongst entrepreneurs in the 19th century.
Finally, I am confident, they will emerge from the shipping containers as individuals who "greatly value self-reliance, strive for distinction through excellence, are highly optimistic (otherwise nothing would be undertaken), and always favor challenges of medium risk (neither too easy, nor ruinous)"

* kopihangtuah

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